The No. 15 crew swarms its leader. (Getty Images)
The fifth race of the Chase is over, and that means it's time for Power Rankings! But we're doing things a little differently now that we're in the postseason. It's all-Chasers, all the time. Good job, good effort for those of you that didn't make it, but we've got bigger fish to focus on. We'll be judging who's running well, considering not just finishing position but quality of run, expected potential, and general gut feelings. As always, we hate your guy and are biased against him. Now, enjoy.
Oh, and as for last week's attempt at Mafia names for our favorite drivers ... let us never speak of that one again. Every race season has an Auto Club Speedway, right?
1. Denny Hamlin: This top spot is likely to rotate among the Big Three, and perhaps the Big Four, over the next few weeks. Right now, we're giving the nod to Hambone over Vader, but only by a hairsbreadth. This very easily could have been a big victory for Hamlin, and #11 fans should be pleased with the fact that he didn't seem to enjoy his second-place finish very much. Last week: 3.
2. Jimmie Johnson: Another week, another outstanding run from Johnson. Last year, we were all falling over ourselves at how amazing it was that Carl Edwards was finishing so high week after week. Now we've got three guys doing it. Johnson took the wise approach to fuel management on Saturday night; if he'd run out, he'd have a much higher hill to climb. Last week: 2.
3. Brad Keselowski: Sure, he falls out of the top spot here, but he's still running the show points-wise. This makes next week a key for Keselowski: you can afford to have an off week, but you need to be able to rebound immediately or you're going to get passed like you lost the draft. Last week: 1.
4. Clint Bowyer: Rawhide's rise is one of the more notable efforts of the season, and it'd be a shame if he doesn't get himself into the top crew here in the next couple weeks. Also: his press conferences are joys of (perhaps) Five-Hour-Energy-filled energy. Last week: 5.
5. Kasey Kahne: Decent run for Mr. Kahne at Charlotte, but we all expected a lot more out of him. Eighth place is not enough, sir! Anyway, his chances at a Cup are fading fast, but he's already turned a previously horrid season into a success. Last week: 6.
6. Martin Truex Jr.: True story: Truex wants everyone to mean HIM when they refer to "Junior." (May not be a true story.) Also a true story: this will never happen. But MTJ is establishing his good name all by himself. Last week: 9.
7. Jeff Gordon: Looks like the dream is about over for Jeff. Here's hoping that there's some kind of change in the points system (heresy!) in order to prevent one bad finish from decimating your entire season. Last week: 4.
8. Greg Biffle: All right, good to know that Biffle is starting to validate that first-place regular-season finish. Barring some lost haulers en route to a track, Biffle won't be in this hunt. Still, he's the class of the Roush squad this year. Last week: 12.
9. Matt Kenseth: Um, no offense with that "class of Roush" crack in the Biffle entry, Matt. You done good by winning Talladega, of course, but it's been a tough road these last few months. Hopefully your five-race swan song will go well for you. Last week: 10.
10. Tony Stewart: It's been a rocky Chase all the way around for Mr. Stewart, with the Talladega Monstrosity being the worst of a rough go. But he's getting sponsorship lined up for 2013, which has to be a big relief. Last week: 8.
11. Kevin Harvick: Sooner this season is over the better for Harvick fans. Nothing's working well enough, but nothing's going bad enough for a wholesale change, either. Well, at least he had himself a kid, so the year's not a total wash. Last week: 11.
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Salute to Junior for taking the tough path to stepping out of the car this year. Not like he'll miss out on Vegas; the "most popular driver of the year" always ends up there anyway. Last week: 7.
Non-Chaser of the Week: Carl Edwards. Good to see Carl running strong this week. Shame he wasn't able to earlier this year, but if history is any guide, he'll be right back in the mix in 2013.
All right, you're up. Who belongs where? Have your say!
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