The third 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.
1. Brad Keselowski: @Kes might just be the smartest driver on the circuit, or at least the best prepared. He seems to be finding angles that others miss, and he's setting himself up with plenty of cushion for the inevitable off day. Now he returns to Talladega, where he's won before ... just don't remind Carl Edwards.
2. Jimmie Johnson: Relentless. Absolutely relentless. Keeping Johnson from winning this race has to count as a major victory for all the non-Hendrick teams, but the simple truth is that if Johnson continues to post tiny-number finishes, this race is going to be over pretty darn soon.
3. Denny Hamlin: How much do you figure Hamlin learned from 2010? Hopefully plenty, because it looks like he's in this Chase to stay. And you know he'd relish a chance to take out Johnson in revenge for that Chase two years ago.
4. Clint Bowyer: It would be just perfect if Bowyer was able to sneak into the mix here after Talladega, because he above most other drivers is the epitome of what the world expects a NASCAR driver to be. He'll need lots of help that he's not currently getting to run down the Big Three, but it could still happen.
5. Kasey Kahne: Having your season depend on a dropped lug nut, as could well happen with Kahne, is like a football team losing on an offsides penalty ... it happens, but nobody feels good about it in any way. Still, Kahne has rebounded from adversity before.
6. Jeff Gordon: You've got to admire what Gordon's doing here, but when the points leaders are the ones either winning or leading the race, there's just no way for him to make up any ground. Talladega may represent his last, best chance to get back into this Chase.
7. Tony Stewart: Getting to be about time to start that all-out winning streak, Tony. Dover was another unspectacular effort from the reigning champ, and as a result, hopes for a repeat are pretty dim.
8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: We weren't looking to write off Junior until after a poor Talladega showing, but he's one of the drivers already in danger of falling off the map. Not to say this is the most important race of the season for him, but ... it's the most important race of the season.
9. Martin Truex Jr.: We're getting perilously close to the moral-victory section of the power rankings, but Truex nonetheless did manage to wrestle a sixth-place finish out of a potentially disastrous day. He'll need more than that to scare anybody, though.
10. Kevin Harvick: One of many drivers victimized by the unfortunate Yeley caution, but let's face it, things haven't been going well for Harvick for quite some time.
11. Greg Biffle: The Biffster's rant on the radio at Dover was one of the all-time greats, a symphony of profanity and rage that I want to make into my ringtone. You can understand it, though, can't you? Three weeks ago the guy was in first place, now he's an afterthought. That kind of sucks.
12. Matt Kenseth: Of all the ways that Kenseth could have parted ways with Roush Fenway, stumbling to a last-place finish in the Chase had to be pretty low on the list. Kenseth is a prideful guy, but nothing's clicking for the 17 team right now.
Non-Chaser of the week: Kyle Busch ran exceptionally well for most of the day, but let's throw some love Mark Martin's way. The guy simply runs well no matter when he shows up. Impressive stuff, and it's too bad we won't be seeing more of him.
All right, you're up. Who should rise and who should fall? Go!
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