It's time for the final Power Rankings of the 2012 season, and we're proud to name Jimmie Johnson our winner! Ha, no, we're kidding, just gettin' your goat. You know who leads. Heck, you know who fits in everywhere on this list. And remember, we're very biased. But only against your guy. Whoever he is. For now, enjoy these final season rankings, along with a look forward at what 2013 should hold for each driver.
1. Brad Keselowski. What can you say? Keselowski left no doubt whatsoever that he's the best driver in NASCAR right now. No conspiracy theories, no fake cautions, nothing. And his instant star-making performances in the wake of winning the race might, just might, bring back a few lapsed fans. Last week: 1.
2. Jimmie Johnson. NASCAR is a team sport, and in this case Johnson's team let him down. It happens. But there's no reason to expect he won't be back challenging for No. 6 again this time next year. Last week: 2.
3. Clint Bowyer. Bowyer had the kind of reliable week-in, week-out season that you expect from a guy who'll be around for awhile. Waltrip Racing showed its commitment to him, and he repaid them. We expect to see him back here next year too. Last week: 3.
4. Kasey Kahne. Imagine what Kahne could do next year without giving the rest of the field a six-race head start. He's our early bet for breakout star of 2013. Last week: 4.
5. Jeff Gordon. Gordon showed that he's still got gas in the tank, miles on the tires, whatever metaphor you want to use. Will he challenge for a championship ever again? Doesn't seem quite as farfetched as it did earlier this year. Last week: 9.
6. Denny Hamlin. Consistency remains a problem for Hamlin. But if he learned anything this Chase, it could be that Johnson is, in fact, beatable. Last week: 5.
7. Matt Kenseth. We expect Kenseth to have a Kahne-in-2012 kind of year, starting slow but gaining momentum as everyone gets accustomed to one another. He's just too talented a driver to falter, even with a new team. Last week: 6.
8. Greg Biffle. This has to be a frustrating year for Biffle, who ran so well for so long except when it mattered most. Still, he's now the top dog at RFR, and that could mean very good things for him in 2013. Last week: 7.
9. Tony Stewart. What the hell are we supposed to expect from Stewart? Seriously? He could go out and dominate in '13, or he could come close to missing the Chase. Considering he won while doing the latter and vanished while doing the former, perhaps faltering isn't so bad. Last week: 8.
10. Kevin Harvick. Our pick of this crew to miss the Chase in '13. Too much pressure, too much external business getting in the way of racing as he finishes out his career at RCR to make for a unified team. Last week: 10.
11. Martin Truex Jr. T-Rex was this close to a breakout season, but couldn't quite get that one win. Next year could bode very well for him. Last week: 11.
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. With that silly loss streak out of the way, Junior can at last focus on consistent driving and let the wins come when they come. Last week: 12.
Non-Chaser of the Year: Kyle Busch, of course. Busch totaled more points in the Chase than anyone not named Keselowski. Shame, then, that he couldn't hold it together when he needed to in August to get in. Still, this should serve as motivation for 2013.
And that's a wrap! Thanks for all your support, interest, commentary and dedication. We'll of course be around all offseason, but you'll have to wait till February for the next Power Rankings! Unless, of course, you can give us a good topic...
- Sports & Recreation
- Motor Racing
- Jimmie Johnson