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Power Rankings: All of the drivers at the top struggled at Talladega

Nick Bromberg
From The Marbles
NASCAR: Aaron's 499
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May 4, 2014; Talladega, AL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jeff Gordon (24) pits after crashing during the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. (Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports)

Our Power Rankings are far from a scientific formula. In fact, it's the perfect blend of analytics and bias against your favorite driver. And you think we dislike your favorite driver, so it makes sense, right? Direct all your complaints to us at happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com.

The top of Power Rankings is a hot mess wrapped in an enigma filled with a conundrum. Let's try to solve this puzzle.

1. Jeff Gordon (LW: 1): Jeff Gordon still has the points lead and was atop Power Rankings last week, so we're going to keep him here even though he crashed. First off, penalizing someone for being caught up in a big restrictor plate crash can be harsh, and second, who the heck is going to vault over Gordon? Logano? Junior? Kenseth? Sometimes you just have to maintain the status quo.

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No. 2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 3): As we said Monday, there's no reason to be angry at Earnhardt Jr.'s pragmatism. Sure, you can disagree with his strategy, but there's a difference between anger and disagreement. And if you disagree with the strategy, you certainly see why he did what he did, right? Besides, he did have a good car and a chance at a good finish, he just backed off when he saw the chance dwindle.

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No. 3 Joey Logano (LW: 2): Yes, Logano is penalized one spot for crashing. Hopefully this massive setback does not bruise his ego or confidence and he is able to recover. Or he can use it as fuel for a good finish at Kansas. That's what Power Rankings are here for anyway. You know that drivers are worrying about how a finish will affect them in Power Rankings rather than the points standings.

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No. 4 Kyle Busch (LW: 5): Congratulations, Kyle! You were the only one of the top five from last week to finish in the top 15 at Talladega. And that merits a one-spot rise in the standings. Had Busch won the race or finished in the top five, we could have a case for the top spot of Power Rankings. However, it would be weird to reward a 12th place with a four spot jump, right?

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No. 5 Matt Kenseth (LW: 4): Kenseth had a point in his post-crash remarks about Brad Keselowski. We'll get to why we can't be totally mad with Keselowski in his entry, but we see why Kenseth was disappointed and why he would think Keselowski would be saying something if the roles were reversed. Talladega is one of the only places where racing hard to get your lap back can eliminate that many bystanders.

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No. 6 Kevin Harvick (LW: 6): Harvick holds steady, but similar to Busch, he could have made a leap with a better finish. Heck, it looked like Harvick was going to have a better finish briefly, but he was plain stuck outta luck in the middle lane and had no drafting help. He fell back and finished seventh. Oh, and if you want proof of how ridiculous the "Could Kevin Harvick fall out of the top 30?" questions were after Texas, he's already 19th in the standings.

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No. 7 Denny Hamlin (LW: NR): Technically, it's Denny Hamlin's first restrictor plate win, but that's a bit of a misleading stat. We all remember the Budweiser Duel and the previous Sprint Unlimiteds. This was simply the restrictor plate randomness gods rewarding Hamlin with a points win. And now he's in the Chase and doesn't have to worry about the lack of points from California potentially hurting him at the end of the season.

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No. 8 Jimmie Johnson (LW: 8): Yes, Power Rankings is really, really, really boring this week. But that's what happens when so many people in the rankings have issues. Johnson was caught up in a crash but didn't have enough damage to get knocked off the lead lap. He finished 23rd. We told you Power Rankings was really boring.

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No. 9 Carl Edwards (LW: 9): Hey, another driver that crashed! What was fascinating about Edwards' incident is that he knew barreling into turn one that he had a problem and there was just nothing he could do about it. He had his left hand out the window signaling to everyone behind him to get out of the way, and for the most part it worked -- the crash could have been much worse. We give Edwards serious props for being able to handle the car into the turn with just one hand on the wheel.

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No. 10 Kyle Larson (LW: 10): With all of the talk about Kyle Larson's driving abilty, wouldn't it be interesting to see his first win come at a restrictor plate track? Not that restrictor plate wins are devalued, but we've just heard so much about Larson that it seems his first win would be less fluky, for lack of a better term.

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No. 11 Brad Keselowski (LW: 11): Here's why we can't totally fault Keselowski. Many drivers were talking about the different handling of the cars this year and his drive at the front is a perfect way to experiment for the fall Chase race. Plus, he was driving at ONE HUNDRED PERCENT, therefore he was following NASCAR's rules. Do other drivers have every right to be annoyed at the unwritten rule that Keselowski might have broken? Yes. Does Keselowski have the right to run up front for title-related reasons? Yes.

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No. 12 A.J. Allmendinger (LW: 12): At first glance, Allmendinger should be higher, but where is he going to go? The Richard Childress Racing alliance is paying off for JTG-Daugherty big time this season. As is the switch in drivers. Is this a Chase team? Probably not. Is this a team that's going to be better than we were thinking? Probably.

Lucky Dog: How about the Michael Waltrip Racing cars finishing third and fourth? Clint Bowyer needed a good run and he got it.

The DNF: Oof, Tony Stewart finished last. After finishing ninth at Darlington, Stewart was 12th in the standings. He's now 21st.

Dropped Out: Ryan Newman

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of From The Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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