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From The Marbles

Power Rankings: Carl Edwards maintains the top spot

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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.

No. 1 Carl Edwards (LW: 1): Your last memory of Edwards from Sunday's race is probably his struggles with a flat tire on the apron of turns one and two, right? Well, after getting fresh tires on the final caution flag, Edwards ended up 10th. It's the type of run that good points days are made of, if those were something that could still be publicly lauded by drivers without fear of straying from the script.

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No. 2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 2): We can definitely get on board with the theory supported by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski that the bumps along the backstretch at Auto Club Speedway put too much load on the tires. Repaving the backstretch only? That's not something that should impact the quality of racing, and could even serve to enhance it. Oh, Junior finished 12th after having two tire issues on Sunday.

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No. 3 Jeff Gordon: (LW: 4): Here's where we have to balance the next three drivers, because they all fell victim to circumstances out of their control that derailed great runs. For Gordon, it was the final caution of the race that sent everyone to pit road. He restarted seventh, was trapped on the inside as the field went into turn one and finished 13th. We can use "Gordon Restart" here as a joke, but he got going well enough, he just didn't have anywhere to go through the corner.

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No. 4 Jimmie Johnson (LW: 5): Here's the odds-on favorite for the win on Sunday. Martinsville probably played into Johnson's comments a bit on Friday, as Vader knew that a track where he routinely kicks (historic) ass at was coming up. And hell, that win almost happened at Auto Club anyway, until he cut a tire with seven laps to go.

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No. 5 Brad Keselowski (LW: 3): Keselowski ultimately couldn't recover from his tire issue, but there was one problem he had that had nothing to do with anything the No. 2 team did. Keselowski, along with Gordon and Clint Bowyer, didn't pit under an early caution because while the flagman at the end of pit road was waving the pit open flag, the light above was red. NASCAR says the flag is greater than the light -- and that the official got his uniform caught in the fence -- but the top three saw the light and bailed. Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe elected to stay out instead of pitting a lap later and fell like a rock to the back of the pack. But they shouldn't have had to make that choice in the first place.

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No. 6 Kyle Busch (LW: NR): From nowhere to the top half of Power Rankings. Seems fitting for our fifth winner in five races. We ask this not having checked, nor sure where to start, but who would be the last driver to win consecutive races at a non-restrictor plate track with last-lap passes? While uncommon, it's had to happen before, right?

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No. 7 Matt Kenseth (LW: 8): Did you know Flatline finished fourth? After starting on the pole, it was a similar run to what Denny Hamlin had last week. Kenseth quickly lost the lead but maintained his spot in the top 10 for the rest of the race. But since Kenseth really didn't challenge for the lead after a six lap stretch that ended on lap 126 or was involved in the four-person race to the checkers, he was as much as an afterthought as you can be with a very good car.

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No. 8 Tony Stewart (LW: 12): Had Stewart's car stuck to the bottom of turns one and two on the final lap, might he have been in victory lane instead of Kyle Busch? Stewart went for it in those corners and the car almost stayed glued to the track. Instead, he had to get out of the throttle and that opened the door for Busch and Larson to drive through. After two bad finishes in three races, it was Stewart's second-straight top five.

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No. 9 Kevin Harvick (LW: 7): Since this is three different calamities in three races for Harvick and things come in threes, he's done with the mechanical failures for a while, right? Tires were Harvick's undoing as a left-rear tire failure messed up the bodywork of his car and even the gas line. The camera shot of his team fixing and gassing the car as the gas spilled all over pit road was fantastic.

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No. 10 Kyle Larson (LW: NR): After Larson's win in the Nationwide Series and second-place finish Sunday, he deserves to be here, right? He's improved his finishes in all five races after a bad showing in the Daytona 500 and scored a top-10 at Bristol. Though to continue the streak would mean a win at Martinsville and that seems unlikely. Many people have been quick to say that Larson will win this year, and it's entirely possible. However, it's also entirely possible he won't. He's still a rookie. If he doesn't, let's not view it as a disappointment.

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No. 11 Jamie McMurray (LW: NR): McMurray got the good finish that he deserved at Bristol by finishing sixth at Auto Club. Had he not been forced to retire at Bristol after getting caught in the oil from Kevin Harvick's car, he would be somewhere in the bottom half of the top 10 in the points standings. Instead, he's 12th. Don't think that Larson is the most likely Ganassi winner just yet.

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No. 12 Joey Logano (LW: 6): Logano takes a big fall after issues plagued his team's speed at Auto Club over the weekend. After being forced to go to a backup car with a fast primary car, the backup car was just as fast. But a week after suffering a power steering failure, the rear gear broke on the backup car and Logano ended up 39th.

Lucky Dog: How about Kurt Busch, who finished third? Or Brian Vickers, who was seventh?

The DNF: After making his 2014 Power Rankings debut, Aric Almirola finished last when he crashed with Brian Scott.

Dropped Out: Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Denny Hamlin

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