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From The Marbles

Power Rankings: Should we call it a tie between Gordon and Earnhardt Jr.?

Nick Bromberg
From The Marbles
Jeff Gordon Pocono
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LONG POND, PA - AUGUST 02: Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, looks on from in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 2, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

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.

1. Jeff Gordon (LW: 1): You can make an argument for putting Dale Earnhardt Jr. in this spot rather than Gordon. And if you are one of the people who would like to make it, now's the chance. OK, done? While we see your point, it's important to remember that Gordon was the best car throughout most of the race on Sunday. That shouldn't be overshadowed by a strategy call.

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2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 2): Though that strategy call was pretty damn good. Earnhardt Jr. had a top-five car for most of the day, but that turned into a leading car when Steve Letarte had him pit for no tires to get out ahead of Gordon. You can't blame Gordon and crew chief Alan Gustafson for taking four tires, however, It was worth a shot to see what would happen. Oh, did you see Junior's interview with Dan Patrick Tuesday morning? It's worth a watch.

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3. Kevin Harvick (LW: 6): How interesting would the final four laps have been if Harvick had a car at 100 percent? He had narrowly avoided the 12-car pileup on the backstretch before his car bottomed out and hit the inside wall with the left front. The damage looked significant enough to limit the speed in his car, but after his team repaired it, Harvick was still pretty damn fast. But it wasn't freaky fast enough to catch Junior.

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4. Brad Keselowski (LW: 3): Keselowski only drops a single spot because of the awesomeness of his save on the first lap after his car got loose in the tunnel turn under Kurt Busch. If he doesn't save the car, we're looking at a crash similar to the one that Harvick had semi-missed on the backstretch. Instead, the race stayed green and his car only had minor damage.

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5. Joey Logano (LW: 8): This is an interesting stretch in the Sprint Cup Series right now as we're entering the third of three-straight "working backward" races where drivers and teams are focusing their pit strategies around making it tothe end of the race with the fewest (and best-timed) pit stops. More on this Wednesday, but if there's been a team that's been the best at this working backwards thing over the past two weeks, it's Logano and crew chief Todd Gordon.

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6. Matt Kenseth (LW: 5): Oh no, winless Matt Kenseth was in the big crash. His Chase chances had to take a hit, didn't they? *Looks at standings* Oh, no, he's still in fourth. While Kenseth certainly can't afford to crash every week until the Chase begins and expect to make it, he's still not in the danger zone. And yes, this sounds eerily like the paragraph for Kenseth last week. JUST WIN ALREADY, MATT. THE SPIN SURROUNDING WINS IS SO MUCH MORE FUN.

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7. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 5): Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus have an issue with low tire pressures! Jimmie Johnson is slumping! He's not a title contender! Make another panicked Jimmie Johnson narrative here! Yes, Johnson isn't having a great stretch of races right now. But he didn't have one last year. And don't put anything past Knaus. With Johnson in the Chase, now is the time to try a bunch of things in anticipation of the final 10 races.

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8. Ryan Newman (LW: 10): Ryan Newman is fifth in the standings. I repeat, Ryan Newman is fifth in the standings. Newman is basically having a Kevin-Harvick-at-Richard-Childress-Racing Lite season, which is fitting given that he's driving for RCR and kind of sort of swapped places with Harvick before the season.

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9. Denny Hamlin (LW: 10): The points penalty Hamlin got after Indianapolis is more than a drop in the bucket, but it's not an overflowing mess that calls for an industrial-sized mop. And in his first race without Darian Grubb, Hamlin finished ninth. Plus, that ninth-place finish came after Hamlin brushed the wall. Oh, and yeah, he brushed the wall after getting loose in front of Brian Vickers, who reacted and caused the big crash, but we won't harp on that.

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10. Clint Bowyer (LW: NR): Who do you think is going to be more of a factor in the Chase, Bowyer or Carl Edwards? Yes, Edwards is, as of now, going to start six points ahead of Bowyer when the Chase begins because of the two wins, but the two are a single point apart right now. And they're basically running equally well at the moment. It's a question that can go either way.

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11. Kyle Busch (LW: 8): Busch was up for running all 400 miles at Pocono on Sunday. His engine was not and he finished second after consecutive second place finishes. Busch has six top 10s in 2014. He also has six finishes of 25th or worse. What does that mean? Under the new Chase format, if a couple of those top-fives turn into wins, who knows?

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12. Kyle Larson (LW: 12): Larson holds serve in the final spot after finishing 11th. He could have been a Pocono Saturday dominator again (he smoked the field in the ARCA race in June) but an engine issue derailed his chances at a win. That meant the Yuengling Light truck won in Pennsyvania, which is fitting.

Lucky Dog: By virtue of his fifth-place finish on Sunday, Greg Biffle now occupies the final Chase spot by two points over Austin Dillon and a point over Kasey Kahne.

The DNF: How about A.J. Allmendinger, who was not only in the 12-car crash, but also crashed to bring out the second-to-last caution of the day?

Dropped out: Carl Edwards

 

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