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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Jeff Gordon (LW: 1): The best way to keep the points lead and stay at the top of Power Rankings? Win a damn race. And that's what Jeff Gordon did Saturday night, even though it got a little dicey there at the end. Gordon slipped into turn three on the final lap and Harvick didn't, getting close to Gordon's back bumper as the checkered flag flew. Gordon's win also breaks a nine-race winless streak by Hendrick Motorsports. That seems like a long time, but in 2012, HMS had streaks of 10 and 11 races each.
2. Kevin Harvick (LW: 6): There was a moment late in the race Saturday night when the TV crew was trying to explain how Gordon overtook Harvick on the final pit stop. Except the data used on the screen (pit stop time, time on pit road) all favored Harvick. Say what? Yeah, it confused Larry McReynolds and Darrell Waltrip too. Where Gordon got past Harvick was when Harvick ran out of gas in turn three heading to pit road. Since he had no fuel, he couldn't be as aggressive as Gordon was.
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 2): A one spot drop for a fifth place finish? Yup. Harvick led 138 laps, so he gets to move up. Junior was near the front for most of the race, but was never really a serious contender for the win. Through 11 races, Junior has six top-five finishes. An over 50 percent success rate is huge, and if he keeps it up, he'll be there in the final race at Homestead.
4. Joey Logano (LW: 3): After finishing fourth Saturday night, Logano also has six top-five finishes on the season, tied with Junior for the lead on the circuit. He's just further down in points because of issues at Bristol and California. Logano was by far the fastest Ford, but that was simply a continuation of a season-long theme, not an aberration.
5. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 8): Johnson was once again the voice of reason about his lack of wins in 2014 on Friday saying "Until we are not locked in, I mean there is nothing to worry about." The reason there isn't anything to worry about is because Johnson 1. will win and 2. he's performing well enough to get in without a win. But until that win happens, Johnson is going to have to answer questions about winning. (We've said "win" a lot in this post.) Going back to last season, Johnson stands at 13 consecutive points races without a win. His longest streaks are 15 (twice) and 14 (twice).
6. Matt Kenseth (LW: 5): There's not as much handwringing over Matt Kenseth's winless stretch and it's a bit surprising given his performance last year at Joe Gibbs Racing. And much like Johnson, there's nothing to worry about with Kenseth. He's tied with Jeff Gordon for the most top 10s in the series. A win is going to happen for Kenseth sooner rather than later too.
7. Kyle Busch (LW: 4): Since winning at California in the fifth race of the season, Busch hasn't finished lower than 15th. Not bad, right? No, not at all. But it's been very un-Kyle Busch-like as he's led 34 laps in those six races and 22 of them have come at Martinsville. Is it fair to say that Joe Gibbs Racing is searching for a bit of speed? Given what they've shown previously, yes.
8. Carl Edwards (LW: 9): Are we going to spend this space psycho-analyzing the comments Edwards made on Friday in the media center and on Saturday before the race when he (kind of) addressed his future plans? No, we're not. Edwards is hellbent on keeping the negotiations a secret and they'll be wrapped up soon enough. When was the last time a driver entered the Chase without a new contract?
9. Kyle Larson (LW: 10): Larson finished 12th after starting fifth. Not shabby, right? He's become the prime beneficiary of Ganassi's improvement this season. And is it us, or does Larson not really look anything like his poster for the Sprint All-Star Race? And speaking of that race, we're going to go with Clint Bowyer and Larson as the two drivers to advance from the Open on Friday night.
10. Brad Keselowski (LW: 11): Keselowski defended his Talladega actions reasonably before the race weekend. While you still may not agree with him, if you don't see his perspective, you're not looking in the right spot. He also went from euphoria to agony Friday night when Ryan Blaney was side-by-side with Logano for the lead in the Truck race while both were driving Keselowski-owned trucks. Not long after Blaney was to Logano's inside, his truck wobbled and hit the wall, before being clobbered by two trucks behind him.
11. Kasey Kahne (LW: NR): Did you know that Saturday night was the first time Kasey Kahne has finished in the top five all season? It's shades of his miserable 2007 season when he had just one top five all year. No, that season won't repeat itself, but Kahne's going to need to get a win to get into the Chase. We're going to say Pocono.
12. Danica Patrick (LW: NR): How long is the stay in Power Rankings for Danica? It's going to depend on what happens at the 600. The race is more important for her than it is for other drivers, simply because she needs to show that her seventh at Kansas wasn't a fluke. Right now, based off past history at intermediate tracks, it looks like one. Future performance will either validate or disprove that.
Lucky Dog: How about Aric Almirola, who finished seventh?
The DNF: Jamie McMurray can't catch a break. He had a decent car Saturday but lost a tire and smashed the wall.
Dropped Out: Denny Hamlin, A.J. Allmendinger
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