Welcome to Power Rankings! Sure, it's the offseason, but that doesn't mean we can't kick around some arbitrary rankings like we were at an infield tailgate. Today, we're talking teams. And for the purposes of this discussion, we're going to go with the strict definition of teams, despite the many equipment/personnel/financial agreements that exist amongst many of these members. These rankings aren't based on how they ended the season, but how they stand right this very moment, given their current personnel ...
1. Roush Fenway Racing. RFR gets the top spot here because of consistency, not necessarily wins. Both Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth are running at the absolute top of their game right now, and were it not for a once-in-a-lifetime run by Tony Stewart, RFR would be holding another Sprint Cup right now. They should get one very soon, perhaps as soon as 2012.
2. Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick is like the New York Yankees and Tom Cruise movies, popular whether you like it or not. Sure, this was a "down" year for Hendrick, but they've simply reloaded, swapping Mark Martin for Kasey Kahne, and there's no reason to expect they won't put four drivers back in the Chase next year.
3. Stewart-Haas Racing. Yes, you could roll this into No. 2, but let's preserve the fiction of independence. Tony Stewart has made all the right moves as owner in his first three years. And while Danica Patrick will add little in terms of on-track performance in 2012, she'll continue to raise the profile of a team that boasts five Chase appearances and a Cup in its first six driver-seasons. Not bad.
4. Richard Childress Racing. A year that began with much promise fizzled somewhat down the stretch, but Childress remains one of the top teams in racing, largely because of the success of Kevin Harvick. Happy always seems this close to breaking through on a major scale but can't quite sustain for all 36 races. The departure of Clint Bowyer will hurt, but Childress is likely just a year or two from running out another young, dominating lineup of drivers.
5. Joe Gibbs Racing. A definite step back for JGR this year, as neither Denny Hamlin nor Kyle Busch delivered on their prior results, and Joey Logano continued to struggle. There's no reason to expect this state of affairs will continue, but Busch and Hamlin have to stop being good regular-season/on-paper drivers and start winning when it really counts.
6. Penske Racing. The departure of Kurt Busch knocks this team down a couple pegs, but the arrival of AJ Allmendinger keeps them right here without falling farther. Penske has the greatest potential upside of any team in NASCAR right now; they'll be a team to watch in 2012.
7. Michael Waltrip Racing. Trading out David Reutimann for Bowyer and a few Mark Martin runs is good news for everyone but Reutimann. It's now time for MWR's close-up. And we all know how the team's namesake loves the camera. Like Penske, this is going to be a fun team to watch next season.
8. Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. The heady days of multiple-win seasons and Chases seem a memory now for EGR. Both Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya are incredibly talented drivers, but talent alone doesn't translate to team success, and for whatever reason, EGR hasn't been able to hit on any kind of consistent formula for winning the last two years. It's there, it's right there, but it's still elusive.
9. Richard Petty Motorsports. Absolutely reeling. The team lost both Allmendinger and his sponsor, and now needs to find a quality driver to run alongside Marcos Ambrose. Will that be David Ragan? Brian Vickers? Reutimann? No matter who, it'll likely be at least a slight downgrade from Allmendinger. Perhaps The King himself ought to get back behind the wheel.
10. Pick 'em. The departure of Red Bull leaves NASCAR without its 10th top-flight team, so there are now plenty of contenders for this spot. Early guess is that Phoenix Racing will take it; not often you have a former Cup champion still in his prime drop into your seat, and Kurt Busch will keep Phoenix competitive if he's got the right equipment.
All right, your turn. Who's your favorite team right about now? Have your say!