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From the Marbles

Power Rankings: The biggest stories of the offseason

Jay Busbee
From The Marbles

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Kurt Busch / Getty Images

Sure, it's the offseason, but that doesn't mean we can't throw out a few Power Rankings now and then. Today, we focus on the most important developments in one of the wildest offseasons in recent memory. And we start exactly where you'd expect we would ...

1. The saga of Kurt Busch. Has any former champion in NASCAR ever gone through such a dramatic decline in fortune while still in the prime of his career? Busch's separation from Penske, regardless of fault, and his new gig at Phoenix Racing made for one of the offseason's most fascinating soap operas, and one of the 2012 season's more interesting stories.

[Richard Petty: NASCAR sponsors leery of Kurt Busch]

2. The rise of AJ Allmendinger. You can name plenty of winners in the Kurt Busch saga, like Phoenix and Kurt's former crew, for two, but Allmendinger has to rank at the top of that list. Just starting to come into his own as a driver at Richard Petty Motorsports, Allmendinger found himself in a Chase-worthy ride just days after losing his sponsor.

3. The journey of Darian Grubb. The offseason began instants after the checkered flag dropped at Homestead, with Darian Grubb being shown the door after leading Tony Stewart to a championship. Grubb landed on his feet at Joe Gibbs Racing, and will try to work the same mojo on Denny Hamlin next year.

4. The reloading at Stewart-Haas. How do you make a championship team better? By bringing in top-flight talent across the board. Steve Addington and Greg Zipadelli joined SHR and ensured no dropoff in talent from the departure of Grubb.

5. The drivers who've taken a step downward. Brian Vickers still doesn't have a ride for the 2012 season. David Ragan has dropped from Roush Fenway to Front Row (sorry, Front Row, but you know it's true) and David Reutimann's future is also cloudy because of sponsorship concerns at Baldwin.

6. The battle to kill tandem drafting dead. NASCAR hates the tandem drafting at Talladega and Daytona, and is doing everything possible to change it, right up to and including banning radio talk between cars. But it persists, and as last week's testing showed, it's at higher speeds than ever before. Great!

7. Kasey Kahne's ill-advised Twitter rant. Kasey Kahne may be headed to greener pastures at Hendrick Motorsports, but he managed to tick off an entire nation of breastfeeding moms along the way.

8. The reworking of the 29 team. Kevin Harvick has finished third two years in a row, and that's just not enough for Happy. Sent packing was former crew chief Gil Martin, and brought on board was former Clint Bowyer crew chief Shane Wilson. Will the change pay dividends?

9. The consolidation of sponsors. Carl Edwards now has pretty much every sponsor in the known universe lining up to get on his car, but we knew that already. Best Buy's departure from the RPM 43 to Matt Kenseth was a deep blow to the Petty team, and more sponsor shuffling is likely ahead.

[Related: Carl Edwards to quit Nationwide Series]

10. The existence of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s girlfriend. This might be the most amazing news of the offseason: she's real!

All right, your turn. What have been your biggest stories so far? And are there more yet to come?

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