The race is done, and that means it's time for Power Rankings. Each week throughout the season, we'll size up who's rising and who's falling, based on current standings, behind-the-scenes changes, expected staying power, recent history and general gut feelings. It is not scientific, nor is it meant to be. And remember, whoever your favorite driver is, we're biased against him and like someone else better. We continue with a new face 'round these parts:
1. Brad Keselowski: So, was Keselowski's last-lap move on Kyle Busch good racing? Cheap shot? Karma for the #18? Whichever you choose — and you've got evidence for all three — you can't deny that Keselowski makes NASCAR much more interesting. He's going to be a lot of fun to watch in the Chase. Last week: 6.
2. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson takes over the points lead thanks to yet another strong finish. Ho-hum. I'm thinking he might just have a chance at this whole six-time thing. I'm not seeing any real weaknesses; you? Last week: 1.
3. Jeff Gordon: Gordon remains one of the strongest drivers on the circuit right now, even if Watkins Glen didn't play out as he would have liked. He's now in a real dogfight for that final wildcard spot. He's running the best of any of the five guys seeking that slot, but that doesn't matter if one of them gets hot at exactly the right moment. Last week: 3.
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Road courses are Junior's Achilles Heel, but he did well enough on Sunday that he was in the mix right until one of those darned out-of-nowhere spins. I wonder, do drivers wake up on Monday morning after a road course race aching in all kinds of different places? Last week: 2.
5. Matt Kenseth: 'Sup, Matt. Nice run. So let's talk a little more road-coursing. Why do you think one isn't in the Chase? That was exciting, yes, but do you really want to have a Chase determined by some guy who out-drives his talent and puts a leader into the gravel? I would like to see a road course in the Chase, but I can see the arguments against it. Last week: 5.
6. Greg Biffle: Nice bounceback for Biffle, who's weathering the inevitable midseason swoon and staying in the hunt. He's in the Chase, but he needs just a bit o' luck at the right time. Now is not yet that time. Last week: 8.
7. Kasey Kahne: Kasey is one of those guys who'll jump out and race wherever there's a race going on near the track, be it Nationwide, late models or lawnmowers. I kind of love that attitude, even if it probably horrifies his sponsors and those who put money into his career. Last week: 7.
8. Denny Hamlin: Not the best of weeks for Monsieur le Ham, but hey, he's got pretty much zero to worry about at this point. What would you do if you were a NASCAR driver with just a handful of races left before the playoffs? Go in strong with momentum, or coast and relax? Last week: 4.
9. Clint Bowyer: Hey, nice run for Rawhide this week. He's one of those sneaky-good guys who never wows you but is always lurking around. Kind of like Law & Order reruns. You can never ever get away from those. Last week: 12.
10. Martin Truex Jr.:
Truex's defenders email me every week demanding he get more play. Dudes. Your guy doesn't have a win in the last FIVE years. Bear in mind that the last Junior to go a long time without winning had to wear that as an anchor around his neck. You really want to do that to your boy? Last week: 10.
11. Tony Stewart: Tony Stewart's entire racing life is like an action-movie hero. There's rarely if ever a race where he just tools around, ticking off laps and getting a few points. It's always drama, wrecks, radio screaming, victory, defeat, lunacy, heroism ... works for me. Last week: 11.
12. Kyle Busch:
We haven't written our requisite "Kyle Busch has matured!" article this year, but after Sunday, we could have. Seriously, the guy gets turned on the last lap by a driver with whom he's had beef, losing the race. You were thinking Kyle was going to come out of the car guns blazing, right? But he goes into his trailer and calms down. Smaaaaart move. Last week: 12.
Dropping out of the rankings: Ryan Newman. Just barely. Call him 12.1.
Lucky Dog: Marcos Ambrose, of course. He's a longshot to make the Chase, but with just one more win, he'd be in. That's either very cool or a traveshamockery, one of the two. Still, good on ya, Aussie.
The Carl Edwards DNF: Jamie McMurray, who continues an inexplicable (well, maybe a little explicable) slide into irrelevance.
All right, your turn. Fire away, friends.
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