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From the Marbles

Power Rankings: The cream is rising to the top

From The Marbles

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. Here's how we see it coming off the Brickyard 400:

1. Carl Edwards. You wonder why Carl would even consider leaving Roush Fenway, what with how well he's running and all, but then you hear rumors that Joe Gibbs is offering him $18 million, including a $10 million signing bonus and it all makes sense. Yeah, Carl wants a championship bad, but that kind of money talks — championship or not. Last week's ranking: 2

2. Matt Kenseth. The silent assassin keeps creeping his way into the championship mix. The equivalent of the bend-but-don't-break defense, Kenseth is wholly unspectacular but produces the kind of consistency that could have him hoisting the Cup trophy at the end of the season. Last week's ranking: 9

3. Jeff Gordon. He put on a happy face, seemingly ecstatic at a second-place finish at Indy, but he had to go home a little ticked that Paul Freaking Menard snagged Brickyard win No. 5 from him. Yeah, Gordon's rounding into championship form, but he won't have too many more opportunities to win at Indy like he did Sunday. Last week's ranking: 3

4. Kurt Busch. In a pre-race interview with ESPN, Kyle Busch threw brother Kurt under the bus when he basically said all that hatred from fans, well, he inherited from Kurt. Does this mean that Kyle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. actually do have something in common? Last week's ranking: 1

5. Jimmie Johnson. Was Chad Knaus serious Sunday when he complained about other crew chiefs throwing Hail Marys on pit road to try to win the race? Isn't this the guy who's mastered zagging when everyone else zigs? More and more, sounds like the competition is getting inside Team 48's head. Last week's ranking: 5

6. Kyle Busch. Rowdy was not a factor at any point Sunday, yet came home 10th. Sure he complained, but he took stock and hung in. That's exactly the kind of result he needs to win a championship and completely tick off the whole of the NASCAR world. Last week's ranking: 4

7. Kevin Harvick. Not much to say here about Harvick's run at Indy, so we'll borrow two of DeLana Harvick's post-race tweets: "trying to give @KevinHarvick ample time to watch his dvr'd f1 race. i yelled out who won last week just to piss him off. i refrained tonight" … 10 minutes later: apparently i can't resist being an a**hole... came back to @KevinHarvick STILL watching f1 and yelled out jenson button! ooppsss ;). Last week's ranking: 10

8. Ryan Newman. Didn't mention Newman once in our race day chat, so it took me awhile to find his name on the results sheet. Kept looking in the 20s and 30s. Wasn't there. Finally found it in 12th. Twelfth? Who does this guy think he is, Matt Kenseth? Last week's ranking: 6

9. Tony Stewart. For a second there, it looked like Smoke might pull of the most improbably victory of his life. Still, a sixth-place finish after hitting the wall and getting slapped with a pass-through penalty for running over the commitment cone is a moral victory. Unfortunately, moral victories don't count toward the Chase wild card. Last week's ranking: 7

10. Denny Hamlin. Those engine issues Joe Gibbs Racing had early in the season appear to be back. Hamlin, who had to change his engine at Kentucky a few weeks ago, had his engine blow during practice at Indy, which is better than during the race, but it still has to leave him wondering about reliability come Chase time. Last week's ranking: 8

11. Brad Keselowski You get the feeling that Bradski will win a second race between now and Richmond, yet still miss the Chase. That's what happens when you take one step forward and two steps back, which is pretty much what he's done since winning at Kansas in June. But we did love his Twitter press conference. Very 2011. Last week's ranking: NR

12. Kasey Kahne: Put this in the nobody-deserves-to-be-here category, but since we have to round the rankings out with 12, it goes to Kahne, who's kind of like a sparkler: produces a lot of excitement early, then just fizzles out. He did lead the most laps at Indy, but once again has nothing to show for it. Last week's ranking: NR

Lucky Dog: Paul Menard, who is now your clubhouse leader for the second wildcard spot. Dude's had two top 5s since April and if the Chase were to start today, he'd be in. Welcome to NASCAR in 2011.

DNF: Juan Pablo Montoya, and not just for coming in 28th, but for apologizing to Jimmie Johnson while Five-time was in the shower, then pointing out Johnson was naked.

Dropping out of the rankings: Joey Logano, who has to be wondering about his future with rumors swirling about Carl Edwards joining JGR, and David Ragan, who no longer holds one of the two wildcard berths.

Charging upward: This week, it's all about Paul Menard. No one else made a move.

Next up: Pocono. Oh yeah, the Tricky Triangle.

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