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From the Marbles

Power Rankings: Everybody is digging in their heels

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 guy who likes his perch...

1. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson got a speeding penalty while serving a speeding penalty, which is not unlike doing a burnout and squealing your tires away from a cop who's just given you a ticket. That's fairly impressive, but what's more impressive is the fact that he fought his way back up to the front of the pack. Last week: 1.

2. Matt Kenseth: Stop me if this is boring you: Kenseth is putting together a championship-caliber season by running in everyone's shadow. He's the Forrest Gump of NASCAR, in the background of every single "down the stretch the victor comes" shot, every race. The strategy may not yield a whole lot of excitement, but it may earn him a second Cup title. Last week: 2.

3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior Nation is no doubt screaming about the late pit call that may or may not have cost Earnhardt a race, but everyone ought to be screaming about the reason WHY he did it: the penalty for running out of gas and finishing in 25th place is far more severe than the benefit gained from possibly winning the race, points-wise. That's where we're at, everybody. Last week: 5.

4. Denny Hamlin: Coming back to Pocono, Denny Hamlin must have felt like you do when you go back to a place you used to live, and they've changed everything. "Wait, that killer old bar is now a Starbucks? This sucks!" Still, muscle memory allowed Hamlin to stay within sight of the leaders for most of the day, so that worked out for him. Last week: 6.

5. Greg Biffle: Poor Biff. One bad week and everybody's ready to leap off the Biffle Bandwagon. (The Bifflewagon?) Sure, it wasn't a great week for Greg, and he did lose the points lead, but he's still in fine shape for the Chase. As Tony Stewart showed last year, all you have to do is get in the door. Last week: 4.

6

. Kasey Kahne: KK's great run came to an end this week, but that shouldn't take anything away from what he's done to this point. He probably still needs another win to get the wild card, but the fact that he can even consider that after the horrors of the first part of the year is good news. Last week: 3.

7. Tony Stewart: This had to be the most anonymous third-place finish Tony Stewart has ever notched. I mean, nobody was talking about him the entire race until, hey, look at that, he's right there behind the leaders. He was the highest-placed finisher who didn't lead a lap, and you get the feeling that if this race was 500 miles instead of the 400 it was (and thank heaven it wasn't), Stewart would've grabbed this one. Last week: 11.

8. Kevin Harvick: Not a whole lot of note about Harvick's performance this week. He too got dinged by the speed trap at Pocono. Beyond that, I got nothing. Seriously. He didn't lead a lap. Help me out here, Harvick fans. What in the world can I say about your boy that I haven't already said ... oh, out of space. Forget it. Last week: 8.

9. Martin Truex Jr. You see how Truex's car got peeled open like a can of beans? Except instead of delicious baked beans, blue foam spilled out all over the track. Also, note how fast the team got his car taped up and back out on the track. Next time your collision-repair guy says it'll take four weeks to get that little dent out, you show him how fast Truex's team worked. Last week: 9.

10. Kyle Busch: Kyle has slid all the way down to the first wild card spot, which is not a place you want to be if you're a driver. If you're a fan? Hey, we're all over this. It's looking like we'll have Edwards, Kyle, Newman, Logano and Kahne fighting for those last two spots. That'll be fun. Last week: 7.

Joey Logano

Joey Logano

11. Joey Logano: Hey there, Sliced Bread! Welcome to the Power Rankings. Yeah, you haven't exactly run well this year, but a win that convincing gets you here for at least a week. And look at that! You're right in line for the wild card! Amazing how life can change so quickly for a young lad. Last week: NR.

12. Clint Bowyer: Bowyer also suffered from the dreaded pit-road speed trap. Let's all thank heaven that none of the drivers decided to use the time-honored "show a little leg to get out of a speeding ticket" technique. None of us needs to see that. Ever. Last week: 12.

Dropping out of the rankings: Brad Keselowski.

Lucky Dog: Landon Cassill. Mr. Cassill ran less than one lap and earned $90,000 on Sunday. That is some damn good work if you can get it.

DNF: The qualifying-day groundhog. Adios, lil' feller. Hope you had a dignified end, but since you got knocked into the infield, we've got a feeling there were groundhog burgers on the menu Friday night.

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