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Power Rankings extra: Who’s in line to win the Cup?

From The Marbles

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Welcome to Power Rankings, where we spend each week breaking down the best drivers in the sport at the moment and occasionally diverging into completely unrelated topics. This week, with the drivers off, we had a choice: 1. No column at all. 2. Re-run last week's column. 3. Go all-irrelevant and write about music and beer and whatever. All of those had merit, but we decided to just throw some red meat your way and assess everybody's Cup chances. Let's start right from the top of the current standings:

1. Carl Edwards: Nobody's been more consistent this year, though he's only got one win. Still, he's always right there within sight of the leaders in every race. Right now, he's the favorite. Odds: 4-1.

2. Jimmie Johnson: You can't ever count Johnson out of the Chase, but this year he looks more vulnerable than ever. His next few weeks, as he gets the team in tune for the Chase, will say a great deal about his chances for turning that switch for the final 10 races. Odds: 5-1.

3. Kurt Busch: Do you wonder if Kurt can hold it together for an entire Chase? I sure do. I think we're one really bad race from Kurt absolutely going vein-bursting insane on his crew, and that's enough to kill your Chase chances. Odds: 7-1.

4. Kevin Harvick: Harvick is one of the most talented drivers in the garage, but dude seems consumed with settling scores in a way that nobody else does. Yes, it's manly and tough and all, and Richard Childress seems to encourage that, but as Johnson has shown, champions have to rise above that. Odds: 8-1.

5. Kyle Busch: He can win at any track, at any time, which makes him a threat. He can also torpedo his own chances anywhere, at any time, which makes him a cagey bet. Until he demonstrates that he can handle adversity in the heart of the Chase, proceed with caution. Odds: 7-1.

6. Matt Kenseth: The X-Factor in this year's Chase; he's a quieter, stealthier Edwards, but with more wins. While Harvick and the Busch boys make noise, Kenseth just keeps piling up top 10s. Odds: 8-1.

7. Jeff Gordon: He's getting more consistent by the week, but would you trust him to run all out without mistakes for 10 races? Not sure we're there just yet. Odds: 10-1.

8. Ryan Newman: His qualifying always seems to put him in a good starting position, which allows him to stay out of the early, race-killing messes. Still, his season doesn't inspire Chase confidence yet. Odds: 25-1.

9. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: All of the goodwill from the early season is gone, completely gone, and he absolutely must run well from here on out to preserve his flagging Chase chances. A Cup is almost out of the question, unfortunately. Odds: 40-1.

10. Denny Hamlin: He's a scary prospect in this Chase; if he manages to get it all together, he could challenge Edwards and Johnson. Did the lessons from last year's Chase stick? We'll see in Week 9. Odds: 7-1.

Wild card prospects:
Tony Stewart: He should start clicking in the next few weeks, and the Chase, while not a certainty, is looking fairly likely. Once in? He'll need help.

David Ragan: The odds-on favorite to get into the Chase via the wild card thanks to a timely win at Daytona. And while he may not have much of a chance once he's there, even making it is impressive given his background.

Clint Bowyer: In freefall right now. He simply must have a win to make it into the Chase. It's doable, sure, but that all-in strategy is tough to plan for. Also in the same boat: Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Juan Pablo Montoya.

Brad Keselowski: He fell off the edge after his key win and now must go absolutely all-out and hope no one ahead of him in the 11-20 segment notches another win. Unlikely, but as with Ragan, even being in the conversation is successful.

And now your turn. Your take on everybody's prospects? As for Power Rankings, next up: Indy! We get back to racing with a classic track. Send comments to us via Twitter at @jaybusbee, email by clicking here, and via Facebook at The Marbles page.

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