It's time for Power Rankings! After every race, we'll opine about who we think is at the top of the Sprint Cup heap and how and why they got there. Remember, this isn't scientific, as our formula is the perfect blend of analytics and bias against your favorite driver. So let's get on with it, shall we?
1. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 1):
At one point during Saturday night's NRA 500, Fox TV analyst Darrell Waltrip opined that the rest of the field needed to capitalize on Jimmie Johnson
's struggles. He was sixth at the time. Waltrip quickly corrected himself, seemingly after taking a glance at the scoring monitor or getting word from the production truck that Johnson was much closer to the front than he was to 20th. But such is the NASCAR world that we live in where the first instinct is to call running just outside the top five a "struggle" for the 48 team.
2. Kyle Busch (LW: 5):
Hello, Kyle. You've got some elite company above and below you. We're not doubting that you belong here by any means, because you've won two of the last three races and you're in that elite discussion. You just don't have the hardware that these guys do. Will you? Probably. Will you have it this year? If you keep this up you will. But we'll worry about the Chase when we get there in 19 races.
3. Brad Keselowski (LW: 2):
Can you justify moving him down much more after his anger-fueled charge to ninth over the final 16 laps? And did the cars of both he and Logano pass inspection on Friday? If they did, then there's some added intrigue to the whole debate about what's in the spirit of the NASCAR rules and how one deviates from it.
4. Carl Edwards (LW: 10):
Did anyone else figure that Texas was going to be a case of one step forward, one step backwards for the No. 99 team? Instead, after issues both apparently related to the engine and to his seatbelts (!), Edwards rallied for a third place finish and his fourth top five of the year. Which is also known as "one more than he had all last season."
5. Kasey Kahne (LW: 4):
Kahne's run at Texas was in the same vein of Johnson's. We've come to expect Kahne will do so well at intermediate tracks that an 11th place finish is almost a surprising moment. Another intermediate track awaits on Sunday, and the guess here is that Kahne will be in the top 10.
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 3):
Ol' Junior has gone from leading the points by 12 to trailing by 35 in the span of two races. Though he certainly didn't run poorly at Texas, he just had some bad luck combined with a moment of muddled thought from both he and Steve Letarte that turned a moment that could have been overcome into one that couldn't.
7. Matt Kenseth (LW: 6):
Flatline keeps on flatlining. He ran in the top 10 most of the day before finishing 12th. We're going to use this space as a plea to Matt: start tweeting more often again. Flatline was one of the funniest follows in NASCAR, but over the past few months his Twitter frequency has decreased. Come on Matt, you can tweet from your phone! Just don't do it in the car.
8. Greg Biffle (LW: 9):
Nice rebound for Fiffle after starting 35th, especially given Ford's performance on intermediate tracks so far. Side note: if we're not counting laps led during pit stop cycles (both under caution and green), only three drivers truly led Saturday night's race: Busch, Truex and Jeff Gordon
9. Joey Logano (LW: NR):
Keselowski's charge was impressive and so was Logano's run the entire race after he barely made the start of the race. Had Logano not been able to get in the car before the field rolled off pit road, we could have had our first opportunity to see a rally-type start in NASCAR, with Logano sprinting to his car as the field is rolling around the track. That could have been something else.
10. Jeff Gordon (LW: 8):
Speak of the Gordon! A rare calamity (a broken left hub) struck Gordon and sent him to the garage late in the race while he was running in the top five. Stop me if you've heard that before. His finish merits more than a one spot drop, but his performance doesn't. Tenth it is.
11. Clint Bowyer (LW: 7):
Just a nondescript day for Bowyer, who finished 15th. It was a synergistic weekend of sorts for Bowyer. He was sponsored by Gander Mountain and the Duck Dynasty folks were at Texas -- Bowyer was on the show in November. Apparently it's a popular show. Quack?
12. Paul Menard (LW: 10):
The Nardburns is still hanging by a moment like a Lifehouse song in the early 2000s. He's still 14 points ahead of Kevin Harvick for top RCR car honors after finishing 17th at Texas.
Dropped Out: Jamie McMurray
Lucky Dog: Aric Almirola, who is returning to Kansas after a Texas top 10. His fall race performance before a tire issue derailed his day might have been the strongest one of his career.
The Tony Stewart DNF: Smoke finished outside the top 20 again, so should he get to carry the mantle of his own award? Or should this be renamed the Kurt Busch DNF after a strong run at Texas was derailed by mechanical issues for the second straight week?
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