Power Rankings: A flip flop at the top and Junior moves to third

Nick Bromberg
November 5, 2013

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 now, shall we?

1. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 2): That was one thorough buttkicking. How thorough? We'll let Brad Keselowski's post-race comments take it from here. "His car was so much faster than the field. It was pretty embarrassing to be quite honest." Yeah, when you lead more than 250 of 334 laps, clean air can only take you so far. That car was good. Think it's on the list to be taken to Homestead?

2. Matt Kenseth (LW: 1): To get past him, Johnson needed to beat Kenseth at his own 2013 game (read: 1.5 mile tracks), and he did that on Sunday. Can Kenseth return the favor at Homestead? In the four races since the Phoenix repave, each driver has a crash. The other three finishes? For Johnson it's 14th, fourth and second. For Kenseth it's 13th, 14th and seventh.

3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 5): Because he's Junior, he's not getting lost in the championship shuffle as much as another driver would. But it's also impossible to overlook the run that Junior's been on. Is he a candidate to do what Jeff Gordon did at Homestead last year? We certainly think so.

4. Kevin Harvick (LW: 4): Does Harvick get this spot by default? He's getting pretty good at this whole "third place in the standings" thing. If he maintains his position, it'll be the third time in the last four years that Cupcake has finished third. In that context, is it possible that Harvick is an underrated driver? You can form a convincing argument either way.

5. Jeff Gordon (LW: 3): And our bonus baby title hopes have been put to rest. Further accentuating the idea that you can lose a championship rather than win one, Gordon went from within a sniff of the title to sixth place and 69 points back with one blown left front tire. Evidence that we need to overhaul the points system, or at least tweak it significantly?

6. Kyle Busch (LW: 6): Oof, did Kyle Busch pull a Tony Romo this week? Like Romo, the argument that Busch is "unclutch" (or another similar adjective) has been used. And both bounced back on Sunday, as Romo led the Cowboys on a game-winning drive after throwing an interception with five minutes left and Busch was second after hitting the wall. But Busch then sped on pit road and it was over from there.

7: Clint Bowyer (LW: 7): Bowyer finished 10th in a car that had fluorescent highlights and camo on it. That's probably the most descriptive part of his day. The Duck Dynasty guys were at Texas Motor Speedway. They sponsored Bowyer's car once. Did they drink a bacon beer shake? If they did, did they like it? You want to move to the next driver? OK, let's go.

8. Greg Biffle (LW: 9): When Biffle had the opportunity, he bump-drafted Johnson down the backstretch during Sunday's race to deliver his "payback" or "message" or whatever you want to call it after Martinsville. Was it effective? Well, it had been more effective had he ripped Johnson's bumper cover off. That could have become the most random and overblown Texas controversy since Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton's "fight."

9. Joey Logano (LW: NR): Logano also said that he had no chance at Jimmie Johnson in Sunday's race despite finishing third. And he really had no chance of catching Junior, as he said that he drove his heart out but couldn't make up any ground. Sounds so Texas. last year, it was the wind that was blamed for a less than compelling race. This year, it's the tire. Watch out fellow media members, we're next.

10. Ryan Newman: (LW: 12): During a mid-race restart, Newman had quite the Kurt Busch at Atlanta restart move in turns one and two and gained a ton of positions. It might have been the races most dramatic moment. Oh man, that's kind of depressing, isn't it? No rules, just right, or something.

11. Carl Edwards (LW: 11): Can't penalize Edwards too much here. And besides, who would we replace him with? Edwards had one of the few cars that could have possibly challenged Johnson, but thanks to a valve spring issue, it didn't happen. At least he's returning to the track that he won at earlier in the year.

12. Mark Martin (LW: NR): What the heck is he doing here? Martin finished 11th on Sunday which was, believe it or not, his second-highest finish since becoming Tony Stewart's replacement in the No. 14. How crazy is that? It would be very Mark Martin if he won the season's final race and was overshadowed by the title, wouldn't it?

Lucky Dog: Let's give a shoutout to Parker Kligerman, who finished 18th in his first Sprint Cup race. And for Swan Racing, nonetheless. That's by far the team's best intermediate track finish this season.

The DNF: Poor David Ragan, after not having an engine failure all year he's suffered two in back-to-back weeks.

Dropped out: Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch