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 ... well, you know who:
1. Jimmie Johnson: Yeah, Vader is running better than anyone right now, and you and I both know that if he hadn't gotten loose at the last second, he'd have been halfway to Watkins Glen before the rest of the field crossed the finish line. But hey, that's why they play the games ... or run the races, right? Last week: 1.
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Joonyer's streak of 21 straight lead-lap finishes came to an end in Pocono, but no harm done; thanks to the late-race wreck, Earnhardt held onto the points lead another week. And, for the record, I hope I'm never too old to laugh at sentences like "Junior is having problems with his tranny." Last week: 2.
3. Jeff Gordon: Hey, remember when we all said Gordon was totally washed up and he should retire? Remember when we laughed that he was coming in behind the shuttle bus at Daytona? Remember when we said the only way he was going to get a wild card is if he sent all the other cars to the wrong track, and even then his car would probably finish one lap down? Yeah, uh ... please don't remember any of that. Last week: 8.
4. Denny Hamlin: So Denny's gonna be a daddy, huh? Good for him. Looks like Denny Time has come to an end. But sweet heaven, it's going to start looking like a kindergarten playground there among the drivers' haulers. Shoot, I miss the days when drivers would finish a race, get out of their cars and bum cigarettes off their third-grade kids. Last week: 4.
5. Matt Kenseth: Whatcha think of Kenseth? He's hit that midseason swoon, the time when his early-season dominance is a memory and he's getting ready for the Chase. You think he can make a run at the Cup? I do. And yes, all this blather is just dodging the fact that WHO ARE YOU DRIVING FOR NEXT YEAR, MATT? Last week: 3.
6. Brad Keselowski: You know what's creepy about Keselowski? The way he's always...right...there at the end of every race now. It's strange. Like, you half expect to see the Blue Deuce running behind JFK's motorcade or parked in a back alley of Westeros. Keselowski is everywhere, man. Last week: 5.
7. Kasey Kahne: 'Sup, Kasey. This is a testament to how stacked and similar the talent is across the top of NASCAR right now; Kahne pulls off a second-place finish and doesn't even move in the rankings. Of course, these are highly scientific, but the cardboard-addled gerbil who makes these rankings told me it was strange. Last week: 7.
8. Greg Biffle: You been watching the Olympics? I've been covering the women's gymnastics (don't judge!) the last few days, and sweet heaven, it's insane the tiny margin for error there. I mean, I'm watching this little girl do an astonishing flip-and-twirl on uneven bars, the kind of thing that would snap me in half, and the judges are tut-tutting like she just ran over a family of ducklings. But you know what's a great score in gymnastics? 16, which just happens to be the number of Mr. Biffle. Boom. (And that's what the gym types would call a stuck landing.) Last week: 6.
9. Tony Stewart: I'm not alone in wanting a Tony Stewart reality show, am I? Seriously, that would be the greatest show ever. Shoot, his in-car audio is enough to keep us all laughing for a week. And there could be a weekly "who's got Tony pissed?" segment ... you know what? That should be the name of the show right there. Last week: 9.
10. Martin Truex Jr.:
Truex doesn't get any respect from the media! Come on, dude's in fifth place! Sure, he hasn't won, and he's not quite as well-known as that other Junior, but around here, we've ... we've what? We didn't rank him the last few weeks? Not at all? Oh. Whoops. Last week: NR.
11. Ryan Newman: You think Newman's going to be back at Stewart-Haas next year? I sure hope he gets some sponsorship lined up, for his sake. He ought to be going door-to-door if he has to. How long would it take to line up sponsorship for a full season at a dollar a house? Only, like, 40 years, right? Last week: 11.
12. Clint Bowyer: Look, I'm not going to lie to you. I'm fried. I've got nothing witty to say about Clint Bowyer this week. I've run through my Five-Hour Energy jokes, my Rawhide jokes, my Waltrip jokes. I got nothing. Sorry, Clint. But I vamped long enough that we got through this entry. Last week: 12.
Dropping out of the rankings: Kyle Busch.
Lucky Dog: Regan Smith, who brought home his first top 10, and not coincidentally, his best finish of the season at Pocono.
The Carl Edwards DNF: Kyle Busch, who went from Chase certainty to wild card write-in to "wow, he could really miss this thing."
All right, your turn. Fire away, friends.
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