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From The Marbles

Power Rankings: It’s a Gibbs two-step with a week until the Chase

Nick Bromberg
From The Marbles

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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. Matt Kenseth (LW: 1): Flatline gets to stay up here despite finishing 12th Sunday. Why? Because that 12th place finish was a great bounceback after the team was forced to pit under green for a wheel hub issue and never had it right all night. It can't be overstated how important salvaging potential bad finishes is in the Chase, and Atlanta was one of those nights for Kenseth. Good practice for sometime soon?

2. Kyle Busch (LW: 8): There's a case for Busch at the top spot, but he'll setlle into second right now. If you're ranking Kenseth, Busch and Jimmie Johnson on Chase chances, what order are you putting them in? You could likely pick any order of the three and have a strong case. And don't view it as a diss to whoever you have third; rather it's a compliment to the other two.

3. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 2): That said, Johnson's simply gone from favorite to co-favorite status at worst, right? We don't know how his night would have gone with a healthy car as his chances of a good finish were toasted. This also bears repeating; Johnson could just be getting all the bad stuff out of the way before the Chase.

4. Clint Bowyer (LW: 3): Speaking of bad stuff, that's two different ways to lose back to back leads, Rawhide. Hopefully he picked a good beer to have after the race, though if he wanted to keep with the spirit of smelling like a sour engine, he could have gone with a domestic macrobrew.

5. Joey Logano (LW: 6): We can all admit that we're past the point of asking if Joey Logano is a contender, right? Instead, the question becomes where he ranks. Yes, he's not in the Chase just yet, but anything more than a terrible finish gets him in. Then in next week's rankings we'll see where he stacks up.

6. Kurt Busch (LW: 10): Did you see the restart that Kurt Busch had to go from 11th to second in the span of two corners? Absolutely incredible. The outside line not being able to go all night helped him immensely, but he still powered around the cars ahead of him on the inside line in turns one and two and lo and behold was even with Logano for second on the backstretch.

7. Kevin Harvick (LW: 7): Another race, another top 10 for Harvick, who made his weekly apppearance near the front of the field in the second half of a race at Atlanta. Harvick's going to be around all Chase, but there's just feels like there's something missing from his championship chances.

8. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 5): Same goes for Junior, who finished a spot ahead of Harvick in 8th. Junior and Jeff Gordon pitted late for tires but were never able to charge through the field and capitalize on the drivers ahead of them who didn't pit.

9. Carl Edwards (LW: 9): The decision for Edwards to stay out on old tires when the rest of the field behind he and Joey Logano didn't pit was absolutely disastrous. Edwards immediately was sucked up by the cars with fresh rubber and within a matter of laps was a spot away from 20th. He finished 18th. So, was Edwards' presence at the front more a fast car before everything went south or just simply track position and less turbulent air?

10. Kasey Kahne (LW: 4): That restart was a six point blow to Kasey Kahne's Chase points. And a one-win driver a tentative spot in the chase. Perhaps nothing more at Richmond hinges on Kahne's performance. He moves into the top 10, and a winless driver misses the Chase and both one-win drivers south of 10th get in. If you're going to watch one driver Saturday night, it's got to be Kahne.

11. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: NR): Hell of a performance by Martin Truex Jr. with a melted cast on his right wrist. What do you think the chances of him getting a new material on his cast are? 1,000%? It'll be cooler in Richmond, but I certainly wouldn't want to go back to a plaster cast after having it melt in my hand.

12. Jeff Gordon (LW: 12): Jeff always likes to make it interesting, whether it's going backwards on a restart or saving the Chase drama for the final race of the regular season. This year, gordon's chances are much higher than they were last year. If we get a green-white-checker restart at Richmond and Gordon is six spots ahead of Kurt Busch... well, who else really wants to see that?

The Lucky Dog: Juan Pablo Montoya's seventh place finish was the seventh top 10 of the season. did you know he has more top five finishes than Greg Biffle?

The DNF: Brad Keselowski. I could hear the sad trombone as I typed his name.

Dropped Out: Martin Truex Jr.

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