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From The Marbles

Power Rankings: Who’s got the best championship shot?

Nick Bromberg
From The Marbles

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Is Kyle Busch the favorite for the Chase? (Getty Images)

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?

This week, we're going to rank the 12 Chase drivers based on how we like their chances of a championship, not how we think they'll finish. Deal? Deal. Let's do this.

1. Kyle Busch (LW: 2): Remember the last time that Kyle Busch entered the Chase as the presumptive favorite? That was 2008, and he opened the Chase with finishes of 34th, 43rd and 28th. Yeah, that's obviously not going to fly again if it repeats itself. But Busch is here because he's been the most consistently fast car in the Cup Series this year.

2. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 3): If Jimmie Johnson goes out and wins at Chicago on Sunday, the demons from the past three weeks are exorcised, right? It's been a remarkable string of dysfunction for the No. 48 bunch, but it could all quickly become a side note. Johnson's still no worse than co-favorite, and should still be the team that everyone else is worried about.

3. Matt Kenseth (LW: 1): The top three are all pretty close, and Chicago is the type of track where the No. 20 has excelled this season, with wins at Las Vegas, Kansas and Kentucky, in addition to Darlington. Does Kenseth's prowess on 1.5 milers mean he should be the favorite for the Chase? It's certainly a strong argument.

4. Kasey Kahne (LW: 10): After that top three, it becomes a crapshoot. Kahne admitted after Saturday night's race that at times he thinks the team is a championship contender and at times he wonders what's going on. And Saturday was proof of that dichotomy. But given that Kahne has been just behind Kenseth at those 1.5 milers, he deserves to be here.

5. Carl Edwards (LW: 9): Quite the restart turnabout for Edwards at Richmond, where he was penalized a year earlier for jumping a restart. Edwards seems like the guy who's going to hang around near the top of the Chase standings but not make a run. Given his consistency this season, a title wouldn't be a shock, but is anyone getting that vibe?

6. Kevin Harvick (LW: 7): It hasn't affected the No. 29 team for the first 26 races, so it's absurd to think that the lame duck thing will impact Harvick's championship hopes. He's finished below 14th just four times in 26 races, and that type of consistency will mean Harvick hangs around.

7. Joey Logano (LW: 5): Sliced Bread is the only Chase newcomer and he's going to be everyone's dark horse candidate for the title. That's not unwarranted, the No. 22 has been faster than teammate and defending champion Brad Keselowski most of the season and has played a lesser version of the "top 10 or bust" game that Kyle Busch is playing.

8. Clint Bowyer (LW: 4): Bowyer's chances are much like Harvick's and Edwards'. You just have to wonder how much that not winning at Bristol and Atlanta will hurt. Though let's be honest here, how do his teammates get 50 point penalties and he virtually gets off scot-free? That's certainly a headscratcher.

9. Kurt Busch (LW: 6): It's tough to put Busch so far down here given the speed that the No. 78 has shown all year, but if the team couldn't break through during the first 26 races with all of that speed, why should we expect anything different in the Chase? When Tony Stewart won in 2011, the performance of his team shifted. For Busch, the performance has been superior to the results. Says here something crazy happens again when Busch is on the precipice.

10. Ryan Newman (LW: NR): Now that Newman has his chance at the championship, how realistic is it? That team has been the fastest Stewart-Haas team all season, but that's a little like the Royals' success this year. It's only magnified because of the porousness that's surrounded it. OK, yes, that's a harsh comparison for Stewart-Haas, but it'd be surprising if Newman was a factor.

11. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 8): No, this is not a troll, Junior Nation. On what realistic level can we expect the No. 88 bunch to be title contenders? Junior's average finish this season is 14.2, and he's going to have to increase that by more than a few to be a factor for the Chase.

12. Greg Biffle (LW: NR): Since his win at Michigan, Biffle has four top 10 finishes. However, those finishes are 8th, 9th, 9th and 10th. The speed simply hasn't been there for the No. 16. On the year, Biffle has fewer top 5s than Juan Pablo Montoya and Tony Stewart.

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