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From The Marbles

Power Rankings: It’s Jimmie Johnson’s throne, and no one else is close

Nick Bromberg
From The Marbles

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): Stunning, just stunning that Jimmie is here, you know? Johnson's run over the first 14 races has made discussion about potentially skipping a regular season race real. Why? Well, Chandra Johnson is due with the couple's second child in the fall. If she goes into labor early around the Richmond race and Johnson has maintained his current 51 point lead or locked himself in the Chase, he can be present for the birth. And if that scenario plays out? Good for Jimmie. He will have certainly earned it.

2. Kevin Harvick (LW: 2): After moving into the passenger seat last week with a top 10 finish, it'd be hypocritical to remove Harvick from it after a ninth place finish, right? And besides, someone has to be here. Though if Harvick has a bad finish at Michigan, I think we'd have to start thinking about simply skipping No. 2 in the rankings and going straight to the third spot.

3. Kyle Busch (LW: 4): There aren't too many races where Kyle Busch spends most of his day near the front but not actually, you know, at the front. Last year, Busch had 20 top 10 finishes and in 15 of those, he led laps. Sunday at Pocono was Busch's 8th top 10 of 2013 and the first time all year he'd gotten one without leading laps. Random related stat: Just to illustrate the roller coaster that Busch's season has been so far, his highest non-top 10 finish is 23rd.

4. Matt Kenseth (LW: 3): Hey, Matt Kenseth is getting familiar with roller coasters. After having a good car once again, Kenseth was involved in a spin with Juan Pablo Montoya that ruined his day. Yes, Kenseth had an engine issue after the spin, but it's not necessary to start the freak out just yet -- that engine was under a ton of stress during the 360 that Kenseth pulled after contact with Montoya. That probably had something to do with it.

5. Tony Stewart (LW: 9): He's shooting straight for the top of the rankings! Two weeks, two top five finishes for Smoke, and his car showed some legitimate speed for the second week in a row. Stewart gained 14 positions from start-to-finish on Sunday, second-most of anyone in the top 15. He was only bested by teammate Ryan Newman, who gained 18 spots thanks to a smart off-sequence pit strategy.

6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 12): It's time for Michigan so here comes a Junior win! And he's got a superhero paint scheme again this week. It's going to be deja vu all over again! But wait right there, it's not a presidential election year. Until he proves otherwise, you can only bank on a Junior Michigan win at those times. That's a fact. Anyway, Junior kept up with his teammate in the top 10 race at Pocono. That third place finish was his 9th top 10 of the year.

7. Clint Bowyer (LW: 6): 15th for Rawhide at Pocono was his 11th top 15 of the year. Yeah, I'm reaching here. But I'll be honest, what is there to say about a 15th place finish at perhaps the most "eh" race of the season? That top 15 rate is a great way to get into the Chase, but it's not much fodder for Power Rankings. And the latter is obviously much more important than the former.

8. Carl Edwards (LW: 5): Last week, Edwards actually gained (two) points on Johnson thanks to that late-race restart penalty. This week there would be no such luck. After starting second and leading the first nine laps, Edwards was never heard from again after getting shuffled back in the field thanks to tire strategy. Track position was incredibly important Sunday and Edwards lost it. He never got it back.

9. Kasey Kahne (LW: 7): He's Keselowski-ing it! Kahne has finished outside the top 20 in four of the last six races. That included Sunday, when he was sidelined by a drivetrain issue on the first freaking lap of the race. That's some horrible luck. Of course, one of the two finishes inside the top 20 over the last six is a second place finish, so the speed is still there. Kahne's just having his miserable stretch of the season now, rather than at the beginning of the year like last season.

10. Denny Hamlin (LW: 8): Are there such things as "good points days" in Denny Hamlin's world any longer? I'd wager so. While he needs the wins for Wild Card contention, he also needs to worry about the top 20. We've all seen how Hamlin can reel off victories, he doesn't need much time to accrue them. He's 76 points out of 20th. That's what will take time, and yeah, 8th place finishes aren't ideal, but you're not going to throw them away either.

11. Kurt Busch (LW: 11): Busch was fast all weekend once again and grabbed another top 10. He's getting closer and closer to victory lane as evidenced by his progress in the points standings. In the last seven races, the only time he's finished outside the top 15 was when he flipped at Talladega. Coincidentally, he's now 15th in the standings.

12. Jeff Gordon (LW: 10): Just like his standing in Power Rankings, Gordon finished 12th at Pocono. Not great, not poor. Just... pretty good. Thanks to his points position, Gordon started 11th and didn't venture too many deviations past that point throughout the entire race. On that note, it's fair to wonder how much qualifying being rained out made the race such a track position one. The good cars started up front and for the most part, they all stayed there.

Lucky Dog: This goes to Greg Biffle, who finished second. It was The Biff's first top 10 in the last seven races.

The DNF: Even though it wasn't an actual DNF, this goes to Martin Truex Jr., who finished 23rd after a couple of issues. After finishing 38th thanks to a blown engine last week, Truex is 17th in the standings after leaving Charlotte 9th.

Dropped Out: Brad Keselowski

Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
Hot/Not: 'Clarity' for Jimmie Johnson could turn ugly for the competition
Are Bobby Labonte's days in the 47 car numbered?
Dale Earnhardt Jr. gearing up for another win at Michigan

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