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From The Marbles

Power Rankings: Johnson’s points lead dwindles, but he moves back to the top

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: 2): Before you ask us why Johnson is here because of his 22nd place finish Sunday night, ask yourself who should be here instead of Johnson. Name the driver and look up his finishing position and performance. Yeah, exactly. While Johnson didn't have a race-winning car, he certainly had one capable of a top-five and looked to be headed in that direction before he spun out while racing Martin Truex Jr.

2. Matt Kenseth (LW: 1): Kenseth's race went south at the same time as Johnson's, as he got whacked by Juan Pablo Montoya and the wall in the aftermath of Johnson's slide. And the only reason he was back there was because he got forced to use the wavearound after the caution flag flew during a round of green flag pit stops. Had that not happened, it very well could have been Kenseth battling Kahne for the win.

3. Carl Edwards (LW: 3): This probably seems like a broken record in Edwards' Power Rankings space, but Sunday was another perfect example of how his 2013 is different than his 2012. He wasn't in the same zip code as the leaders all evening (save for late in the race when he stayed out longer than the rest of the field) and ended up 11th. Last year, that's probably 20th. And even better, he cut some points off Johnson's points lead.

4. Kevin Harvick (LW: 6): That was Harvickian, wasn't it? After starting 15th, Harvick slowly worked his way to the front of the field and took the lead for the first time on lap 327. And then when he, along with the rest of the field, came for four tires on the race's final caution, his pit crew got him out first and Harvick did the rest. It wasn't as dramatic as his final lap pass of Dale Earnhardt Jr. for his first Coca-Cola 600 victory, but dare we say this was more impressive.

5. Kasey Kahne (LW: 8): Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis were in a precarious situation being the leader of the race when that final yellow flew. If Kahne stays out, the rest of the field has the opportunity to isolate Kahne and pit. If he comes in, many cars could have stayed out and forced him to work through traffic on the final 11 laps. Kahne and Francis chose the former and that's exactly what happened. Though Kahne had a good enough car to hold on for second.

6. Denny Hamlin (LW: 9): Obvious statement alert: Second and fourth in your first two races back from injury is a pretty nice way to start your comeback into the top 20. Hamlin jumped three spots Sunday night and is now 24th in the standings. Next up ahead of him is Juan Pablo Montoya, but he's 26 points away. A win at Dover would go a long way to not only making up a significant chunk of that deficit against Montoya but also boost Hamlin's Wild Card chances.

7. Kyle Busch (LW: 4): Busch hitting that rope while leading the race on lap 121 was downright Kyle Buschian, wasn't it? Of course, that bizarre circumstance had to go and be topped on the Buschian scale with a sadly all-too-predictable engine failure and Busch was done with more than 140 laps left in the race. Just when you think all of the pieces are together for Busch to make a charge, consecutive races are marred with a flat tire, hitting a rope and a blown engine. Sheesh.

8. Kurt Busch (LW: NR): Speaking of things being Kyle Buschian, the question of when Kurt Busch and team will finally be able to put together a relatively flawless and incident free race still remains. Kurt finished third, but who knows what it would have been had his battery not died during the final red flag period and he was forced to be pushed by the wrecker to the pits and then restart 15th.

9. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 5): Junior's car was faster in the sunlight than it was in the darkness, and he was actually in danger of being lapped at one point. He stayed on the lead lap however, but we're left to wonder how and if Junior would have been able to march back through the field because of that blown engine.

10. Clint Bowyer (LW: 10): Bowyer maintains his spot with a nice eighth place finish. He was everywhere this race weekend, from the booth on ESPN during the Nationwide Series race to in-car interviews during the Coca-Cola 600. And, at one point during the race, Bowyer asked if he could have someone to ride shotgun to "shoot the (stuff)" with. Who wants to volunteer?

11. Jeff Gordon (LW: 7): Gordon also pitted at the same time that Kenseth did and while Kenseth was able to take the wavearound, Gordon lost his lap while on pit road as the team changed two tires. And even though Gordon was ahead of Jimmie Johnson, Johnson got the Lucky Dog. No, that wasn't a conspiracy. The free pass goes to the driver a lap down at the time the caution comes out. Johnson was it. Simple as that.

12. Paul Menard (LW: NR): PFM is back! After getting caught up in the crash involving Johnson, Kenseth and Montoya, Menard and team was able to fix the damage on the right front of his car and played the fuel mileage game for a 13th place finish. While Menard has lost the RCR points leader crown, he's eighth in the standings, one position and 15 points back of Harvick. Watch out, Cupcake. PFM is still hanging around.

Lucky Dog: Joey Logano finished fifth for his fourth top 10 of the season. That's two more than he had all of last year. Logano is 19th in the standings, but if there wasn't that 25 point penalty, he'd be 13th. Think of how different the narrative is without that penalty.

Dropped Out: Aric Almirola, Juan Pablo Montoya

The DNF: Brad Keselowski, it's been a rough stretch for you. Over his last four points races, @Kes has finished 33rd, 15th 32nd and 36th. And that's not counting the busted transmission on lap 2 in the All-Star Race.

Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
Kevin Harvick sprints to Coca-Cola 600 triumph
Witness: Fans tried to warn officials of camera cable failure
Crashes were back at Charlotte

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