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Power Rankings: @Keselowski #winning #legit

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 a guy who's setting up camp up top:

1.  Brad Keselowski: 1, 8, 5, 9, 4, 2, 2. It's not just a rundown of your last seven dates, it's BK's last seven finishes. Nobody's as consistent as he is right now, and even though he's still relatively young by NASCAR's Jurassic standards, he's now an absolutely legit championship contender. Maybe the Jimmie Johnson stomp for six isn't as predestined as we thought.  Last week: 1.

2. Jimmie Johnson: I don't care who you are, you've got to feel (in the abstract) the tiniest bit bad for Johnson losing the way he did on Sunday, seeing his engine vaporize with six laps remaining. If Hendrick's motors are faltering, that might just be the opening other teams need to catch him. Maybe. Last week: 2.

[Related: Greg Biffle outruns Brad Keselowski for win and points lead]

3. Greg Biffle: After his win on Sunday in Michigan, Biffle complained that people aren't taking him seriously. Winning is a good way to do that, GB. Do you think he's a championship contender? We think he's close, very close. One more win, especially one in the Chase, and he'll be right there in the upper-echelon mix. Last week: 5.

4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Everybody always wants to know how Junior's doing any given race. It's the NASCAR version of "Roll Tide"; no matter what the situation, "Junior update?" Try it next time you're at the grocery store, at a wedding, at a funeral ... long as the deceased isn't a Junior. That could go badly, as the dearly departed has gone to that great Garage in the Sky. Last week: 4.

5. Kasey Kahne: HurriKahne is legitimately close to catching Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart for that 10th spot; he's within 35 points of both, and could legitimately run down one or the other by Richmond. Neither driver is in danger of missing the Chase, but they'd lose out on those tasty bonus points.  Last week: 7.

[Related: Mark Martin's crash was bad, but could have been worse]

6. Martin Truex Jr.: When do we start to consider Michael Waltrip Racing an elite team? Truex needs to get a win, definitely, but he's running up front every week, as is Clint Bowyer. And Mark Martin was tearing it up until he got shishkebabbed on the pit road wall. You've got to admit, though, they're getting close. Last week: 10.

7. Matt Kenseth: What's up with MK? You think the indecision and uncertainty regarding his future is affecting his team? He hasn't won in a looooong time, and you've got to wonder if his plans to leave are starting to have an impact. Easy to say from our vantage point, of course. Last week: 5.

8. Jeff Gordon: You knew it couldn't last. Gordon's star-crossed year continues as he gets into a fight with, like, the guy least likely to get into a fight: one Dale Earnhardt Jr. He's still got a chance, and he's got options to win at both Atlanta and Richmond, but oh, it's going to be a rough next few weeks for him. Last week: 3.

[Related: Jeff Gordon was really unhappy with Dale Earnhardt Jr.]

9. Clint Bowyer: Clint, please. I'm begging you. Do something interesting for me. Every time I get to your entry in these lists, I have absolutely nothing to write for you. You continue to drive very strong races with very little color or interest, like medium-hot salsa. So please, win or wreck somebody spectacularly. Thanks, bro.  Last week: 9.

10. Marcos Ambrose: What do you think? Can Kangaroo Meat make a run at the wild card? He's waited just a wee bit too long to go at it via points, but with a Hail-Mary win, he could get in. Boy, wouldn't that just tick everybody off? Last week: NR.

11. Denny Hamlin: What the heck happened to Hamlin? One moment he's stomping everyone flat, and then we look up and he's stumbling along the low edge of the standings. We'll avoid sweeping judgments except to say that we blame this all on Obama. And also Romney.  Last week: 8.

12. Tony Stewart: If it were any other driver, we'd call Tony Stewart toast. No chance in the Chase, regardless of how many wins he has in the regular season. But Stewart has a way of wringing victory out of certain defeat. Seriously, if he had been in Custer's army, he'd have routed Crazy Horse and the rest of 'em. They would've been mystified by the appearance of the No. 14 at Little Big Horn, that's for sure. Last week: 11.

Dropping out of the rankings: Kyle Busch.

Lucky Dog: Sam Hornish Jr. The guy is doing his level best to lock up a Cup ride again next year. He'll be fighting (presumably) Joey Logano, but he's doing all he can to prove himself on-track.

The Carl Edwards DNF: Carl Edwards, who had a chance to take this race, lining up third on the Green-White-Checker, but couldn't even begin to hang with Biffle and Keselowski.

All right, your turn. Fire away, friends.

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