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. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 1):
Maybe the best way to prevent Jimmie Johnson from winning the Chase is to have it at 10 straight road courses? After finishing eighth at Watkins Glen and ninth at Sonoma, his average road course finish is 8.5. See, anyone can beat that, right? What? His average finish this year overall is 8.6? OK, no one can beat that... yet.2. Kyle Busch (LW: 4):
There's that dang streak again, and now Busch is set to start the Chase three points behind Johnson and Matt Kenseth with Bristol and Richmond before the Chase begins. Crazy enough, is Busch not getting enough credit this year? You can argue (successfully) that on the whole, his performance has been better than Kenseth.
3. Carl Edwards (LW: 8): Yes, this is a five spot leap for Cuz after his fourth place finish at the Glen. Why? Well... who else was going to go here? Of the drivers that he leapfrogged, one missed the race, three were involved in the same crash and the other finished 14th. It doesn't look so weird now, does it?4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 2):
Junior just didn't have anywhere to go and couldn't avoid his teammate's spinning car. That happens sometimes, and before that, Junior was putting in a nice run at the back of the top 10 all day. The optimism that he still has despite the crash
is not unfounded. Says here that Junior is rewarded and wins a race before the Chase.
5. Kasey Kahne (LW: 3): If Junior was an innocent bystander, Kahne can at least claim "first!" at the Hendrick team meeting. But when you're claiming first and it's not about finishing first, it's usually not a good thing. This should probably transition into the entry about Matt Kenseth nicely here, because it was contact from him that sent Kahne spinning, but I've got nothing.6. Matt Kenseth (LW: 4):
If you're expecting to see Kenseth blamed for that incident, I've got nothing either. The handling on Ambrose's car was going away, and he got loose. Usually, drivers can flat-foot it up the hill right there, but with an ill-handling car, that's not as easy as it should be. And with drivers in close quarters after a restarts on a narrow portion of the track? Mayhem.
7. Ryan Newman (LW: 7): It'd be fitting if Newman takes Stewart's spot in the Chase, right? That's the position he's in right now with four races to go. If Newman does make the Chase, it'll only intensify the cries about how much of an injustice it is that he's leaving Stewart-Haas while someone else is staying. But it's an injustice that so many people think it's an injustice. Dollar dollar bill y'all.8. Kevin Harvick (LW: 10):
Harvick is a lame duck and Richard Childress doesn't care anymore and Harvick only wants to just start 2014 at Stewart-Haas! Is that still a thing? Or am I a Harvick hipster and invoking the cries before they're cool again? On a serious note, this team is going to make the Chase, but with three straight finishes outside the top 10, it's not so much of a cruise as a coast right now.9. Clint Bowyer (LW: 11):
Bowyer breaks back into the top 10 in Power Rankings with a top 10 on the track. But because he's so funny, it's likely he was never out of the top 10 in your heart. If the Chase started today, Bowyer would go from second to eighth during the reseeding. A win in the next four races could go a long way.10. Brad Keselowski (LW: NR):
Same goes for Keselowski after that second place finish. Should he have dumped Kyle Busch to virtually guarantee himself a spot in the Chase? It's definitely worth thinking about.
At what point does necessary trump dirty? Ultimately, Keselowski made the honorable decision, but... yeah, the what-if could linger.11. Kurt Busch (LW: 12):
You would have been able to get some pretty good odds on Kurt being in 11th through 22 races before the season started. But here he is, just two points from the top 10. If Busch gets in the Chase, don't be surprised to see shades of Tony Stewart in 2011.12. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: NR):
Welcome back after a one-week absence, Other Junior! And now that you're back in the top 10, your bonus points get to count for the Chase. That's a nice feeling, isn't it? Just be careful, we saw Sunday how much a crash can hurt.
Lucky Dog: How about a callout for AJ Allmendinger, who finished 10th despite running out of gas during the middle of the race. Was it a good move for JTG-Daugherty to use Dinger? Well, in two races for the team at Watkins Glen, Bobby Labonte finished 19th and 27th and overall, his last top 10 there was in 2001.
The DNF: Jeff Gordon. Is there any extrapolation needed?
Dropped Out: Gordon, Tony Stewart
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