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Power Rankings: Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch are entrenched at the top

Nick Bromberg
From The Marbles

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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. Matt Kenseth (LW: 1): Not much you can do when the guy who was atop the standings last week wins again this week. We tossed out the stat last night but it bears repeating; last year through two races, 11 drivers were within 35 points of the lead. This year, three are. It's fitting that those three are Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson though, because they've been our best three all season.

2. Kyle Busch (LW: 2): In what's sure to rile up all the Chase haters, I'm going to break out this statistic. If there was no Chase, five drivers would be within 30 points of the lead, and Clint Bowyer would make six if there wasn't the 50 point NASCAR penalty. Though with the Chase, Busch is in a better spot. He's 14 back of Kenseth now, and would be 26 back without it.

3. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 3): That non-Chase points leader would be Jimmie Johnson, who's following a formula that would win him a championship every year. Instead, he's 18 points back. Is Martinsville going to be for Jimmie Johnson what it was for Brad Keselowski last year? For Keselowski, it was imperative that he stayed close to Johnson there and he succeeded. For Johnson, it may be imperative that he gaps the Gibbs cars as much as he can to have a chance at title six.

4. Kurt Busch (LW: 6): Busch and company spun the Wheel of Destruction yet again on Sunday and came up with a 13th place finish. The really good news for this team is that they're getting excellent at being able to overcome mistakes for decent finishes. (Busch was 13th.) However, when you're scrambling and the drivers at the top of the standings are finishing 1-2, you're still digging a hole.

5. Greg Biffle (LW: NR): Biffle said after the race that if there were 25 more laps, he'd have a chance to catch Busch and Kenseth. Strong words and it would have been fun to see if they could come true. Biffle is really good at Dover -- though so are the top three drivers in these here rankings. Could he be the top finishing Roush driver?

6. Carl Edwards (LW: 7): Or will it be this guy? Edwards qualified poorly at New Hampshire but was able to get near the front and stay there, finishing ninth. Much like Kurt Busch, it's the same story all year for Edwards. The performance is markedly improved over last season and he's brutally consistent. It's just that ninth place finishes aren't going to win titles.

7. Kevin Harvick (LW: 4): Cupcake's 20th place finish hurt a lot, especially considering he was the lowest of the Chasers not named Kasey Kahne. He's going to get a win over the final eight races, but it may be a win like Matt Kenseth's a year ago versus a win like Johnson's at Martinsville or Texas.

8. Clint Bowyer (LW: 7): How many people wondered about karma when an early slow pit stop put Bowyer back in the pack. He finished 17th and is now 10th in the standings. We'll stop talking about Richmond after this week, promise, but I think it'd be safe to say that the NASCAR powers that be are quite relieved that Bowyer isn't showing to be a title threat.

9. Ryan Newman (LW: 9): No Bloomin' Onions this week despite starting on the pole. Hell, Newman led all of two laps before slowly sliding into the abyss that was the teens at New Hampshire. Again, you think people are happy that Newman is so far back as of now too?

10. Jeff Gordon (LW: 10): And now we get to the third guy in the NASCAR nightmare champion scenario. Gordon ruined his chances by sliding through his pit box on a pit stop. Well, through may be too harsh. He was on the line, and his team was so eager to get the pit stop done that they jacked the right side of the car up before he had a chance to move it back off the line.

11. Jamie McMurray (LW: NR): Zoolander is coming alive! That was quite the nice recovery after touching the wall thanks to contact from teammate Juan Pablo Montoya and then more contact from Kevin Swindell. His fifth place finish was his second top five in three races and just his third of the season.

12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: NR): Welcome back Junior, though you're still at the Chase kids' table. Sorry about that, but it's no fault of your own. Blame your engine. Expect Junior to remain at the periphery for the final eight races, and he's not going to come into focus without a win or two. And do you see that happening?

Lucky Dog: How about a shout to Brian Vickers, who finished seventh after starting last? Yeah, he won at New Hampshire in the spring, but moving up 36 spots there is tough.

The DNF: Kasey Kahne gave us our second Great Clips craziest moment of the weekend. Good sponsor exposure I guess.

Dropped out: Kahne, Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

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