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. Matt Kenseth (LW: 3):
As the esteemed Geoffrey Miller noted in Hot/Not
on Monday, Kenseth has been in the same stratosphere as Jimmie Johnson
this season, it's just that he's been crashed at Bristol and blown up at Daytona. And he's now the first driver in the Cup Series to have three wins. That deserves the top spot, if at least for a week, right?2. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 1):
Does it seem downright evil that we're demoting the points leader from the top spot of Power Rankings after finishing fourth and extending that lead? Oh well, we are. Jimmie, you'll get over it, won't you? Or will you show us up by going out and dominating the show at this year's All-Star race much like you did in 2012?3. Carl Edwards (LW: 2):
Last year, a seventh place finish for Edwards is a cause for celebration. This year, it's hardly noteworthy. Carl already has five top 10 finishes -- two more than he had all of last season -- and is on pace to have more top 10s in 2013 in just 22 races. Is there a Chase spot with your name on it already, Cuz?4. Kyle Busch (LW: 11):
Not many drivers finish the race in sixth like Busch did after having a cut right rear tire over the race's final 10 laps. Sure, it's a race that Busch will rue for his horrible luck costing him the win, but think if he would have ended up on pit road under green or with the car stuffed in the fence? Simply 20 points less on Saturday night and he's in 14th in the standings.5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 8):
Are we overrating Junior's standing in Power Rankings? His ninth place finish Saturday night was his first single digit finish since he reeled off five of them to start the season. Those five races are the reason he's still so high in the points standings, and Junior's doing enough every week to look like a bonafide Chase contender, but he's not close to victory lane.6. Kevin Harvick (LW: NR):
Hell of a bounceback by Cupcake to charge through the field over the last stages of the race to take fifth. Sure, a late pit stop for four tires helped, but moves like that not only enhance Harvick's reputation as a closer but also put you in the top 10 in the points standings and tie the great PFM for the Richard Childress Racing points lead. Monumental.7. Jeff Gordon (LW: NR):
Third place is certainly a nice way to celebrate your 700th start, and for the Gordon fans who want to blame Alan Gustafson for everything (we're looking at you, Yahoo! race chatters), there was nothing to blame Alan for Saturday night. OK, yeah right. Gordon could have finished two spots higher.8. Kasey Kahne (LW: 9):
Damn, Kasey, that has to suck. You storm by Kyle Busch on a restart to take the lead -- while being the first car to really challenge Busch all night -- and then see that lead and your race disappear when Busch goes really low to challenge you into turn one. No, it wasn't an intentional move by Busch to disturb/make contact with Kahne enough to crash him, but after three incidents in 11 races, it's hard to not see why Kahne is frustrated.9. Denny Hamlin (LW: NR):
Welcome back to the Sprint Cup Series, Denny. That wasn't a bad way to mark your first full race back even though you chose one of the toughest tracks to make your official comeback at. Hamlin's going to get stronger with every race and won't have to save anything on Saturday night at the All-Star race. What does that mean? Well, don't be surprised if he's there at the front in the final segment.10. Clint Bowyer (LW: 10):
That was a pretty nondescript 11th place finish by Bowyer. And you know what? I think we all can be happy with that. Can you imagine how inundated we would have been with the "Fresh off the Wire" reports and terrible KFC jokes if Bowyer had been at or near the front at Darlington?11. Juan Pablo Montoya (LW: NR):
What? JPM has only two top 10 finishes? How are you putting him here? Well, those two top 10s have come in the last three races and you have to think they're not a fluke. It's been crazy issues and mechanical failures that have derailed him so far this season, and if he gets more opportunities without catastrophic failures, the top 10s may start to pile up.12. Aric Almirola (LW: 6):
Does anyone want 12th? You could make an argument for four or five drivers, so we just went with the guy highest in points. That'd be Almirola, even though his streak of top 10 finishes ended at four. Congratulations! Does this mean we get free bacon?
Lucky Dog: Kurt Busch, you did a nice job of finishing 14th after the damage sustained in Casey Mears' crash. However, what would have been your finishing position had you not gotten so morose when you fell out of the top five?
Dropped Out: David Ragan, David Gilliland, Brad Keselowski, Paul Menard
The DNF: We'll give that one to Keselowski, who finished 32nd after being caught up in that aforementioned crash. After seven top 10s in the first eight races, Kes's last three have gone 33rd, 15th and 32nd.
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