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From the Marbles

Power Rankings: Are there penalties in these?

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: 1): Face it, when Jimmie bolted away on that final restart you immediately and briefly thought "well, this race is over." And if you didn't, you're a liar. But there was the (rightful) penalty and Johnson ended up 17th. Does Johnson win the race if he gives back that position to Montoya? Probably. But ifs and buts are candy and nuts and blah blah blah. What we need is a driver to step up and challenge Vader for the top spot in them here power rankings and it's just not happening.

2. Kevin Harvick (LW: 4): Hola, Kevin. Thanks for taking the No. 2 spot this week. Your run at Dover wasn't striking, but thanks to qualifying seventh, you ran in and around the top 10 all day and that's where you finished. On a week where throwing names at a dartboard may be a better (and surefire more fun) method, you're the best of the bunch. Now go give 48 a run, will you?

3. Matt Kenseth (LW: 2): Oh, what's that? The guy that's third in Power Rankings this week suffered a blown engine and finished 40th? Yes, we told you, it's that type of week. Kenseth does seem to be taking the Kyle Busch tale of two extremes approach to NASCAR this season, but it's working out for him so far. It's not going to in the Chase, however.

4. Kyle Busch (LW: 7): We were just talking about you, Kyle. Only in your world does competing in three races in a weekend and finishing first, fifth and fourth is a disappointment, so hopefully it hasn't hurt too much. Not to twist the pinch or anything, but that talk of a triple sweep wasn't just sports-radio blather. You had the best car for all of Saturday's Nationwide race and got caught by pit strategy taking four tires when nine others took two. And on Sunday you were pretty good for the first half of the race too.

5. Carl Edwards (LW: 3): The broken record continues on as Edwards was once again a nonfactor the entire race, but still finished 14th and because of Johnson's penalty, ended up making up ground on Five-Time. That's not going to continue to cut it however, but as we've said before, it's got to be comforting for Cuz that this year his non-factor races are resulting in top 15 finishes.

6. Clint Bowyer (LW: 10): Did you know that Rawhide was third in the points standings? Bowyer's first race as a 34-year-old was a solid sixth place and he's 50 points behind Johnson. Without his team owner in the booth for NASCAR races going forward, will Bowyer's ubiquity via in-car cameras and commercials continue? We're about to find out.

7. Kasey Kahne (LW: 5): The next two spots are a tossup between Kahne and Denny Hamlin and Kahne gets the tiebreaker by virtue of being ahead in last week's power rankings. Both saw good runs spoiled by accidents late in Sunday's race, but because of the nature of Kahne's race, he was able to bounce back and finish 23rd, four laps down.

8. Denny Hamlin (LW: 6): Hamlin wasn't so lucky. Sunday's polesitter lost a right front tire to bring out the race's final caution flag and it was over from there. Going into this Sunday's race at Pocono, you'll likely hear a lot about Hamlin's dominance at the triangle. Yes, he does have four wins, but in the past five races, he's accompanied two fifths with a 19th, 15th and 29th.

9. Tony Stewart (LW: NR): It's Smoke's first appearance in Power Rankings. Welcome, Smoke. If you're a Stewart fan thinking that the start to this season was the karma for the incredible run at the end of 2011 -- or hell, simply a Stewart fan, period -- you have to be wondering where in the hell that victory came from on Sunday. That was the biggest late-lap swing we've seen in a Sprint Cup Series race since when?

10. Jeff Gordon (LW: 11): After squandering a good run at Charlotte with an ill-timed decision to pit when getting caught on pit road as the caution flag flew, the No. 24 crew gets the proverbial salad out of you-know-what third place finish at Dover on Sunday. Those types of finishes are rewarding, but are they rewarding enough to make up for the feeling of "what if?" when squandering a good run?

11. Kurt Busch (LW: 8): Oh Kurt. Oh Kurt. Oh Kurt. You're just going to run through every possibility in the book before you get that complete race, aren't you? This week's Kurt Busch wound was getting caught a lap down after pitting under green before the final caution flag. After taking the wave-around, Busch ended up 12th, so all was definitely not lost. It was just yet another late race segment of having to play salvage. Though Busch is getting pretty good at that.

12. Brad Keselowski (LW: NR) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 9): Who says I can't have 13 drivers in Power Rankings this week? Let's start with Keselowski, who is likely facing a six-point fine after the right front of his car was found to be too low after finishing fifth on Sunday. Broken shock or not, that was a much needed fifth after four straight finishes outside the top 10. As for Junior, it was another week and another top 10. That's tied for the most of any driver this season with Johnson and ... Keselowski.

Lucky Dog: Props to Joey Logano and team for a great recovery and seventh place finish. It's not too often that a driver gets a flat tire under green at Dover and subsequently finishes in the top 10. That gets you mentioned in the Lucky Dog spot for a second straight week.

Dropped Out: Paul Menard

The DNF: The drivers in 14th-21st are separated by a measly 20 points, so that bump of David Gilliland was exceptionally costly for Ryan Newman. Newman was struggling with power steering issues at Dover before the crash, but had he finished 20th instead of the 36th he ended up, he's 16th in the standings and four points out of 14th. Now he's tied for 20th.

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