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: 7): We have ourselves a new Chase points leader. OK, we have ourselves a driver in sole command of the Chase points standings. Just a couple weeks after it looked like Kyle Busch could be Joe Gibbs Racing's strongest Chase contender, Flatline strikes and reminds us all that he was still set to be tied with Jimmie Johnson when the Chase began. And now he's ahead of him.2. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 1):
Johnson's claim to the top spot isn't too much weaker than it was previously, especially given that the incidents that have plagued him the last two weeks were out of his control. That said, the reason Johnson was caught up in David Reutimann's spin Saturday night was because the No. 48 wasn't near the front of the field. And now, Johnson's looking up at the guy ahead of him, both in the Power Rankings and when the Chase begins.3. Clint Bowyer (LW: 9):
Bowyer's impressive drive at Bristol isn't reflected in the box score, which simply shows a 14th place finish. That's because he ran out of gas on the final lap. Before that, he was back in the top 10 and had a contending car. We say "back" because Bowyer was at one point leading the race when he got Kvapiled and had to work his way through the field. Plus, he's now just 18 points behind Johnson.
4. Kasey Kahne (LW: 4): Who wanted Kahne to wreck Kenseth after his comments following Watkins Glen? After the race, Kahne said that he simply doesn't wreck people, and while crashing Kenseth would have been the highlight of the season, it's an honorable thing for Kahne to say. And how strongly can you argue with a guy who says he's committed to racing cleanly like that?5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 8):
Junior's race changed when Martin Truex Jr. was in that vicious accident. Instead of racing for the win, Junior's night became more about hedging his bets. While he had a car that was capable enough of a top 5 finish had he not pitted again, the choice was understandable, especially given that Bowyer ran out on the last lap.6. Joey Logano (LW: 10):
Hell of a comeback by Logano and the No. 22 team to bounce back from the significant damage sustained in the incident with Busch to finish fifth. And now, all of the sudden, Joey Logano is in position to make the three points from winning at Michigan count. This is one hell of a run.7. Kevin Harvick (LW: 3):
So how many of you thought for a split second that Harvick and Denny Hamlin's discussion was going to be something that would be played on Bristol commercials for the rest of eternity? It wasn't, which was probably a good thing ultimately. What really could have happened with one driver strapped in his car with his helmet on and a bevy of crew and officials nearby?8. Kyle Busch (LW: 5):
Does the contact with Joey Logano keep Busch's trouble or top 10 streak alive? Or since it only indirectly caused a caution flag and Busch didn't lose track position because of the incident, it doesn't count? If it indeed doesn't count, Busch didn't miss by much. He finished 11th.
9. Carl Edwards (LW: 6): Edwards had perhaps the strongest car of the evening before a valve spring went bad. Despite the parts failure, it was a good opportunity to show that Edwards can compete for wins rather than consistently finish well. Yeah, that may not make sense, but if anyone knows that wins > good finishes, it's Edwards.10. Kurt Busch (LW: 2):
Sorry for the precipitous drop, Kurt, but someone had to fall. And you rocketed up last week anyway. We know this going into Atlanta: Busch will have a fast car, and something won't go right. What that something is, however, is the big question. It could be very minor and Busch will get back into the top 10. It could be major and his Chase hopes will disappear.
11. Greg Biffle (LW: NR): Yes, Greg Biffle is still in the Sprint Cup Series -- not sure if you've seen him on TV over the past few weeks -- and he's going to make the Chase. You may end up asking yourself "who's that guy?" when he takes the lead at Atlanta Sunday night, so go ahead and look up his career stats now just in case.
12. Jeff Gordon (LW: NR): Welcome back to the top 12 Mr. Gordon. You're here over Brad Keselowski and Ryan Newman simply because you're back in a position to pounce. If Gordon is within single digits of the top 10 going into Richmond, you don't count him out based on last year.
Lucky Dog: Brad Keselowski: Things could have been much worse for Kes after he was caught up in that crash. Instead he's just four points outside of the top 10. That's not going to be a big deal, is it?
The DNF: Oh man, Joe Nemechek is our DNF this week. For a team that has started and parked but also tried to run the distance in some races, blowing an engine on lap one is absolutely brutal. Both for the team and the Yahoo! live chat.
Dropped out: Keselowski, Ryan Newman.
- Motor Racing
- Sports & Recreation
- Kyle Busch
- Jimmie Johnson
- Matt Kenseth
- Joey Logano