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):
From 43rd to 6th, nice Sunday drive with a fast car, move along, nothing to see here, right? Wait, what? Johnson was disqualified from qualifying second on Friday because his car was too low? Woof. The zealots were out in full force asking for Johnson and company to be penalized further than they were after that qualifying violation. By rule, they weren't. Simple as that. And that 6th place finish was a hard-earned one.
2. Kevin Harvick (LW: 2):
One spot behind Jimmie in the race and in Power Rankings. What about your heart? Harvick sent an early, a forceful, message to Marcos Ambrose at New Hampshire, calling the Aussie "a weapon" over his team radio. Harvick has won at Watkins Glen before; how fun would it be to see the two of them going for the win at the road course and Ambrose has a chance to exact some payback?
3. Kyle Busch (LW: 7):
After the race, Busch said something that's striking -- and no, I'm not referencing the comments about Ryan Newman. Rather it was about his finishes when the team hasn't crashed or had an engine issue. If you count getting caught up in the crash at Daytona last week as he crossed the finish line, eight races have been marred. We've run 19 races this season. Busch has 11 top 10s. And even if you don't want to count Daytona, that's fine. He finished 12th.
4. Matt Kenseth (LW: 4):
Kenseth says that he didn't hit Kurt Busch before Busch got into Ryan Newman and they went spinning into the wall. Is that a similar line to what we saw from Johnson and Knaus at Daytona? In both cases, the replays are awfully, awfully close. Either way with Kenseth and Busch, we've seen how sensitive these cars are under braking with another car on their quarterpanel and Busch learned it first-hand. Flatline does get bonus points for getting the car slowed down enough to not be in the crash himself, however.
5. Clint Bowyer (LW: 3):
Bowyer scraped out a 13th place finish after not being anywhere near the front the entire second half of the race and pitting late. Fresh tires and a mass of late race restarts will help that. But of course, Johnson finished in sixth, meaning that Bowyer lost seven more points to the No. 48. Though we all know the points chase for the top spot is futile at this point.
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 6):
After three straight weeks of being sixth in the Power Rankings, (*Gasp!* Jimmie's not the devil, Junior is!) let's move Junior up a spot. He's another great example of the dichotomy of New Hampshire. Either you had something notable happen to you during the race or you just were another driver. Junior's 14th puts him squarely in the latter category.
7. Carl Edwards (LW: 9): We'll call this the Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart bump. Much like Bowyer and Junior ahead of him, Edwards had a very nondescript good finish at New Hampshire, coming home eighth. There's another top 10 for the resume, one that's exceptionally Chase-worthy at this point. Chase-contender worthy? That's another story.
8. Brian Vickers (LW: NR): If Vickers gets the No. 55 ride full-time next season, could he be a regular fixture in this feature next year? Here's a statistical oddity: if the Chase started right now, the No. 55 car would be in the Owner's Points Chase as a Wild Card team. How fun would that be? We've seen split championships in the Nationwide Series, and now we can say there's at least a chance of it happening in the Cup Series.
9. Kurt Busch (LW: 5):
When is Kurt going to exhaust every opportunity to not capitalize on an exceptionally fast car? Or will the wheel of destruction start spitting out duplicates? All is definitely not lost despite Busch's five spot drop in the standings, but it will be if the wheel keeps on spinning.
10. Tony Stewart (LW: 8):
This is probably harsh for Stewart, who was setting up to be in command of a Chase berth before being passed by Vickers for the lead with 15 to go. And hell, he would have solidified his points standing with a second straight second place finish. Alas, the late caution -- which initially looked like a gifted opportunity to get the win back -- was his gas tank's emptying.
11. Brad Keselowski (LW: NR):
Is finishing fourth a missed opportunity? Maybe. Yeah, it would have been great for @Kes to get a win and move the storyline from "Missing the Chase?" to "He's back!", but it ended up moving towards the second angle anyway with his late top-five charge. He moved up four spots in the standings.
12. Kasey Kahne (LW: 10): Kahne's backstretch save at New Hampshire is one of the saves of the season. Not only was it a display of exceptional driving ability to get the car pointed in the right direction without losing more spots than he did, but it might have saved any hopes of making the Chase via the top 10 as well.
Lucky Dog: How about Jeff Burton and Aric Almirola? Burton finished third and Almirola finished fifth, and the two are now 16th (Almirola) and 17th (Burton) in the standings.
The DNF: Tough two weeks from Joey Logano, as he's gone from 10th-19th. That's an almost unprecedented drop this late in the season, but the points standings have gone mad in that vicinity.
Dropped Out: Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray
Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
• Hot/Not: Kevin Harvick quietly becoming a contender
• Brian Vickers deserves full-time ride after big win
• Ryan Newman fires back at Kyle Busch
- Motor Racing
- Sports & Recreation
- Jimmie Johnson
- Kurt Busch
- Kyle Busch
- Kevin Harvick