Our Power Rankings are far from a scientific formula. In fact, it's the perfect blend of analytics and bias against your favorite driver. And you think we dislike your favorite driver, so it makes sense, right? Direct all your complaints to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No. 1 Jeff Gordon (LW: 1): Gordon gets to keep this spot by virtue of his seventh place finish Saturday night though it could have been better. Gordon was plagued with another case of the dreaded Gordon Restarts at Darlington. On the next-to-last restart, Gordon, who was fifth, slipped heading into turn one and the drivers behind him attempted to take advantage, leading to contact between Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch.
No. 2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 5): If Junior had four tires he might have been able to hold off Kevin Harvick. But we're also not going to pretend it's a plausible scenario either. If Junior had four tires, he's probably not in front of Harvick to begin with. If Junior and crew chief Steve Letarte had been the only ones to take two tires, the strategy call would certainly be seen as a product of the new Chase by some. Thankfully, they weren't the only group to do it, and the discussion about the impact of the Chase format was nonexistent.
No. 3 Jimmie Johnson (LW: 4): Even though Jimmie Johnson won the 2013 Daytona 500 for a second time in February, he's still somehow winless this season? Have we harped on the winless streak enough? Can we even call it a winning streak? Look, Johnson is going to get a win and he's going to get a win soon. It's not even close to time to panic. It just may not happen at Richmond, a track where Johnson has struggled at recently.
No. 4 Matt Kenseth (LW: 6): Kenseth moves to fourth by finishing fourth. He's also on a 2014 winless streak too (oh no!) and it will be interesting to see which one of Johnson and Kenseth wins first. He was sixth and seventh at Richmond last year, so he may have the edge there. At Talladega and Kansas, it's a tossup. When one wins, we're going to guess the other one quickly follows suit.
No. 5 Kevin Harvick (LW: NR): After dropping out after Texas, Harvick vaults back into the top half of the standings. These aren't the points standings, and it'd be weird to see the only driver with two wins to his name near the bottom of this list. He's also been one of the best drivers around at Richmond over the last few years, so it wouldn't be crazy to see Harvick get win No. 3 before anyone else has the chance to get another one.
No. 6 Joey Logano (LW: 2): Logano's fall is blunted by his strong early performance at Darlington. After leading laps early, the speed his car had when the sun was up disappeared. But he was still heading for a solid finish until smoke from his car brought out a caution flag and made Harvick work much harder than he anticipated for the win.
No. 7 Kyle Busch (LW: 7): We couldn't let Busch fall down a spot after finishing sixth, so he slots in here with a pretty decent argument he should be ahead of Logano for sixth. Saturday night was also only the second time all season that Busch hasn't led laps in a Sprint Cup race. However, since Busch has spread around his laps led, he's only sixth in that category.
No. 8 Carl Edwards (LW: 3): For the second straight week, Edwards salvaged a decent finish after getting the Lucky Dog when he was a lap down. And he even bettered his Texas finish by one, finishing 13th. Greg Biffle did well at Darlington (5th) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was 20th, so the Roush streak of one really good performance continued once again.
No. 9. Kyle Larson (LW: 8): After smashing into the wall during Friday's practice session and having to go to a backup car, Larson finished eighth at Darlington. It's his fourth top 10 in the past five races and he was running well at Martinsville before he spun there. Unless he gets a win, dreams of the Chase may be a bit premature, but Larson's either barreling through the learning curve or its not as steep as some people thought it was.
No. 10 Brad Keselowski (LW: 8): Keselowski falls two spots after finishing 17th at Darlington. And Richmond is the scene of where the 2013 season went south for the 2012 champion. After smashing the wall, Keselowski finished 33rd, the beginning of an 18 race stretch where he finished in the 30s (6) more times than he finished in the top 10 (4).
No. 11 Tony Stewart (LW: 11): For most of the race, Stewart was junk. He was mired in the 20s next to teammate Danica Patrick, and, for a while, was running behind her. Then the spate of late cautions was Stewart's best friend. He got back on the lead lap via the wavearound and took tires on the final caution to salvage a ninth-place finish.
No. 12 Ryan Newman (LW: NR): Newman hasn't been flashy in his first eight races at Richard Childress Racing. That's evident by the lack of screen time he's had on television. But after finishing ninth Saturday night he's ninth in the standings. He's in the top 10 heading into the first off week of the year thanks to some pretty good consistency. His highest finish is seventh (twice), but his lowest finish is 22nd, his only finish outside the top 20.
Lucky Dog: We briefly mentioned him in the Carl Edwards graph, but we'll go with Biffle in recognition of his fifth place finish.
The DNF: Kasey Kahne lost a tire and crashed (a crash that you didn't see at all if you were watching on TV) and finished 37th. He's 23rd in the standings, so it's time to panic, right? At this point in 2012, he was 26th. He finished fourth that year.
Dropped Out: Denny Hamlin, Brian Vickers.
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