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.
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 2): This spot isn't simply by virtue of Jeff Gordon's problems on Sunday. Rather it's that his 11th place finish was a big step up for Junior at Watkins Glen based on past performance. While he just missed cracking the top 10 for only the fourth time in 15 races and the first time since 2005, it was still his best finish since that season. And it ended up netting him the points lead.
2. Jeff Gordon (LW: 1): Jeff Gordon's car needed to take a break about halfway through Sunday's race. OK, it's not that simple, but the car lost power while Gordon was at the front and his chances for a win were over. But as we know, it's not a big deal given that Gordon is locked into the Chase. And as Gordon said after his day was ruined and before he got back into the car, he'd rather have these problems now than in the Chase. It's a refrain that a teammate of his (who we'll get to later) is likely saying as well.
3. Kevin Harvick (LW: 3): Beanbags? What the heck is next? Harvick had to make an unscheduled pit stop at the beginning of the race because a beanbag weight in the car had become dislodged from underneath the seat and went under the pedals of his car. At the rate Harvick is going with misfortune, if he gets eliminated during the Chase we can virtually guarantee it's going to be due to some bizarre reason.
4. Joey Logano (LW: 5): Suddenly Logano is Mr. Consistency after a fairly irregular season. Logano finished sixth on Sunday, the third-straight time he's finished in the top-six. And it's also marks the only time Logano has finished in the top 10 in three consecutive races too. The streak could go to four too. He was ninth at Michigan earlier in the year and is the defending champion of next Sunday's race.
5. Matt Kenseth (LW 6): Hi Matt, did you know that you and Ryan Newman are responsible for the half-ounce of drama surrounding the Chase qualification of one-race winners in the Cup Series? Neither you or Newman have a win and are within striking distance (we use that term in this case very liberally) of the points lead. If, for some crazy reason, four winless drivers over the next four races win a race and one of you assumes the points lead after Richmond without being one of those four drivers, a driver with a win misses the Chase. Yes, it's convoluted and incredibly improbable.
6. Brad Keselowski (LW: 4): A dented front bumper and a brake problem made Keselowski's day a long one. But hey, he's qualified for the Chase and no one is playing the what-if game about Keselowski's race and Chase chances. Remember, last year he chose not to use the bumper on Kyle Busch for the win and ended up missing the Chase.
7. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 7): This is where the standings start to get iffy. You can make a lot of justifications for the final six spots. We'll keep Johnson here because he was running in the top 10 when he got spun on lap 81 and it wasn't a self-spin. And also because of last year. We're still not going to play the faux-panic game.
8. Kyle Larson (LW: 12): The dude who had to practice shifting lost a ton of spots after overshooting the inner loop during Sunday's race and at one point was 38th. He finished fourth. If he keeps that up, he'll likely be in the Chase with or without a win. Anyone want to guess who the last rookie to make the Chase was?
9. A.J. Allmendinger (LW: NR): Yes, Allmendinger will likely not be here next week, but we need to honor Sunday's winner, right? And we also need to point out that very rarely does the ultimate scenario come to fruition. Two winless road racing experts fighting for the win and a Chase spot was about as ideal as anyone would have hoped for going in to the race.
10. Carl Edwards (LW: NR): For a while it didn't look like the gamble Edwards and teammate Greg Biffle made of not pitting after the red flag was going to pay off. But add in another red flag and a bunch of yellow flags at the end, voila, Edwards was able to finish fourth. It was worth the shot for the extra three points in the Chsae, don't you think?
11. Ryan Newman (LW: 8): Oof, that was a tough hit for both Newman and Michael McDowell. Here's a suggestion: instead of funneling drivers off a near 180-degree turn five and onto a long straightaway, why doesn't NASCAR race the boot at Watkins Glen? Yes, laps would be longer but there would be more turns. We like more turns.
12. Marcos Ambrose (LW: NR): This spot goes to Ambrose because this may be the final time in his Cup career he'll have the chance to be in Power Rankings. We don't know what the 2015 future holds for Ambrose. He may be back in the No. 9 or he could be out of NASCAR altogether. But after winning the Nationwide race and epically battling with Allmendinger for a win, he's worthy of this spot.
The Lucky Dog: How aobout Kurt Busch who finished third?
The DNF: Oh, Kyle Busch.
Dropped out: Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin,
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