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. Jeff Gordon (LW: 1): Why not take two tires and see what happens late in the race, right? Clean air had worked throughout many parts of Sunday night's Coca-Cola 600, so Gordon and crew chief Alan Gustafson gave it a whirl. It's just that Gordon couldn't clear Matt Kenseth on the restart to get that clean air, and the strategy had failed not long after it was tried. Gordon ended up seventh, which is incredibly impressive when you consider the back issues he had over the weekend and the fact that the 600 is, you know, the longest NASCAR race of the year.
2. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 5): Shot outta hell like a bullet from a gun on the final restart, Johnson ran down Kenseth and stormed past him like it was nothing. It's too easy to say that it was a statement of "I'm here, remember me?" from Johnson and the No. 48 team, and it's also wrong. He never left. And remember, his "drought" wasn't the longest winless stretch of his career, either. Johnson has rightfully set a high standard, but damn, it wasn't like he was a toddler attempting to dunk on a 10-foot basketball goal.
3. Kevin Harvick (LW: 2): Harvick has to be wondering if it's possible to race without having to ever pit again because if you count the All-Star Race, it was the third straight race a late pit stop derailed any hopes of a win. His pit issues also bring up a results and process dichotomy. After finishing second, Harvick was (rightfully) disappointed, a much different reaction than if he would have struggled all day and fought for a second-place finish. The results are the same, the pathways are just totally different.
4. Matt Kenseth (LW: 6): Upon walking into the media center after his win, Johnson asked what people were going to write about now that he has won a race. We'll show you what we're going to write about, Jimmie. It's the incredible struggles of this man right here. It's just insane that a man who won seven races a year ago winless through 12 races this year. Who cares that he had the lead late on Sunday and is second in the points standings. Winning is all that matters, and dammit, Kenseth is simply not getting it done right now. Disappointment of the season.
5. Carl Edwards (LW: 8): If it wasn't for that late caution flag, are we talking about Carl Edwards' second win of the season? Yeah, that's a big if, but Edwards was in prime position to steal the win by stretching his fuel mileage. Instead, he took tires on the final caution, lost the lead, but ended up finishing fifth. The move to top off and stay out proved to be a good one anyway. Had Edwards not tried the strategy, he would have likely ended up 12th or so.
6. Kyle Busch (LW: 7): Speaking of high standards, did anyone expect Busch to be a bigger factor than he was on Sunday? He finished ninth and didn't lead any laps. The highlights of Busch's day – at least from a viewer's perspective – were his high-line moves on restarts. But For as much ground as Busch was able to make on those restarts, it wasn't something that continued over to long runs. If it did, he would have won the race. But remember, he's still third in points. That's what happens when a ninth is a disappointment of sorts.
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 3): We're not going to make a joke about how Earnhardt's kryptonite was a vibration Sunday night. But there's a reference. You happy with the corniness? OK, good. Before having issues that forced him to pit road under green, Junior was in the top 10 all night. After the issues, he was two laps down and finished 19th. Maybe he needs to go back to Batman cars.
8. Joey Logano (LW: 4): Pretty nondescript night for the No. 22 team, eh? After qualifying 8th, Logano finished 12th. He was in the top five briefly before the lap-300 mark, but he wasn't able to sustain it and fell backwards. We mentioned clean air earlier when talking about Gordon, and the topic of Logano's post-race remarks? Dirty air, that filthy, nasty thing that occurs when cars aren't leading.
9. Jamie McMurray (LW: NR): We're going to bring the All-Star Race into account on McMurray's entry and vault him into the top 10 after his fifth place finish in the 600. Is the tide turning for McMurray? He's had fast cars throughout the season, he just hasn't had finishes to show for them at times. If only NASCAR was like baseball and the win in the All-Star Race counted for the Chase.
10. Brad Keselowski (LW: 10): Keselowski holds steady here after leading 43 laps and finishing 8th. After qualifying on the front row, Keselowski fell back quickly, but that wasn't a monstrous deal; it's better to be faster in the night than it is in the day. And he did come back and lead for a bit. If he keeps up the torrid qualifying pace, (average starting position: 6.8) he'll have the best average starting position of any full-time Cup driver since Ryan Newman at Penske in 2005.
11. Brian Vickers (LW: NR): Don't look now, but Vickers is eighth in the standings after finishing sixth Sunday night. Since opening the season with poor finishes at Daytona and Phoenix, Vickers has finished outside the top 20 once and that was at Darlington. Vickers in the Chase? It's not crazy.
12. Ryan Newman (LW: NR): Newman gets to have the spot because he's simply the highest-ranked driver in points not in Power Rankings this week. See, we told you. Super scientific. But if you have an argument for someone else, let's hear it. Newman finished 15th, but when you take a look at the results of the race and the standings, you'll agree with our decision.
Lucky Dog: Paul Menard was on the Carl Edwards fuel-strategy run too and got an eighth out of the decision to try to stretch it.
The DNF: Kurt Busch, because, you know. It was a shame to see his attempt at 1,100 miles end with an engine failure.
Dropped Out: Kyle Larson, Kasey Kahne, Danica Patrick
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