Power Rankings: It’s Denny Time

The race is done, and that means it's time for Power Rankings. Each week throughout the season, we'll size up who's rising and who's falling, based on current standings, behind-the-scenes changes, expected staying power, recent history and general gut feelings. It is not scientific, nor is it meant to be. And remember, whoever your favorite driver is, we're biased against him and like someone else better. We continue with a guy who's either first or last...

1. Denny Hamlin: Two wins now for the Hamster after a year in which he won just one. That's a fine rebound, and it bodes well for Hamlin putting the ugly 2011 and the bridesmaid year of 2010 behind him. Also, with the win Hamlin now has more victories on the season than his beloved Charlotte Bobcats. Last week: 8.

2. Greg Biffle: Biffle and Kevin Harvick were on Twitter on Saturday night talking about the UFC fight with fans. No snark or goofiness here; that's just pretty cool, and exactly the purpose of Twitter and social media. So, yeah, if you're all "I'm not on Twitter because I don't want to hear what people had are eating for breakfast," you're missing out on a chance to talk with drivers live. But, hey, stay smug. Last week: 1.

3. Martin Truex Jr.: You know what I was thinking as Other Junior was ticking off lap after led lap? "Man, if he wins, Junior Nation is going to be TICKED." Truex is the last big-name, big-team regular with a longer losing streak than Earnhardt. So don't be surprised if 88 fans start sawing away at his axles. Last week: 6.

4. Matt Kenseth: I think I saw the entire Roush Fenway organization shedding a tear as they drove away from Kansas and the Midwest tracks. Still, we're starting to see some patterns develop here, and the next time we swing back this way, I'd be very surprised if at least one of the RFR guys is not challenging for the Cup. Probably this cat here. Last week: 3.

5. Jimmie Johnson: Look, it's nice that this was Earth Day weekend and NASCAR was being green and all, but what kind of green was that on Jimmie Johnson's car Sunday? Kind of an old-fruit, dirty-carpet, kid-vomit-in-school kind of green. You want green, you go GREEN, like Danica-neon green. Though that's really not a color you often find in nature, which would seem to undercut the entire point, I guess. Last week: 2.

6. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Journalists aren't supposed to be biased in favor of one particular driver. And although my journalistic credentials are consistently in doubt when I write about things like kids puking in schools, I nonetheless try to avoid biases. But I will say that I root for a good story, and Junior winning would be a GREAT story. So it's always with a little twinge of frustration that I watch as Junior turns late-race high finishes into lower-reaches-of-the-top-10 ones.  Last week: 5.

7. Tony Stewart: What would you do if you'd locked up a spot in the postseason in April? Oh, sure, Stewart will run hard, and we saw last year why every race is important (sorry, Carl). But you'd have to be a rock-hearted, steel-spined fellow to not approach certain races like, I dunno, practice sessions. We'll see if Stewart can find it in himself to rip off a few more wins before September. I say yes. Last week: 4.

8. Kevin Harvick: The last two weeks in Power Rankings, the guy ranked 8th has won and leaped right to first place. This weekend, we have Richmond, where Kevin Harvick has had a bit of success. Somebody get Paul Menard to loosen up his spinning muscles, pronto!  Last week: 7.

Carl Edwards

9. Carl Edwards: This is amazing: the lap Edwards led during green-flag pit stops Sunday was the first lap he's led ALL YEAR. What the hell, Carl? Do you realize Sam Hornish Jr. led seven times as many laps as you on Sunday? And there are still walls that cringe when they see him coming! Last week: 12.

10. Ryan Newman: There's a pretty substantial gap between positions 8 and 9 on this list. I mean, BIG. Everybody else other than those top 8 has some really ugly marks on their résumé,  like that time when you worked at an amusement park for two weeks right out of college because you needed some fast cash and your father seethed at the thought of how much money he'd spent on that degree only to see you wearing bad polyester and manning the whack-a-mole booth. I mean, hypothetically speaking. Last week: 11.

11. Kyle Busch: You know why there aren't any of those classic "This is the New Kyle Busch!" articles yet? Because everybody's frankly a little scared for Kyle right now. Has he been neutered? Has he been lobotomized? Where's the car-crashing, ticket-grabbing, catch-a-fist-with-his-face Kyle that we saw last year? Spice it up, K-Dawg! Last week: NR.

12. Kasey Kahne. Hey, look at this! After a wretched start to his season, Kahne has worked his way back up into single-digit finishes. Those single-digits are going to need to be a lot of "1"s for him to make the Chase, though. He's a loooong way back. Last week: NR.

Dropping out: Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon

Lucky Dog: Kurt Busch. Seeing Kurt run with no sponsorship on his hood was really sad, like watching a puppy limping. But he put that puppy in the top 10 for a fair portion of the day, so good for him.

The Kasey Kahne DNF: Should we rename this now that Kahne has actually reached the Power Rankings? Nah. Not yet, anyway. But this one goes to Clint Bowyer, who bottomed out in front of the hometown crowd. Man, that's embarrassing. Hope all the friends he brought to the race had the decency to pay him for their tickets.

Next up: Richmond! Come loaded for some wild Saturday night racing, and send your comments to us via Twitter at @jaybusbee, via email by clicking here, and via Facebook. Go!