Power Rankings: Gearing up for the big finish

The eighth race of the Chase is over, and that means it's time for Power Rankings! But we're doing things a little differently now that we're in the postseason. It's all-Chasers, all the time. Good job, good effort for those of you that didn't make it, but we've got bigger fish to focus on. We'll be judging who's running well, considering not just finishing position but quality of run, expected potential, and general gut feelings. As always, we hate your guy and are biased against him. Now, enjoy.

1. Jimmie Johnson. Relentless. You want a statement? Winning two straight races is it. This is a thoroughly impressive Chase from Johnson, who's got the inside line on his sixth championship. Indeed, in almost any other year, it'd be a cakewalk. Except ... Last week: 1.

2. Brad Keselowski. Seven points down after two Johnson victories? That's got to count as success for @Kes. The most important race of his life is coming up this weekend in Phoenix; if he can stay close to Johnson, and perhaps even shave a couple points off the lead, Homestead becomes a fascinating showdown. Last week: 2.

3. Clint Bowyer. Although all the returns aren't yet in, we're calling it: Clint Bowyer and everyone after him has lost the Chase. With that in mind, we'll take these next three weeks to give thumbnail summaries of the Chase drivers' runs. For Bowyer, this Chase has been nothing short of exceptional. He won a race, stayed in the mix until the last couple weeks, and showed he's the elite driver Waltrip hired him to be. Last week: 3.

4. Kasey Kahne. Kahne entered the Chase after a strong summer run, and managed to stay closer to the front than most. He snagged a couple poles and a couple of third-place finishes, but that wasn't quite enough to stay with the lead dogs. Last week: 5.

5. Matt Kenseth. This guy was the reason for the creation of the Chase, and he might be the reason for the reworking of it. He's won twice and yet remains buried in the field. Fair? Depends on if you're a Kenseth fan or not. Last week: 8.

6. Denny Hamlin. Like a driver trying, and failing, to stretch at Michigan, Hamlin has run out of gas. This year isn't as devastating as 2010, but he's one more bad Chase away from getting that full-sized monkey on his back. Last week: 4.

7. Jeff Gordon. He may have used up the last of his mojo trying to get into the Chase, because his awful finish in the first week basically killed any chance he had of winning this. Still, Gordon is still relevant and competitive, and should be back again next year. Last week: 7.

8. Martin Truex Jr. With Bowyer, he's helped lift Michael Waltrip Racing to a position of prominence in NASCAR, and he's with the team for the long haul. This was a critical turning-point year for Truex, and even if he faded from the Chase, he should be a fixture. Last week: 6.

9. Tony Stewart. The 2011 champion was never a factor in the 2012 Chase, and remained uncharacteristically quiet for most of it. His wreck at Talladega may alter the entire sport itself, if concussion concerns take root. Last week: 10.

10. Greg Biffle. The curse of the regular-season leader continues. Biffle complained that he didn't get respect as a championship challenger. We'll be genteel and not point out that, well, champions are made in the Chase. Last week: 9.

11. Dale Earnhardt Jr. His concussion obviously put an end to any hopes he might have had of a championship, but this is a watershed season for Earnhardt: the year he re-established himself as one of NASCAR's preeminent drivers. Last week: 11.

12. Kevin Harvick. Is it 2013 yet? Harvick has to be ready to be done with this misfire of a season, but at least he's got the Chase berth to hold onto. Last week: 12.

Non-Chaser(s) of the Week: The Busch bros. Both finished in the top 10, and that's no small achievement. Kyle is showing that he could have actually done some damage had he figured out how to make the Chase, while Kurt is showing that he can drive the wheels off a car when he doesn't, you know, drive the wheels off the car.

All right, you're up. Who goes where? Have your say.

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