It's a new season, and that means a new year of 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. So let's begin with a guy we haven't seen around here lately ...
1.Greg Biffle: In the first three races, Greg Biffle has finished third, third and third. That's halfway to the apocalypse! If Biffle keeps this pace up over the whole season, he'll finish ... well, he'd probably win the championship. Which would be weird if he did that never finishing higher than third. But we'll have to deal with it when the time comes, won't we? Last week: 3.
2. Denny Hamlin: You know that Hamlin was loving it when Darian Grubb notched a win before Tony Stewart did. So what does Stewart do? Comes back and wins the next week! Dammit! Stewart has to be like the guy who says he can do anything better than you, and then goes out and does it. Those people stink. Last week: 1.
3. Tony Stewart. If you had to pick one driver to win a race for you because your life depended on it ... well, you'd probably be trapped in some weird old '80s movie where strange plot contrivances like that were a way of life. But if I was, I'd go with Stewart, and I'd up the ante by saying that nobody respects him and everybody's counting him out and all that business. The guy gets motivated by that kind of talk. Which is good when your life is on the line. Last week: 7.
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: I have to admit, one of the great pleasures of this business is watching when people who are rabidly, completely unhinged in favor of (or against) one driver see that driver's fortunes running in the opposite direction than they want. What do you think the haters were thinking when Junior was ticking off laps three seconds ahead of the field? Of course, they got their satisfaction a few laps later, but still ... nothing like seeing a little comeuppance. Last week: 5.
5. Kevin Harvick: A friend of mine who's not a NASCAR fan decided to go for Harvick this year because he's got a baby on the way. Extra motivation and all that. I beg to differ; if you're a parent, you'll do ANYTHING YOU CAN to avoid the messiness of taking care of an infant. So when lil' Cupcake arrives, expect to see Harvick willing to drive the car even if it's on fire to avoid taking it to the garage. The more time on the track, the less time spent changing diapers. Just saying. Last week: 4.
6. Matt Kenseth: We have an early nominee for "most striking paint scheme of 2012" with Kenseth's Zest ride on Sunday. I thought it looked like mouthwash; others compared it to toothpaste. Bottom line: that's a blue you don't find in nature. Still, the wall at Vegas is now Zestfully clean after that end-of-the-race rub. Last week: 2.
7. Jimmie Johnson: There was a time when Johnson would have run down Stewart like a leopard on a baby gazelle in one of those nature videos. But now, Stewart is the master. It's like "Star Wars," which would make Stewart Vader's son, except that Stewart is older and has already won ... you know what, I've tortured enough metaphors this entry. Punching out and moving on. Last week: 10.
8. Carl Edwards: It's now been over a year since Carl Edwards' last win. O-for-36! What a failure! He's got nothing left! Though if history is any guide, Edwards will grab wins in bunches ... even if they come too late to do him any good in a given season. And he can always go back to Nationwide and beat up on the kids if he needs to get some flips out. Last week: 9.
9. Kyle Busch: Did you catch Busch's coldblooded murder of the orange cone late in the race? We couldn't believe they kept showing that in such graphic detail. Absolutely no regard for the victim's family there. Fox Sports: heartless. Also, isn't it about time we started mandating safety equipment for cones? Last week: 6.
10. Martin Truex Jr.: You gotta feel a bit sorry for MTJ. After all, he's by no means the most famous Junior in NASCAR, so we can't call him that. And Mark Martin is the first "Martin" everybody thinks of. Which leaves Truex, which sounds like an antifungal cream, and one that would be sponsoring Carl Edwards if it even existed. So we need a nickname for this guy, pronto. Get on it, people. Last week: 8.
11. Mark Martin: OK, everybody admit it. We all love Mark Martin. Everybody does. Seriously. No ill will for the guy at all. But haven't you wanted to ram a slow elderly driver in the rear bumper the way Junior did? Bet that felt goooood. I tried it this morning and all I got was a ticket and a lawsuit from this old woman. "Whiplash" my eye. She wasn't even going fast enough to crack a whip. Save me, Junior! Last week: 11.
12. Joey Logano. The yellow Dollar General ride confused a few people Sunday, but not as many as the position in which Logano ran early in the race. Sure, he faded to around the 20s fairly fast, but it's been a decent enough season so far for Sliced Bread. Not decent enough to get him a better nickname, but still. Last week: NR.
Lucky Dog: Jamie McMurray. Zoolander returns! Time again for everybody's favorite frosted-tip/Ricky Bobby bird victim driver to return to the spotlight. A good solid run Sunday was anything but pathetic, and McMurray will need much more of that to hang onto his seat at Ganassi after this year.
DNF: Kurt Busch. Another week, another wrecked Phoenix Motorsports car. Kurt's certainly creating enough ashes for this phoenix to rise from, that's for sure.
Next up: Bristol! Fighter jets in a toilet bowl! Skittles in a gymnasium! Something like that. Anyway, send your comments to us via Twitter at @jaybusbee, via email by clicking here, and via Facebook. Go!