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 knows his way around the top of the charts...
1. Jimmie Johnson: Seriously, was there any doubt? And there also should be no doubt that Johnson is, at this moment, the favorite to win the 2012 Sprint Cup championship. Yes, I know it's May, but we're all about the snap judgment around these parts. And if we're wrong, we'll pretend we never said this. But right now, it doesn't look like we're gonna be wrong. Last week: 3.
2. Matt Kenseth: You think Kenseth was getting a wee bit nervous Saturday night after seeing his two teammates' cars explode? Yeah, probably. But he must've fed the hamsters in his engine better than Edwards and Biffle did theirs. Still, the dude got himself a segment win and a $50K check. Use it to pay for a new engine. Last week: 1.
3. Greg Biffle: Time again to consider how in the heck NASCAR drivers do what they do, and how you and I would absolutely freak if we were in their firesuits for even a minute. If your engine exploded and your car was full of smoke the way Biff's was on Saturday night, you'd be traumatized and telling that story for the rest of your life. Biffle? He'd forgotten it by the time he got back to his RV. Last week: 2.
4. Kyle Busch: For just a moment it looked like we were going to have a great Kyle-JJ battle there for the first segment. And then Vader shut the door on Kyle, and that was that. But if Kyle does manage to catch up to Johnson on a regular basis, it'd be one hell of a Hobson's Choice for the fans who hate both of 'em. Last week: 4.
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.:We called it last week: Junior won not just once, but twice at the All-Star race, and yet the streak persists. BUT THIS MEANS HE HAS MOMENTUM GOING INTO THE COCA-COLA 600 AND SO HE'S GOING TO ... aw, I can't even fake it. If he wins, he wins. Last week: 6.
6. Brad Keselowski: I'm frankly a little disappointed that @Kes didn't come up with some kind of rock-n-roll strategic mojo to figure out how to catch up to Jimmie Johnson in the final 10-lap shootout. If Keselowski couldn't figure out a way to catch him, that's not good news for the anti-48 crowd. Last week: 7.
7. Tony Stewart: You gotta love Stewart. When asked about his setup at the All-Star race, he basically said that the only thing they learned was never ever to bring that car to Charlotte again. I bet the guy would be the best boss in the world to work for, as long as he was attacking somebody else. Last week: 5.
8. Kasey Kahne: The early-season woes of Kahne appear to be over and done with, as he's putting together solid run after solid run. He missed out on the third segment win by the width of this sentence. Would he have been able to catch Johnson? Probably not, but the fact that he had the chance is worlds removed from this spring. Last week: 10.
9. Denny Hamlin. Nice run for Hamlin this weekend; he challenged for one of the segment wins and didn't embarrass himself, which is really all most of us want out of life. I don't really know what else to say about Hamlin here, so I'll say this: I get a fair amount of FedEx packages delivered to me. Waiting for the driver to emerge from the truck is always like Christmas morning, with the possibility of disappointment ... please be a new golf club, please be a new golf club, AW SHOOT it's a small package. Last week: 9.
10. Martin Truex Jr.: Tough go for Truex, as he couldn't transfer into the main event Saturday night. And he's got to be thanking heaven that the other Junior's non-winning streak is still getting so much attention, because once it ends, Truex, who hasn't won in FIVE years, is the one on the hot (or cold, very very cold) seat. Last week: 8.
11. Carl Edwards: I'm not going to lie, I like Carl Edwards doing the broadcast thing when he wrecks out of a race. Sure, he does have that just-a-bit-too-smooth sound to his voice, but it's a nice counterpoint to the start-the-banjos-and-cook-the-possum twang of the Waltrips. Last week: 11.
12. Kevin Harvick: Paul Menard peeled the lid back on Harvick as a teammate over the weekend, noting that Harvick has shown him no respect even though they're teammates. I wonder what the RCR Christmas parties are like. This year's going to be an awkward one, yes? Last week: 12.
Lucky Dog: Bobby Labonte. Wait, Bobby Labonte won the fan vote? Over The (former) Beard? How the heck did that happen? Great news for LaBobby, though. You think he's still got enough to warrant another big-time ride? Maybe yes, maybe no, but he's not embarrassing himself.
The Jeff Gordon DNF: Jeff Burton, Jamie McMurray, Truex and all the other cats who couldn't quite transfer into the main event. Race better next time, dudes!
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