Power Rankings: Kenseth ascends to the top spot

It's time for Power Rankings! After every race, we'll opine about who we think is at the top of the Sprint Cup heap and how and why they got there. Remember, this isn't scientific, as our formula is the perfect blend of analytics and bias against your favorite driver. So let's get on with it, shall we?

1. Matt Kenseth (LW: 5): New blood at the top! Putting the Sprint Cup wins leader here the week after he took the title all for himself is a no-brainer, no? It's not exactly the most encouraging thing for the quality of racing if clean air overrides any advantage from new tires, but that's not the fault of Kenseth and crew chief Jason Ratcliff, who played their tireless strategy perfectly. Or given what happened to the guy who fell to No. 2, did it simply just work out perfectly?

2. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 1): You can make the case for Johnson to continue to reign. Dented fender and all, he led 182 laps and had the best car all day. But then came that fateful restart spin and a possible win became a ninth after a hard charge through the field. The storyline of Johnson and restarts will continue to be overblown, partially because of his radio comments about Kenseth's restart style. What happened at Kentucky was much different than what happened at Dover, but because of Johnson's ubiquity at the front of the field, the "restart question" is going to linger.

3. Clint Bowyer (LW: 8): Even with two fresh tires he didn't have the car to keep up with Kenseth after a lap or so, but his third place finish closed the gap on Carl Edwards to three points and he's now within a full race of the points lead. Is it possible that Bowyer could be the points leader before the points reset without a win? Yes. Is it likely? No. Bowyer could get there, but if he does, it'll be because he's won a race or two.

4. Kevin Harvick (LW: 3): Ho-hum, another week, another top 10 for Harvick. This race followed a very similar storyline with a methodical drive to the front from a starting position outside the top 20 and fresh tires whenever possible. It wasn't without drama, though. Harvick did get caught by a caution flag right after a green flag pit stop, but the wavearound helped with that.

5. Kyle Busch (LW: 11): Kyle vaults up here because he gets bonus points for the recovery after his lap 44 spin off turn two, which turned out to be an omen for later in the race. Busch didn't hit the wall, and almost miraculously, didn't get hit by another car, worked his way back through the field and suddenly was on the front row for the race's final restart. That didn't work out exceedingly well, but anytime you spin and recover for a top five, it's a successful comeback.

6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 6): That was the proverbial salad out of you-know-what day for the No. 88 team. Except that the you-know-what actually started out as salad. Looking back in the box scores without context, this 12th place finish won't look too bad. But given what could have been, it's fair to wonder if Hamlin's wayward tire subtracted three points off Junior's potential Chase-starting points total.

7. Carl Edwards (LW: 2): Edwards suddenly went from contender to also-ran during the late stages of Sunday's race. Why? Well, that's what happens when you combine an ill-handling car and traffic these days in the Sprint Cup Series. But Kentucky's over and Edwards can move on to the next race, which is.... oh, it's at Daytona. We won't talk about February.

8. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 7): Bet you didn't know that Truex finished seventh, did you? And did you know that he's now 8th in the points standings? Following up a win with a top 10 is always nice, but when that top 10 moves you up two positions in the standings too, that's a whole other level. Just how much have his Chase chances improved since Pocono?

9. Jeff Gordon (LW: 10): When is Jeff Gordon going to pit under green and not get immediately caught by a caution flag? If you believe situations like that tend to even themselves out over the course of a season, then you may want to start preparing yourself for a race in which Gordon laps the field twice because he stays out and traps the rest of the field on pit road when a caution flies. Gordon's 8th place finish could have been better too had he not had to check up in the middle of a four-wide situation on the final restart. Yeah, we can make the joke that it was another terrible restart by Gordon, but if he didn't get out of the gas, there could have been a lot of torn up cars.

10. Greg Biffle (LW: 4): A six spot drop is harsh, but so was the crash that Biffle was caught up in after Kurt Busch tagged Brad Keselowski. As Keselowski skidded back up the track, Biffle was trapped and was suddenly without a front end on his race car. Don't worry Greg, you're not on the precipice of falling out of Power Rankings, but you should know you're only 24 points ahead of 13th.

11. Joey Logano (LW: NR): What kind of odds could you have gotten on Logano being the top Penske driver in the points right now? If such a bet existed in Vegas and you bet on it, you're looking at a nice profit. (And probably have some gambling issues.) Joey, if you disagree with Denny Hamlin this week, can you not have another Twitter fight? Please and thanks.

12. Kasey Kahne (LW: 9): Oh Kahne where art thou at Kentucky? 11th place and a far cry from contender status was surprising, and not very helpful to KK's points standing. And a great way for Kasey to help his points position at Daytona? Stay the hell away from Kyle Busch.

Lucky Dog: Zoolander! Nice second place run by Jamie McMurray. Must have been the mayonnaise on the car.

The DNF: Brad Keselowski, it's you again. But it's not your fault because there's nothing you could have done after Kurt Busch made his foray onto the apron. Alas, Keselowski's slide through the standings continues. He's now 13th.

Dropped Out: Tony Stewart.

Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
Brad Keselowski may not get chance to defend his title
Matt Kenseth gets the breaks, wins at Kentucky
Kurt Busch gets into Brad Keselowski, triggers pileup

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