Time for our latest round 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.
1. Carl Edwards. How perfect do you need to be in this Chase? Cuz's average finish through five races is a masterful 4.6 and still he only leads by five points over Kevin Harvick. Jack Roush may be right when he said there's no way Jimmie Johnson is catching up unless everyone in front of him makes a mistake. Last week's ranking: 2.
2. Matt Kenseth. We're bumping Kenseth up for three reasons: 1) Because his worst finish over the last four races is sixth; 2) I need to make up for the whole "he's a poor-man's Carl Edwards" comment I made a few weeks ago; and 3) If I don't, Kenseth fans might come and burn my house down. Last week's ranking: 5.
3. Kevin Harvick. It's like déjà vu with Harvick. A year ago he turned in nine top-10 finishes in the Chase and still only finished third. He's done pretty much the same this time around and he's second. No wonder he thinks it's going to take a win to win this thing. Last week's ranking: 3.
4. Jimmie Johnson. Moments after he wrecked in Saturday night's race, Chad Knaus came on his radio asking if he was okay. Clearly he was because Johnson was wheeling his car around the track. Still, he didn't say a word. Not one. My guess: he was busy plotting how he was going to come back this time. Last week's ranking: 1.
5. Kyle Busch. It's weird when Kyle Busch is just sort of hanging around, but that's exactly what's he's done through five races. And since everyone knows he's capable of turning it on by taking a few checkered flags, the field would be wise to institute a "no loitering" policy. Last week's ranking: 6.
6. Tony Stewart. It's amazing what qualifying up front will do for you. For the first time since August, Smoke started in the top 10 — he actually started on the pole — and parlayed that into 94 laps led. So yeah, qualifying does matter … unless you're Kevin Harvick. Last week's ranking: 8.
7. Kasey Kahne. Had Kahne qualified for the Chase, he'd be fifth in the standings right now, just 20 points back. Yeah, it's a big if, but if you were among those questioning if we'd ever see the true talent of Double K, just wait a few months. It's coming to a track near you. Last week's ranking: NR.
8. Brad Keselowski. Some of the magic is starting to wear off and Keselowski is beginning to lose sight of the leaders. The question I have is which direction does he go next season: Does he continue the momentum or fade away like Jamie McMurray did this year? Last week's ranking: 4.
9. Kurt Busch. Wonder how Kurt Busch is going to take it next season when he's not the organization's No. 1 priority. Good luck dealing with that, Brad, Roger Penske and Steve Addington. On second thought, things might not be any different than they are now. Last week's ranking: 7.
10. Marcos Ambrose. Here's something you can bet on: If Ambrose keeps up this pace — three top 10s in the last three races — he'll be everyone's dark horse pick to make the Chase next year. Just one problem: those dark horse picks don't usually pan out. Last week's ranking: 12.
11. Ryan Newman. Last week, Jay Busbee used this space to wax poetic on the "Breaking Bad" finale. So allow me to talk a little "Holmes Inspection." Admit it, you watch HGTV. Anyway, I think what the show needs is a little confrontation between Mike Holmes and the crappy home inspector who missed the mold-infested black wall in the middle of the basement. Who wouldn't watch five minutes of some slacker getting ripped a new one? Last week's ranking: 11.
12. Greg Biffle. Once again Biffle had a car good enough to win only to suffer a self-inflicted wound, this time a missing lug nut. Biffle and Co. have shot themselves in the foot (or leg) so many times this season he's beginning to warrant a new nickname: Plaxico. Too soon? Maybe, but if the shoe fits … Last week's ranking: NR.
Dropping out of the rankings: Jeff Gordon. Yeah, really, and Clint Bowyer.
Lucky Dog: AJ Allmendinger, who seems to be figuring out how to finish races.
DNF: Hendrick Motorsports. Are we allowed to say that? HMS finished 19th, 21st, 34th and 37th at Charlotte.
Charging upward: J.J. Yeley. This is what leading four laps will get you.
Next up: Talladega! It will either be a wild card or the most boring 499 miles in the Chase. Send comments to us via Twitter at @yahoonascar, via email by clicking here, and via Facebook at The Marbles page.
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