Power Rankings: Yes, we’re including Front Row

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. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 1): Ho hum, another top five finish for JJ. Did anyone else have a sneaking suspicion that Johnson was going to get past Matt Kenseth before that final caution flag flew? Instead, Johnson was fifth, and saw his points lead trimmed by an astonishing two points. What a slacker.

2. Carl Edwards (LW: 2): Speaking of the guy who sliced into Johnson's points lead! Tony Stewart's move during last fall's Talladega race had us thinking: what if Edwards had made another move when Ragan dashed to his inside on the backstretch? Who would have won the race? Anyone?

3. Matt Kenseth (LW: 3): Yeah, yeah, yeah, not much change at the top. What's in the water for Kenseth that's made him the defacto point man at restrictor plate tracks over the last two years? And much like what happened to him in last year's spring Talladega race, his car might have been too good, as that lead he got on the final restart quickly evaporated.

4. David Ragan and David Gilliland (LW: NR): This is an appropriate spot, isn't it? Almost everyone else in this neighborhood of Power Rankings got bit by Talladega. The charge by Ragan and Gilliland was also an appropriately dramatic end to the 7.5 hour marathon that Sunday afternoon turned into. No offense to any of the drivers in the top three of our rankings, but if they, or a host of others win the race, it's remembered primarily for the delay. Now, it's remembered as Front Row's day.

6. Aric Almirola (LW: 11): Kudos to Almirola by Morning for making the move that he did going into turn one on the final lap. He had a run and could have gotten to the lead, but no one went with him and instead settled for a seventh place finish. That's where he is in the points standings too, and with this string of top 10s, it's not too early to think Almirola is a legit Chase contender.

7. Brad Keselowski (LW: 7): Colleague Geoffrey Miller nailed it about Keselowski's comments regarding the restart order. After looking at several replays of that final caution, it was Scott Speed who changed lanes and not David Ragan. Ragan was slated to start on the high side of the track anyway. The defending champ is now fifth in the standings.

8. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 4): Crazy that Junior went backwards over those last two laps, isn't it? You wouldn't necessarily expect that at Talladega. Though you wouldn't necessarily expect a lot of things that happen at Talladega.

9. Kasey Kahne (LW: 5): That must have been a serious case of deja vu for Kahne after that crash early in Sunday's race. And for Kyle Busch. And Kevin Harvick. And Tony Stewart. And so on. Will Kahne do everything in his power to avoid being anywhere near Busch on track when the series returns to Daytona in July?

10. Clint Bowyer (LW: 6): Bowyer was running well and had drafting partners in Martin Truex Jr. and Michael Waltrip available but was caught up in that nasty crash that included Kurt Busch landing on Ryan Newman's car. He still finished 18th, though. Or one spot behind Junior.

11. Kyle Busch (LW: 8): If Busch had flashbacks after Kahne went around off his bumper, they were likely wiped out when Kahne's car took out his and he was collected in the crash. Three weeks ago, this was the year for Kyle Busch's big breakthrough, right? Since then, he's finished 28th, 24th and 37th.

12. Paul Menard (LW: 10): Operation: Keep PFM in Power Rankings continues for another week as his 26th place finish meant he stayed in the top 10 of the points standings and leaped back ahead of teammate Kevin Harvick. Yes,a 26th place finish did all that. That's Talladega for you.

Lucky Dog: No, this isn't sponsor symmetry, but finishing fourth in your first race since February is worthy of mentioning, Michael Waltrip.

Dropped Out: Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano.

The DNF: Sheesh, with the two big crashes, it's hard to pick anyone. Eight drivers officially retired from the race because of crash damage, and another two (Trevor Bayne, Joey Logano) suffered engine trouble.

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