NASCAR power rankings: Atlanta win jumps Kyle Busch to No. 1
For a while there it felt like Jimmie Johnson would never reliquensh the No. 1 ranking, as his dominance was just too pervasive. But as the No. 48 team has floundered, Matt Kenseth was finally able to wrestle away the top spot a week ago, though his reign wasn't nearly as long as Johnson's.
And following his fourth victory of the year Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch, not surprisingly, has displaced his teammate atop the NASCAR power rankings.
Busch's victory Sunday was the fifth in six races on mile-and-a-half tracks this season for Joe Gibbs Racing. And with half of the Chase events on similar length speedways it gives credence that JGR is poised to win its first title since 2005 with some driver named Tony Stewart. Ever heard of him?
2. Matt Kenseth (LW: 1)
See: Busch, Kyle.
3. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 2)
Johnson's race was over before it ever really began as the nose of the 48 Chevy was crumpled on an early restart. And though it looked like he would lose the point lead to Bowyer, of course Johnson not only kept hold of the No. 1 position, he actually extended his lead despite finishing 28th.
4. Joey Logano (LW: 6)
If you think this ranking is too high then you really haven't been paying attention. Since finishing 40th at Loudon due to a tire failure, Logano hasn't placed worse than eighth in the subsequent six races. And in the last three weeks he has a win, a second and a fifth. On second thought, maybe this is too low.
5. Kevin Harvick (LW: 5)
The rash of cautions late did no favors to Harvick, who had a better car than ninth. But he did move up a spot in the standings to third and even better, heads to Richmond having won there in the spring.
6. Clint Bowyer (LW: 4)
Having already secured its position in the Chase and wanting a win, the No. 15 team decided to run an experimental motor. The good news is that Bowyer had a strong car and led 48 laps. But unfortunately, his engine went sour while he was out front. Yet in typical Bowyer fashion he handled the disappointment with aplomb, saying he was going to go have a beer and watch the rest of the race.
7. Kasey Kahne (LW: 3)
Kahne never got to flex his muscles Sunday night, as he too, like teammate Johnson, was a victim of the restart where a bunch of drivers decided to play bumper cars. Regardless, with two wins on the year, Kahne is ensured of qualifying for the Chase, which is the first time in his career he's qualified in consecutive years.
8. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 9)
It wasn't flashy by any means, but with an eighth-place run Sunday all Earnhardt has to do is finish 32nd or better at Richmond and he's in the Chase.
9. Carl Edwards (LW: 8)
The box score shows him in 18th; however, that's a bit misleading. Edwards was running solidly in the top 10, but while making a green flag pit stop a yellow came out and he was trapped two laps down and never recovered.
10. Kurt Busch (LW: 10)
There might be no better driver on restarts than Busch, who looks like he's playing a video game and mashing the turbo button while everyone else is stuck in neutral. His restart at Atlanta where he went from 10th to second by Turn 2 was simply remarkable and a treat to watch.
11. Jeff Gordon (LW: 13)
If being on the Chase bubble entering Richmond seems familiar for Gordon, it's because he was in this exact same position a year ago. Can the four-time champ pull another rabbit out of his helmet and complete a spirited charge to get into the postseason or will his lack of consistency and failure to win finally catch up with him?
12. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 14)
With pain he described as "hurting like hell" and a cast that had weakened, Truex still finished third Sunday. But despite his toughness, short of a victory at Richmond, Truex does not control his own Chase destiny and will be at the mercy of what others do. That's neither a fun nor comfortable position to be in.
13. Greg Biffle (LW: 11)
A 15th at Atlanta continues the theme as of late for Biffle, who does just enough every week to keep himself in the top 10 in the standings. And if he keeps the wheels on his car at Richmond and avoids trouble he's in excellent shape to make the Chase for the fifth time in six years.
14. Ryan Newman (LW: 15)
It can't be stated enough what a remarkable job Newman has done of remaining competitive despite the numerous distractions swirling around him. And while it's a long shot for him to sneak into the Chase, the effort has been outstanding.
15. Brad Keselowski (LW: 12)
In retrospect, how vital are those 25 points Keselowski was docked for the illegal suspension parts at Texas or the six points he lost at Dover for being too low? Give those 31 points and the current champ would be ranked 10th overall and not be dependent on the miracles of all miracles to gain Chase eligibility. Instead, he heads to a track where he's never finished better than seventh, never led a lap and desperately needing a win. Good luck with that.
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