While some may say one race into NASCAR's Sprint series is too early to start ranking championship contenders, I say nonsense: It is never too early for a good power ranking.
While a good portion of this ranking is still based on accomplishments from previous years, the Daytona 500 definitely provided some clues as to who is ready for a big year.
So, check out the results of the Great American Race, won by Jimmie Johnson, and then we'll get into the rankings.
Full Daytona 500 Results (via NASCAR.com)
1. Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 - Chevrolet
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 - Chevrolet
3. Mark Martin, No. 55 - Toyota
4. Brad Keselowski, No. 2 - Ford
5. Ryan Newman, No. 39 - Chevrolet
6. Greg Biffle, No. 16 - Ford
7. Regan Smith, No. 51 - Chevrolet
8. Danica Patrick, No. 10 - Chevrolet
9. Michael McDowell, No. 98 - Ford
10. J.J. Yeley, No. 36 - Chevrolet
11. Clint Bowyer, No. 15 - Toyota
12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 17 - Ford
13. Aric Almirola, No. 43 – Ford
14. Denny Hamlin, No. 11 - Toyota
15. Bobby Labonte, No. 47 - Toyota
16. David Reutimann, No. 83 - Toyota
17. Dave Blaney, No. 7 - Chevrolet
18. Marcos Ambrose, No. 9 - Ford
19. Joey Logano, No. 22 - Ford
20. Jeff Gordon, No. 24 - Chevrolet
21. Paul Menard, No. 27 - Chevrolet
22. Michael Waltrip, No. 26 - Toyota
23. Scott Speed, No. 95 - Ford
24. Martin Truex Jr., No. 56 - Toyota
25. Travis Kvapil, No. 93 - Toyota
26. Terry Labonte, No. 32 - Ford
27. Trevor Bayne, No. 21 - Ford
28. Kurt Busch, No. 78 - Chevrolet
29. Casey Mears, No. 13 - Ford
30. Jeff Burton, No. 31 - Chevrolet
31. Austin Dillon, No. 33 - Chevrolet
32. Jamie McMurray, No. 1 - Chevrolet
33. Carl Edwards, No. 99 - Ford
34. Kyle Busch, No. 18 - Toyota
35. David Ragan, No. 34 - Ford
36. Kasey Kahne, No. 5 - Chevrolet
37. Matt Kenseth, No. 20 - Toyota
38. David Gilliland, No. 38 - Ford
39. Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 - Chevrolet
40. Josh Wise, No. 35 - Ford
41. Tony Stewart, No. 14 - Chevrolet
42. Kevin Harvick, No. 29 - Chevrolet
43. Joe Nemechek, No. 87 - Toyota
Power Ranking 2013 Sprint Championship Contenders
3. Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick was a victim of a wreck on Lap 33 of the Daytona 500, and he finished in 42nd as a result. While this was a terrible way to start the season, it can't hide the fact that Harvick was having an outstanding week.
He won the Sprint Unlimited and followed that up by winning his Budweiser Duel.
In that success, Harvick and his Richard Childress Racing team, showed they are already comfortable with the Generation 6 cars.
This showing was important to Harvick. He is entering his last season at RCR and many figured he would slump through a lame-duck season.
While Sunday was a disappointment, it was beyond Harvick's control and he proved in the previous showings that he is going to attack this year with everything he has.
2. Brad Keselowski
To anyone doubting that Brad Keselowski could follow up his championship season with another great year, may I submit the 2013 Daytona 500.
Keselowski finished in fourth. This gave him the highest finish of anyone behind the wheel of a Ford, and it was a testament to Keselowski and his Penske Racing team.
Not once, but twice, Keselowski was caught up in a wreck on Sunday. After some quick patchwork from his team the first time and a nice save by him the second, Keselowski was right there at the end.
It is going to take a complete mechanical failure or massive wreck to keep Keselowski out of the top 10 of any race this season, and he has a great chance to defend his title as a result.
1. Jimmie Johnson
It's been two long years since Jimmie Johnson took home the Sprint Cup. While this is not a long drought for anyone else, considering Johnson had won the five previous titles, this is a long time.
Johnson wasted no time showing the world that two years without a championship was long enough.
The Daytona 500 had not been kind to Johnson in recent memory, but he made up for that by taking home the checkered. He looked right at home behind the wheel of his Gen-6 car in that race, and he will continue to do so as the season rolls along.
Also, as part of the Hendrick Motorsports team, we know Johnson is going to be in fast cars. This year could mark the start of a whole new streak for Johnson.
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