NASCAR Sprint Cup: Power Rankings Heading into Charlotte
As NASCAR heads into Charlotte its time to check in with the story the points don't tell. With some drivers surging and others looking stale, it seems the run for the Chase might be all over but the crying. It is at least narrowed down to three according to Jeff Gordon, but is the Chase closer than it seems? Read on and find out.
With Johnson having a super-fast car last weekend, it's hard not to put him at the top of our list. He appears to be firing on all eight cylinders (no pun intended) and be hitting his stride at the ideal point. If his team and his car remain in current form, it's not hard to expect Johnson to win the Chase for a sixth time.
If anyone can unseat Jimmie Johnson from his perch high atop these Power Rankings, it would have to be Carl Edwards. He is virtually always in the hunt with 15 Top 5 and 21 Top 10 finishes this season.
If Johnson stumbles in the remaining races, it seems most likely Edwards will be in an advantageous position to secure a Chase victory. For now he is the Chase points leader, one point above Kevin Harvick and four above Jimmie Johnson.
Something deep inside my guts tells me Harvick has a win coming soon. The problem is Johnson and Edwards seem to be able to pull off better race days. Don't count "The Closer" out though, Harvick isn't the type to quit or give up, and neither should his fans. A solid run at Charlotte could place Johnson and Edwards firmly in his rear view mirror.
There is something hard not to like about Brad Keselowski. He's humble, well-spoken and one heck of a young driver. For Keselowski it's hard not to like the fact he's in the thick of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
At times he has appeared unbeatable, and with the right car and setup, I would venture that he is. With a lot of great race tracks left its hard not to think Keselowski won't win another race and continue to remain in the top of the Chase.
Only 12 points out of first, Matt Kenseth always seems to be running fairly decent every race. While many of the others above him are streaky or hot and cold, the consistency Kenseth of could put him in a good position to win the Chase. A win this weekend could solidify him for a title if he can remain consistent the rest of the way.
With "Smoke" on the pole this weekend at Charlotte, it seems stupid to count him out this weekend. So with this admitted, why is he so low? The question isn't if Tony Stewart can win this weekend, but how can he run the rest of the season? "Smoke" knows how to put together back-to-back wins, and if he can do that again soon, then he will certainly deserve a higher place in the rankings.
For now he has others to beat.
With constant setup and car problems for Kurt Busch, it's hard to make an argument that the #22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger is still in it. That being said, if Busch's team can get those problems ironed out soon, he can easily be back in the mix for the Chase.
It would appear that Busch will do anything to mix up his mojo, bringing out a his secondary car in hopes of a solid finish. A Top 20 start isn't a bad place to begin this weekend, but it only matters if the car doesn't drive like it's on banana peels.
Kyle Busch's performance in the Chase has been almost invisible. He hasn't had that stellar of a run since Michigan, and his points show it. Twenty points out of first is probably too far to reach for Kyle, unless everyone ahead of him falls apart.
Jeff Gordon seemed to have a good car last weekend, until mechanical problems forced him out. It's hard to count out a great veteran like Gordon, but for now it seems he's just too far down the list.
It seems with Gordon's comments about the chase being down to three, that even he counts himself out. This weekend's run could show a lot about what Gordon has for the remaining stretch.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounds out the top ten. His car hasn't seemed to really be up to the challenge all season. When Top 5 wins are hard to come by it's hard to say Earnhardt can rebound.
Yet again for Dale Jr. fans, all eyes turn to next season. The good news is, at least hes not Denny Hamlin.
Unhonorable Mention: Denny Hamlin
Oh Denny, how terrible you have been all year? In the days when Hamlin drove the Chevy Fed Ex car, he seemed unbeatable.
I don't know if its the move to Toyota (I like to think so) or what but your car has dropped off. I was surprised when you made the Chase, and hopefully the focus by he and his team is to do much better next year.