Daytona 500 Results: Power Ranking Championship Contenders Following Epic Race

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent IFebruary 25, 2013

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 24:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 24, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

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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