NASCAR Power Rankings: Rating the Chasers After New Hampshire

Brian Shannon@bshannon15Correspondent ISeptember 20, 2010

NASCAR Power Rankings: Rating the Chasers After New Hampshire

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    LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 19:  Clint Bowyer, driver of the #33 Cheerios / Hamburger Helper Chevrolet, crosses the start / finish line to take the checkered flag and win ahead of Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Small Business Toyota, during the NASCAR S
    Elsa/Getty Images

    The Chase for the Sprint Cup is heating up after one of the best races in recent years at New Hampshire, featuring an exciting finish and a Clint Bowyer victory.

    Four-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson had a rough race, but he is still in the hunt for a fifth year in a row.

    The drivers head to Dover next week, a track where nine of the Chase drivers finished in the top 11 earlier this season.

    After the Chase's first race at New Hampshire, it's time to power rank the 12 drivers. and their title chances.

No. 12: Matt Kenseth

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    LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 17:  Matt Kenseth, driver of the #17 Crown Royal Ford, waits in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 17, 2010 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo by Tom
    Tom Whitmore/Getty Images

    Kenseth is off to a rocky start following his 23rd-place finish at New Hampshire, the second-worst finish of any of the Sprint Cup chasers.

    Kenseth was not competitive during the race following his poor qualifying effort of 33rd, but he should be in better position to race well next week at Dover, where he previously finished third.

    The Wisconsin native has yet to win a race this season and has only 10 top 10's this year. He is currently 12th in the Cup standings, and has a lot of work to do if he is going to get back into contention.

No. 11: Jeff Burton

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    LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 18:  Jeff Burton, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, looks on in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 18, 2010 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo
    Jason Smith/Getty Images

    Burton ran a solid race at New Hampshire by finishing 15th, and—much like Kenseth—should run well at Dover next weekend, where he finished second earlier this year.

    No. 31 has yet to win a race or win a poll this season, but Burton could be a dark-horse contender if he is able to finish this season like he did last season.

    Burton finished strong with four top 10 finishes, and three in the top five, but he is currently in 10th place and has a ways to go before we can move him up this list.

No. 10: Greg Biffle

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    LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 17:  Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 3M Ford, looks on after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 17, 2010 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Im
    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    Biffle has been up and down all season, but he has been mostly down the past three races. Biffle finished 17th at New Hampshire after qualifying 14th, and he currently sits ninth in the standings.

    The Washington native won at Pocono in August, but has only recorded five top fives this season, tying him for the fewest of any of the Chase drivers.

    Biffle has the potential to finish the season in better position than the 10th spot I currently have him in, but he is little threat to actually win the Cup this season.

No. 9: Kurt Busch

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    LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 18:  Kurt Busch, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, walks through the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 18, 2010 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo by E
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Busch currently sits in sixth place in the point standings after his 13th-place finish at New Hampshire.

    The 32-year-old NASCAR veteran has an average finish of 16th over his past 10 races, and that is not going to be even close to getting him the Cup this season so he will need to pick it up if he is going to move up in the points and in these rankings.

    A good finish at Dover would be huge for Busch, but considering he is averaging a finish of 22nd in his past seven Sprint Cup starts at the track, that may be asking too much of him.

No. 8: Carl Edwards

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    LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 19:  Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Aflac Ford, stands on the grid during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2010 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Ima
    Jerry Markland/Getty Images

    Edwards has been a very steady performer over the past two months with eight top 10 finishes, and he continued to race well by finishing 11th at New Hampshire.

    The 31-year-old has yet to record a win this season, but has been very steady with 14 top 10s this season, which ties him for fourth-most on the circuit.

    Edwards has a mixed record at the final 10 tracks, but he has been very streaky, and right now he is trending up. The No. 99 will be another one to watch at Dover, and if he can continue to hang around, he might just find himself in contention when the drivers get to Homestead.

No. 7: Tony Stewart

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    LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 18:  Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot / Old Spice Chevrolet, smiles as he sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 18, 2010 in Loudon, New
    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    Stewart gambled big time at New Hampshire, and lost.

    After leading 100 laps during the race, Stewart tried to make it on gas, but fell a lap short and ended up in 24th place.

    It was a bold move by Stewart and the No. 14 team, one that could ultimately cost him a chance at the Cup this season. Stewart has raced really well as of late with six top 10 finishes in his past nine races, but he may have put himself in a hole that he cannot climb out of following New Hampshire.

No. 6: Jeff Gordon

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    LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 18:  Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 DuPont / National Guard Facebook Chevrolet, looks on in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 18, 2010 in Loudon, Ne
    Jason Smith/Getty Images

    Gordon is having another solid season, and he may be turning it on at the right time of the year after finishing sixth at New Hampshire.

    Gordon picked up five bonus points after leading two laps, and he currently sits in fifth place—75 points behind Denny Hamlin.

    The California native ended last season in strong fashion by recording an average finish of eighth over the season's final 10 races. If Gordon can do that again this year, he will be in the mix for the Cup.

No. 5: Kyle Busch

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    LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 18:  Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Toyota Tundra Toyota, smiles on the grid prior to the start of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series TheRaceDayRaffleSeries.com 175 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 18, 2010 in Loud
    Jerry Markland/Getty Images

    Kyle is in better shape than his brother after his ninth place finish at New Hampshire.

    Kyle Busch currently sits in fourth place, 62 points behind Hamlin and within striking distance to make a move in the Chase.

    Busch has raced well as of late, finishing in the top 10 in his past four races, and he is going to Dover with a chance to make some noise after winning at the track earlier this season. Another win would be huge for Busch, and give him a major boost moving forward.

No. 4: Clint Bowyer

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    LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 19:  Clint Bowyer, driver of the #33 Cheerios / Hamburger Helper Chevrolet, poses at the start/finish line after he won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2010 in Loudon, New H
    Jason Smith/Getty Images

    Bowyer got a huge win at New Hampshire, marking his first victory in his past 88 races.

    Bowyer is in great shape to challenge for the Cup as he currently sits in second place, just 35 points behind Hamlin, and he has raced well lately with four-straight top seven finishes.

    The 31-year-old has traditionally finished in the middle of the pack at Dover, but another top 10 finish could give Bowyer the confidence he needs to stay competitive in the Chase.

No. 3: Jimmie Johnson

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    LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 17:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48  Lowe's / Johns Manville, looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 17, 2010 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo by Tod
    Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

    It's looking more and more like Johnson's four-year reign as Cup champion may come to an end this season.

    Johnson finished 25th at New Hampshire, the worst finish of any Chase participant. The No. 48 looked to be rounding into form after two consecutive third-place finishes, but his New Hampshire performance is undoubtedly a setback.

    Realistically, Johnson should be lower on this list as he sits in seventh place right now, but he has five wins this season and if anyone can make a comeback, it's Jimmie. 

No. 2: Kevin Harvick

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    LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 18:  Kevin Harvick, driver of the JEGS.com Chevrolet walks along the grid  during qualifying for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series TheRaceDayRaffleSeries.com 175 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 18, 2010 in Loudo
    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    Harvick has had a great season, and he continued his success with a fifth-place finish at New Hampshire.

    Harvick is currently third in the points standings largely on the strength of his three wins this season, and he will head to Dover where he previously finished seventh earlier this season.

    The No. 29 will be in the hunt until Homestead, and should be considered one of the top contenders to win the Chase this season.

No. 1: Denny Hamlin

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    LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 18:  Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Small Business Toyota, looks on during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 18, 2010 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo by Elsa
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Hamlin is the current points leader after finishing second at New Hampshire, and he will head to Dover as the early favorite to win the Chase.

    Hamlin finished fourth earlier this season at the track, and his six wins this year are the most of any Sprint Cup driver.

    The 29-year-old is in great shape to win the Chase, and if he can finish like he did last season, when he ended the year with three straight top three finishes, he will likely take the title from Johnson this season.

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