NASCAR Sprint Cup Power Rankings: Brad Keselowski a Big Winner at Pocono

Christopher Leone@ChristopherlionSenior Analyst IAugust 9, 2011

NASCAR Sprint Cup Power Rankings: Brad Keselowski a Big Winner at Pocono

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    File this under the "Real American Hero" department: Brad Keselowski breaks his left ankle in a testing accident at Road Atlanta—the ankle on his braking foot, mind you—but decides to race that weekend at Pocono anyway.

    But not only does he race, he wins the whole thing, a 500-mile event that is almost universally panned for being too long. With that win, his second of the season, despite sitting 18th in points, he's the first wild-card driver currently in the Chase for the Sprint Cup and won't get bumped unless both Denny Hamlin and Paul Menard maintain their current spots in the standings and win a race each.

    Simply put, the Beer Man delivered.

    Now, Keselowski wasn't the only driver to make headlines on Sunday, but we'll get into that in the slideshow.

    Roll it.

1. Carl Edwards

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    What's New: Edwards re-signed with Roush Fenway Racing, adding multiple years to a contract that would have ended after this season.

    After crashing across the line in second place in the Iowa Nationwide race, Edwards placed seventh at Pocono.

    What's Next: Edwards' average finish at Watkins Glen is a stellar 8.2, buoyed by five top-10s in six starts.

2. Jimmie Johnson

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    What's New: Johnson placed fourth at Pocono but was none too happy with the way Kurt Busch raced him towards the end.

    He claimed that the No. 22 was trying to run him over when he made the late-race pass for third.

    What's Next: Johnson has started from the pole twice at the Glen but only led 10 laps in nine starts. His best finish remains a third-place in 2007.

3. Kyle Busch

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    What's New: Rowdy finished second after leading 27 laps on Sunday, leading as late as Lap 184 before Brad Keselowski took the lead for good.

    What's Next: Count Busch among the few active Sprint Cup drivers to have conquered the Glen. His victory came from the pole in 2008.

4. Kurt Busch

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    What's New: Turns out that the older Busch brother caused more trouble this weekend, getting deep under Jimmie Johnson's skin in a less-than-finesse pass for third place.

    What's Next: Kurt is decidedly average at Watkins Glen, with an average finish of 18.0 in 10 starts and only one top-five.

    The good news: That was a runner-up finish last year.

5. Kevin Harvick

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    What's New: Not much to write home about in Cup for Harvick—a 10th-place start and a 14th-place finish. He did win the Truck race at Pocono, though.

    What's Next: In 10 Glen starts, Harvick has five top-10s, led by a win in 2006.

6. Matt Kenseth

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    What's New: Kenseth started 20th and finished 16th. Not a great run, but not a bad one either.

    What's Next: Yuck. Kenseth probably doesn't consider Watkins Glen one of his favorite tracks, at least judging by the results—only three top-10s in 11 career starts.

    His average finish is a so-so 15.7.

7. Jeff Gordon

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    What's New: Pocono's June winner failed to lead a lap this Sunday but finished a stellar sixth place nonetheless.

    What's Next: Three active drivers have a total of 12 Watkins Glen wins among them.

    Gordon, with four of those wins, is among that group. In fact, between 1997 and 2001, he won four out of five.

8. Ryan Newman

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    What's New: Newman continues to work towards locking up a low Chase berth, scoring a top-five in Pocono after finishing ninth in the June race.

    What's Next: Since leading 11 laps and finishing second in 2002, Newman hasn't done much at the Glen.

    In fact, his best finish since is an eighth-place in 2006.

9. Tony Stewart

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    What's New: Coming home 11th was a solid result for Stewart, even as Dale Earnhardt Jr. breathes down his neck for ninth in the standings. The two drivers are only separated by a single point.

    What's Next: Stewart can make some breathing room for himself at Watkins Glen, a track at which he's scored five wins and 10 top-10s in 12 starts.

    His sixth win at the track would be his first of this season and go a long way towards keeping him in the Chase.

10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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    What's New: Junior's ninth-place finish at Pocono kept him 10th in the standings.

    What's Next: Not a good outlook for the No. 88 at the Glen. His average finish is a subpar 22.9, only buoyed by finishes of third and fifth in 2003 and 2004.

    He could only muster a 22nd-place finish in 2008 despite leading 33 laps from the outside pole.

11. Brad Keselowski

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    What's New: Well, you know this story by now, don't you?

    What's Next: One start at Watkins Glen, where he qualified 32nd and finished 20th. Not exactly much of a record to base anything on.

    Be wary of his broken ankle, though; obviously, braking is more important at a road course than anywhere else.

12. Denny Hamlin

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    What's New: Mr. Pocono himself could only muster a 15th-place finish despite leading a race-high 65 laps.

    What's Next: Hamlin is pretty stout at Watkins Glen, with four out of five runs in the top 10.

    His best finish is a runner-up run in 2007.

13. Clint Bowyer

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    What's New: Driving for race sponsor Good Sam RV Insurance, Bowyer placed 18th at Pocono.

    What's Next: Another series regular with little road racing pedigree, Bowyer's best finish in five Watkins Glen starts is ninth in 2009.

14. Greg Biffle

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    What's New: The defending race champion scored an eighth-place finish in this year's second Pocono event.

    What's Next: Biffle's looking for a spark to pull into Chase contention, but Watkins Glen, where he has an average finish of 25.1, may not provide it.

    His first four runs at the track all resulted in finishes of 30th or worse. He is getting better at making rights, though, as a fifth-place in 2009 indicates.

15. Paul Menard

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    What's New: Menard's encore after scoring his maiden win in the Brickyard 400 two weeks ago was a 10th-place run at Pocono.

    What's Next: Menard's Cup debut came at Watkins Glen in 2003, where he finished 29th in an Andy Petree-owned car.

    Fortunately, that's his worst finish at the track; unfortunately, his best is only his 16th-place run from last year.

16. Mark Martin

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    What's New: Martin finished 13th at Pocono after starting 25th.

    What's Next: In 21 starts at the Glen, Martin has three wins, 12 top-fives and 16 top-10s.

    However, three of those five finishes outside of the top 10 have come in his past three starts at the track.

17. Kasey Kahne

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    What's New: An outside pole start proved fruitless for Kahne, as a late-race accident with Juan Pablo Montoya set him back to 28th place.

    What's Next: In seven starts at the Glen, Kahne has never broken the top 10. On the bright side, he's never finished outside of the top 30 either. But a best finish of 14th just doesn't cut it.

18. A.J. Allmendinger

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    What's New: Allmendinger started 29th and finished 19th at Pocono.

    What's Next: The former Champ Car driver should feel right at home at Watkins Glen, one of two road courses on the schedule.

    Indeed, he has finished 11th, 13th and fourth in three career stock car starts.

19. David Ragan

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    What's New: An early-race accident ruined Ragan's day, as he could only muster a 34th-place finish.

    A wild-card Chase berth for his July Daytona win seems like more and more of an outside shot due to the bad luck.

    What's Next: Ragan's average start and finish at the Glen are a matching 27.8.

20. Joey Logano

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    What's New: The pole sitter's rain dance during the red flag didn't work.

    In fact, it had an adverse effect, as he went from holding the second rain-shortened win of his career to coming home 26th.

    What's Next: The Northeastern boy has never quite nailed it down at the New York road course, as he came home 16th as a rookie and 33rd last year.

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