Power Rankings: Junior rides streak to top
March 26, 2013, Pat DeCola, NASCAR.com
Driver Change High/Low Last race
Outlook: Earnhardt has finished in the top 10 of every race this season, and it has paid off. He's sitting pretty atop the standings and the rankings. It's good to be Junior these days.
Standings: 1st, 199 points
Outlook: Keselowski was unable to keep his top-five streak alive, but he was masterful on Sunday nonetheless. He finished 23rd after his car overheated, but had a chance to win the race on the final restart despite two penalties that put him at the back of the pack.
Standings: 2nd, 187 points
Outlook: California drivers tend to succeed at Auto Club Speedway. That wasn’t the case as Johnson and Jeff Gordon struggled Sunday. Five-Time’s 12th-place finish is actually quite impressive, however, considering he was running in the 20s for most of the day.
Standings: 3rd, 183 points
4. Kyle Busch
Outlook: Taking into account how dominant Busch was this weekend and how high his stock is rising, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver could have easily been first in these rankings without a complaint. There’s no denying he was the driver of the race on Sunday.
Standings: 6th, 163 points
5. Kasey Kahne
Outlook: We didn’t hear from Kahne a whole lot on Sunday, just a week after he was ringing the victory bell at the Hendrick Motorsports complex. His ninth-place finish was a quiet one, but certainly not a negative one.
Standings: 7th, 159 points
6. Matt Kenseth
Outlook: Kenseth earned a solid seventh-place finish on Sunday, but that might not be the story. Perhaps things got a bit prickly between he and former teammate Greg Biffle following Kenseth’s departure from Roush Fenway Racing. Stay tuned on this one.
Standings: 11th, 141 points
7. Greg Biffle
Outlook: Despite being the second of two Roush Fenway Racing drivers in the top five in points, it's a fair assumption to say that Biffle doesn't get the attention he deserves. First of all, he's been great in 2013. Secondly, he's a dog lover.
Standings: 5th, 164 points
8. Denny Hamlin
Outlook: A week after being chased down by Joey Logano following the race, the Penske Racing driver and Hamlin wrecked on the final lap, causing the driver of the No. 11 Toyota to make a hospital visit. Plus, he might need back surgery.
Standings: 10th, 145 points
9. Joey Logano
Outlook: Logano sure looked like a 22-year-old at the end of the race and right after on Sunday. He was so concerned with beating Hamlin that Kyle Busch snuck in to take the victory. Logano then fought with Tony Stewart after the dust settled from Hamlin’s wreck. That being said, he still ran a heck of a race.
Standings: 9th, 146 points
10. Carl Edwards
Outlook: Edwards used his third top-five finish to vault himself into the top five of the standings, a place not many expected him to be in 2013. It might be tough for him to maintain his hot streak at Martinsville, where he has just one top-five finish in 17 starts.
Standings: 4th, 164 points
11. Clint Bowyer
Outlook: It feels like every other week Bowyer is either back in the picture with a strong showing or the victim of bad luck. This week? Engine trouble.
Standings: 14th, 137 points
12. Kurt Busch
Outlook: Who saw this coming? A year after finishing 25th in the points standings (his worst since 2001), the former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion looks like a force to be reckoned with in 2013. Back-to-back top-five finishes? Not bad.
Standings: 13th, 137 points
13. Kevin Harvick
Outlook: One driver who was particularly disappointed in his finish? Harvick. Expect to see the former Martinsville winner back on track after the break.
Standings: 15th, 130 points
14. Jeff Gordon
Outlook: It’s a borderline miracle that Gordon finished as high as he did (11th) in Fontana. The Hendrick Motorsports driver struggled to break the top 20 all afternoon after taking a significant amount of right-side damage. If he can drive like that at Martinsville, by far his best track, he could be a solid pick to get his first win of 2013.
Standings: 18th, 123 points
15. Tony Stewart
Outlook: It wasn’t exactly family-friendly, but was anyone complaining about Stewart’s testy post-race tirade regarding his new pal Joey Logano? Didn’t think so.
Standings: 22nd, 108 points
Outlook: If the season ended today, Stenhouse Jr. would be in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Think about that. (And while you’re at it, voting is now open for the Sprint All-Star Race, for which he is on the ballot)
Standings: 12th, 139 points
17. Martin Truex Jr.
Outlook: Truex Jr. is another driver who was supremely disappointed in his performance Sunday, causing his lowest ranking of the season. Unfortunately for him, it’s looking like there won’t be much room for error when it comes to making the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup this year, and he’s got a lot of ground to cover.
Standings: 19th, 122 points
18. Ryan Newman
Outlook: Newman had his third top-10 finish of the season Sunday, and you know what that means, people. Free Bloomin’ Onions!
Standings: 20th, 121 points
19. Paul Menard
Outlook: Menard is behind a boatload of talented drivers in these power rankings, despite his excellent start to the season. The driver of the No. 27 Chevrolet is in the top 10 in points and has an average finish of 13.6.
Standings: 8th, 154 points
20. Aric Almirola
In the rearview
Note: These rankings have been determined by a poll that included writers Kenny Bruce, Holly Cain, David Caraviello and Zack Albert, and video host Alan Cavanna. Tell us what you think about the Power Rankings. Use the hashtag #NASCARPOWER.
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