Power Rankings: Hamlin back in the mix
May 15, 2013, Pat DeCola, NASCAR.com
Driver Change High/Low Last race
Outlook: Johnson heads into the All-Star break with quite a lofty points lead and though he hasn’t won a race since Martinsville, there’s little question who is still in charge in the Sprint Cup Series.
Standings: 1st, 423 points
2. Matt Kenseth
Outlook: Another race, another total domination by Joe Gibbs Racing -- Kenseth in particular. With four straight top-10 finishes and a pair of trips to Victory Lane, Kenseth appears to be the only driver on the same playing field as Five-Time right now.
Standings: 3rd, 364 points
3. Carl Edwards
Outlook: Edwards is one of just a handful of drivers who seem locks to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup this season. It has to be a huge relief for the Roush Fenway Driver, who missed the cut last season.
Standings: 2nd, 379 points
4. Kasey Kahne
Outlook: Neither driver seems to know why, but Kahne and Kyle Busch just can’t seem to stay out of each other’s way. It led to some interesting post-race comments from Kahne, which may have some foreshadowing thrown in.
Standings: 6th, 326 points
Outlook: Junior had a nice ninth-place finish at Darlington, but he wasn’t the only Earnhardt making headlines this week.
Standings: 4th, 359 points
Outlook: Three mediocre-to-sub-par races in a row have a reeling Keselowski struggling to keep up in the points standings. Perhaps a trip down memory lane this weekend will give him a jumpstart.
Standings: 7th, 326 points
7. Clint Bowyer
Outlook: Bowyer hasn’t made a huge splash in 2013, yet he’s still fifth in the standings. It’s just a matter of time before he wins a race or two, but in the mean time, he’ll be chatting it up with Miss Sprint Cup.
Standings: 5th, 349 points
8. Kyle Busch
Outlook: Busch may have had the best AND the worst race on Saturday night. He led for an impressive 265 laps before losing steam towards the end and finishing sixth, much to his displeasure. Plus, he now might have a heated Kasey Kahne on his tail because of this.
Standings: 8th, 325 points
Outlook: Harvick was much concerned about not screwing up Sunday (Mother’s Day) for his wife’s first celebration, but that certainly didn’t lead his focus astray. He did the opposite of screwing up on Saturday when he garnered just his second top-five of the season.
Standings: 10th, 315 points
10. Jeff Gordon
Outlook: We all figured that Gordon was primed for a big performance in his 700th straight start, and, boy, did he deliver. The veteran driver led for 16 laps and picked up his best finish of the season at one of his best tracks.
Standings: 12th, 311 points
11. Greg Biffle
Outlook: Early on in the season, Biffle was looking like a solid Chase contender, but now he’s on the outside looking in. Four straight starts without a top-10 will do that to you.
Standings: 13th, 311 points
12. Aric Almirola
Outlook: All good things must come to an end -- and that includes Almirola’s series-best streak of four races with a top-10 finish.
Standings: 9th, 317 points
13. Martin Truex Jr.
Outlook: Truex certainly has a chance to race his way into Saturday’s Sprint All-Star race, but in the meantime, he’s still hanging around among the top-10 in the Sprint Fan Vote.
Standings: 14th, 301 points
14. Paul Menard
Outlook: The days of Menard’s three-consecutive top-10 finishes (Vegas, Bristol, Fontana) seem a distant memory, but hey, he made an appearance in Darlington’s Greatest Hits.
Standings: 11th, 315 points
15. Joey Logano
Outlook: Logano did his thing with his video blog last week and will look to take some momentum from the Sprint All-Star Race to kick start his season after a few down weeks. He has a series-best 5.5 average finish in the race.
Standings: 19th, 259 points
16. Denny Hamlin
Outlook: Good to have you back, Denny. Most of the questions surrounding the full-time return of Hamlin were answered with his second-place finish at Darlington. Now? On to the All-Star race and contending for a Chase spot.
Standings: 27th, 197 points
17. Kurt Busch
Outlook: Busch spent part of last week testing Indy cars, much like he spent part of Saturday night dominating the race. And then everything fell apart.
Standings: 18th, 262 points
18. Jamie McMurray
Outlook: McMurray is averaging his second-best average finish since 2005, yet he’s still just in 15th place. A lot can happen between now and the cut, but it’s doubtful that a lot will happen for the driver.
Standings: 15th, 295 points
19. Ryan Newman
Outlook: Apart from a couple of crashes and an engine failure, Newman has run a decent season thus far (especially compared to his Stewart-Haas Racing teammates). Still, he should focus on winning races instead of this.
Standings: 17th, 276 points
Outlook: Stenhouse doesn’t seem to mind the additional spotlight that comes along with dating one of NASCAR’s biggest faces in Danica Patrick, but at some point he’s going to want to be known for his racing. His 18th-place finish at Darlington won’t help him make a name for himself.
Standings: 16th, 282 points
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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