Power Rankings: Champ overtakes Johnson
March 19, 2013, Pat DeCola, NASCAR.com
Driver Change High/Low Last race
Outlook: Well, that didn't take long. After finishing in the top five in every race thus far, the reigning Sprint Cup Series champion has overtaken Jimmie Johnson in the standings. It could be a short-lived stay at the top, however, as he struggles at Auto Club Speedway, while Johnson stands above the crowd at the track in his home state.
Standings: 1st, 166 points
Outlook: Johnson had a bit of a rough day at Bristol, finishing out of the top 10 for the first time this season after blowing a tire and hitting the wall. But hey, at least he can laugh it off.
Standings: 3rd, 151 points
Outlook: Earnhardt is off to his best start since 2008, but much of the credit has to go to crew chief Steve Letarte. The Hendrick Motorsports driver credited his sixth-place finish at Bristol to late pit calls made by the veteran chief.
Standings: 2nd, 157 points
4. Kasey Kahne
Outlook: It's merely a coincidence, but it's funny how on the same night that Kahne made a cameo on "The Cleveland Show" that made him look like an incompetent driver, he ended up in Victory Lane.
Standings: 7th, 124 points
5. Kyle Busch
Outlook: There may be no hotter driver than Busch right now, as he nearly swept the weekend by setting the new qualifying record at Bristol, winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series race and finishing second on Sunday. He's this week's Mobil 1 Driver of the Race.
Standings: 10th, 115 points
6. Matt Kenseth
Outlook: Kenseth was the unfortunate victim of Jeff Gordon's blown tire, and his fall in these rankings has more to do with the emergences of Kahne and Busch than his 35th-place finish.
Standings: 13th, 103 points
7. Clint Bowyer
Outlook: Bowyer's fifth-place finish vaulted him back toward the top of the standings, yet the driver seemed to be more concerned about what he'd be putting in his stomach. Hey, whatever works.
Standings: 4th, 128 points
8. Denny Hamlin
Outlook: Oh, Denny boy. Hamlin is making plenty of headlines these days, but not for winning races. It's fair to assume Joey Logano was one of the drivers that didn't stand up for Hamlin following his recent $25,000 fine. And he likely won't be in the future, either.
Standings: 6th, 125 points
9. Greg Biffle
Outlook: Biffle was a big fan of how his car was running this weekend, which is a good sign, but from the sounds of it, there was some strategy that backfired. "Finally had a good car at Bristol, just lost track position at the end and got ate up by new tires behind us!! Team did a great job".
Standings: 5th, 126 points
10. Kevin Harvick
Outlook: Harvick's choice to take four tires late in the race contributed to a huge downturn of positioning, but for most of the day he was a solid competitor. However he is in good position for next week's race, as he has a favorable past in Fontana.
Standings: 17th, 98 points
11. Jeff Gordon
Outlook: Gordon was having a good week. He was the darling of the Internet with his test drive video and had a solid hold on the lead in the Food City 500 before blowing a tire and crashing. Take his 34th-place finish with a grain of salt.
Standings: 21st, 90 points
12. Carl Edwards
Outlook: Really rough outing for Edwards at Bristol. First, he barely managed to wiggle out of a wreck caused by Jeff Burton, then got sick while driving, finishing in 18th place.
Standings: 8th, 124 points
13. Martin Truex Jr.
Outlook: After a rough restart late, Truex Jr. ended up finishing just outside of the top 10, but ran inside it for most of the day.
Standings: 18th, 96 points
14. Joey Logano
Outlook: It's what everybody was talking about post-race, and for good reason. Logano angrily trying to stick his head into the window of Denny Hamlin's No. 11 is one of the most vivid images of this young season.
Standings: 12th, 104 points
15. Tony Stewart
Outlook: Stewart's bad luck continued at Bristol, blowing a tire a mere nine laps in. He finished 31st, but could rebound next week, as he's been wildly successful at Auto Club Speedway in the past.
Standings: 24th, 85 points
16. Paul Menard
Outlook: Despite losing a spot in the rankings, Menard is the only Richard Childress Racing driver in the top 15 in points, the fourth straight season he's been in the top 10 after four races.
Standings: 9th, 118 points
Outlook: Considering he had to start at the back of the pack following an engine change, a 16th-place finish is more than respectable for the rookie.
Standings: 11th, 115 points
18. Kurt Busch
Outlook: Hello, 2013. Meet Kurt Busch. The five-time Bristol winner is always great at Thunder Valley and used the Food City 500 to thrust himself into significance.
Standings: 16th, 98 points
19. Ryan Newman
Outlook: Newman saw his Bristol qualifying record set in 2003 broken by Kyle Busch, but rebounded by finishing seventh in the Food City 500. You win some, you lose some.
Standings: 23rd, 87 points
20. Jamie McMurray
Outlook: After an encouraging 10th-place finish, McMurray makes his first appearance in the top 20 and out of 'In the Rearview'. His start at Auto Club Speedway in 2012 was disastrous, so his stay might be a short one.
Standings: 14th, 100 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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