Power Rankings: Junior jumps up poll
June 11, 2013, Pat DeCola, NASCAR.com
Outlook: Johnson’s lofty lead of 51 points over Carl Edwards means that, yes, he could miss an entire race and keep his hold of first place; which he may have to do because his pregnant wife is due in September. It’s as if he planned this all along.
Standings: 1st, 521 points
2. Carl Edwards
Outlook: Edwards admits in his “Big Brain Theory” appearance that he’s crashed a car in basically every way possible. Luckily, he didn’t crash at Pocono, but he still ended up 18th.
Standings: 2nd, 470 points
3. Matt Kenseth
Outlook: Another week, another unfortunate occurrence for Kenseth, who seems to either win a race, get knocked out by an accident he doesn’t cause or have a blown engine. This week’s culprit? Juan Pablo Montoya.
Standings: 6th, 418 points
Outlook: Most expected to see Junior get his mojo back soon, but according to most predictions, it came a week early at Pocono. With Michigan International Speedway, the site of his last two wins, on the horizon, Earnhardt has a chance to really pick up some steam.
Standings: 4th, 439 points
5. Clint Bowyer
Outlook: Whether or not Bowyer was trying to match his car number or he was just tired from wheeling around a shopping cart late last week, 15th-place finishes aren’t what he is looking for right now.
Standings: 3rd, 452 points
6. Kyle Busch
Outlook: Naturally, in Busch’s first week of looking for his 100th career top-five finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, he placed sixth. He could have to wait another week for the century mark, as just three of the 99 have come at Michigan.
Standings: 7th, 412 points
Outlook: Now that Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth each have a trifecta of victories, the page turns to the next trio of drivers with a shot to join the club in Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne. What do you think?
Standings: 5th, 434 points
8. Kasey Kahne
Outlook: Stricken by mechanical issues on the very first lap, Kahne had no realistic shot to make any progress in the standings. He does run reasonably well at Michigan, however, so it could be a good week to make up some of the ground he lost.
Standings: 8th, 400 points
Outlook: Keselowski and Harvick nearly smashed each other up pretty bad on pit road, but the reigning champ still finished 16th despite the miss. Still, it was enough to move up a spot in the standings ahead of his home race.
Standings: 9th, 398 points
10. Tony Stewart
Outlook: And this is why Tony Stewart is a three-time champion. The driver/owner was able to steer out of a swerve in traffic on a restart that likely would have ended his day. Instead, he finished fourth and has risen seven spots in the standings in the past two weeks alone.
Standings: 13th, 378 points
11. Jeff Gordon
Outlook: Gordon’s primary sponsor recently renewed its contract with Hendrick Motorsports through 2016. For the soon-to-be-42-year-old, it called into question if he’d be around to see the end of the deal. Fortunately for the sport of NASCAR, it sounds like he could.
Standings: 11th, 393 points
12. Greg Biffle
Outlook: Given all the issues that Roush Fenway Racing and the other Ford teams have had this season, it was huge for Biffle to earn his first top-10 since Texas.
Standings: 10th, 395 points
13. Kurt Busch
Outlook: Busch is certainly pleased with his seventh-place finish (even if it did come a spot behind his little brother) and from the sounds of it, he knew nobody was beating Jimmie Johnson.
Standings: 15th, 374 points
14. Denny Hamlin
Outlook: Hamlin needs wins. There’s no way around it. He’d even be willing to risk blowing an engine if it meant he’d have a better shot at getting one.
Standings: 25th, 285 points
15. Paul Menard
Outlook: Thanks to a tire problem on the last lap, Menard’s 30th-place finish has him dropping even further down the standings. His early-season success is becoming a distant memory and it’ll be tough to regain it with other drivers heating up.
Standings: 12th, 385 points
16. Joey Logano
Outlook: Logano wasn’t able to commit to his full weekend plan of running in both the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Iowa and the Cup race at Pocono where he was the reigning winner, but his substitute filled in admirably.
Standings: 16th, 369 points
17. Ryan Newman
Outlook: It wasn’t conventional by any means, but it worked. Newman’s pit strategy was a huge factor in his top-five finish and his squad may want to consider more Hail Mary-type moves if he plans on making the Chase.
Standings: 18th, 363 points
18. Martin Truex Jr.
Outlook: No, Truex didn’t blow his engine on Sunday. A 23rd-place finish ahead of a Michigan track he’s only mediocre at (four top-10s in 14 tries) doesn’t bode well for a return to a Chase spot.
Standings: 17th, 364 points
19. Aric Almirola
Outlook: Dave Blaney might not be happy with Almirola after sending him for a spin, but it isn’t like the driver of the No. 43 did so hot himself. Almirola finished a paltry 21st.
Standings: 14th, 377 points
Outlook: The momentum that Montoya has been building didn’t take much of a hit with a 14th-place finish, but it’s tough to really say he kept the momentum he had after a solid Dover run. It’s a fair assessment that he has June 23 circled on his calendar when the first road-course race of the season takes place at Sonoma.
Standings: 22nd, 337 points
In the rearview