Power Rankings: Stewart rockets up chart
July 09, 2013, Pat DeCola, NASCAR.com
Outlook: Johnson’s Daytona sweep will rank up there with some of Five-Time’s greatest accomplishments, and the link that ties him together with some of his role models -- Bobby and Davey Allison -- isn’t lost on the points leader and unanimous top choice in this week’s ranks.
Standings: 1st, 658 points
Related: Victory Lane 1-on-1 with Johnson
2. Matt Kenseth
Outlook: Kenseth was unable to earn his first July Daytona win on Saturday, though he did lead one lap before being taken out by teammate Denny Hamlin. Kenseth has led at least one lap in all but five of the season’s 18 races.
Standings: 6th, 540 points
Related: Kenseth Press Pass
3. Clint Bowyer
Outlook: That’s three top-five finishes in a row for Bowyer, who has only finished outside the top 10 once in the past seven races (15th at Pocono). That’s a great stretch for the Michael Waltrip Racing driver, even if he did inadvertently spin his boss.
Standings: 2nd, 609 points
Related: Bowyer post-race comments
4.. Kevin Harvick
Outlook: Harvick, like Bowyer, is another driver who has been incredibly strong over the past two months, averaging a finish of 6.0 over the last eight races. He’s looking for his second career victory at New Hampshire to keep the momentum going.
Standings: 4th, 585 points
Related: Harvick post-race reaction
5. Carl Edwards
Outlook: Boy, a 29th-place finish for Edwards knocked him out of second place in the standings. How could it get any worse? Well, the awkward conversation that likely followed this incident probably didn’t help.
Standings: 3rd, 587 points
Related: TNT All-Access: Carl Edwards
6. Kyle Busch
Outlook: Things were looking good for Busch to make some noise after he earned his first restrictor-plate Coors Light Pole last weekend, but things fizzled, despite his 29 laps led.
Standings: 7th, 533 points
Outlook: No. 88 finished in eighth on Saturday, moving him ahead of Matt Kenseth in the standings. This week could present a challenge, however, as Earnhardt has yet to record a win at Loudon.
Standings: 5th, 548 points
Related: Dale Earnhardt Jr. post-race reaction
8. Tony Stewart
Outlook: Stewart is back in the top 10 and feeling good after his second-place finish at Daytona, which he earned despite not leading any laps. With New Hampshire being one of his best tracks (three wins, 11.4 average finish) he could position himself as a mainstay in the non-Wild Card Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings.
Standings: 10th, 499 points
Related: Tony Stewart post-race reaction
9. Greg Biffle
Outlook: Biffle didn’t do himself any favors by finishing 17th on Saturday, and with his car being among the 16 Sprint Cup rides who might be penalized for roof flap spacer violations, he could be in danger of falling out of the top 10. Good thing he has that Michigan victory to fall back on.
Standings: 8th, 516 points
10. Kurt Busch
Outlook: Busch has been pegged all along as a driver who is bound to break out from an early season slump, and it looks like he’s finally reached that point. With finishes of fourth, sixth and sixth over his last three races, all he needs is a win (he has three at Loudon) to dig his feet into that Chase spot he currently holds.
Standings: 9th, 501 points
Related: Busch post-race reaction
11. Kasey Kahne
Outlook: If it weren’t for Brad Keselowski’s struggles, Kahne would look like the coldest driver on the circuit, as a six-race span in which he’s averaged a finish of 24.3 has seen him slip from fifth to 12th in the standings.
Standings: 12th, 490 points
Related: Hard Kahne Daytona wreck
12. Martin Truex Jr.
Outlook: Truex may have already exceeded expectations in 2013, just by the mere fact that he picked up a win, but for a driver that has been coming on of late, being spun from behind and hitting the wall hard has to be discouraging.
Standings: 11th, 493 points
13. Brad Keselowski
Outlook: Again, things are not going well for Keselowski, who has just one top-five finish since the season’s fourth race at Bristol. But hey, at least he’s up for an ESPY, right?
Standings: 13th, 488 points
14. Jeff Gordon
Outlook: Yes, the Coors Light Pole streak is in danger. But do we think Gordon is really concerned with an arbitrary record like that. Of course not. At this point, his only concern is making the Chase, which isn’t looking especially promising for the vet.
Standings: 14th, 487 points
Related: Gordon, Waltrip have pit problems
15. Joey Logano
Outlook: After a meteoric rise last week in which Logano shot up four spots in the standings and six spots in these rankings, the driver of the No. 22 Ford lost much of the position gained after being forced from the race early on. He later returned, but the damage was already done.
Standings: 15th, 483 points
16. Ryan Newman
Outlook: All of a sudden, Newman is just 17 points out of a 10th-place Chase spot. Who knew? The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has a great shot to inch closer this weekend, as his three wins at Loudon are tied with Dover for the most at a single track in his career.
Standings: 16th, 482 points
17. Jamie McMurray
Outlook: A seventh-place effort at Daytona has to have McMurray feeling good, but because he’s in limbo regarding potential penalties stemming from the roof flap spacers issue, a lot remains in question.
Standings: 17th, 475 points
18. Paul Menard
Outlook: Bon voyage, Paul Menard’s Chase hopes. After a hot start, they dwindled to the point of looking slim over the past month. A 43rd-place finish after going up in flames early in the race Saturday all but sealed his fate.
Standings: 20th, 460 points
Outlook: With finishes of 12th, 13th and now 11th, that’s three really solid finishes for Stenhouse Jr. at restrictor-plate tracks this year (two at Daytona, one at Talladega). Considering he’s just a rookie, he may have found his calling and could dominate these races for years to come.
Standings: 18th, 466 points
20. Aric Almirola
Outlook: Almirola is in serious danger of falling out of Wild Card range, hanging on by a thread in 19th place. Considering he’s run five races at Loudon and has yet to crack the top-10, it looks like Almirola’s 2013 ship has sailed.
Standings: 19th, 463 points
In the rearview