Power Rankings: Kahne, Keselowski back in top 10
July 16, 2013, Pat DeCola, NASCAR.com
Pair of heavyweights gain some ground after New Hampshire Motor Speedway showings
Outlook: Alright, if Johnson had any doubters out there (which, by all means, he really shouldn’t) they have to be believers now. Rallying from dead last -- the only time he’s ever had to do so -- to a sixth-place finish is nothing short of impressive on its own. The fact that it wouldn’t have surprised us if he’d won -- now that’s the stuff of legends.
Standings: 1st, 696 points
2. Matt Kenseth
Outlook: Kenseth managed to sneak out of the wreckage of the Kurt Busch/Ryan Newman mess, and finished ninth after leading 33 laps. He's still mired in the middle of the top 10 in points, but is in great shape for the Chase season with his impressive win total.
Standings: 6th, 576 points
Outlook: It was an eventful (but positive) week for Harvick that resulted in a solid seventh-place finish at New Hampshire. However, he did make a potential enemy in Marcos Ambrose, but at least Danica Patrick will be there to protect him next year.
Standings: 4th, 622 points
4. Clint Bowyer
Outlook: Another race, another non-victory for Bowyer. Though he really, really could have used the win (especially considering New Hampshire is one of his strongest tracks) he does still stand second in points with a reasonable lead over Carl Edwards.
Standings: 2nd, 640 points
5. Carl Edwards
Outlook: Was Carl Edwards even in the race on Sunday? The Roush Fenway Racing driver was almost a non-factor from a drama standpoint, not getting involved in any incidents and notching perhaps the quietest eighth-place finish in history. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but not when the driver one spot below you in the standings (Harvick) finishes one spot ahead of you.
Standings: 3rd, 623 points
6. Kyle Busch
Outlook: Despite just two victories on the season, Busch has led the most laps -- even 17 more than Johnson -- so it’s hard not to classify him in the elite class with Johnson and Kenseth. If it weren’t for the five races in which he didn’t complete every lap, he could very well be closer to the top of the standings
Standings: 7th, 576 points
Outlook: Earnhardt’s 14th-place finish didn’t cost him any spots in the standings, but there’s enough distance between himself (578 points) and fourth-place Harvick (622) to be concerned. Throw in the fact that Junior is still seeking his crucial first win of the season and the fact that Kenseth and Busch are each just two points behind him and there’s plenty of reason to worry.
Standings: 5th, 578 points
8. Kasey Kahne
Outlook: Kahne reeled himself back in with his 11th-place finish after being on the brink of a non-Chase spot, but he’s still got plenty of work to do. As one of five drivers in contention with a single victory, he’ll likely need another one to feel any sort of stability.
Standings: 10th, 523 points
9. Greg Biffle
Outlook: Sitting 31 points behind Kyle Busch and 16 ahead of a winless Brad Keselowski, eighth place sounds like it could be a comfortable spot for Biffle to wind up in by the time the Chase starts, assuming he doesn’t add to his win total. Indianapolis should be a good spot for him to pick up some points to stay there, as he has six top-10 finishes in his 10 career starts at the track.
Standings: 8th, 545 points
10. Brad Keselowski
Outlook: With an average finish of 21.25 in his first four New Hampshire Motor Speedway starts, it’s clear that Keselowski has since figured out Loudon, as he’s averaged a finish of 4.25 in his last four races there. Could his fourth-place finish be the spark the reigning champ needed? We’ll see.
Standings: 9th, 529 points
11. Martin Truex Jr.
Outlook: Would you believe Martin Truex Jr. is one heck of a fisherman? Would you believe Martin Truex Jr. has also led the sixth-most laps of the season? Both are true.
Standings: 11th, 521 points
12. Kurt Busch
Outlook: Busch was well on his way to extending his laps led count (which currently has him at fifth in the series behind heavyweights Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne) when he and Ryan Newman were wrecked after contact from Kenseth. Every week, it seems like Busch’s Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet is right up there with the fastest cars on the track and then something catastrophic happens.
Standings: 14th, 516 points
13. Tony Stewart
Outlook: This one had to hurt. The win appeared to be Stewart’s before the realization set in that he might run out of gas. He let off a bit, let Brian Vickers pass, then ran out on the final restart only to finish 26th and fall to 13th in the standings. He’s one win away from being out of the Chase.
Standings: 13th, 518 points
14. Jeff Gordon
Outlook: At one point, for some reason Paul Menard seemed to take exception to the fact that Jeff Gordon was in front of him, so he just nudged him and Gordon went flying. Somehow, Gordon recovered to finish 10th to Menard’s 17th and sits 12th in the standings to Menard’s 20th. Who won this dispute?
Standings: 12th, 521 points
15. Jamie McMurray
Outlook: Frankly, it needs to be addressed. Jamie McMurray has a legitimate Chase shot. With his mini-hot streak that saw a second-place Kentucky finish, seventh at Daytona, and 12th at Loudon, the McDonald’s Chevrolet driver is just 16 points out of a non-Wild Card Chase spot, with a track coming up that saw one of his six wins. Things are going well for McMurray, but why wouldn’t they? Monopoly season starts today.
Standings: 15th, 507 points
16. Aric Almirola
Outlook:A fifth-place finish for Aric Almirola (23rd, 18th, 29th, 28th, 23rd in five previous races) at New Hampshire was about as likely to happen as a 21st-place finish for Denny Hamlin (average finish of 7.93 in 14 starts before Sunday) but both happened, leaving one driver (Almirola) in contention, while furthering the likelihood that the perennial Chase participant Hamlin will be left out after Richmond.
Standings: 16th, 502 points
17. Ryan Newman
Outlook: Newman clearly wasn’t happy with his dismissal from Stewart-Haas Racing, but he didn’t do himself any favors under the spotlight of potential suitors at New Hampshire. His day was ended after his run-in with Kurt Busch and the five points he earned do next to nothing to help his Chase hopes.
Standings: 19th, 487 points
18. Joey Logano
Outlook: At least Logano recovered from his early (and I mean early) exit from Sunday’s race to finish ahead of Morgan Shepherd, Michael McDowell and Mike Bliss, but the Penske Racing driver certainly could’ve used a better showing at a track he’s won on before. He’s running out of time to make a push.
Standings: 18th, 487 points
19. Jeff Burton
Outlook: Burton almost always has a strong race at New Hampshire (and he should, he pretty much owns stock in the place with the amount of races he’s run there) but few expected him to do as well as he did, this late in his career. Needless to say, his third-place finish puts him in position for a legitimate (albeit distant) shot at a Chase spot.
Standings: 17th, 498 points
20. Paul Menard
Outlook: Time to address Menard’s side of the aforementioned Menard/Gordon incident. It’s quite possible that Menard, who was firmly in the running for a Chase spot the first half of the non-Chase season, is overly frustrated with his performance of late. He hasn’t sniffed a top-10 finish since Kansas and looks likely to fall out of the top 20 soon.
Standings: 20th, 487 points
In the rearview
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