Power Rankings: Veterans surge as Chase looms
July 30, 2013, Pat DeCola, NASCAR.com
Outlook: Johnson didn’t get his record-tying fifth Brickyard victory, but with his second-place finish, it certainly didn’t look like he was missing any sort of “edge” that he was supposedly looking to regain with the Gen-6 car.
Standings: 1st, 740 points
2. Matt Kenseth
Outlook: At this level, barring an accident or malfunction, most drivers can take a great car and get a great finish. And then there are drivers like Matt Kenseth.
Standings: 6th, 615 points
3. Clint Bowyer
Outlook: With his top-20 finish at Indy, Bowyer came nowhere close to earning his first victory of 2013, but he might not even need to. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver so consistently finishes in the top five, he’s still in excellent position. Besides, at this point last year he only had one victory, so he’s barely off his runner-up pace.
Standings: 2nd, 665 points
Outlook: With Indianapolis being one of his better tracks, Harvick missed an opportunity to close in on Bowyer and Carl Edwards in the standings, especially with Bowyer’s mediocre finish. Neither driver is spectacular at Pocono, so he could make up some ground there, however.
Standings: 4th, 648 points
5. Carl Edwards
Outlook: Chances are, Edwards probably won’t remember the glory of his 13th-place finish at Indy, but trust me. He won’t forget about this any time soon.
Standings: 3rd, 655 points
Outlook: Give some credit to Earnhardt. The guy drove his tail off Sunday under some pretty tough circumstances.
Standings: 5th, 616 points
7. Kyle Busch
Outlook: Busch’s two wins in three weeks feel like a distant memory. Probably because it’s been 13 races since he’s hit Victory Lane. Well, the Sprint Cup version, anyway.
Standings: 7th, 610 points
8. Kasey Kahne
Outlook: It was an overall ‘great’ weekend for Kahne. He finished third at Indy and he has a sponsor secured for at least 10 races per season through 2016. See what I did there?
Standings: 9th, 564 points
9. Tony Stewart
Outlook: After the crazy busy week that he had, Stewart could have struggled at Indy, despite it being one of his better tracks. Smoke extended his good times through Sunday, though, vaulting himself back into the top 10 in points and Power Rankings with a top-five finish.
Standings: 11th, 558 points
10. Jeff Gordon
Outlook: Ryan Newman’s victory certainly makes the Chase picture for drivers like Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch a little cloudier, but at least out of the three, Gordon was able to position himself into the top 10 with a strong showing at Indy, just like he needed to do.
Standings: 10th, 559 points
11. Greg Biffle
Outlook: Yikes. Sorry, Greg Biffle, but a flop at one of your best tracks earned you a nod as this week’s biggest fantasy bust. He doesn’t exactly set the world on fire at Pocono, but he does have a win there so a rebound is possible.
Standings: 8th, 565 points
12. Martin Truex Jr.
Outlook: Truex’s 11th-place finish at Indy dropped him a spot in the standings, but don’t be mistaken. He’s in excellent shape to make the Chase, despite currently holding onto the very last spot. Plus, he does awesome stuff with Ryan Seacrest.
Standings: 12th, 554 points
13. Kurt Busch
Outlook: Sure, Busch can dream about jumping in an IndyCar all he wants, but he should really focus on his current endeavors. You know, the ones that include trying to sneak into the Chase with six races before the cutoff.
Standings: 14th, 546 points
14. Brad Keselowski
Outlook: After an excellent New Hampshire race, things finally looked like they were about to turn the corner for Keselowski. And then they didn’t. Now, he’s got plenty of work to do with just a handful of races left. The champ may not get a chance to defend his title in the Chase, but hey. He’s got a killer "SportsCenter" commercial.
Standings: 13th, 553 points
15. Ryan Newman
Outlook: What a day for the Indiana native, winning his first Brickyard 400. The fact that the victory only brought him up to 16th in the standings is telling of his season, though. It’s going to take some effort for him to keep this up, but maybe it’ll get the ball rolling.
Standings: 16th, 534 points
16. Joey Logano
Outlook: Don’t close the book on Logano just yet. He brought at least his “B+” game to Indy, which resulted in a much-needed top-10 finish and could add another win to his Pocono resume this weekend.
Standings: 18th, 524 points
17. Jamie McMurray
Outlook: Currently in 15th place, McMurray has had a decent season, but with just one top-five through 20 races, it’s hard to picture him breaking through at this point and getting over the hump into serious Chase contention.
Standings: 15th, 537 points
18. Aric Almirola
Outlook: (See McMurray, Jamie).
The only difference is that Almirola actually hovered around the top 10 for a good chunk of the season before significantly dropping off once the summer hit. There was a glimmer of hope with his top-five at New Hampshire, but it’s pretty clear Almirola already hit his ceiling.
Standings: 17th, 529 points
19. Denny Hamlin
Outlook: Let’s just say for a minute that Hamlin never got injured and didn’t miss those four races. Let’s also say he averaged 35 points per race over that span. That would put him at 528 total points, in 18th-place behind Aric Almirola. He’s shown flashes of his old self at times, but if he remains adamant that the injury is no longer bothering him, he may have to start answering questions as to why he’s been so mediocre if it isn’t.
Standings: 25th, 388 points
Outlook: It was just about a foregone conclusion that the former Indy 500 winner Montoya, who always seems to do well at the Brickyard, would keep his success at the track going after he practiced so well. He didn’t disappoint, earning his fourth top-10 finish of the year, but it’ll take a win (probably at Watkins Glen) and a few top-fives to put his name back toward the ranks of contenders.
Standings: 23rd, 460 points
In the rearview