Power Rankings: Harvick charges to top-two spot
August 20, 2013, Pat DeCola, NASCAR.com
Outlook: Johnson’s bad luck at Michigan continued on Sunday, as even his backup car was susceptible to turmoil. His failed engine in the Pure Michigan 400 may have hurt his chances to hold onto the top spot in the standings, but the pain is the equivalent of banging your funny bone. It stings at first, but eventually you just laugh it off.
Standings: 1st, 813 points
Outlook: Harvick’s runner-up finish at Michigan -- his second of the season -- ended a string of three-straight finishes outside the top 10. He finished 14th at Bristol earlier in the season but you can bet he’ll be looking to firmly-establish himself in that upper-tier he finds himself in right now with a strong race for the second week in a row.
Related video: Harvick post-race reaction
Standings: 4th, 749 points
3. Clint Bowyer
Outlook: While Joey Logano’s victory was a thing of beauty, Bowyer may have quietly driven the best race of the day. After spinning out on the first lap, the Michael Waltrip Racing driver had to fight his way back through the field and ended up with a top-five finish. Quite impressive.
Related video: Bowyer post-race reaction
Standings: 2nd, 772 points
4. Matt Kenseth
Outlook: With a top-six finish at Michigan the first time around, the table was set for Kenseth to break out of his funk on Sunday, but he failed to do so. Perhaps he’ll be more determined to right the ship at Bristol, where he placed 35th after wrecking earlier in the year. Either way, he’s in no immediate danger of missing the Chase and could clinch a spot this weekend.
Standings: 6th, 688 points
5. Kurt Busch
Outlook: Biggest Kurt Busch news of the week? That blazing fastball he tossed for the first pitch at the Colorado Rockies game. Oh, right. There was also that other report of him being offered a ride at Stewart-Haas Racing next year. No big deal.
Standings: 9th, 665 points
6. Carl Edwards
Outlook: After failing to notch a top-five from the pole in June’s Michigan race, the table was set for Edwards to drive with a vengeance this time around. He still finished a respectable 10th, but he led no laps and had to have walked away dissatisfied.
Standings: 3rd, 762 points
7. Kyle Busch
Outlook: Busch managed to stave off major damage after spinning late in the race -- actually, the whole race was mostly devoid of major damage; bravo, Michigan -- but still finished a lousy 31st. Plus he now has to look up at his older brother ahead of him in these rankings. That said, Kyle still holds a pretty hefty lead over Kurt. A three-win advantage doesn’t hurt.
Standings: 5th, 706 points
Outlook: Keselowski wasn’t happy with the pit strategy crew chief Paul Wolfe elected to take on Sunday -- at all -- but clearly it worked out for the best. The No. 2 was on the same cycle as Mark Martin’s No. 55, and we all know what happened there. The reigning champ is safe for now, but he needs a win badly.
Related video: Keselowski post-race reaction
Standings: 8th, 667 points
9. Kasey Kahne
Outlook: Props to Kahne for pulling out a seventh-place finish at Michigan. It couldn’t have been easy to drive after getting no sleep all week because he was too busy staking out the Joe Gibbs Racing shop to see if anyone would come outside that he could “talk to."
Standings: 11th, 659 points
Outlook: Earnhardt missed out on a golden opportunity at Michigan, and he knows it. His blown tire and subsequent attempts to fix some other issues behind the wall left him with a second consecutive poor finish at the track where his last two wins -- and ONLY wins since 2006 -- have come from.
Related video: Earnhardt post-race reaction | Junior on burnout, fantasy football
Standings: 7th, 679 points
11. Joey Logano
Outlook: Logano came into this past weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway in dire need of a win and he completely delivered, placing himself into excellent position to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup for the first time in his young career. Currently in 13th and looking at Kasey Kahne and Martin Truex Jr. holding onto the two Wild Card spots, he certainly isn’t a lock, but he’s got all the momentum.
Related Video: Victory Lane 1-on-1 | Post-race comments
Standings: 11th, 623 points
12. Greg Biffle
Outlook: Michigan has long been known as a track that Fords -- in particular, Roush Fenway Racing Fords -- typically run well at, as evidenced by Edwards’ pole and Biffle’s win in June. Both drivers finished top 10 in this race (with rookie teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 19th), but Biffle has to be especially sad to be leaving the Wolverine State. He’s averaged a finish of 3.75 over his past four races there, with two wins.
Standings: 10th, 663 points
13. Martin Truex Jr.
Outlook: Truex doesn’t have a rich history of success at Bristol, but he may have no choice but to tough it out, stay out of trouble, and shoot for at least a top-10 this weekend -- which would be just his third in 16 attempts at the track. Standing in 12th just seven points ahead of Joey Logano with just as many wins, he can’t afford to give this one away.
Standings: 12th, 653 points
14. Jeff Gordon
Outlook: Gordon, in dire need of a win, has to be happy to see three tracks coming up that he has a combined 12 wins at. The only problem? Just one of those victories has come in the last decade (Atlanta, 2011).
Standings: 14th, 637 points
15. Ryan Newman
Outlook: With Monday’s news that Tony Stewart would miss the remainder of 2013, Stewart-Haas Racing will be putting all of their efforts into getting Newman in the Chase. First up? Bristol, where he has one top-five in 20 attempts. They’ve got their work cut out for them.
Standings: 15th, 636 points
16. Jamie McMurray
Outlook: McMurray has averaged a top-10 finish over his last four races at Bristol (9.75 to be exact), but a win may be out of the question. Still, the 16th-place driver -- who stands just 31 points behind final Wild Card holder Martin Truex Jr. -- winning a race and throwing his hat into the ring at this point in the season would be wildly entertaining.
Standings: 16th, 622 points
17. Paul Menard
Outlook: Boy, what got into the Richard Childress Racing cars on Sunday? With Harvick and Menard’s top-fives and Burton’s eighth-place finish, things are looking up for a team that’ll have a lot of question marks heading into next season.
Related video: Menard post-race reaction
Standings: 17th, 599 points
18. Tony Stewart
Outlook: Enjoy it, folks. Unless something goes freakishly right in Stewart’s rehab and he reverses his decision to spend time recovering from a broken leg for the remainder of the season, this’ll be the last time you see Smoke’s sparkling face in these Power Rankings. Here’s to 2014.
Standings: 18th, 594 points
19. Jeff Burton
Outlook: Despite the momentum that Burton built with his solid day at Michigan, he likely won’t keep it up at Bristol. The driver has finished on the lead lap small oval just twice in his past six races there.
Standings: 20th, 561 points
20. Aric Almirola
Outlook: Almirola has a brief history of just eight career Sprint Cup races at Bristol, and the results are scary. He’s exited the race early in three of his past four races, has just one top 10, and averages a finish of 27.8. Naturally, to keep in tune with the unpredictability of this season, he’s probably a lock to take home his first career victory.
Standings: 19th, 587 points
In the rearview