Power Rankings: Johnson, Kenseth tie in voting
August 27, 2013, Pat DeCola, NASCAR.com
Outlook: The table was set for Johnson to bounce back from a poor Michigan showing, and then David Reutimann had to go and ruin everything. Now that his points lead stands at a very vulnerable 18 points, he can still take comfort in the fact he is in the Chase no matter what.
Related Video: Johnson post-race reaction
Standings: 1st, 821 points.
2. Matt Kenseth
Outlook: And just like that, Kenseth is your new leader in 2013 wins after landing in Victory Lane at Bristol. After holding off Kasey Kahne in the waning laps of the Irwin Tools Night Race on Saturday, Kenseth has positioned himself in a favorable spot, despite being sixth in the standings.
Related Video: Kenseth victory news conference
Standings: 6th, 736 points.
3. Clint Bowyer
Outlook: Sure, he clinched a Chase spot, but that wasn’t enough for Bowyer. Last season’s runner-up had a legitimate shot at bringing Jimmie Johnson’s points lead to single-digits before being spun while in the lead.
Standings: 2nd, 803 points.
4. Kyle Busch
Outlook: There was no shortage of drama for Busch this weekend, as the Joe Gibbs Racing driver came super close to earning his second Bristol sweep. There was the spin at the finish in the Truck Series race. Then he crashed in Sprint Cup qualifying. Then there was Busch winning yet another Nationwide race in perfect fashion. Then he made contact with Joey Logano and still finished 11th. No sweep, but impressive nonetheless.
Standings: 5th, 739 points.
5. Kasey Kahne
Outlook: Whether you’re on the side of the fence that believes Kahne should have been more aggressive as he barreled down on Matt Kenseth in the final laps, you have to give him some credit. We could be witnessing Kahne’s most consistent season as a Cup driver, as he’s on pace to notch the most top-five finishes in a single season in his career -- and this, without earning a single pole all year.
Related video: Kahne post-race reaction
Standings: 8th, 701 points.
Outlook: While his mix-up with Denny Hamlin certainly could have gotten much, much uglier, Harvick’s time at Bristol wasn’t at all pleasant. His 34th-place finish kept him in fourth place, though the time is nigh for when he’s finally able to leapfrog Carl Edwards.
Standings: 4th, 760 points.
7. Carl Edwards
Outlook: Losing an engine at Bristol couldn’t have come at a worse time for Edwards. Sitting in third place he doesn’t need to sweat just yet, but the fact that the three drivers directly behind him in the standings have 10 combined wins has to be on his mind.
Standings: 3rd, 768 points.
Outlook: Last week Earnhardt alluded to being worried about missing the Chase, but then went out and had a pretty nice Bristol race, even leading for a bit. Still, his points cushion in the Race for the Chase is almost gone.
Standings: 7th, 714 points.
9. Joey Logano
Outlook: Following his fifth top-10 finish in a row, Logano enjoyed another jump in the standings, this time for a total of three spots to vault into the top 10 and out of Wild Card territory.
Standings: 10th, 685 points.
10. Kurt Busch
Outlook: Sure, he dropped five spots here and tumbled out of his Chase spot at Bristol, but something tells me Busch woke up Tuesday morning feeling like a million bucks. With his 2014 fate about to be tied to Stewart-Haas Racing contract, he can focus on the big picture -- and right now, that’s competing for his second championship.
Related video: Up to Speed: Busch joins SHR in 2014
Standings: 12th, 679 points.
11. Greg Biffle
Outlook: Despite being in ninth place and close to that Wild Card window, Biffle’s Chase chances are looking pretty good. With a 35-point lead over first Wild Card holder Martin Truex Jr., if he can avoid major wreckage these last two races, the Roush Fenway Racing driver should be a lock to make it into the Chase.
Standings: 9th, 698 points.
12. Brad Keselowski
Outlook: Keselowski missed out on a great opportunity to earn his first win of the season at one of his better tracks, an opportunity that he couldn’t really afford to squander. But to be fair, it’s probably time we retire the “#BlameJJ” hashtag and work on making “BlameReutimann” a thing.
Standings: 11th, 681 points.
13. Jeff Gordon
Outlook: Much like Keselowski, Gordon was counting on Bristol to be a spot to earn his first victory and failed to do so, but at least his seventh-place finish netted him 37 total points. He’s still within reach of a top-10 Chase spot (11 points behind 10th-place Joey Logano), which is becoming more and more likely to be his only way in.
Standings: 13th, 674 points.
14. Martin Truex Jr.
Outlook: If it weren’t for Truex’s Sonoma victory back in June, he’d likely be muddled in with the Jamie McMurrays and Paul Menards of the roster (at least in terms of points). Instead, the Michael Waltrip Racing driver is holding on strong in 14th place with a Chase spot in sights. Basically, as long as Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch or Jeff Gordon don’t see Victory Lane at Atlanta or Richmond, he’s in.
Related video: Truex Jr. on Childers to SHR
Standings: 14th, 663 points.
15. Ryan Newman
Outlook: Newman has certainly seen his share of whirlwind drama and confusion this season, but it has to feel pretty good knowing that despite the winless Kurt Busch likely inhabiting his old stomping grounds in 2014 while his own future is uncertain, at least he’s won a race and holds onto a Chase spot. For now, at least.
Standings: 15th, 659 points.
16. Jamie McMurray
Outlook: The door is still at least cracked open for McMurray’s Chase hopes, though there’s hardly any shot of him making it without a victory. With no top-five finishes and just seven top-10s in 40 combined races at Atlanta and Richmond, that door may as well be closed, locked and dead-bolted.
Standings: 16th, 647 points.
Outlook: Give Montoya a hand. After learning that his 2014 Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing ride would no longer have his name on it, he could have easily just mailed in the rest of the season and set sail into the sunset, but he’s doing the exact opposite.
Standings: 21st, 590 points.
18. Paul Menard
Outlook: Menard had led five laps all season heading into Bristol, so naturally he came out and led 64 more of them at the World’s Fastest Half-Mile. Still, even that wasn’t good enough to pick up his second top-five finish this year, placing sixth.
Standings: 17th, 638 points.
19. Aric Almirola
Outlook: Apart from Jeff Gordon’s five, Aric Almirola’s four DNFs are the most among the top-20. He certainly hasn’t lit the world on fire when he has finished races -- placing in the top-10 just five times -- but it’s interesting to think about where he’d be even if, say, two of those races were completed.
Standings: 20th, 561 points.
20. Marcos Ambrose
Outlook: Ambrose has finished in the top 20 four out of the past five races, with two of them resulting in top 10s. The only race he failed to do so in was at Watkins Glen, easily his best track. Had he won there, he still wouldn’t have been holding onto a Chase spot, but he’d at least be in the conversation.
Standings: 22nd, 590 points.
In the rearview