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Power Rankings: Week 1

February 26, 2013, Pat DeCola,

Power Rankings ahead of Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

1. Jimmie Johnson (No. 48)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet 

Cup standings: 1st, 47 points
Outlook: What is there to say? It's tough to compete with a five-time champion that nearly won his sixth title last season and opened 2013 with a bang, picking up his second Daytona 500 victory.

2. Brad Keselowski (No. 2)

Penske Racing, Ford

Cup standings: 
4th, 41 points
Outlook: The champ's Ford Fusion limped to the finish line at Daytona -- and he still finished fourth. Some ruled out a repeat for Keselowski. Apparently he didn't get the memo.

3. Matt Kenseth (No. 20)

Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota

Cup standings: 
33rd, 9 points
Outlook: With a new team in Joe Gibbs Racing and his last Sprint Cup championship a decade in the past, Kenseth is a popular pick to unseat Keselowski. His 2013 campaign started off with a bang, but unfortunately for him, that came in the form of a blown engine at Daytona.

4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet 

Cup standings:  2nd, 42 points
Outlook: Pulling in right behind his Hendrick Motorsports teammate for a second-place finish in the Great American Race, Junior looks poised to put last season's 12th-place finish behind him.

5. Tony Stewart (No. 14)

Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet

Cup standings: 37th, 3 points

Outlook: Give him some credit. We didn't hear much of anything from Smoke during Speedweeks, as he allowed his teammate Danica Patrick to soak up the spotlight. He then wrecked in the 500. It's a long season, though, and Stewart should be in the running for his fourth Sprint Cup title in 2013.

6. Jeff Gordon (No. 24)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet

Cup standings:
19th, 25 points 
Outlook: "Old Reliable" has four Sprint Cup titles under his belt, but the last one came in 2001. Gordon's last three seasons have gotten progressively worse in terms of points finishes, but don't count him out yet. The 41-year-old is as determined as ever.

7. Denny Hamlin (No. 11)

Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota

Cup standings: 13th, 31 points 
Outlook: One of NASCAR's newest dads has a lot on his plate with baby Taylor, but expect Hamlin to be in top-10 contention, despite his 14th-place-finish at Daytona. The JGR driver has finished worse than ninth just once (12th, 2007) since joining the Sprint Cup Series full-time in 2006.

8. Clint Bowyer (No. 15)

Michael Waltrip Racing, Toyota

Cup standings: 10th, 34 points
Outlook: Remember that time Clint Bowyer finished second in points standings last year? So does he. Don't expect there to be too many more races where he finishes behind the likes of J.J. Yeley and Michael McDowell.

9. Kasey Kahne (No. 5)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet

Cup standings: 34th, 8 points
Outlook: Kahne, 33, isn't the new kid on the block anymore. He showed what he's capable of last season with his fourth-place finish, but we'll have to wait to see what 2013 holds in store for the Hendrick driver who wrecked in the Daytona 500.

10. Kevin Harvick (No. 10)

Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet

Cup standings: 38th, 2 points
Outlook: After taking both The Sprint Unlimited and the first of last week's Duels, many pegged Harvick as an odds-on favorite to place high in the 500. And then Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne sparked a wreck that knocked Harvick out of the race after 47 laps.

11. Greg Biffle (No. 16)

Roush Fenway Racing, Ford

Cup standings: 6th, 38 points
Outlook: Biffle might not get the same recognition some of the bigger names get, but consider him an underappreciated pick for a top-5 finish in points in 2013. He's seen five top-7 finishes in the past six seasons and was hot on Johnson's tail as the cars hit the homestretch at Daytona.

12. Kyle Busch (No. 18)

Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota

Cup standings: 31st, 10 points
Outlook: Kyle Busch is all about racing. That being said, his passion for the sport and risky behavior has only led to two points finishes higher than 10th since he picked up a full-time Cup ride at age 20, and he was knocked out of the 500 five laps early on Sunday.

13. Martin Truex Jr. (NO. 56)

Michael Waltrip Racing, Toyota

Cup standings: 23rd, 20 points
Outlook: Here's what we can expect from Truex Jr.: he'll finish high in some races, low in some, and in the middle in most. 

14. Ryan Newman (NO. 39)

Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet

Cup standings: 5th, 40 points
Outlook: After a hot start to his Sprint Cup career (four top-7 finishes in points standings from age 24-28, just one since), the 35-year-old certainly benefitted from nearly half the field not finishing the race, but could be primed for a stronger-than-usual 2013.

15. Carl Edwards (NO. 99)

Roush Fenway Racing, Ford

Cup standings: 
30th, 11 points
Outlook: With a pair of top-2 points finishes in 2008 and 2011, it looked like Edwards was going to be a mainstay at the top of the class. However, with the amount of crashes he was involved in at Daytona, it doesn't look like he's destined to improve on his 15th-place finish in 2012.

16. Joey Logano (NO. 22)

Penske Racing, Ford

Cup standings: 18th, 26 points
Outlook: It's hard to believe Logano is entering his fifth full-time Sprint Cup season. While he hasn't finished higher than 16th, the 23-year-old should benefit tremendously from having teammate Brad Keselowski looking out for him.

17. Danica Patrick (NO. 10)

Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet

Cup standings: 7th, 37 points
Outlook: Daytona's darling turned nearly every head this past weekend with her finesse and skill. People should not only be impressed that she's making history, but also because she's a rookie.

18. Aric Almirola (NO. 43)

Richard Petty Motorsports, Ford

Cup standings: 12th, 31 points
Outlook: Almirola certainly had some bright spots, but it's tough to see him breaking anywhere higher than 15th overall in the standings with such a talented class ahead of him.

19. Mark Martin (NO. 55)

Michael Waltrip Racing, Toyota

Cup standings: 3rd, 41 points 
Outlook: Martin won't be running a full slate of races in 2013. That doesn't mean he can't get some credit for an inspiring third-place-finish in Sunday's 500.

20. Juan Pablo Montoya (NO. 42)

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet

Cup standings: 
36th, 5 points
Outlook: Montoya finished in eighth place in 2009, but the rest of his Sprint Cup career has been mostly forgettable. Can he turn it around in 2013? We'll see.


In the Rearview

Marcos Ambrose (NO. 9)

Richard Petty Motorsports, Ford

Cup standings: 17th, 26 points

Kurt Busch (NO. 78)

Furniture Row Racing, Chevrolet

Cup standings: 26th, 16 points

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17)

Roush Fenway Racing, Ford

Cup standings: 11th, 32 points

Paul Menard (No. 27)

Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet

Cup standings: 20th, 24 points

Jeff Burton (No. 31)

Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet

Cup standings: 28th, 14 points

Note: These rankings have been determined by a poll that included writers Kenny BruceHolly Cain, David Caraviello and Zack Albert, and video host Alan Cavanna. Tell us what you think about the Power Rankings. Use the hashtag #NASCARPOWER.


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