Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have all shown that they will be the teams to beat for the rest of the season. After Junior snapped his 143-race winless streak on Sunday, all three drivers now have victories this season. They are also the three drivers who have scored the most points in the last six races.
This weekend the Sprint Cup Series will be heading to the first of two road-course races of the season at Sonoma. None of these three drivers are strong there, with Johnson being the only driver who has a road course win.
Let’s take a look at this week’s edition of power rankings.
1. Jimmie Johnson- He finished a quiet fifth at Michigan and shows no signs of slowing down this season. There is no question that Johnson and company are back after having a lackluster season for their standards. His lone win at Sonoma came back in 2010 as his road racing has improved throughout his career. Last week: 1
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.- I was surprised there wasn’t riots in the street of Michigan after Junior snapped his four year winless drought. It was nice to see how happy the other drivers were for him in their post-race interviews. I think the other drivers realize how important he is to the sport and the pressure that he is under. Last week: 3
3. Matt Kenseth- Here is the third of the three drivers who are capable of being in the top spot in this week’s rankings. Kenseth finished third and had an excellent battle with Johnson at the end of the race that was overshadowed by Junior’s win. As the 17 team prepares to go to Sonoma, Kenseth is probably already looking to leave. A solid top-15 finish would be a great run for Kenseth this weekend. Last week: 2
4. Greg Biffle- Next to Earnhardt, it looked like at times that Biffle had the second fastest car on the track. A solid top-5 finish was exactly what he needed after he and his team have struggled in the past few weeks. Last week: 4
5. Brad Keselowski- The Blue Deuce had an uneventful day and wound up finishing 13th. He’s currently everyone’s best friend outside the top 10 in points. He has two wins which makes him almost a guarantee to win the wild card if he falls outside the top 10. He now holds the tenth and final spot over 11th place Kyle Busch. Last week: 6
6. Clint Bowyer- Bowyer is now starting to look like the top dog in the MWR camp. He has four top-10 finishes in the past six races and gets stronger every week. It looked like he had a top-5 car midway through the race but wound up finishing seventh after taking no tires on the final pit stop. Last week: 11
7. Martin Truex Jr.- The driver who was the top dog at MWR is now starting to fade even further back as we progress through the season. Each race is now starting to look mediocre for Truex, as he lost the race-winning cars he had when he began the season. Truex is staying out of trouble so far this season which is keeping his head above water as we enter the stretch run to the chase. Last week: 7
8. Kevin Harvick- He started second but quickly fell out of the picture after he had hub problems during the competition caution. It took him most of the day to rally but he was able to come home with a 10th place finish. Last week: 9
9. Denny Hamlin- After Hamlin looked like he was the only hope left for Joe Gibbs Racing he got caught in a four-wide situation which led to a spin and his engine catching on fire from the damage. After Hamlin got out of the car he said it was the first time he has ever experience being inside of a car while it was on fire. Last week: 5
10. Tony Stewart- After claiming that he was going to take no prisoners in the early stages of the race, I got to thinking that Smoke is kind of like Michael Jordan in the sense he seems to create problems to motivate himself. As we all know by now, when the weather heats up, so does Stewart. After a strong run at Michigan, he will be heading to one of his best tracks at Sonoma. Last week: NR
11. Kasey Kahne- Two weeks ago the media and the fans all were claiming how Kahne was basically a lock to make the chase as he will be able to drive his way into the top 10 with the way the team has been performing. Two weeks later and two crashes later, Kahne finds himself way outside the top 10 and fourth among drivers eligible for the wild card outside the top 10. Last week: 8
12. Jeff Gordon- A sixth-place finish for Gordon moves him up to 20th in points. The way his up and down season has been, one must wonder if his chase hopes are all but gone now. Barring a strong flawless summer stretch, his hopes for his fifth title this season seems to be disappearing. Last week: NR