The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series had their first of 17 straight weeks of racing to end the season this weekend at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This was the 19th time the Sprint Cup Series has raced the Brickyard 400 and more history was made as Jimmie Johnson won his fourth Brickyard 400, which ties him with Jeff Gordon for most Brickyard 400 victories.
Let’s take a look at this week’s power rankings before the teams head back to Pocono.
1. Jimmie Johnson- The 48 didn’t have this kind of dominance at all last season, but it seems that they are back to their old form. It was their third win of the season and the rest of the competition should be scared when the chase comes around. Johnson is driving flawlessly and the team isn’t making any mistakes. Those mistakes are what cost Johnson the championship last season, but those problems seem to be behind them now. Last week: 1
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.- Junior has taken over the points lead which is the first time this has happened since 2004. This seems like a big deal, but when the chase starts he won’t be the points leader since the standings will be reset to give whoever has the most wins as the points leader. However, it does show how strong the 88 team has been this season, including their fourth place finish this weekend at the Brickyard. Last week: 3
3. Matt Kenseth- Not the weekend Kenseth was looking for after he got collected in a crash late in the race. Kenseth spent the day running at the back end of the top 10 or just outside of it, but fell back on a restart which led to him getting caught up in a wreck. The irony of it all is the fact that Kenseth ran into the car that he will most likely be driving in next season. Last week: 2
4. Greg Biffle- Nice run for the Biff finishing third. The team’s strategy call on the last pit stop, taking two tires, was good enough to get him the lead, but it was impossible to hold off the dominant Johnson. Biffle seemed to not be as strong as he was earlier in the year, but he has found the magic again and it shouldn’t be long before he is in victory lane again. Last week: 4
5. Brad Keselowski- After a bad qualifying effort, Keselowski started towards the back of the field and was not making much progress in the beginning part of the race. However, once again Paul Wolfe proved to be the best crew chief at using strategy to get Keselowski at the front of the field. They stayed out on a caution flag while everyone else pitted and Keselowski was able to hold onto the lead. He wound up finishing ninth after he got lose under Regan Smith on a restart and was not able to regain the lost track position that he gained from not pitting. Last week: 5
6. Jeff Gordon- If Gordon didn’t have the mistakes and the bad luck he has been having all season, he would clearly be safe inside the top 10 in points. However, he is outside the top 10 and while these top 5 runs are great to have, it’s not what they need. The good news is that there is still a possibility that Gordon can make the wild-card spot with just one win. Last week: 8
7. Tony Stewart- Stewart was not happy with his car during practice and was not happy with it for the entire race. However, he slowly made his way closer and closer to the front and would up finishing 10th. These are the kind of performances that make a champion. Being able to take a bad car a bring it home with a top 10 is something that all drivers need to have if they want to win a championship in this series. Last week: 7
8. Denny Hamlin- He didn’t get the win but at least he can say he has a Brickyard 400 pole. After he lost his lead on the first round of green flag pit stops, he never seemed to be the same. It just goes to show how important clean air is in NASCAR. Hamlin did have a top 5 car all day and finished in sixth spot. Last week: 9
9. Clint Bowyer- At one of his better tracks, Bowyer was expected to have a big day. He didn’t show much speed throughout the weekend and was a mid-pack car before he got caught up in a wreck. The most impressive part of his weekend was the fact that he seemed to have gotten better after the wreck and moved up to finish 15th. Last week: 6
10. Martin Truex Jr.- Another weekend, another race where Truex doesn’t get mentioned at all and is not in contention for the win, but finishes in the back half of the top 10. He has been consistently good all year long, but he hasn’t been great outside of the race at Kansas. Last week: 11
11. Kyle Busch- Finally Busch had a weekend that he needed. It seems like an eternity since he got his last top 10 finish with all of his engine problems and poor runs. He had the car to beat if it wasn’t for Johnson, so he had to settle for a second-place finish. Look for Busch to be strong again as he heads back to Pocono. Last week: NR
12. Ryan Newman- Here is another driver who needed a good run and got one. Newman currently sits 14th in the points and has one victory on the season. He is the first driver on the outside looking in to get into the chase. He finished 7th which is normally good, but the man he is chasing for that last playoff spot is Kyle Busch, who as mentioned before finished second. Last week: NR
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