NASCAR Power Rankings Heading Into Michigan

By Kevin Van Pelt

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was at Watkins Glen this weekend to race on the second and final road course race on the 2012 season. It was an exciting race from start to finish as Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose dominated the entire race. Those three drivers would end up battling it out for the win with Ambrose winning his second straight race at Watkins Glen.

Let’s take a look at this week’s power rankings as we head into Michigan.

1. Jimmie Johnson– Don’t look now but the five-time champ is now the current points leader. After getting off to a slow start to the season, Johnson has rolled off three wins and 11 top five finishes so far, both of which leads all drivers. Johnson has shown that he has what it takes to get into victory and has the consistency to go along with it. As of right now, he is the clear championship favorite heading into the chase. Last week: 1

2. Matt Kenseth– Not known for his road-racing skills, Kenseth brought his car home with a solid eighth place finish. Luckily for Kenseth, he will be heading to one of his better tracks this weekend at Michigan. Kenseth, along with the rest of the Ford camp, have run strong there over the last few years and expect that to happen again. Last week: 3

3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.– Junior proclaimed before this weekend that he is not a very good road racer; however, he was proving himself wrong with a solid top 10 run all day long. Unfortunately for Junior, he spun late in the race taking away his good run. He now returns to the track he dominated at to snap his four-year long winless streak. Last week: 2

4. Brad Keselowski– The Blue Deuce has now finished second at Watkins Glen for the second year in a row. It looked like Keselowski had the win with just two turns left, but he got caught up in some of the oil on the track which gave Ambrose the opportunity to close on him. With two second place finishes in two years, it should just be a matter of time before Keselowski gets his first road course win. Last week: 5

5. Greg Biffle– The Biff is now just one point away from being the points leader. After his strong start to the season it looked like he was going to have multiple wins on the season. However, he still just has one but his consistency is back. He keeps racking off top 10 and top five finishes week after week. Last week: 6

6. Jeff Gordon– A disappointing day for Gordon as he was expected to be a big contender for the win, but instead he spent most of the day coming from the back of the field. He found himself in the top 10 on the last lap before spinning out in the oil on the track. After the race, Gordon was one of the drivers who was vocal about NASCAR not throwing the caution out on the last lap for oil. However, if they did the win would have gone to Kyle Busch and made it harder for Gordon to make the chase. Last week: 4

7. Clint Bowyer– After winning at Sonoma earlier in the year, Bowyer backed that up with another top 5 run at Watkins Glen. This time it was a fourth place finish. Bowyer is solidly inside the top 10 in points and should easily make the chase. Bowyer is one of those drivers who can sneak up and be a serious contender for a championship just like Juan Pablo Montoya was back in 2009. His move to MWR looks to be smarter and smarter with each passing day. Last week: 9

8. Martin Truex Jr.– Bowyer’s teammate is still looking for his first win of the season. Truex has the longest losing streak of any driver in Sprint Cup and still seems to be one step away from finding his way into victory lane. It’s still very impressive though how consistent this team is without making any mistakes. Last week: 8

9. Tony Stewart– A rare mistake was made by Stewart this weekend as he spun out while running in second place. It didn’t look like Stewart had the same car that Keselowski had, who was winning at the time of the spin, but if would have been interesting to see if he would be able to catch him during the closing laps. Last week: 7

10. Marcos Ambrose– Once again Ambrose showed the NASCAR world that he is the best road racer in the sport. The win moved him up to 17th in points and he is now one of the contenders to make the wild-card. His chase hopes do look slim as he has never won on an oval track, but he does run very well at Richmond which is the last race before the chase. Last week: NR

11. Kyle Busch– While Jeff Gordon seems to get all of the attention this year for bad luck, it seems like Busch has had just as much bad luck. He had the dominate car of the day and there was nothing that was going to stop him from getting into victory lane, except for oil on the track. Busch seemed to be taking it more conservative through the oil which allowed Keselowski and Ambrose to catch up. If the oil wasn’t on the track,today we might be looking at a much clearer picture in the wild card standings. Last week: NR

12. Kasey Kahne– Not  real impressive run for Kahne, but he manages to hold onto the 12th spot in the rankings due to no one else really deserving a spot from their performances. He’s still in great position to make the chase and sits 11th in the points. Last week: 10

Shout-outs– A couple of drivers deserve some mentions on here, Sam Hornish Jr. and Regan Smith. Hornish had an impressive run finishing fifth and helping cement his status as the driver who should be in the 22 car next season. Smith, who had no top 10s this season as of two weeks ago, has now rattled off two top 10s in a row.


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