Stew Milne- US PRESSWIRE
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has just wrapped up round one of the chase at Chicagoland Speedway with Brad Keselowski taking the victory, his fourth of the season. Keselowski is now the point leader and has shown everyone why he needs to be considered a favorite for the championship this season.
Let’s take a look at the power rankings heading into New Hampshire.
1. Brad Keselowski- There was a question as to whether or not Keselowski entered onto the track too early coming off pit road during his last pit stop. Looking at the video replay it seems too close to call. He may have gone up a few hundred feet early but since there is no exact line to show where the drivers can blend on to the track, NASCAR could not penalize Keselowski in this situation. Last week: 3
2. Jimmie Johnson- For most of the race it looked like no one was going to come close to beating Johnson. He had the dominant car all day and came out side by side with Keselowski after the final round of pit stops. It was a surprise to everyone to see Keselowski be able to pull away like he did, but the rest of the competition should be worried about how well the 48 team looked to open up the chase. Last week: 4
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.- After his eighth-place finish on Sunday, Junior said that he needs to be in the media center every week if he wants to win this championship. He was referring to finishing either first, second or third where those three drivers are required to talk to the media after the race. You can see it in Earnhardt this year that he knows this is best shot at winning a championship in his career and he is not going to let it slip away. Last week: 1
4. Jeff Gordon- After having an incredible run to make the chase, it looked like Gordon’s bad luck was behind him and he was going to make a run for his fifth championship. However, his throttle stuck in the middle of the race while he was running in fourth which caused him to hit the wall and finish in 35th. He is now over one full race behind Keselowski in points and sits in 12th just after one race. Gordon now has a huge mountain to climb to get back into contention. Last week: 2
5. Clint Bowyer- He really didn’t make any noise to open the chase, but Bowyer was able to avoid any problems and come home with a solid 10th place finish. New Hampshire is one of Bowyer’s best tracks so expect him to make a big move in the standings this upcoming weekend. Last week: 7
6. Greg Biffle- With half of the tracks in the chase being on 1.5 mile tracks, Biffle is expected to be a big contender for the titles since he does really well on those tracks. That’s why it was unusual to see Biffle struggle this weekend. He qualified 22nd and rarely cracked the top 10 throughout the race on his way to a 13th place finish. Last week: 5
7. Matt Kenseth- Basically was what just said for Biffle can go for his teammate Kenseth. He struggled the entire weekend to find any speed and had a broken shock that had to get replaced under one of the cautions. The shock was thought to be the cause of his problems finding any speed, but even after it was replaced Kenseth still couldn’t make his way to the front. Last week: 6
8. Tony Stewart- The defending champ had a difficult day spending most of it outside of the top 10. However, he was able to make his car better and better with each pit stop and came home with a sixth place finish. These are the type of runs that make a championship season. If Stewart and his team have the ability to take a bad day and turn it into a top 10 finish then the he should be a contender to repeat as champion this season. Last week: 10
9. Denny Hamlin- With Hamlin’s performance on Sunday it just goes to show you that not too much stock can be put into so-called momentum. Hamlin was in the back of the standings for most of the season but did have a couple of wins. After winning two straight and having the dominant car at Richmond, all of a sudden Hamlin was now the favorite to win the chase. Hamlin was been somewhat inconsistent this season and that needs to get improved if he wants to win the championship this year. Last week: 8
10. Martin Truex Jr.- A ninth-place finish is typical of how Truex’s season has been. He has been strong every week, but for the most part he has not been able to contend for wins and has been in the back half of the top 10. Last week: 9
11. Kasey Kahne- A great run for Kahne as he was able to make up some ground after starting out with no bonus points due to being the wild-card position. It is important for guys like Kahne who start out behind to come out strong and he was able to do just that. He now sits sixth in points and is just 15 points behind after one race. New Hampshire is another great place for Kahne to make up some ground as he won there this past July. Last week: NR
12. Kyle Busch- His run was overlooked since he isn’t in the chase, but Busch had a great rebound from last week’s disappointment. He ran in the top five for most of the day and he should continue to make noise in the final nine races of the season. Last week: 11
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