Andrew Weber- US PRESSWIRE
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has concluded the third race in the chase and there is now a clear-cut line at who the chase favorites are going to be for the rest of the season. Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin have dominated the three races so far and have proven they will be the teams to beat going into the final seven races.
Let’s take a look at the power rankings heading into Talladega.
1. Brad Keselowski- If there is one thing you can count on in NASCAR, it’s the fact that Keselowski and the No.2 team will not have to stop for fuel if the end of the race comes down to fuel mileage. This team has become the masters at conserving fuel and getting the best fuel mileage which has helped them get multiple victories in a couple of years. With now a five point lead. Keselowski has proven that he is the favorite from here on out to win the championship. Also, he is the defending winner at Talladega. Last week: 2
2. Jimmie Johnson- The five-time champ has started this chase with three top five finishes, but is still second in the points. It just goes to show how difficult it will be to win the championship this season. That’s why going into Talladega, Johnson will most likely hang in the back of the pack all day and race to survive. Last week: 1
3. Jeff Gordon- After having a stuck throttle during the first chase race, Gordon has bounced back with a third and a second-place finish. However, during both of those races he still finished behind the points leader making it impossible to gain ground. He has moved up to 10th in the points and will need some problems to occur to some of the top contenders if he is going to win title number five. Last week: 3
4. Denny Hamlin- Dover was supposed to be the track that Hamlin would struggle at and take him out of chase contention. He proved everyone wrong by going out and winning the pole and then dominating parts of the race on Sunday. He was running in second with 10 laps to go before he had to pit for fuel and wound up finishing in eighth. Last week: 5
5. Clint Bowyer- One of the few people who will be excited to go to Talladega this weekend will be Bowyer. He has run very well there of late has has two wins at the track. To run well on restrictor plate tracks, you have to enjoy it. Most drivers don’t enjoy it and have a negative attitude heading into the race. Bowyer will take this race as an opportunity to close his 25 point gap on the championship leaders and throw his name into the mix. Last week: 4
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr.- After an 11th place finish, Junior is slowly falling out of chase contention. He has not shown any strength that he had earlier in the year and it looks like Junior nation might have to wait one more year for a championship. Last week: 6
7. Martin Truex Jr.- The pride of New Jersey was the last car on the lead lap in sixth which was about the position he was running for most of the day. This has been a banner year for Truex and his team is still one step behind from becoming championship contenders, but should be a threat next season. Last week: 11
8. Greg Biffle- This was the weekend that has defined the recent struggles of Roush-Fenway racing. Dover is one of the best tracks for Biffle, yet he was unable to be a threat for a top 10. At one point during the race there was even a huge profanity-laced tirade by Biffle directed at his crew chief. Last week: 8
9. Tony Stewart- Just like last season, Dover was not kind not kind to Stewart. The only difference from last season is that Stewart is winning half of the chase races. His team has been very inconsistent all season and it is hard to predict which Stewart we will see from week to week. Last week: 7
10. Kasey Kahne- He is in the same situation as Stewart and has had the same type of season. Very up and down and can’t seem to find the consistency to be a threat in the chase. There are still plenty of strong tracks left for Kahne and he could be the wild card until the final race at Homestead. Last week: 10
11. Kyle Busch- Once again, Busch showed that he is the class of the non-chasers. He dominated the race and would have won easily if he didn’t have to stop for fuel. A Kyle Busch who doesn’t have to worry about points and just focus on wins is dangerous for the rest of the competition. Don’t be surprised if he is able to pull out a victory or two before the season is over. Last week: NR
12. Matt Kenseth- Ever since the middle of summer, Kenseth has been struggling. Early on he seemed to be one of the clear championship favorites, but that has not been the case. Also, he has still not been able to win a race since the season opening Daytona 500 and it looks like it will be difficult for him to win again before he leaves Roush-Fenway Racing. Last week: 9
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