Jeremy Brevard- US PRESSWIRE
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is leaving Talladega after one of the most wild last two laps racing has ever seen. The end result left Matt Kenseth in victory lane while Brad Keselowski extended his point lead to 14 points over Jimmie Johnson. Now with six races remaining , the championship battle has now has a clear picture of who is a contender and who will have to wait until next season.
Let’s take a look at this week’s power rankings.
1. Brad Keselowski- For most of the race Keselowski was not up near the front of the filed. Right before the wreck happened on the last lap, it looked as if Keselowski would lose his point lead as he was stuck towards the back of the pack. However, when the wreck occurred, he was able to get down to the bottom of the track and just have minimal damage and pick up a seventh place finish. Luck was on his side on Sunday which is what a champion needs to have during this 10-race chase. Last week: 1
2. Jeff Gordon- Back-to-back second place finishes for Gordon has him up to sixth spot in the points, but he is still 42 points off the lead. He is hanging on by a thread to his championship chances but he has some of his strongest tracks coming up, such as Martinsville and Charlotte. The way Gordon is running now he is capable of finishing in the top five in the remaining six races. However, he will still need to have problems occur to Keselowski for him to have a chance. Last week: 3
3. Jimmie Johnson- Now 14 points behind Keselowski in second place, Johnson doesn’t have much room for error. From a performance standpoint though, he has run the best in all four races so far. With tracks like Charlotte, Martinsville and Phoenix still left on the schedule, Johnson is by no means out of this championship hunt yet. Last week: 2
4. Denny Hamlin- The most conservative drive of the year goes to Hamlin. He spent the entire day hanging in the back of the pack to make sure he didn’t get caught up in the big wreck. He was hanging so far back that he lost the draft multiple times in the race. Hamlin is lucky the crashed occurred on the last lap or he would have finished around the 30th position. He finished 13th and is in striking distance of the two leaders in front of him. Last week: 4
5. Clint Bowyer- The winner of the past two fall races at Talladega said leading up to the race that you have to have the right mentality entering the restrictor plate races if you want to have a good day. He believed that you have to enjoy the racing there to have success which was a reason for his last two wins. After the race this Sunday, Bowyer seemed to have forgotten his own words as he was disgusted about the racing that happened on the last lap. Last week: 5
6. Greg Biffle- The drive of the year, whether it was luck or not, goes to Biffle and the way he was able to steer his way around the big wreck on the final lap. Biffle was the only car in the middle of the pack to escape the crash and he finally had a good finish in the chase that he needed greatly. Last week: 8
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.- Junior had some strong words after the race, claiming that the integrity of the sport is in danger if something isn’t done about restrictor plate racing. This is pretty ironic coming from Earnhardt since he once dominated at Talladega about five or six years ago. Last week: 6
8. Martin Truex Jr.- He was one car away from escaping the big wreck undamaged, but he was caught up by Bobby Labonte who was spinning back up on the track. It was a decent day for Truex who wasn’t a factor for most of the race and wound up finishing in the 13th position. Last week: 7
9. Matt Kenseth- This win for Kenseth could be thought of as a jump start to his chase, but even after his victory he still sits 12th in points and is over a full race behind the leader. However, it was nice for Kenseth to get one more win with Roush before he leaves at the end of this and don’t be surprised if he makes another trip to victory lane before the season ends. Last week: 12
10. Kyle Busch- In one turn Busch went from a top 15 finish to finishing third. Busch has clearly been the best non-chaser during the four races in the chase which would normally help build momentum for next season, but with the new style car coming for 2013, his performance now won’t matter. Last week: 11
11. Tony Stewart- I was surprised to hear Stewart to take full responsibility for the last lap wreck. I thought his response would be that it was just racing at Talladega and something needs to be changed. After seeing the replay many times, it is hard to put all the blame on Stewart because it is hard to determine how much momentum the guy behind you actually has. Unfortunately Stewart made a miscalculation that caused a big wreck. Last week: 9
12. Kasey Kahne- Now up to fourth in points, Kahne sits on the cusp of being a full race outside of the lead. While Kahne has had virtually no problems in the chase, his performance has not been well enough to make him a championship contender. He keeps bringing home solid top 10s but doesn’t have what the first three teams in points have to make a run. Kahne shows some potential, but it is not consistent enough to make a run. Last week: 10
Follow me on Twitter @KVP_10