Peter Aiken- US PRESSWIRE
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is now halfway through the chase and with five races remaining the picture is now more clear as to who will win the championship. It appears to be a three-man race, but Clint Bowyer is doing everything he can to add his name to the list of contenders as he moved up to fourth in the standings after his win at Charlotte.
Let’s take a look at this week’s power rankings.
1. Jimmie Johnson– After his third place finish, Johnson cut his deficit in half to just seven points. He has yet to get a win during the chase, but has consistently run in the top 3 in all of the chase races outside of Talladega. As of now, Johnson looks like he is in a prime position to win his sixth championship. Last week: 3
2. Brad Keselowski– For the first time crew chief Paul Wolfe and Keselowski’s gamble on fuel mileage didn’t work out. With 60 laps to go there probably wasn’t one fan who thought he would run out of fuel due to their past success using this strategy. Some may question doing such a risky strategy while leading the championship, but the gamble was worth it. Drivers and teams will continue to be aggressive if they want to win the chase this year. Last week: 1
3. Denny Hamlin– After the race, Hamlin noted how hard it was for him to see the leader within his sights while having to back off early to save fuel. It must have been hard, but Hamlin knew why he had to do that as he has his sights set on the championship. Now the series heads back to Kansas next weekend where Hamlin won earlier in the year. Last week: 4
4. Clint Bowyer– He may not of had the best car, but he definitely deserved the win. He started third and ran in the top five for most of the day. He had the right strategy and the fuel mileage to make it to the end and now only sits 28 points out of the championship lead with just five races remaining. Last week: 5
5. Greg Biffle– The first car to finish taking a pit stop at the end of the race, Biffle had a much needed top five finish. His championship hopes still look slim, but it was nice to see the Biff back to his regular season form. Expect Biffle to be a major contender this weekend at Kansas. Last week: 6
6. Jeff Gordon– After three straight top three finishes, Gordon struggled to find the handling of his car at Charlotte. He was never a major threat for a top 10 let alone the win. Last week: 2
7. Kyle Busch– Once again Busch was the best non-chaser in the race. It seems unlikely that Busch will miss the chase again next season with the way his team is performing now. If there engines could stay in one piece next season he should be able to win multiple races and be a contender for the championship. Last week: 10
8. Martin Truex Jr.– His chase so far has been just like his regular season. Nothing spectacular, but consistently running in the back half of the top 10. His best chance to get a win this season and snap his long losing streak might be this weekend at Kansas. In the spring race Truex led the most laps and finished in second.Last week: 8
9. Matt Kenseth– What a quick turnaround for last week’s winner. He went from winning the race to getting a flat tire 12 laps into the race and falling two laps down. Kenseth was able to get both of his laps back, but could not make his way back into the top 10. He was able to move his way out of the cellar of the chase standings though and move up to 11th. Last week: 9
10. Kasey Kahne– He finished eighth, but the finish for Kahne comes as a disappointment. Kahne dominated the late stages of the race during the Coca-Cola 600 and he was expected to be a major threat this past weekend and start his run towards a championship. However, he was never able to contend for the win and struggled to hang onto his top 10 finish. Last week: 12
11. Dale Earnhardt Jr.– Last weekend was the first time since 1979 that an Earnhardt was not in a race, but the NASCAR world was able to survive the weekend. His concussion sent shockwaves throughout the garage and has sparked discussion on what should be done about concussions in racing. There is no doubt that Earnhardt’s concussion will impact the future of the sport. Last week: 7
12. Mark Martin– He may not run a full schedule but Martin deserves to be mentioned in the power rankings. Every week he is in the 55 car he seems to pull out a top five finish. He finished sixth on Saturday night and one cna only wonder if Martin is considering running a full-time schedule at least one more time with MWR. Last week: NR
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