The duel in the desert Saturday night came packaged with a sudden late-night plot twist that led to a green-white-checkered finish for the ages. When the smoke cleared, it was a shocking winner (Ryan Newman) whose 77-race losing streak came to an end while allowing the frustration from other victory droughts (Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon) to grow exponentially.
The final results launched Newman right up our power rankings ladder … but there was a roadblock right at the top. As the checkered flag fell Saturday night, there was Jimmie Johnson sitting third, holding rock steady to a top 5 finish that solidified his grip atop our rankings. How close was Newman to knocking him off? How much did the “pity factor” give both Gordon and Busch an extra boost? And did Denny Hamlin gutting it out with a gimpy leg help or hurt his cause? Read this week’s top 15 rankings to find out where these drivers wound up along with your favorite.
How The Rankings Are Calculated: Frontstretch does our power rankings somewhat similar to how the Associated Press does them for basketball or football — writers on staff will vote for the Top 20 on a 20-19-18-17-16-15… 3-2-1 basis, giving 20 points to their first place driver, 19 for their second, and so on. In the end, Mike Neff calculates the points, adds some funny one-liners, and … voila! You have one batch of power rankings to serve to our fans.
|FRONTSTRETCH TOP 15 POWER RANKINGS: APRIL 14th|
|Rank||Driver (First Place Votes)||Votes||Last Week|
|1||Jimmie Johnson (10)||217||1|
|Amazed Knaus didn’t have him stay out and steal one on old tires. Could Super Chad be slipping?|
|Tabbed as Jimmie Johnson’s biggest rival for the championship. In other words, he’s been jinxed (See: Edwards, Carl; Hamlin, Denny; Busch, Kurt).|
|With seven runner-up finishes but no wins the past year, it’s to the point Gordon should be a rent-a-bridesmaid for somebody’s wedding.|
|Remember when he was the points leader? Yeah, neither do we.|
|Don’t worry, Greg. Even Jeff Burton can’t score a top 10 every week.|
|Not sure what was more impressive: a top 10 on Saturday night or keeping the Zaxby’s chicken car intact in the Nationwide race.|
|3-for-3 on top-10 finishes since flipping Keselowski into the wall. Could this be the start of a new trend?|
|Flat tire, pitting outside the box … doesn’t he realize those are things that only happen to Dale Earnhardt, Jr.?|
|Sent Dave Rogers some oil in water this week to show how their partnership is currently working.|
|10||Kurt Busch (1)||108||6|
|Can his luck suck any worse? Maybe we shouldn’t ask …|
|Phoenix is the destination for many retired Americans; maybe that is why the only AARP card-carrying member of the Cup ranks runs so well there.|
|If not for green-white-checkered finishes, Newman would have one win in five years – and people bag on Junior?|
|Don’t look now, but Sliced Bread is busy slicing his way through a Chase-contending field near you.|
|14||Dale Earnhardt, Jr.||81||12|
|Not sure if 12th was good or bad, but someone needs to figure out why Junior always has chattering tires.|
|Apparently, going green doesn’t suit Tony very well… unless it’s being green with envy at watching his other car win the race.|
|Dropped Out: Paul Menard (14), Denny Hamlin (15).|
|Also Receiving Votes: Juan Pablo Montoya (59), Denny Hamlin (57), Paul Menard (44), Brad Keselowski (32), A.J. Allmendinger (29), Martin Truex, Jr. (23), Jamie McMurray (13), Marcos Ambrose (13), Sam Hornish, Jr. (13), Kasey Kahne (11), Scott Speed (9), Brian Vickers (8), Robby Gordon (8), David Ragan (1).|
|Writer Voting Panel: Phillip Allaway, Brock Beard, Thomas Bowles, Bryan Keith, Tony Lumbis, Mike Neff, John Potts, Vito Pugliese, Mike Ravesi, Kurt Smith, and Matt Taliaferro.|
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