Frontstretch Staff · Wednesday November 16, 2011
One more Chase race is in the books but when the checkers flew over the newly configured Phoenix International Raceway, nothing had changed at the top of the standings. Tony Stewart started out dominating the day and leading the most laps (160 of 312), but he lost the handle just enough at the end to come home in third place, one spot behind point leader Carl Edwards. So after 312 hotly contested laps, it was like first and second in the championship hadn’t even raced: the margin still sits at three heading into Homestead’s season finale.
While most of the attention was focused on the points battle, Kasey Kahne was finally able to bring home a trophy for his nearly defunct Red Bull Racing team as they wind down their existence in the sport. Meanwhile, Ryan Newman was the only other postseason contender to finish in the top 10 as the new track layout put the best drivers in stock cars to the test. The weariness of the 12-car Chase field was put on display, opening the door for an upset this Sunday if the Edwards-Stewart battle is for fifth, not first place on the racetrack.
But now, the focus shifts to their battle in another arena – our power rankings. Will Edwards’ late race push past Stewart give him a leg up this week? Or did Stewart’s dominant performance inspire the voters enough to keep him in the number one slot? Further back, how far up the standings did Kahne move after scoring his first win in two years? Read the Top 15 Power Rankings this week to see your favorite driver moved up toward the top or if they were bitten by an Arizona rattlesnake and dropped down.
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 … here you go!
|FRONTSTRETCH TOP 15 POWER RANKINGS: NOVEMBER 16th|
|Rank||Driver (First Place Votes)||Votes||Last Week|
|1||Carl Edwards (4)||118||2|
|Turns out second place is the first loser… except in the NASCAR points system. In no other sport are people encouraged to earn a whole lot of B-pluses instead of an A.|
|2||Tony Stewart (2)||116||1|
|He could be the first owner/driver since Alan Kulwicki in 1992 to take the title. He could also be the first owner/driver to do it with a $200 million operation nicely building all his engine and chassis for him. Just a small difference…|
|3||Kasey Kahne||95||T – 5|
|Gave Red Bull a nice parting gift on his way out the door to the Hendrick metropolis. Too bad that won’t appear in his old team’s paychecks, destined to disappear with their jobs just in time for Christmas.|
|If not for his Nationwide titles, he'd be this generation's Mark Martin — always a bridesmaid, never a bride.|
|The bad news: the five-year dynasty is over. The good news: he’ll get more sleep heading to Homestead than the last five years combined.|
|How quickly it all falls apart — just three weeks ago, he was on the verge of taking his second Sprint Cup Series title. Then, he met a man named Brian Vickers…|
|He won't win the title, but nobody thought he'd be top 5 in the standings in July. Definitely a career year.|
|Proof positive for Sam Hornish, Jr. that when it comes to going from open-wheel to stock car racing, you should never give up. It's taken five years for A.J. to go from fringe Cup participant to knocking on the door of Victory Lane every week… but he's done it.|
|9||Clint Bowyer||59||T – 12|
|Still hard to believe Richard Childress let go the second-best driver, statistically on his team. And then you remember the names Austin and Ty Dillon… they're going to have to fit into a ride somewhere, right?|
|10||Marcos Ambrose||58||T – 12|
|Hoping that the next time he's in contention for victory, "good friend" Jack Roush won't be prejudiced against Tasmanians and send his best pit crew over to the No. 9 – not the No. 43.|
|Whatever all the other crew chiefs do, Luke Lambert is making a habit of doing the opposite. Isn’t that what struggling teams need to do to turn things around? We’re surprised other head wrenches don’t get more aggressive during the Chase.|
|12||Jeff Gordon||53||T – 5|
|Just couldn’t catch a “brake” this Chase… or an engine… or some fuel…|
|Just making it to the banquet after the way his Chase started is an accomplishment.|
|Has developed a fetish for fifth-place finishes. Perhaps it's a constant reminder that he'll never be higher in the pecking order than the four-car Hendrick "A" team?|
|It’s amazing during a year where Roush Fenway may win the title this car has shown so little speed on a consistent basis. And yet it’s he, not Matt Kenseth who has sponsorship for 2012. Explain that one again? And more importantly for the Biff… does that contract say “Biffle has to be the driver?”|
|Dropped Out: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (8), Martin Truex, Jr. (14).|
|Others Receiving Votes: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (45), Kurt Busch (27), Martin Truex, Jr. (24), Paul Menard (21), Kyle Busch (13), David Reutimann (10), Joey Logano (8), Mark Martin (7), David Ragan (6), Cole Whitt (5), Juan Pablo Montoya (3), Trevor Bayne (3), Regan Smith (1).|
|Writer Voters Include: Phillip Allaway, Tom Bowles, Bryan Keith, Tony Lumbis, Mike Neff and Garrett Horton.|
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