Jimmie Johnson appeared doomed to end the day a lapped car before a timely piece of debris saved his night at Richmond. But even with the mystery caution, a dose of good fortune could only keep the No. 48 car in contention for so long, struggling en route to a 10th-place finish that left him spinning across the finish line.
It’s the fifth straight race the four-time champ’s fallen short of victory lane, a virtual eternity for him the way things have been going as of late. Could that “slump” be enough to finally knock him off the top spot in our Power Rankings?
After all, Richmond reminded us there are plenty of emerging contenders, including winner Kyle Busch (up to third in points) and Kevin Harvick (third in the race, now 10 ahead of Johnson to lead the standings). Add in Denny Hamlin and his recovering ACL, and you’ve got a recipe for a wide-open race atop the top-15 chart. Read below to see how our experts voted after another wild finish jumbled up the poll this week.
|FRONTSTRETCH TOP-15 POWER RANKINGS: MAY 5, 2010|
|Rank||Driver (First-Place Votes)||Votes||Last Week|
|1||Jimmie Johnson (4)||193||1|
|You know you’ve become one of the sport’s all-time best when NASCAR throws a debris caution just for you.|
|2||Kevin Harvick (4)||180||2|
|Walking a fine line these days between contending for a Sprint Cup championship, looking for a new ride or bringing his Nationwide team to Cup. Somehow, through it all he’s contending for victory lane every week.|
|3||Jeff Gordon (1)||179||3|
|Continuing to invent new ways to finish second, but he’s running out of fresh ideas. Don’t worry, we’re sure Steve Letarte will figure that one out; after all, he’s an expert at making the team Chad Knaus’s bridesmaid.|
|4||Kyle Busch (1)||161||5|
|Suddenly, last year’s biggest disappointment is the hottest driver on the circuit right now. And he didn’t even need to get his knee cut open!|
|Sorry, Denny. Hometown boy winning hometown track on torn ACL is good for only one storybook ending a year.|
|Not sure which will get to Gordon first next week: the Darlington Stripe or Kenseth’s front bumper after a month of disappointing performances post-Martinsville.|
|So invisible this season, it’s hard to believe he’s got more top-10 finishes than anyone else.|
|Hope he got a good buy on those ugly-ass wheels.|
|Gave the home-state crowd and the No. 31 team something to rally for after a few disappointing weeks.|
|Hey Mom, Look, I led a lap!!!|
|It used to be third-best out of the three RCR teammates left you fighting for 35th. Now, it’s good enough for a solid top 10 every week. But Bowyer’s going to have to step up to victory lane at some point if he ever wants Cup champion next to his name.|
|You can’t always make lemonade out of lemons.|
|13||Martin Truex Jr.||67||15|
|There’s bribing… and then, there’s bribing. Heck, we’d hand Truex the Cup trophy right now if he could just promise to make those awful NAPA commercials stop.|
|Tony Stewart said he loved him at Phoenix. But now that Newman’s the “A” guy at SHR… you wonder if that Valentine’s Day card got torn in half.|
|15||Juan Pablo Montoya||55||NR|
|If he runs this well at tracks he hates, we can’t wait to see him run on a track he likes.|
|Dropped Out: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (10), Tony Stewart (T-13)|
|Also Receiving Votes: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (53), Joey Logano (49), Tony Stewart (46), Jamie McMurray (31), Brad Keselowski (19), Marcos Ambrose (17), Paul Menard (14), AJ Allmendinger (14), David Reutimann (13), Casey Mears (5), Kasey Kahne (2), Brian Vickers (1)|
|Writer Voting Panel: Phil Allaway, Brock Beard, Thomas Bowles, Bryan Davis Keith, Tony Lumbis, Mike Neff, Vito Pugliese, Mike Ravesi, Kurt Smith and Matt Taliaferro|
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.