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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 After the 2010 Crown Royal 400 at Richmond

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.

RankDriver (First-Place Votes)VotesLast Week
1Jimmie Johnson (4)1931
You know you’ve become one of the sport’s all-time best when NASCAR throws a debris caution just for you.
2Kevin Harvick (4)1802
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.
3Jeff Gordon (1)1793
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.
4Kyle Busch (1)1615
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!
5Denny Hamlin1444
Sorry, Denny. Hometown boy winning hometown track on torn ACL is good for only one storybook ending a year.
6Matt Kenseth1287
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.
7Greg Biffle1279
So invisible this season, it’s hard to believe he’s got more top-10 finishes than anyone else.
T-8Kurt Busch1226
Hope he got a good buy on those ugly-ass wheels.
T-8Jeff Burton12211
Gave the home-state crowd and the No. 31 team something to rally for after a few disappointing weeks.
10Carl Edwards109T-13
Hey Mom, Look, I led a lap!!!
T-11Clint Bowyer9412
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.
T-11Mark Martin948
You can’t always make lemonade out of lemons.
13Martin Truex Jr.6715
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.
14Ryan Newman61NR
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.
15Juan Pablo Montoya55NR
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