Race Weekend Central

Sprint Cup Power Rankings: Top 15 Post-Fontana

California looked like another Kyle Busch display of dominance Sunday, back-to-back sweeps seemingly a mere formality for about the first 350 miles. But that’s when Andy Lally spun, giving Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick their second chance to interrupt a party that ended with the two of them – not Busch – battling for Victory Lane at closing time. While Harvick won the slugfest with Johnson, courtesy a last-lap pass Carl Edwards quietly took the lead in the championship with a sixth-place finish behind them.

That makes this week’s edition of the power rankings a tough, nail-biting decision for our experts. With Edwards coming home sixth, killing them with consistency was he able to hold onto the top spot in the rankings? Or with Kevin Harvick taking the win, part of RCR’s recent resurgence after engine problems did he supplant the leader in the rankings and the point standings? Take a look at the Top 15 this week and find out which drivers traveled back to the east coast carrying a little extra gift in their baggage: momentum.

*Rank* *Driver (First Place Votes)* *Votes* *Last Week*
*1* *Carl Edwards (4)* 135 1
Very realistically could have four wins in five races this year. Now, if only the rest of the Ford Fusions can get close to Edwards the Bowtie Brigade might find itself with a real American racing rivalry on its hands for the first time in oh, about a decade.
*2* *Kyle Busch (1)* 128 T – 2
Kyle just got passed for the lead in the last five laps, didn’t bounce it off of the wall, finished third and gave a calm post-race interview. Did he get married or neutered?
*T – 3* *Ryan Newman* 117 5
Fifth place seemed appropriate for this guy since that’s where he always finishes. Our guess is he’s practicing for the Chase, when his Hendrick equipment for Stewart-Haas will be precisely fifth-best in the fleet – behind the four Hendrick Motorsports cars.
*T – 3* *Kevin Harvick* 117 9
It wasn’t dumping Terry Labonte for the win, but that move at the end of the race to get past Johnson sure looked a lot like the guy who used to drive those cars.
*5* *Jimmie Johnson* 115 4
Wow; that doesn’t happen very often. Let’s just say the Anyone But Johnson crowd had to be whipping victory donuts after that one…
*6* *Kurt Busch* 99 T – 2
The former point leader had been killing them with consistency. But on Sunday, it was his race car who spent the whole race half-dead.
*7* *Tony Stewart* 98 6
Creating a 2011 highlight reel under “epic collapses” which is bringing back the Smoke temper of old. Maybe he needs to go out and get a wife? Does Samantha have a sister?
*8* *Matt Kenseth* 88 10
Running in the top 5 just often enough that he can see his teammate Edwards ahead of him from time to time. That might be about as close as he’ll get in 2011.
*9* *Paul Menard* 84 7
Before you get all excited, remember Menard was in a really good position five races into 2010 before heading to Martinsville. Then, it all fell apart… so let’s not call him a “Chase lock” quite yet.
*10* *Dale Earnhardt, Jr.* 73 8
Can you say darkhorse pick for Martinsville? If Steve Letarte can get this guy to finish 12th on a racetrack where the No. 88 is all but invisible, just imagine what he can do at a track where Junior nearly won last Fall.
*11* *Kasey Kahne* 65 12
One for the ouch category: Kahne’s top-10 finish this weekend, his third in five starts this season equaled the total number of those such efforts posted by Scott Speed… during his entire Red Bull _career._ (70+ starts)
*12* *Juan Pablo Montoya* 60 15
Showing the consistency he did in the 2009 campaign that made him a Cup contender. Now go follow him on Twitter and learn how he feels about remote control airplanes!
*13* *Jeff Gordon* 50 11
An 18th-place finish, running like junk at one of his best tracks and he still gains three spots in the standings? This new point system is weird.
*14* *Martin Truex, Jr.* 36 14
If the ADD people had their wish with shorter races, he could very well be your points leader right now.
*T – 15* *Greg Biffle* 35 NR
Ho-hum 11th at Bristol, but let’s put it this way: at least he didn’t end up flipping down the front straight like he does in that video game commercial.
*T – 15* *Clint Bowyer* 35 NR
Welcome to the 2011 Cup season, Mr. Bowyer! Too bad you’re about a month and a Chase bid too late?
*Dropped Out*: Mark Martin (13).
*Also Receiving Votes:* Mark Martin (32), Brian Vickers (28), A.J. Allmendinger (28), Denny Hamlin (14), Bobby Labonte (12), Jeff Burton (9), Marcos Ambrose (4), Landon Cassill (3), Joey Logano (3), Brad Keselowski (1), David Ragan (1).
*Writer Voters Include:* Phillip Allaway, Bryan Keith, Tony Lumbis, Mike Neff, Vito Pugliese and Garrett Horton.

“Contact Mike Neff”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/14354/

Wednesday on the Frontstretch:
“Five Races, Five Contenders: Who’s Stood Out To Take The Cup Title In 2011”:https://frontstretch.com/vpugliese/33344/
“Top 10 Ways To Make The Racing Better At Fontana”:https://frontstretch.com/article/33350/
“Beyond The Cockpit: The Direction of Ford, Front Row, and Car No. 37”:https://frontstretch.com/bkeith/33343/
“Mirror Driving: Hidden Gems, Hiding Rookies, And Horrid Luck For Gibbs”:https://frontstretch.com/md/33352/

“Where’d He Come From?”:http://www.athlonsports.com/columns/nascar-monday-recap/whered-he-come

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