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Sprint Cup Power Rankings: Top 15 After the Bud Shootout

Frontstretch Power Rankings

If the Budweiser Shootout was any indication, there are two things certain for the Daytona 500: (1) there will be plenty of excitement and (2) the fans will still complain about it. Between Jeff Gordon’s tumble through the infield and Kyle Busch’s makeshift demolition derby car finishing just a couple of inches ahead of defending champion Tony Stewart, there was no lack of drama (or destruction) to warm everyone up for the real thing.

How did your favorite driver’s performance affect his ranking in the first Power Rankings of 2012? How do they compare to the end of last season? Was Busch’s comeback enough to impress our writers and put him atop the board? Check out our Top 15 Power Rankings as we kick off the start to the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

*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, Summer Dreyer calculates the points, adds some funny one-liners, and … here you go!

*Rank* *Driver (First Place Votes)* *Votes* *Last Week*
*1* *Tony Stewart (4)* 154 NA
Sure he’s the defending champion, and he tops the list because of it, but the way in which Kyle Busch was able to school him on the last lap of the Bud Shootout was spectacular. It makes you wonder if Busch is just that good or if Stewart was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. 
*2* *Carl Edwards* 147 NA
Speaking of Stewart, now he knows how Edwards felt last season. But Cousin Carl is out to prove 2011 wasn't a fluke, and starting on the pole for the first points race of the season is just the way to do it.
*3* *Kyle Busch* 136 NA
Busch was able to see Daytona from more angles than any other driver Saturday night … and he STILL had the drive to win.
*4* *Jeff Gordon* 110 NA
Alright, so Busch saw the track from more angles than every driver except one. I wonder if Ella gave her opinion on Busch’s night, too?
*T-5* *Dale Earnhardt, Jr.* 107 NA
With his ongoing winless drought (129 races and counting), the pressure is on for Earnhardt at Daytona. If he wants to take some advice, he should shave the mountain man offseason beard. It’s probably hurting the air flow of the car. 
*T-5* *Kevin Harvick* 107 NA
Harvick and his wife DeLana are excited about the arrival of their first child, but we bet Harvick wishes the stork would deliver a Daytona 500 trophy too.
*7* *Greg Biffle* 106 NA
Biffle better hurry up and win a Cup title if he wants to be the first to win all three series titles-before the Dillon brothers pull it off.
*8* *Brad Keselowski* 89 NA
After the departure of Kurt Busch from Penske Racing, Keselowski takes over as the senior driver in the stable. Which means his @#$% crew had better get the car @#$%ing fixed RIGHT NOW!!!
*9* *Jimmie Johnson* 83 NA
The No. 48 team has reached desperation mode, and the season hasn’t even started yet. We could say this is going to be another long year for them, but we can’t help but recall the last time the team was hit with a penalty at Daytona.
*T-10* *Marcos Ambrose* 71 NA
Everyone’s favorite Aussie showed some grit in the Budweiser Shootout, spending quite a bit of time out front and avoiding all the carnage to finish third. It’s easy to underestimate this guy, but it’s very possible he could be a threat on Sunday afternoon. 
*T-10* *Ryan Newman* 71 NA
Nobody ever talks about Newman as the best to never win a title. Maybe after Edwards wins one.  Oh, and Mark Martin…
*12* *Matt Kenseth* 70 NA
The Fords look like they have a leg up on the competition heading into the weekend, and once again Kenseth is being left out of the discussion. Does anyone even remember he won this race back in 2009? Rain or no rain, he’s done it before and he can do it again. 
*13* *Denny Hamlin* 50 NA
It seems like only yesterday Hamlin was considered the frontrunner for the Sprint Cup Series title. With the way Johnson is performing, though, at least he can somewhat redeem himself and beat the 48 team this year. That’d be enough for him, right? 
*T-14* *Kasey Kahne* 48 NA
Even after getting caught up in the first wreck of the day, Kahne was still the highest finishing Hendrick Motorsports driver in the Budweiser Shootout last Saturday. Could we see the same thing at the end of the year? …. Pffft! You didn’t think we were serious, did you?! 
*T-14* *Kurt Busch* 48 NA
Give Busch props for attempting a Carl Edwards-esque interview after a rough night last night. You cannot give him props, though, for looking like he had just tasted a lemon while giving said interview.
*Others Receiving Votes:* A.J. Allmendinger (47), Trevor Bayne (39), Clint Bowyer (31), Martin Truex, Jr. (31), Jeff Burton (28), Mark Martin (21), Jamie McMurray (16), Juan Pablo Montoya (15), Casey Mears (13), Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (12), Paul Menard (8), David Ragan (5), Joey Logano (4), Danica Patrick (3), Elliott Sadler (3), Michael Waltrip (1), Regan Smith (1).

“Contact Summer Dreyer”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/28526/

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