1. Denny Hamlin (5) 188 – 3
“In this corner, a challenger whose scars needed treatment from a new mechanical doctor to help them heal. Along with him, a trainer seeking redemption after being ditched by the reigning champ. Is this Rocky, or NASCAR? Either way, we have a suddenly dangerous combination ready to throw some knockout punches early in 2012.” –Tom Bowles
2. Kevin Harvick (1) 184 – 6
“The Closer” could not be “The Saver”, therefore he was not “The Winner”.
3. Greg Biffle (2) 170 – 2
“Third at Daytona, third at Phoenix, it only makes sense to place Biffle third in our Power Rankings.” –Toby Christie
4. Kyle Busch 142 – 13
“ Running this well, this early is a testament to how Joe Gibbs took an offseason to drill in Kyle’s head there’s no more mulligans. But you have to admit, when battling rivals like Kevin Harvick it’s not as fun to watch when you know a Busch brother is powerless to fight back.” –Tom Bowles
5. Matt Kenseth 134 – 1
“How much is that Daytona 500 trophy worth? Kenseth may have to sell it; he’s still seeking sponsorship for a whopping 41 percent! of the schedule. The Great American Curse, continued… let’s just hope he avoids Lyme Disease.” –Tom Bowles
6. Mark Martin 124 – NA
“First time since 2007 that Mark has began the season with 2 top 10 finishes, when he also was starting a part-time schedule for a new team. At this rate, similar to ’07, many will be calling for him to stay in the car when Bristol arrives.” –Tony Lumbis
7. Martin Truex Jr. 122 – 10
Even though it’s only two races in, MWR has had a fairly strong start to the season, at least as far as the expectations were concerned. If they can just get Clint Bowyer to shake the monkey off his back, they might be able to get all three cars inside the top 10 in points next week.
8. Brad Keselowski 117 – 15
“ Brad makes it into the Power Rankings for the first time in 2012 for reasons outside of tweeting.” –Toby Christie
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 114 – 4
“Finishing top-15 through attrition at Phoenix was acceptable in a rebuilding year. But after making the Chase in 2011? Junior expects more in 2012… and he said as much on the radio. Las Vegas is more make-or-break for this team than people think, even with a strong start in the points.” – Tom Bowles
10. Carl Edwards (1) 109 – 6
He came. He raced … and no one noticed. Shouldn’t last year’s runner-up have led a few laps in the series by now?
11. Jimmie Johnson 99 – NA
After a fourth-place run at Phoenix even after a rough week in Daytona, how many of you are still convinced Johnson is in danger of missing the Chase? Another few runs like last week and he’ll back inside the top 10 anyway.
12. Joey Logano 98 – 14
While resisting the urge to make the obvious “stale bread” joke, it looks like Logano has either reached desperation mode or crew chief Jason Ratcliff was the boost he needed to run the way everyone expected him to. Let’s just hope he doesn’t get “burnt” as the season winds down (couldn’t help it).
13. Tony Stewart 85 – 8
“Talk about having a Marcos Ambrose moment when shutting the car off. Cost Stewart a top 10 finish.” –Kelly Crandall
14. Jeff Gordon 69 – NA
His season hasn’t had the greatest start, but at least he’s finished on all four wheels in both races.
15. Jeff Burton 63 – 5
“Had another great run going in Phoenix until he was bitten by the engine gremlins.” –Toby Christie
Also receiving votes: Bobby Labonte (39), Marcos Ambrose (34), Kurt Busch (28), Regan Smith (28), Ryan Newman (27), Juan Pablo Montoya (23), Darian Grubb (20), A.J. Allmendinger (18), Clint Bowyer (18), Dave Blaney (14), Aric Almirola (13), Paul Menard (10), Kasey Kahne (6), Travis Kvapil (3), David Ragan (1)
Writers voting this week: Tom Bowles, Tony Lumbis, Bryan Davis Keith, Phil Allaway, Kelly Crandall, Amanda Ebersole, Carolyn Brewster, Toby Christie, Dustin Long, Summer Dreyer
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