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NASCAR Writer Power Rankings Poll: Top 15 Heading To Phoenix

Frontstretch Power Rankings
Daytona weekend stole national headlines for a multitude of reasons; both good and bad. Johnny Sauter redeemed himself from last year’s wreck while leading and won the Camping World Truck Series season opener Friday under the lights. Tony Stewart continued his dominance of the Nationwide Series at Daytona with his seventh February victory. However, his victory lane celebration was diminished after a last-lap multi-car wreck sent Kyle Larson’s car into the frontstretch catchfence, ripping a hole in the crossover gate and sending 28 spectators to either the infield care center or medical centers off-property.
After overnight repairs, it was finally Sprint Cup race day…the true test for the Gen6 car. Jimmie Johnson reasserted himself as King of the Hill with his second Daytona 500 victory, holding off a late charge from his teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Danica Patrick continued to make history throughout the race. She became the first woman to lead a green flag lap, and recorded the best finish – eighth – for a woman in the Daytona 500.  
Many say that Phoenix is when the season really starts. It’ll be interesting to see how the current top 10 in points will fare in the desert. Without further ado, Frontstretch.com and our crew of experts from around the web, from Athlon Sports to Race Talk Radio gives you their first Power Rankings of 2013:
How The Rankings Are Calculated: Frontstretch does our power rankings somewhat similar to how the Associated Press does them for basketball or football — our expert stable of NASCAR writers, both on staff and from other major publications 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, Michael Mehedin calculates the points, adds some funny one-liners, and … here you go!
FRONTSTRETCH TOP 15 POWER RANKINGS: February 20th
Rank Driver (First Place Votes) Votes Last Week
1 Jimmie Johnson (8) 217 2nd
Overshadowed by Stenica throughout Speedweeks, but in the end showed everyone he’s still the best. Summer Bedgood, Frontstretch.com
2 Brad Keselowski (1) 193 2nd
For a while it seemed like Brad was going to carry over his luck from 2012. But unlike last year, Keselowski was unable to hold off Johnson in the end. Kelly Crandall, SpeedwayMedia.com
3 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 185 12th
The only thing that will keep Junior out of the Chase is having his bell rung again. Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com
4 Greg Biffle 159 10th
Daytona never treats him well so finishing as well as he did speaks to where he may be at the end of the year.Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com
5 Clint Bowyer 142 6th
I hope his pit crew doesn’t grow Duck Dynasty-style beards because they could get too many lug nuts lost in the facial hair. Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com
6 Matt Kenseth 134 4th
He was the fastest thing in Daytona on Sunday, led the most laps and was cruising towards a shot at a third 500 win. Then he was introduced to the reliability issues that have struck JGR the last few years. Kelly Crandall, SpeedwayMedia.com
7 Denny Hamlin 131 7th
Denny used Twitter to call out former teammate Joey Logano for racing him too hard, I guess. Perhaps Logano left JGR because Hamlin’s ego didn’t leave enough room for him. Summer Bedgood, Frontstretch.com
8 Kyle Busch 117 8th
Already in mid-season whining form. Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com
9 Jeff Gordon 115 11th
Jeff is frustrated. Jimmie is elated. Same ol’ same ol’. Summer Bedgood, Frontstretch.com
10 Kasey Kahne 112 3rd
Supposed to be a statement year for Kasey. Regretfully he’s starting in the same hole he started the 2012 season with. Let’s see if he can recover quicker than last season. Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com
11 Tony Stewart 111 5th
15 years and counting. This has got to be getting old. Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com
12 Ryan Newman 110 15th
Danica got a top 10? Screw that…Newman’s top 10 means a free Bloomin’ Onion! Who’s with me!? Summer Bedgood, Frontstretch.com
13 Kevin Harvick 109 109
This team came out of the box strong and should be able to do the lame duck thing and still be successful. Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com
14 Mark Martin 93 NA
Ol' Man still got it. That “it” though, still doesn’t include a Daytona 500 victory. Kelly Crandall, SpeedwayMedia.com
15 Danica Patrick 79 NA
There literally is nothing that can be said here that hasn’t been said over, and over, and over, and over. Seriously, the only people who aren’t sick of Danicamania, is Danicamania itself. Summer Bedgood, Frontstretch.com
Dropped Out: Carl Edwards, Martin Truex, Jr.
Others Receiving Votes:  Joey Logano (55), Ricky Stenhouse Jr (37), Martin Truex Jr (33), Carl Edwards (26), Michael McDowell (25), Aric Almirola (23), Regan Smith (23), Marcos Ambrose (19), J.J. Yeley (16), Bobby Labonte (13), Kurt Busch (13), Paul Menard (8), Juan Pablo Montoya (5), Austin Dillon (3), David Reutimann (2), Jeff Burton (1).
Who Voted: Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com; Summer Bedgood, Frontstretch.com; Kevin Rutherford, Frontstretch.com; Kelly Crandall, SpeedwayMedia.com; Brad Morgan, Frontstretch.com; Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com; Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com; Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com; Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com; Jeff Wolfe, Frontstretch.com.

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