The race is done, and that means it's time for Power Rankings. Each week throughout the season, we'll size up who's rising and who's falling, based on current standings, behind-the-scenes changes, expected staying power, recent history and general gut feelings. It is not scientific, nor is it meant to be. And remember, whoever your favorite driver is, we're biased against him and like someone else better. We continue with a guy who's back in the front yet again...
1. Matt Kenseth: Has anybody ever done a statistical analysis of how often the "best car in the race" actually wins the race? Because Kenseth, on Saturday night, could have driven to the Jimmy John's across the street from Daytona International Speedway (free plug! Set us up at the 500, guys! (this is a joke, bosses)) and still come back to the front. Alas, he couldn't lead the lap that counted. Last week: 4.
2. Tony Stewart: I firmly believe that Tony Stewart can win any race that he feels like winning now ... well, except for that pesky Daytona 500. But seriously, you can tell when that guy is dialed in, and it's like no other driver on the circuit. Coming from the back of the pack to win? That's some relentless drivin', bro. Last week: 6.
3. Greg Biffle: Poor Biff. He was like the soldier in the war movie who gets winged during an escape from an enemy prison, and he's falling and says, "Go on without me!" and then his mates are supposed to say, "We bring everyone back or we don't bring anyone back!" Only this time, he got taken out on the final lap, and radioed (maybe not) to Matt Kenseth to go on without him, and Kenseth was like, "OK." Last week: 9.
4. Jimmie Johnson: Plate races and Jimmie Johnson just don't get along. I mean, seriously. Johnson was out having a beer with some buddies when a couple of plate races walked in, and Johnson was like, "We don't like your kind here," and the plate races were like, "That's race-ist," and Johnson was like, "That's not even funny," and the plate races were like, "You're trying not to laugh," and Johnson was like, "We need to take this outside," and the plate races were like, "Book your bed at the infield care center because we all know how this is going to end," and ... you get the idea. Last week: 2.
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior wasn't ever really a threat to win this race; the Roush boys were just too good. The best he could hope for was that a wreck would clear out the field and a Hendrick engine would sneak through for the win. Got to be more specific about what you wish for, Dale. Last week: 3.
6. Kasey Kahne: The morning after the Daytona race, Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson and some other cats did a triathlon in Charleston. Pffft. The racers today are sissies. Why, back in the day, Dale Earnhardt Sr. used to win a race, then kill a bear on the way home from the track and whittle himself a log cabin wherever he got tired. (Yes, I used this joke already on Twitter. We're all about recycling here.) Last week: 5.
7. Brad Keselowski: Did you see that guy on Keselowski's team nearly get nailed by a sliding Ryan Newman on pit road? That's about the time I'd start asking the boss for a raise. It's very rare that a car comes sliding into my mom's basement, so my workplace is fairly safe. Last week: 7.
8. Joey Logano: Nobody's experienced more of a turnaround this year than Logano; his "hot seat" has cooled considerably. One more win and he's in the Chase, and the fact that we can say "one more win" in Logano's context and not start giggling is a victory for the lad in itself. Last week: NR.
9. Jeff Gordon: Seriously, how many more ways can Jeff Gordon lose a race? Taken out while going down pit road? That's just cruel, race gods. Look, either give the guy a win and be done with it, or keep ramping up the ridiculousness so that when we get to Richmond, Gordon loses because someone accidentally fills his tank with queso dip. Last week: 8.
10. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin looked as dazed as I've ever seen a driver look on camera after his wreck on Saturday. Which reminds me: drivers, don't ever tick off your PR people. They can make your life absolutely miserable by "accidentally" putting you on camera while you're still seething or lost. You don't want to be a YouTube legend for all the wrong reasons. Last week: 10.
11. Martin Truex Jr.: So Truex got beaten by his boss. That's gotta sting a little bit. I bet Michael Waltrip is the kind of guy who never ever lets you forget when he beats you. I also bet that Truex now has to dress like a goat or something for his next NAPA commercial. Just you watch. Last week: 11.
12. Carl Edwards: Edwards is treating this run like his championship run, which is going to make for some great drama around the 99 team. He's got it in him to be one of the best drivers in NASCAR, but can he deliver? What he does over these last few pre-Chase races will speak volumes about Edwards as a driver. Last week: NR.
Dropping out of the rankings:Clint Bowyer.
Lucky Dog: Jeff Burton. Also Michael Waltrip and Bobby Labonte, all of whom nabbed top 10s thanks to the last-minute wreckfest at Daytona. Party like it's 1999, boys!
DNF: Me. Why? Because here's what I wrote last week in the Lucky Dog slot: "AJ Allmendinger. A ninth-place finish for the Dinger, and he continues to hold out hope of better days ahead. If nothing else, Shell has to be happy he's not dragging their corporate image through the foxing mud." Yeah, uh ... never mind.
All right, your turn. Fire away, friends
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