Race Weekend Central

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 After the 2009 Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix

As the season winds down to its final weekend, Jimmie Johnson‘s firm grip atop our poll mirrors his 108-point lead in the Sprint Cup standings. Barring some sort of catastrophe at Homestead this Sunday, a fourth straight title – and our 2009 Power Rankings championship – will be his.

But the No. 48 team’s commanding lead means nothing for the other 14 spots on our list. With just one week left to impress the pollsters, second through 15th is up for grabs, as both Chasers and non-Chasers alike look to build some serious momentum for 2010. Who’s best positioned to end the year with a bang? Check out what our experts think as the votes are in for this poll’s penultimate edition of ’09.

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, Mike Neff calculates the points, adds some funny one-liners and… voila! You have one batch of Power Rankings to serve to our fans.

Rank Driver (First-Place Votes) Votes Last Week
1 Jimmie Johnson (10) 200 1
Whatcha doin’, Jimmie? Making history, Chad.
2 Mark Martin 183 2
Has been busy making calls to every guido he knows in Batesville. We think the points deficit will actually be easier to overcome on the race track.
3 Jeff Gordon 169 3
Chances he will punch the next person who asks him how he would feel if Jimmie beats him to championship No. 5: 87%.
4 Kurt Busch 162 4
Imagine what he could do if his crew chief was allowed in the race shop.
5 Denny Hamlin 148 10
Wants to be the first to the pay window to cash in chips on Brad Keselowski. But will Kes close the door before he gets there? Will likely be the most exciting battle to watch all weekend long.
6 Tony Stewart 136 5
Winner of the regular season and very much in contention under the old system. Could very well be person No. 403,231 not to embrace the Chase when this one’s all said and done.
7 Juan Pablo Montoya 131 7
Learned a hard lesson about Chase Cinderellas – their slippers always break before the end of the year.
8 Kyle Busch 125 6
Probably leaves his mouth guard in all the time to keep from grinding his teeth out of frustration.
9 Greg Biffle 117 T-8
Has one race left to keep his six-year winning streak intact, at a track where he once won three races in a row. Should be interesting.
10 Jeff Burton 91 14
You wonder what would have happened if Burton and new crew chief Todd Berrier had been paired up in April, not October.
11 Clint Bowyer 90 T-11
Five top-10 finishes in nine playoff races have him itching to get back to the Chase in 2010.
12 Matt Kenseth 87 T-8
Hoping the potential crew chief shuffle at Roush Fenway includes the General Manager coming back to his pit box.
13 Kasey Kahne 74 13
After an awful end to the season, Kasey this Bud’s for you. And the next one… and the next one….
14 Ryan Newman 67 T-11
When you’re fifth on the totem pole in a six-car “team,” chances are the Chase isn’t going to work out in your favor. But hey, at least he gets some free snack food out of the deal next year!
15 David Reutimann 58 NR
Finally squelching rumors the Aaron’s Lucky Dog will replace him after his first top-10 finish in six weeks.
Dropped Out: Joey Logano (15)
Also Receiving Votes: Marcos Ambrose (46), Carl Edwards (42), Kevin Harvick (32), Joey Logano (31), Jamie McMurray (29), Martin Truex Jr. (27), AJ Allmendinger (25), Brian Vickers (15), David Ragan (5), Elliott Sadler (5), Casey Mears (3), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (1), Robby Gordon (1)
Who Voted: Thomas Bowles, Mike Neff, Tony Lumbis, Doug Turnbull, Matt Taliaferro, Vito Pugliese, Bryan Davis Keith, Phil Allaway, Kevin Birge and Kurt Smith


About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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