Race Weekend Central

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 After the 2010 Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix

The penultimate round of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season is now complete. Denny Hamlin dominated the Phoenix event, but a long green-flag run at the end combined with poor fuel mileage for the No. 11 Toyota conspired to relegate Hamlin to a 12th-place finish. Carl Edwards, on the other hand, was able to squeeze out every last drop from the No. 99 Ford, taking his first checkered flag in almost two full years as a reward.

Jimmie Johnson had to work hard to stretch his own fuel, but also managed to make it to the finish while scoring a top-five result on Hamlin – a shell-shocking final chapter that switched momentum around on both sides. The higher spot in the finishing order means the champ now trails his challenger by only 15 points heading into the season finale in Homestead, Fla.

Of course, our Frontstretch Power Rankings can often be an entirely different story. Was Johnson’s fuel-conservation effort enough to vault him over Hamlin and into the lead in this poll? How much did the voters penalize Hamlin for his finish, even though he was dominant throughout the rest of the race? Did Edwards make a run at the top spot by scoring his first win of the season? Was Joey Logano rewarded for scoring his third straight top five and fifth straight top 10?

And finally, were Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman’s strong finishes enough to get them back into the top 15? Read this week’s Power Rankings to find out where our experts rank your driver with just one race left in the season to make an impression.

Rank Driver (First-Place Votes) Votes Last Week
1 Denny Hamlin (6) 195 1
Somebody might want to remind Hamlin that he has the most wins, won at Homestead a year ago and needs to drop the Dead Man Walking act.
2 Jimmie Johnson (3) 190 2
Kinda starting to get that feeling we already know how this one is going to turn out.
3 Kevin Harvick (1) 185 3
Seemed bewildered by his inability to abuse his pit crew Sunday.
4 Carl Edwards 156 T-10
Now combines back flips with running into a throng of sundrenched drunks. Soon he, too, will need ACL surgery.
5 Joey Logano 138 7
Last five finishes have been seventh, sixth, fifth, fourth and third, which means he will win at Homestead and totally screw it up for anybody who lays down a bet for second.
6 Greg Biffle 133 4
If you could only combine the best of Biffle’s Chase with the best of Edwards’s, you’d have a championship-contending Ford team in Homestead. Not to worry, though, at the rate we’re going I’m sure that’ll all be allowed by 2012.
7 Jeff Gordon 127 T-8
The way Gordon’s been treated the last few weeks, he might as well call out sick for the season finale. It’s not like anyone at Hendrick’s going to care.
8 Mark Martin 114 T-5
Will a 13th-place finish in points make up for having to give up his best minds to help Junior run 22nd?
9 Kyle Busch 110 T-10
Wonder if he gave his fuel pressure gauge both fingers at Phoenix.
10 Matt Kenseth 105 T-5
Now joins David Ragan as the only Roush Fenway drivers not to win a race this year. Robbie Reiser, where are you?
11 Clint Bowyer 100 T-8
If not for that 150-point penalty, he’d be in fifth place and still completely out of it.
T-12 Tony Stewart 86 12
Said repeatedly he has no time to do Indy even with Chevrolet coming back to race in the 500. That is, until they move the start time back for the Coca-Cola 600 to accommodate him.
T-12 Kurt Busch 86 NR
With as often as he has been spinning out and pancaking it, perhaps that drag racing thing might not be such a bad idea after all.
14 Jamie McMurray 69 NR
Apparently, NASCAR now allows one “water bottle-throwing” mulligan per season. It’s like a champion’s provisional or something, so McMurray better watch out! He used his up before Homestead.
15 Ryan Newman 68 NR
Owes some holiday Thank You notes to: Phoenix (only track where he’s run top three this year – twice), his wife (for not going into labor during the race) and Juan Pablo Montoya (for not spinning him out when the No. 42 ran out of gas. They have a “great” relationship, you know).
Dropped Out: Paul Menard (13), Jeff Burton (14), AJ Allmendinger (15)
Also Receiving Votes: Juan Pablo Montoya (56), Jeff Burton (55), AJ Allmendinger (51), David Reutimann (23), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (16), Paul Menard (13), Martin Truex Jr. (12), Casey Mears (5), David Ragan (2), Marcos Ambrose (2), Bobby Labonte (2), Regan Smith (1), Aric Almirola (1)
Writer Voting Panel: Phil Allaway, Brock Beard, Thomas Bowles, Bryan Davis Keith, Tony Lumbis, Mike Neff, Vito Pugliese, Kurt Smith, Garrett Horton and Matt Taliaferro

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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