Race Weekend Central

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 After the 2011 Aaron’s 499 at Talladega

Talladega is the biggest track on the Cup circuit and it served up a whopper of a close finish this weekend, with eight cars all passing under the flagstand in the blink of an eye after 500 miles of racing. Jimmie Johnson made a dramatic swing from the top of the track to the bottom, coming through the tri-oval with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in tow to surge past Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer and take the checkers first by .002 seconds, tying the closest margin of victory in series history. How close was the pack as they crossed the line? Kevin Harvick was right on Bowyer’s rear bumper but was credited with fifth place.

Flashing behind him was Carl Edwards’s late race charge to sixth; was that enough to have the voters keep him in first place this week? Or will Johnson’s first victory of the season be enough to have him overtake Edwards for the number one spot in the Power Rankings? And, while Earnhardt Jr. didn’t win the race, did he push himself towards the top of the poll by pushing Johnson to the win? Read this week’s Power Rankings to find out if your favorite driver bumped his way up through the Talladega draft and into our poll.

Rank Driver (First-Place Votes) Votes Last Week
1 Carl Edwards (4) 118 1
The last few feet of Sunday’s race looked like Cousin Carl might end up going airborne again at Talladega.
2 Jimmie Johnson (1) 113 3
He can’t be number one in everything, right?
3 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 103 5
Looks like the role of Johnson’s personal assistant – left open since Gordon left to work down the road – has finally been filled. Wonder what all the Junior fans will think when he helps push Johnson to a title in Homestead?
4 Clint Bowyer 98 6
Should have had one less helping of Hamburger Helper on Saturday night; he might have beaten Johnson to the line.
5 Kevin Harvick 87 7
Had to be frustrating coming across the line one car length behind the winner and finishing fifth.
6 Matt Kenseth (1) 86 2
After one week in victory lane, Kenseth asked for and was granted permission to resume playing the role of NASCAR’s Charlie Brown.
7 Greg Biffle 81 11
New contract extension and pretty much no one cared. But isn’t that the story of Biffle’s tenure at Roush? We should start calling him Mr. Invisible.
8 Kyle Busch 79 4
Saturday might have eased Sunday’s pain but he has still only finished in the top 10 twice at Talladega in 13 Cup races.
9 Kurt Busch 68 8
Mistook Talladega for a game of bumper cars at the local arcade Sunday. Chances are that’s going to haunt him down the road.
10 Paul Menard 66 10
This guy’s for real; we swear. The following promotional message was provided by Menards Home Improvement Stores. Menards! If it’s broken, we’ll throw enough money at our son’s racing program ’till it works.
11 Jeff Gordon 57 NR
You’d think he would have learned over the last few years that the bottom is the key to winning at Talladega.
12 Tony Stewart 54 12
If you had the over/under on Stewart’s laps led on Sunday at zero and you took the over, you’d have lost money.
13 Juan Pablo Montoya 41 9
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing: From the restrictor-plate kings of 2010 to virtually irrelevant there one year later.
14 AJ Allmendinger 36 NR
Finished 11th and lost two spots in the standings. ‘Dinger is still the top car at Petty but needs to card more than one top 10 every eight races if he’s going to make it to the Chase.
15 Mark Martin 32 NR
Finally led a lap on Sunday. AARP members everywhere can call them their hero once again.
Dropped Out: Ryan Newman (13), David Ragan (14), Marcos Ambrose (15)
Also Receiving Votes: Ryan Newman (27), Jeff Burton (24), Denny Hamlin (16), David Ragan (15), Marcos Ambrose (14), David Gilliland (11), Joey Logano (9), Martin Truex Jr. (6), Dave Blaney (5), Trevor Bayne (5), David Reutimann (4), Brad Keselowski (2), Kasey Kahne (1), Andy Lally (1), Casey Mears (1)
Writer Voters Include: Phil Allaway, Bryan Davis Keith, Tom Bowles, Tony Lumbis, Mike Neff and Garrett Horton

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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