Race Weekend Central

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 After the 2011 Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire

Round two of the Chase is in the books and, just like round one, it ended with Tony Stewart in victory lane after a fuel-mileage finish. It also ended with Denny Hamlin too far down the running order to even sniff the lead, an empty tank of Sunoco sending his 2011 title bid straight to the trash bin. Add polesitter Ryan Newman to that list, too; a tire problem during the final stretch of the race left him off the lead lap and a distant 11th in the standings.

So then there were 10, with the final Chase results more scrambled than your daily Jumble. Brad Keselowski, an afterthought at Loudon back in July continued his strong run over the last few weeks by coming home in second place. Four-time champion Jeff Gordon overcame a near disastrous bout with running out of gas to notch fourth, far better than his five-time champion teammate.

Eighteenth in the race, Mr. Johnson had a difficult day that included a much publicized discussion with his crew chief about the latter’s motivational speaking capabilities.

What an ugly, publicized marital spat … but will Jimmie Johnson’s lowest position in the Chase standings cost him dearly when it comes to our poll? Further up, did Stewart’s second victory in a row move him solidly in position to claim the top spot? Or was Carl Edwards able to retain the number one position with his ho-hum, workmanlike eighth-place finish? Check out this week’s Power Rankings to see where the experts place your favorite with just eight races left to go on the year.

Rank Driver (First-Place Votes) Votes Last Week
1 Tony Stewart (3) 113 4
Deadweight (definition) – 1. The unrelieved weight of a heavy, motionless mass. 2. An oppressive burden or difficulty. 3. Stewart’s ex-girlfriend. 4. What Stewart’s ex-girlfriends call Stewart, just not in public in front of 4,235,000 TV viewers.
2 Carl Edwards (1) 109 1
Cousin Carl has been quiet, but don’t be fooled; he’s positioned to make things difficult for Stewart and Gordon as the 2011 title Chase shifts into high gear.
3 Kevin Harvick (1) 106 2
Can Harvick win the title, lose three Nationwide and Truck teams gracefully and save relationships with DeLana and his pit crew – all in one three-month period? Somebody buy this reality script and put it on BRAVO.
4 Brad Keselowski 104 6
Still holding that Cinderella slipper as that Chase clock comes ever closer to midnight … and still waiting for that thing to turn into a pumpkin (or pumpkin beer, for the Miller Lite car). Are we about to experience one of the biggest championship upsets in NASCAR history?
5 Jeff Gordon (1) 96 T-9
His team may have had a strategic blunder on Sunday (Sept. 25), but if Gordon can turn a bad break into a fourth-place finish he’s looking really strong for championship number five.
6 Matt Kenseth 81 11
Not sure which is more surprising this week: that Kenseth took a spun-out, beat-up racecar on a track he hates to finish sixth – or that it took him nearly 40 years to figure out a bra strap!
7 Kyle Busch 78 T-7
New Kyle is still wheeling the No. 18, but there are some rumblings just below the surface that could erupt with another “bad” race.
8 Jimmie Johnson 76 3
Chad Knaus should show up in a cheerleader outfit at Dover just to show Jimmie how much he’s trying.
9 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 63 T-9
Got nothing to lose in this Chase to the point he’ll get Lasik eye surgery with 20/20 vision or blow two tires trying to win. He’s proved it!
10 Kurt Busch 60 5
The saga continues for the No. 22 team and for Steve Addington, another therapy session begins.
11 Greg Biffle 49 NR
Cedar Point has fewer peaks and valleys than a Greg Biffle racing season.
12 Ryan Newman 48 T-7
Oh, to be the teammate of the hottest man in the sport when you drove like hell for a 25th-place finish.
13 Brian Vickers 40 NR
Nothing like a company filing 60-day closure papers to get that driver up on the wheel and fighting for his future.
14 David Ragan 39 15
Making as much money as possible now to keep up an extravagant, unemployed lifestyle later.
15 Kasey Kahne 36 NR
Has to be thankful that he isn’t going to have to wear a GoDaddy.com bikini next season to earn a paycheck.
Dropped Out: Clint Bowyer (12), Mark Martin (13), Denny Hamlin (14)
Others Receiving Votes: Clint Bowyer (33), Juan Pablo Montoya (29), Denny Hamlin (23), Regan Smith (23), Martin Truex Jr. (15), AJ Allmendinger (13), Mark Martin (11), Jeff Burton (10), Joey Logano (4), Marcos Ambrose (1)
Writer Voters Include: Phil Allaway, Tom Bowles, Bryan Davis Keith, 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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