Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: 2013 NASCAR Crossroads On Attendance, Talent, Rivalries

*We’ve already seen former teammates Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano butt heads at least twice in only four races this season. Going forward, should we expect this phenomenon to rear its head again at tracks like Martinsville — or is this rivalry just a bunch of hot air?*

Phil: I wouldn’t be surprised if they “had at it” again at some point this year. The Twitter Duel looks ridiculous, though. That probably didn’t need to be public.
Summer: That whole thing was ridiculous. It was fun to watch, but it was ridiculous.

Pace Laps: A Returning Rookie, Action-Packed Bristol And Tragedy Out West

_Did you miss an event during this busy week in racing? How about a late-night press release, an important sponsorship rumor, or a juicy piece of news? If you did, you’ve come to the right place! Each week, The Frontstretch will break down the racing, series by series, to bring you the biggest stories that you need to watch going forward for the week ahead. Let our experts help you get up to speed for the coming week, no matter what series you might have missed, all in this edition of Pace Laps!_

*Sprint Cup: Action-Packed Sunday* Kasey Kahne ended the day in Victory Lane at Bristol Motor Speedway for the first time in his Sprint Cup career.

Frontstretch Foto Funnies: Who, Me?!

_Welcome to the Frontstretch Foto Funnies! Ever see a photo that's just begging for a caption? We see them all the time! Each week, we'll pick a few, then let our staff give it their best shot. We'll post the best ones for you!_ _Want to get in on the fun? Each week, we'll also designate one of the photos for fan captions. Leave your best ideas in the comments below or on our \"Facebook page.\":https://www.facebook.com/Frontstretch We'll choose our favorite one and reprint the photo next week with its new caption! Then, at the end of each month, we'll randomly choose one winner from the four winning captions, and that person will receive a free weekend rental from our friends at FanVision during any Sprint Cup race weekend in 2013! What could be better than that? In order to be eligible, comments must include a valid email (nobody can see it but us, and we promise we'll only use it for notification purposes!) Note while you can post as many captions as you like, you aren't eligible for the monthly prize if you've w on a contest from us in the last 90 days._ _This week's Fan Foto is Photo No. 1 (the one with Jeff Gordon is laughing at an apparently grossed-out Clint Bowyer.) Ready, set… caption that!_ <div style=\"float:left; width:540px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15547.jpg\" width=\"540\" height=\"360\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">\"Wow, that giant pigeon really seems to like your car, Clint!\"</p></div> <div style=\"float:left; width:400px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15546.jpg\" width=\"400\" height=\"521\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">\"So I'm driving back to the garage after the wreck, and there's Johnson, thumbing a ride, like this! So I pick him up and then he's all like 'slow down!' Next time he does that, I'm doing donuts…\"</p></div> <div style=\"float:left; width:540px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15545.jpg\" width=\"540\" height=\"360\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">\"What? Someone stole Junior's last Diet Dew? Now, _who_ would do a terrible thing like that? Junior LOVES the taste of Diet Dew! What a (burp) dastardly deed!\"</p></div> <div style=\"float:left; width:540px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15544.jpg\" width=\"540\" height=\"360\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">\" Dude, those Indy cars are teeny! How on earth do you get in and out of one of those?\"</p></div> <div style=\"float:left; width:540px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15543.jpg\" width=\"540\" height=\"360\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">\"You should have seen their faces when I requested garage passes for my cousin Inigo!\"</p></div> <div style=\"float:left; width:540px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15542.jpg\" width=\"540\" height=\"360\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">\"I don't believe it. I drew him a map. I pasted it to his dashboard. And he STILL got lost.\"</p></div> <div style=\"float:left; width:540px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15511.jpg\" width=\"540\" height=\"429\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">This week's Fan Foto winner, from Rowdy KitKat: Would you trust this man with your car insurance?! Coz I'm not sure I would…</p></div>

Mirror Driving: The Gambles Drivers Take… On And Off The Track

Welcome to \"Mirror Driving.\" Every Wednesday, your favorite columnists sit down and give their opinion about the latest NASCAR news, rumors, and controversy. Love us or hate us, make a comment below and tell us how you feel about what we've said! *This Week's Participants*: <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy Henderson</span> \"(Mondays / The Big Six & Fridays / Holding A Pretty Wheel & Frontstretch Co-Managing Editor)\":http://www.frontstretch.com/staffinfo/351/ <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff Wolfe</span> (Frontstretch Fantasy Insider) <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil Allaway</span> \"(Tuesdays / Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter Editor)\":http://www.frontstretch.com/staffinfo/18439/ <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike Neff</span> \"(Mondays / Thinkin' Out Loud & Tuesdays / Tech Talk & Frontstretch Short track Coordinator)\":http://www.frontstretch.com/staffinfo/1744/ <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer Bedgood</span> \"(Frontstretch NASCAR Senior Writer)\":http://www.frontstretch.com/staffinfo/32577/ *Matt Kenseth’s win in Las Vegas was an emotional one, considering that it was only his third start with the organization plus the fact that it was his … er … “29th†birthday. Is this victory going to be a testament to the rest of his season or is it too soon to tell?* <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span> I think it will be a testament to the rest of his _career._ This pairing will be a great matchup, and he'll make the organization as a whole that much better. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> Well, I had always figured that Kenseth was going to win at some point this season. Didn't think it was going to happen before St. Patrick's Day, though. Kenseth and his team out-foxed everyone on Sunday. He was up in the order most of the day, but very quiet. <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike N.:</span> Considering the majority of the schedule is on intermediate tracks, I think it is saying a lot about the ability the No. 20 team will have to win races all year. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span> I believe Kenseth thinks he has something to prove. After being with Roush his whole career, when you go to someplace new, you want to show them that you were a good choice. Kenseth is not Mr. Emotional, so him being that into it afterward really showed what it meant. <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike N.:</span> Kenseth may also have felt a little guilty about putting the team behind the eight ball by blowing an engine in testing and wrecking in practice at Daytona. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> 41 isn't old in Sprint Cup, by the way. People have won titles at an older age than that. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span> Only six drivers have won titles in seasons they have turned 40 or more. Just so you know. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span> I agree with you, Jeff. It's not like we see that all the time from him. I felt like Kenseth thought he was taking a risk by jumping ship; he’s relieved and excited that it paid off. I can't help but think of this in terms of the whole organization, though, that Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin will have similar success on similar tracks. Something tells me Joe Gibbs Racing will be the team to beat this year. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> I think Kenseth will win a bunch of races, but a title is a stretch. Not so much because of his age but because the Chase doesn't suit his style. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span> I don't think he'll win the title, either, but I think he'll finish somewhere in the top seven in the standings by the end of the year. <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike N.:</span> He could very easily win the title. Kenseth is usually there once the money is on the line. No need to “be there before.†Although the way Johnson and Keselowski are running right now, I think everyone else is running for third. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span> If the Toyotas can get their durability issues straightened out, and they might have already done that, Gibbs could be a force. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> Kind of hard to claim that someone's the dude to beat three weeks into the year. Unless they won all three… <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span> Yeah, I'm trying not to read too much into the whole Keselowski/Johnson run. How often do we see the people strong at the beginning of the season still there at the end? <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike N.:</span> Quite a few times over the last seven years, Summer; outside of Stewart's run in 2011. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span> Right now, Johnson and Keselowski have to be the favorites. They've been the most consistent. <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike N.:</span> Not only consistent, but up front consistent. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span> Keselowski's mad that he's not winning. That's a good sign for that team. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span> Well I expect Kenseth to win multiple races this year, make the Chase, and at least be a contender. I'm not sure I'd go as far as champion, but JGR will be a good move for him. <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike N.:</span> Kenseth is a stud driver. There is no question about that. And being in equipment as good as Gibbs, he could go on a heck of a run. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> The No. 20 will be a lot better than 19th in owner points, that's for sure. Kenseth will probably finish somewhere between fourth and eighth. And… he’ll win a couple more races. Where those wins come from are anyone's guess, though. *How long will it take, if ever for NASCAR drivers to stop thinking twice about what they say in the wake of the Denny Hamlin fine? Is there any chance, based on fan reaction you think the appeal will cause the fine to be overturned?* <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span> That fine isn't getting overturned. And I don't think drivers will ever know when it's safe to speak because NASCAR has been anything but consistent on this point. There have been much more disparaging comments made by drivers and they were hit with… nothing. <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike N.:</span> It is going to take an apology by the suits in Daytona, which will never happen. So they'll be thinking twice, for the most part, for now. There will be the occasional blowup where a driver goes off, but NASCAR has set the bar pretty low for what they'll tolerate. Which is terrible. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span> It was pathetic watching the drivers fall all over themselves complimenting the car last week. <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike N.:</span> The fine should be overturned because Hamlin didn't say anything disparaging about NASCAR. But I'm with Summer. I doubt it will be. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> NASCAR said constructive criticism was OK, and that's what Denny gave. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> Sure, Denny gave constructive criticism. However, NASCAR's move says that they don't tolerate that either… at least not publicly. Maybe if he said it privately, to Mike Helton, we wouldn't be talking about this right now. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span> I'd be shocked if the fine gets changed, too. It's one of the worst fines I can ever remember for NASCAR. They are so image conscious, because of lack of fans in the seats they can't roll with it. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> I wouldn't be surprised if the appeal results in an increased fine. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> I don't know, Phil. If he loses the appeal, I hope he'll take it to Middlebrook. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span> Unfortunately, we'll probably see more of the same old problems. The race could have five green-flag passes and the drivers would still be like, \"The car drives _great!\"_ <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> Yeah, the drivers are in a tough spot here. Apparently, \"Boys, Have At It\" is dead now. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span> Drivers, especially the younger ones, are going to be a little more careful with what they say. Maybe Stewart or Gordon could get away with complaining more than the real young guys. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span> Which is weird, since Stewart has more negative things to say about NASCAR than Hamlin ever has. He was talking about \"entertainment cautions\" during the race yesterday. How is that not detrimental, but Hamlin's comment was? <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike N.:</span> What did he criticize, anyways? All Hamlin said was it was a work in progress and that it drove similar to the previous car. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span> Right, Mike. He didn't even say the car sucked or didn't drive well. He just said it drove like the last one. I don't think anyone actually took that as criticism, constructive or not. In fact, no one even noticed it until they fined him. <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike N.:</span> NASCAR didn't fine Kyle Busch when he got out of the old car in Victory Lane and called the car a piece of crap. How can they fine Hamlin for this one? <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> NASCAR was in a different place in March 2007. They didn't feel the need to go after Kyle Busch that day. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> Going forward, if fans wonder why guys like Jimmie Johnson are so careful with what they say, this tells us why. Of course you're going to be labeled vanilla if you can't say anything for fear of someone not liking it. NASCAR should be begging drivers for feedback. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span> They really should. The drivers _need_ to be offering feedback. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> Or do they only want feedback from certain people? They don't think Denny's is valuable for some reason? I don't know. The whole thing was just weird. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span> The fine was a huge PR mistake by NASCAR. If they don't fine, this issue would have already gone away. They created their own PR mess. I don't know… maybe they are thinking bad press is better than no press. But I don't believe they think that far ahead in such matters. <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike N.:</span> No doubt. Instead, they are killing the sport when it needs to have some spice more than ever. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span> It's a new car. I don't think anyone expected it to be perfect. The thing is, Phil, people had a much bigger reaction to that. Like I said, no one even noticed Hamlin's comment until they said something. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span> Those of who watch it know the crew chiefs and engineers and drivers will adjust and make it better. <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike N.:</span> I just think they have focused the spotlight even more on the car now than it already was because of the fine. If they had just acknowledged it is a work in progress and moved on, everyone would be better for it. …

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Side By Side: Was Last Fall's Bristol Repave The Right Move?

_Welcome back to Side By Side. There are always two sides to every story, and we're going to bring them both, right here, every week. Two of our staff writers will face off on an important racing question … feel free to tell us what you think in the weekly poll and also in the comments section below!_ *This Week's Question: Last Fall, Bruton Smith ground down Bristol Motor Speedway, what he said was a fan-motivated move to create better racing. Is the \"new new\" Bristol a better choice? Or was it a waste of cash?* <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike Neff, Senior Writer: The Repave Was a Waste of Cash.</span> In the Summer of 2007, Bruton Smith spent a ton of money to put truck loads of new surface onto the race track at Bristol Motor Speedway. Not only was a new surface put in place but also variable banking that allowed drivers to, say it with me, _run side-by-side_ competitively, on a half-mile race track. Unheard of in the modern era of NASCAR, fans were allowed to see people on the outside at Bristol actually make passes and advance their position. Better yet, they were able to pass people without having to, at the least, shove them out of the way or at worst, wreck them to get by. Races were filled with two- and three-wide racing throughout the pack for laps on end without detriment to one lane or the other. Somehow, that irritated or bored fans to a point that more than a third of them stopped showing up to see the races there. As a result, Smith ground down the banking at the top of the track and attempted to return the single groove bump, dump, and wreck racing back to the facility. <div style=\"float:right; width:275px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/10421.jpg\" width=\"275\" height=\"181\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">Mike Neff says the side-by-side racing we saw from 2007 through the spring of 2012 was the best Bristol has seen in years…</p></div> Thanks to Smith at least trying to bring the old parade back to town, the track was nearly sold out last August for the night race at Bristol. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your perspective, the drivers figured out that they could make the top groove work and the race ended up being a two groove event still. While the race was fantastic from start to finish and the ending was edge of the seat theater, the number of cautions was limited and almost no cars were wrecked. As a result, the jury is still out on whether the fans will like the new surface more than the altered surface before the grinding. From where I sit, which was near the top of the grandstands in turn two last summer, there is nothing more enjoyable that watching cars racing side-by-side with first one and then the other gaining slight advantages each lap. The great thing about Richmond is that a driver can get to the inside of another competitor but has to struggle to complete the pass because they can't use the whole race track. That never-ending battle to gain the inches necessary to eventually complete the pass is why Richmond is still one of the best race tracks anywhere. When Bruton Smith added the progressive banking to Bristol, he put the track on the same plane as Richmond and the racing became fantastic from the front to the back and everywhere in between. With the ground-down top of the track, the surface at Bristol is offering enough grip up top to give drivers an advantage running up there, but going to the bottom won't give the drivers enough of an advantage to make a pass, so the race is going to lend itself to a single groove; it will just be around the top now instead of the bottom. Close racing and passing are the two things that make for great races. With the varying degrees of banking the “old” new Bristol had allowed drivers to run on all three lanes around the track and make passes in any of them. The drivers could pass someone on the top at one point in a run then on the bottom another part and finally in the middle at yet another point. However the drivers were running and wherever they were running, they put on a fantastic race and did it all without tearing up a bunch of race cars. And that is the rub right there. Based on the statement made by fans with their wallets and their keyboards, they don't want to see racing at Bristol, they want to see wrecking. If what you want to see is cars destroyed for no reason, then the “new” new Bristol is more for you than the old one. I'll stick with cars running in three lanes on a half-mile race track with any of them having a chance to win. <span style=\"color:orange; font-weight:bold\">S.D. Grady, Senior Editor: The \"New, New\" Bristol Is Just Perfect!</span> \"It's the new, NEW Bristol!\" Okay, so we may have said that a few times too many in 2012. Much hype surrounded the re-engineering of the track in 2007, introducing variable banking to the reported 36-degree mixing bowl. During the following races, though, it became clear that somehow Bruton Smith had managed to create a mini-cookie cutter atop the mountain. The CoT did what it did so well, got in line and we were entertained (uh huh) by a 40-car train on one of NASCAR's most storied venues. Gone were the days where a third of the field had to wreck out in order to make enough room for the front runners to go at it, door-to-door and bumper-to-bumper. Previously unobtainable tickets became an easily snared stub. Where fans used to cling to their seats peering down over the carnage, many chose to depart early seeking a faster way home. Clearly something had to be done. And Smith did it. <div style=\"float:left; width:275px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/13955.jpg\" width=\"275\" height=\"181\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">…but S.D. Grady says that kind of racing lacked the emotion of the old-style chrome-horn racing, and that's just not cool.</p></div> Last fall the latest incarnation of the track was introduced. Sitting in the stands at the exit of Turn 4, I thrilled as I watched team after team discover that not only was there a second groove, the upper reaches of the towering banks were actually where the racing was best. My husband and I nudged each other, pointed at the burgeoning \"Darlington Stripes\" appearing on just about everybody's right side panels and grinned. Yeah, this is what we wanted out of Bristol. A little slick, real tight, and not nearly enough room for 43 cars to take each other on. The track once again became part of the race, something that Thunder Valley has always been known for–at least up to 2007. The Sprint Cup circuit is littered with a bunch of mile-and-a-half tracks where the pavement is miles wide, the banking climbs just enough into the sky and the drivers can find all the clean air they want. They've earned the moniker \"cookie cutter\" because not only do the configurations appear similar, the competition suffers from similarity, as well. The legendary tracks of the old-school NASCAR have never suffered from the look-alike ennui. There's the Martinsville paperclip, wild rides of Fast-lanta, sandy banks of Darlington, the concrete monster in Dover … need I go on? Bristol has always served up a furious day of racing. The tempers, fenders and very stands scream with frustration when the field takes the flag. It pulses with life. But Bristol very nearly lost that when Smith introduced the graduated banking. Gone were the afternoons of car munching fury. We ended the race day wondering if we had missed something. The drivers smiled–smiled!–at the cameras and headed off to their lives. Nobody seemed particularly upset. Even the cars were more than able to roll into the garage area. Boring. Placid. Safe. None of those words had ever been applied to Bristol in the past. And I really don't want it known as such in the future. Bruton Smith did what had to be done–he saved the half-mile coliseum from being fed to the lions. Now the gladiators have returned, drivers will use all available sheet metal to fend off their neighbors, and mayhem ensues. Not every race should run in the great Bristol bowl, but I'm glad the ones that do have returned to the days of the Bristol Stomp. *Connect with Sonya!* <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/laregna\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6502.jpg\"></a><br> \"Contact S.D. Grady\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/14360/ *Connect with Mike!* <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/mneffshorttrack\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6502.jpg\"></a><br> \"Contact Mike Neff\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/14354/

NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Las Vegas

<div style=\"margin: 20px; width: 275px; float: left; border: 0px solid black; padding: 3px\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/1952.gif\" border=\"0\" alt=\"Frontstretch Power Rankings\" width=\"206\" height=\"202\" /></div><div><div><div><div>Matt Kenseth rolled the dice on the last pit stop, took fuel only, then held off Kasey Kahne to win his first race of the 2013 season and his first for new team Joe Gibbs Racing. Kenseth was strong all day, running inside the top 10, but proved that clean air trumps fresh tires on 1.5-mile tracks with the new Gen-6 car.&nbsp;</div><div><br /></div><div>While much of the news revolved around Denny Hamlin&rsquo;s negative comments about the Gen-6 chassis, costing him $25,000 Las Vegas showed the positive side of the new design. Kasey Kahne began the dig out of his early-season hole, leading a race-high 114 laps and finishing second. Brad Keselowski, winding up in third place now stands alone as the only driver with top-5 results in every race so far this season. A little further back, Carl Edwards followed up his win last week with a second consecutive top-5 finish, showing he&#39;ll be a 2013 contender. And then, of course there was Jimmie Johnson, on cruise control to sixth place and the edge atop the Sprint Cup point standings. </div><div>&nbsp;</div><div> Who are you <em>not </em>going to see move up the poll this week? Stewart-Haas Racing, who continued to struggle, with Tony Stewart bringing home a team-high 11th. Ryan Newman lost an engine and Danica Patrick struggled to find speed all day; those drivers finished 38th and 33rd, respectively.&nbsp;</div><div><br /></div><div>As the series travels back to the East Coast this week, drivers will tackle their first short track in Thunder Valley. How much momentum do your favorite experts feel they have going in? Find out in the latest edition of our Power Rankings… </div></div><div>&nbsp;</div></div><div><strong>How The Rankings Are Calculated</strong>: Frontstretch does our power rankings similar to how the Associated Press does them for basketball or football – our expert stable of NASCAR writers, both on staff and from other major publications 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, Michael Mehedin calculates the points, adds some funny one-liners, and … here you go!</div></div><table border=\"0\"><tbody></tbody></table><table border=\"0\" cellspacing=\"4\" cellpadding=\"0\" bgcolor=\"#a0a0a0\"><tbody><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td colspan=\"4\" align=\"center\"><strong>FRONTSTRETCH TOP 15 POWER RANKINGS: March 13th</strong></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td><strong>Rank</strong></td><td><strong>Driver (First Place Votes)</strong></td><td><strong>Votes</strong> </td><td align=\"right\"><strong>Last Week</strong></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>1</strong></td><td><strong>Jimmie Johnson (7)</strong></td><td align=\"right\">244</td><td align=\"right\">1</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Jimmie is running this well and it isn&rsquo;t even the Chase yet!? It&rsquo;s going to be a long year for the other 42 drivers. <em>Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>2</strong></td><td><strong>Brad Keselowski (3)</strong></td><td align=\"right\">243</td><td align=\"right\">2</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Three top-5 finishes lead all drivers, but he hasn&rsquo;t won yet and he&#39;s not happy about it. That&#39;s certainly a good sign of things to come for him. <em>Jeff Wolfe, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>3</strong></td><td><strong>Matt Kenseth (2)</strong></td><td align=\"right\">224</td><td align=\"right\">6</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">The best thing to happen to this team since Sliced Bread. <em>Summer Bedgood, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>4</strong></td><td><strong>Dale Earnhardt, Jr.</strong></td><td align=\"right\">214</td><td align=\"right\">3</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Consistency is the key to success in qualifying for the Chase, but he will need to learn how to win races to be a champ. <em>Dennis Michelsen, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>5</strong></td><td><strong>Kasey Kahne (1)</strong></td><td align=\"right\">199</td><td align=\"right\">12</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Learned from last year that beginning to recover from a disastrous start, a little earlier in the season will make for a much less strenuous summer. <em>Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>6</strong></td><td><strong>Carl Edwards</strong></td><td align=\"right\">194</td><td align=\"right\">7</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Jimmy Fennig now officially licensed to raise the dead. <em>Dave Moody, SiriusXM Radio</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>7</strong></td><td><strong>Denny Hamlin</strong></td><td align=\"right\">164</td><td align=\"right\">4</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Dropped in the Power Rankings due to Section 12-1. <em>Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>8</strong></td><td><strong>Kyle Busch</strong></td><td align=\"right\">143</td><td align=\"right\">14</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Running far better than the final results would indicate. But at some point, &ldquo;potential&rdquo; needs to turn into &ldquo;performance&rdquo; when it counts again. <em>Tom Bowles, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>9</strong></td><td><strong>Greg Biffle</strong></td><td align=\"right\">136</td><td align=\"right\">10</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">That ugly paint scheme was the only reason he received any screen time in Vegas. <em>Summer Bedgood, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>10</strong></td><td><strong>Tony Stewart</strong></td><td align=\"right\">124</td><td align=\"right\">8</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Finished 11th Sunday. With Danica 33rd and Newman 38th, Smoke is not enjoying team ownership quite as much as he did in 2011. <em>Dave Moody, SiriusXM Radio</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>11</strong></td><td><strong>Kevin Harvick</strong></td><td align=\"right\">123</td><td align=\"right\">11</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Mr. Where Did He Come From has become Mr. Where Did He Go? <em>Summer Bedgood, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>12</strong></td><td><strong>Clint Bowyer</strong></td><td align=\"right\">109</td><td align=\"right\">5</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">That runner-up slump might be kicking in. <em>Summer Bedgood, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>13</strong></td><td><strong>Aric Almirola</strong></td><td align=\"right\">96</td><td align=\"right\">15</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Almirola&rsquo;s good, no doubt, but this ride is showcasing why who&rsquo;s on top of the pit box still matters. Remember Todd Parrott? I seem to remember him winning a championship and two Daytona 500s with Dale Jarrett. <em>Tom Bowles, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>14</strong></td><td><strong>Mark Martin</strong></td><td align=\"right\">78</td><td align=\"right\">13</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Would really like to see what Mark would do if he ran the series full-time at age 54. <em>Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>15</strong></td><td><strong>Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.</strong></td><td align=\"right\">77</td><td align=\"right\">NR</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">He beat Danica! <em>Dave Moody, SiriusXM Radio</em></td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\"><strong>Dropped Out</strong>: Jeff Gordon (9).</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\"><strong>Others Receiving Votes</strong>:&nbsp;Paul Menard (75), Jeff Gordon (71), Martin Truex, Jr. (68), Joey Logano (57), Jamie McMurray (32), Marcos Ambrose (23), Kurt Busch (10), Jeff Burton (8), Ryan Newman (8), Juan Pablo Montoya (6), Trevor Bayne (2), Austin Dillon (1), Dave Blaney (1).</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\"><strong>Who Voted</strong>: <a href=\"http://twitter.com/Critic84\">Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com</a>; <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/summerbedgood\">Summer Bedgood, Frontstretch.com</a>; <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/NASCARBowles\">Tom Bowles, Frontstretch.com</a>; <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/ddarnell1\">Denny Darnell, Darnell Communications</a>; <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/Racetake\">Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com</a>; <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/dustinlong\">Dustin Long, Athlon Sports</a>; <a href=\"http://twitter.com/tonylumbis\">Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com</a>; <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/MikeyMehedin\">Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com</a>; <a href=\"http://www.facebook.com/RaceTalkRadio\">Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com</a>; <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/DGodfatherMoody\">Dave Moody, SiriusXM Radio</a>; Brad Morgan, Frontstretch.com; <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/Riceman61\">Doug Rice, Performance Racing Netwrok</a>; <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/jeffwolfe206\">Jeff Wolfe, Frontstretch.com</a>.</td></tr></tbody></table>

Top Ten Alternative Punishments for Drivers Who Say Things NASCAR Doesn't Like

<div style=\"float:right; width:250px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15498.jpg\" width=\"250\" height=\"408\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">Six weeks of carrying Jimmie Johnson's beard Flowbee.</p></div> *10.* Six weeks of driving Jennifer Jo Cobb’s car. *9.* Drafting with a rookie driver at all restrictor plate tracks until further notice. *8.* Write 1,000 times on the bulletin board, \"I love Gen-6.\" Make that 2,000 times if you forget the hyphen. *7.* Six weeks, two hours a day, of listening to Chad Knaus telling you how smart he is. *6.* Six weeks as Brian France’s designated driver. *5.* Must wear giant, scarlet pair of lips on front of race uniform. *4.* Must attend four-week \"How To Plug Your Sponsors In a Positive Manner\" course taught by Michael Waltrip. *3.* Chartered flights piloted by Jack Roush for two months … in a Hendrick plane. *2.* Be hypnotized to say \"I love NASCAR\" every time you hear Brian France's name. *1.* Remember the pink fire suit with the kittens, puppies, and little baby seals? \"Contact the Frontstretch Staff\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/14345/

Frontstretch Foto Funnies: I Know You Can Hear Me, Butthead

_Welcome to the Frontstretch Foto Funnies! Ever see a photo that's just begging for a caption? We see them all the time! Each week, we'll pick a few, then let our staff give it their best shot. We'll post the best ones for you!_ _Want to get in on the fun? Each week, we'll also designate one of the photos for fan captions. Leave your best ideas in the comments below or on our \"Facebook page.\":https://www.facebook.com/Frontstretch We'll choose our favorite one and reprint the photo next week with its new caption! Then, at the end of each month, we'll randomly choose one winner from the four winning captions, and that person will receive a free weekend rental from our friends at FanVision during any Sprint Cup race weekend in 2013! What could be better than that? In order to be eligible, comments must include a valid email (nobody can see it but us, and we promise we'll only use it for notification purposes!) Note while you can post as many captions as you like, you aren't eligible for the monthly prize if you've w on a contest from us in the last 90 days._ _This week's Fan Foto is Photo No. 2 (the one with Casey Mears looking like he's up to… something.) Ready, set… caption that!_ <div style=\"float:left; width:540px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15510.jpg\" width=\"540\" height=\"378\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">\"Car surfing – I'm telling you guys, it will be the next big thing! Now, get on!\"</p></div> <div style=\"float:left; width:540px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15511.jpg\" width=\"540\" height=\"429\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">\"Wonder if Jimmie found the glue I put on his steering wheel yet?\"</p></div> <div style=\"float:left; width:540px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15512.jpg\" width=\"540\" height=\"385\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">\"Keeping the helmet on won't work, Jimmie. I know you can still hear me.\"</p></div> <div style=\"float:left; width:400px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15513.jpg\" width=\"400\" height=\"600\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">\"Someone tell Kyle to get out of my seat…\"</p></div> <div style=\"float:left; width:540px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15514.jpg\" width=\"540\" height=\"359\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">\"DAMMIT! Just missed beating my high score on Angry Birds. … What's that, Steve?!! Yeah, yeah, the car's handling great…\"</p></div> <div style=\"float:left; width:540px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15515.jpg\" width=\"540\" height=\"359\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">\"He just drove off with the last Diet Dew! And I love the taste of Diet Dew…\"</p></div>

Mirror Driving: What Will Label Sin City A Gen-6 Success Story

Welcome to \"Mirror Driving.\" Every Wednesday, your favorite columnists sit down and give their opinion about the latest NASCAR news, rumors, and controversy. Love us or hate us, make a comment below and tell us how you feel about what we've said! *This Week's Participants*: <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy Henderson</span> \"(Mondays / The Big Six & Fridays / Holding A Pretty Wheel & Frontstretch Co-Managing Editor)\":http://www.frontstretch.com/staffinfo/351/ <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff Wolfe</span> (Frontstretch Fantasy Insider) <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil Allaway</span> \"(Tuesdays / Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter Editor)\":http://www.frontstretch.com/staffinfo/18439/ <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer Bedgood</span> \"(Frontstretch NASCAR Senior Writer)\":http://www.frontstretch.com/staffinfo/32577/ *The Gen-6 car has received mixed reviews so far in 2013, but we’re only two races into the season. The “real test†is going to be this weekend in Las Vegas, one of the many intermediate racetracks that are currently on the Sprint Cup Series schedule. What would a successful race be for you and do you think expectations are too high?* <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span>: I would like to at least six or eight passes for the lead. But really, when it comes down to the end, it would be nice to say any one of four or five drivers could win. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> Like I said a couple of weeks ago, teams are still learning this car, as is NASCAR. Any time before the second race at tracks is too soon to know what it's really capable of. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: I do think expectations are too high because of all the hype. Still, though, a successful race would be a variety of passing throughout. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span>: Yes, even a lot of passing in the top 10 would be good, too. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> Agreed. A successful race at Las Vegas would be one where drivers don’t just pass… they can race each other _hard_ for position. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: I don't think that will happen simply because it's a long race and drivers won't race too hard regardless. But I'd like to get through one weekend without hearing the drivers say, \"You just can't pass in traffic.\" Phoenix wasn't a terrible race, but drivers were _still_ saying that. I understand that some of that is the tires and track configuration, but the car plays a role too. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> At this point, I'm confident that almost any type of car at Phoenix would create a similar race to what we saw on Sunday. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span>: I thought Phoenix was a decent race. There was a respectable amount of passing late in the event. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> I think expectations are too high from fans. And one thing hasn’t changed…there are passes for position, under green, all race long…but you never see most of them because the cameras are only showing a few select cars. When FOX used the stationary cams during the Crank It Up segments at Phoenix, you could see several cars racing side-by-side. The rest of the time, not so much. I was listening to team audio, so I know there was passing going on. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: Like I said, it wasn't a terrible race, but I still heard drivers talking about how the car reacted in traffic. It sounded the same as the old car. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> It will be interesting to see what the cars do at Vegas. Based on what I saw during the tests at Charlotte over the winter, there was passing when they raced in small groups. However, they never raced in groups bigger than about four or five. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: Yeah, but we don't see \"big packs\" at intermediates anyway. Four or five _is_ a big pack at those tracks. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> Let's be honest. There were crew chiefs that talked to us and stated that they didn't really believe the Gen-6 car would race all that differently from the CoT. Seems like they might have been right. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> Here's the other problem. Yes, the cars look like the street version. But manufacturers have worked so hard to make new cars more aerodynamic for better fuel mileage that if the race cars look like them, they're going to be aero dependent. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: Which basically means that we have to pick our poison. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> Right. Do you want a car that looks as close to stock as possible, or one that is race-specific but looks even less like the street version than the CoT? <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> Basically, that means either have aero dependent cars or don't exist, considering the manufacturers would pull out. Not that tough a decision, to be honest. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: I'm sure this race, like some others coming up will be a learning process. And I don't want to judge too heavily until we're at least halfway through the season. But it's hard to keep everyone happy in terms of seeing stock cars or good racing. I'm not convinced that’s at all possible. I know, I know… everyone saying, \"But racing used to be _soooo_ good back in the day.\" That's right. There's nothing I long for more than seeing cars win by laps over other drivers. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span>: I think they will get better as time goes on. That's always been the case, no matter what kind of cars they have. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> Even if they raced stock cars off the showroom floor, they'd be aero dependent. What NASCAR needs to do is slow them down significantly… that's what would get rid of the aero dependency to some degree. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: It would also make things less dangerous. I would be totally fine with decreasing the horsepower on these cars. In a sense, wouldn't that also help some of the smaller teams? <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> How do they do that? New, smaller engines? <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> EFI. They could control speed through fuel mixture. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: Or just put restrictor plates on any car at any track over a mile. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span>: You know, I think new fans see two minutes of highlights, then expect whole races to be like that. That’ll never happen. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: I'm trying to manage by expectations for this weekend. Honestly, though, I just want to see a good race regardless of the car. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> I think we'll see an interesting race, maybe a little faster than normal. *Jimmie Johnson made a fuss about Carl Edwards’ late race restart that eventually helped Edwards win the race. Did he have a case to make and, if so, did NASCAR need to react?* <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span>: No and No. The leader always gets the jump on the restart, that's part of his reward. It's been that way for years at all different levels and types of racing. Jimmie would've and has done the same thing. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> Personally, I don't think Jimmie's got a point here. Carl led them down slow. Keselowski might have jumped the start, if anything. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: Jimmie's a whiner. Carl Edwards didn't do anything wrong. I agree with Jeff. He was the leader, he gets the advantage. I think Johnson got bamboozled and he didn't like it. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span>: Exactly. The leader always sets the pace on restarts. I've seen a lot worse than what Carl did. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> Edwards didn't do anything wrong. He had a huge shove from Keselowski from behind. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: And as far as if NASCAR should have done anything, absolutely not. The more NASCAR can let these guys just freaking race, the better. It wasn't obvious enough for them to react. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> I have no problem with what happened here. In fact, it wasn't even really noticeable to me. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span>: Me neither during the race. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> The green flag was out when Edwards went. If anyone jumped, it was Keselowski, but since he didn't pass anyone, it's all good. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: Edwards said he thought Johnson was trying to out-do _him,_ which - if you watch the restart - he was. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> As he should have, Summer. As they _both_ should have. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: That's what they should do. It's nothing but completely irritating when a driver bitches about another driver trying to beat him. What the hell do you think you're there for??? <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> That's why it's called racing. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span>: Edwards is experienced enough to see that and not get taken advantage of. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: It might have worked on a rookie driver, yes, but you're right. It's not like Edwards is new at this. If Edwards had crowded Johnson out of his lane or something like that, he'd have a reason to be upset. Otherwise, Jimmie needs to shut up and race. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> \"Quit your whining and have at it,\" is what I'd say to Johnson here. It was going to be tough for him anyway because he was on the outside. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span>: Edwards wasn't about to let a desperately needed win slip away. I think it was just a little politicking by Jimmie. Not really a big deal. The Hendrick drivers are perceived to get enough breaks as it is. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: Mind games. That makes sense. At the same time, does it really intimidate drivers when he whines? …

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NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Phoenix-1

<div style=\"margin: 20px; width: 275px; float: left; border: 0px solid black; padding: 3px\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/1952.gif\" border=\"0\" alt=\"Frontstretch Power Rankings\" width=\"206\" height=\"202\" /></div><div><div><div>The backflip is back! Carl Edwards survived a green-white-checkered finish and broke a 70-race winless streak in Phoenix to capture his first win since Las Vegas in 2011. Ironically, this is the same track Edwards broke his first 70-race winless streak at, back in November 2010.&nbsp;</div><div><br /></div><div>Tire wear was the major story leaving Phoenix as a majority of cautions were a result of right-front tire failures. Those among the victims included Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick, who both fell out of the race from damage due to blown Goodyears.</div><div><br /></div><div>Also a top story was track position. Early leaders Mark Martin, Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne were strong throughout the first half of the race, but Martin and Kahne couldn&rsquo;t recover after falling back into traffic due to ill-handling race cars. Edwards was the only one of that trio to finish inside the top 15. &nbsp;</div><div><br /></div><div>In the end, the cream rose to the top. Nine of the top-10 finishers Sunday were in the top 10 in the final 2012 point standings. It&rsquo;s still early in the season but Jimmie, Brad and Junior are making statements. Did Carl Edwards&#39; victory help propel him up the rankings? Or does Jimmie Johnson reign supreme with back-to-back top-2 finishes? Read on to find out:</div><div>&nbsp;</div></div><div><strong>How The Rankings Are Calculated</strong>: Frontstretch does our power rankings somewhat similar to how the Associated Press does them for basketball or football – our expert stable of NASCAR writers, both on staff and from other major publications 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, Michael Mehedin calculates the points, adds some funny one-liners, and … here you go!</div></div><table border=\"0\"><tbody></tbody></table><table border=\"0\" cellspacing=\"4\" cellpadding=\"0\" bgcolor=\"#a0a0a0\"><tbody><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td colspan=\"4\" align=\"center\"><strong>FRONTSTRETCH TOP 15 POWER RANKINGS: March 6th</strong></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td><strong>Rank</strong></td><td><strong>Driver (First Place Votes)</strong></td><td><strong>Votes</strong> </td><td align=\"right\"><strong>Last Week</strong></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>1</strong></td><td><strong>Jimmie Johnson (10)</strong></td><td align=\"right\">219</td><td align=\"right\">1</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Appears that Johnson is in &ldquo;Chase Mode&rdquo; mode a little early this year. <em>Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>2</strong></td><td><strong>Brad Keselowski</strong></td><td align=\"right\">199</td><td align=\"right\">2</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Don&rsquo;t look now but the champ is looking like he&rsquo;s ready to make five-time earn number six. <em>Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>3</strong></td><td><strong>Dale Earnhardt, Jr. </strong></td><td align=\"right\">194</td><td align=\"right\">3</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Two good races on totally different tracks, a good sign for Junior Nation. <em>Jeff Wolfe, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>4</strong></td><td><strong>Denny Hamlin</strong></td><td align=\"right\">168</td><td align=\"right\">7</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">BONZAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIII!!!!! <em>Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>5</strong></td><td><strong>Clint Bowyer </strong></td><td align=\"right\">163</td><td align=\"right\">5</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Happy with a solid, sixth-place performance, but probably would have preferred that finish a lot more the last time the series visited the desert. <em>Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>6</strong></td><td><strong>Matt Kenseth</strong></td><td align=\"right\">152</td><td align=\"right\">6</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Matt showed what TRD power can do without any issues. <em>Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>7</strong></td><td><strong>Carl Edwards</strong></td><td align=\"right\">150</td><td align=\"right\">NR</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Good to see the focus in the grandstands after the race was for a driver celebrating a win, not debris from an accident. <em>Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>8</strong></td><td><strong>Tony Stewart</strong></td><td align=\"right\">137</td><td align=\"right\">11</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">The boss had to prove that an SHR car could make it to the finish. <em>Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>9</strong></td><td><strong>Jeff Gordon</strong></td><td align=\"right\">135</td><td align=\"right\">9</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Could see Clint Bowyer at the end of the race but couldn&rsquo;t get close enough to dump him again. <em>Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>10</strong></td><td><strong>Greg Biffle</strong></td><td align=\"right\">128</td><td align=\"right\">4</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">The rollercoaster that is Biffle&rsquo;s season is heading towards hill number two. <em>Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>11</strong></td><td><strong>Kevin Harvick</strong></td><td align=\"right\">100</td><td align=\"right\">13</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Hoping the entire &ldquo;baby in the car&rdquo; during pre-race has been put to bed, <em>Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>12</strong></td><td><strong>Kasey Kahne (1)</strong></td><td align=\"right\">89</td><td align=\"right\">10</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Kasey continues to dig a hole much like he did in 2012. On the positive side, the hole isn&rsquo;t as big as it was this time last year. <em>Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>13</strong></td><td><strong>Mark Martin</strong></td><td align=\"right\">74</td><td align=\"right\">14</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Fondly recalls the days when four new tires made your car faster than those competitors that opted for only two. <em>Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>14</strong></td><td><strong>Kyle Busch</strong></td><td align=\"right\">60</td><td align=\"right\">8</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">The natural flow of Sunday&rsquo;s race guaranteed that the early spin would keep him from being able to record a decent finish. <em>Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>15</strong></td><td><strong>Aric Almirola</strong></td><td align=\"right\">58</td><td align=\"right\">NR</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">It will be a while before Aric is considered a threat for anything, but sitting ninth in points after two races is a good start. <em>Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\"><strong>Dropped Out</strong>: Danica Patrick (15), Ryan Newman (12) </td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\"><strong>Others Receiving Votes</strong>:&nbsp;Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (52), Jeff Burton (43), Ryan Newman (39), AJ Allmendinger (27), Marcos Ambrose (27), Martin Truex, Jr. (23), Juan Pablo Montoya (21), Kurt Busch (15), Joey Logano (14), Paul Menard (11), Casey Mears (6), J.J. Yeley (3), Danica Patrick (2), Bobby Labonte (1).</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\"><strong>Who Voted</strong>: <a href=\"http://twitter.com/Critic84\">Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com</a>; <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/NASCARBowles\">Tom Bowles, Frontstretch.com</a>; <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/KellyCrandall%22\">Kelly Crandall, SpeedwayMedia.com</a>; <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/dustinlong\">Dustin Long, Athlon Sports</a>; <a href=\"http://twitter.com/tonylumbis\">Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com</a>; <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/MikeyMehedin\">Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com</a>; <a href=\"http://www.facebook.com/RaceTalkRadio\">Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com</a>; Brad Morgan, Frontstretch.com; <a href=\"http://www.facebook.com/MNeffshorttracj\">Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com</a>; <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/surfwax83\">Kevin Rutherford, Frontstretch.com</a>; <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/jeffwolfe206\">Jeff Wolfe, Frontstretch.com</a>.</td></tr></tbody></table>

Top Ten Things Ryan Newman Was Thinking As He Walked Away From His Phoenix Crash

<div style=\"float:right; width:250px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/14463.jpg\" width=\"250\" height=\"390\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">I can't believe I thought it would be cool to try and grow a beard like Jimmie's! This stubble itches something fierce under the helmet–must shave now!</p></div> *10.* Oh, well…. at least now I can check on my fantasy racing league. *9.* Man, all those free Bloomin' Onions are still weighing me down. *8.* I swear the GPS said to turn right. *7.* One of my cows just had another calf. I gotta hurry and get home to see how they are doing. *6.* Somebody said something about a fight going on back here. Where is it? *5.* This gives me a chance to show off my sponsors a little more. Please re-up. Please! *4.* Where the heck did I see that Port a Potty? *3.* This NASCAR green movement is taking things a bit far… *2.* Who thought it would be funny to put the rattlesnakes from the hill under my seat? *1.* I'm no Clint Bowyer, but I can move pretty fast, too! \"Contact the Frontstretch Staff\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/14345/

Jeb Burton Driver Diary: Daytona Success, Goals and Extended Breaks

_Welcome to Jeb Burton’s Driver Diary! After running a handful of Camping World Truck Series races last season before a lack of sponsorship sidelined him, the 20-year-old has signed on to run the full season with Turner Scott Motorsports behind the wheel of the No. 4 Chevrolet. In five races last season, Burton posted a lone top-10 finish (eighth at Charlotte) and has already bettered that with a fifth-place at Daytona to start off 2013. Join in all season long as he keeps you up to date on everything happening both on and off the track._

I started racing Motocross and I did that and won some races. I realized my talent was better on four wheels than two, so I took it to go-karts and succeeded very well at it. Then we went on to Late Models and I ran really well. We figured it was time to go to the next level, got some time and ran well in the Truck Series (in 2012). I knew I could do it then and I’m with a great organization now – it’s time to win races now.