NASCAR Cup Series
Power Rankings: The Fast Fifteen
By Matt Weaver – Two championship battles remained close over the weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, despite the largely uneventful racing that precluded it.
Between the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series, four championship-winning drivers kept their NASCAR title hopes alive with competitive runs at their home track and the Fast 15 Power Rankings have been updated to reflect those battles.
The complete list can be found below.
1. Matt Kenseth (LW: 2)
Just when it appeared that Jimmie Johnson had all the momentum, Kenseth swooped in and finished above his rival in a race that the No. 48 team appeared destined to win.
2. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 1)
When considering that Johnson very well should have won on Saturday at Charlotte, the Bank of America 500 could be a defeat that lingers and derails the 48 team’s shot for a sixth championship.
3. Kevin Harvick (LW: 3)
Harvick did everything he could just to hold serve with Johnson and Kenseth. You can’t fault a driver for finishing sixth but it’s not enough to make up championship ground.
4. Kyle Busch (LW: 8)
A top-5 race was the near-perfect way to rebound after Shrub’s disastrous crash at Kansas Speedway. Now Busch is left hoping that a similar fate befalls both Johnson and Kenseth over the final five races.
5. Jeff Gordon (LW: 4)
Like Harvick, Gordon’s seventh-place finish at Charlotte is good but not good enough when those ahead of him in the standings are continually scoring more points.
6. Carl Edwards (LW: 9)
A Chase of what could have been continues for Carl Edwards. The accident at Dover mars what otherwise has been a good playoff for the No. 99 team with finishes of 11th, 9th, 35th, 5th and a 10th at Charlotte. At 67 points back, he’s likely racing to earn momentum heading into next season.
7. Clint Bowyer (LW: 11)
Bowyer’s relatively silent Chase continues with an 11th place at Charlotte. It’s not terrible and might even be ideal considering all the negative press surrounding Michael Waltrip Racing.
8. Kurt Busch (LW: 5)
It was the status quo for Kurt Busch’s Chase at Charlotte. Consistently fast in practice and qualifying but just doesn’t seem to be capable of putting it all together at the end of a race.
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 6)
What looked like another chance for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to return to Victory Lane was spoiled late in the Bank of America 500 as the No. 88 led laps but ultimately finished P15 when track conditions changed the feel of the car.
10. Brad Keselowski (LW: NR)
Back on the map with his first victory of the season, Brad Keselowski could be poised to go on a tear and play spoiler for the championship Chasers.
11. Joey Logano (LW: 7)
12. Austin Dillon (LW: 13)
Momentum is firmly in the 2011 Truck Series champion’s side. Could the Nationwide Series crown be next?
13. Kasey Kahne (LW: NR)
The No. 5 team finally hit the mark in the Chase with a positive result. Their second-place finish was remarkably their first top-10 of the season but it wasn’t even enough to get Kahne out of the Chase cellar.
14. Greg Biffle (LW: NR)
The Biff finished 16th on Saturday night at Charlotte. With an average finish of 15.5 and no DNFs, Biffle appears to be maximizing the most of his equipment without overdriving the car. He’ll get his day sooner than later.
15. Sam Hornish Jr. (LW: NR)
Leading laps, running up front and scoring podiums is a sign that Sam Hornish Jr. can remain in the championship battle but he cannot afford to give up points and possible wins like he did late on Friday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. With three races remaining, the Nationwide Series championship will come down to the wire.