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A new — if not predictable — leader
Jimmie Johnson ascends to the top in both Athlon Sports’ weekly Horsepower Rankings as well as NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup standings following a runner-up finish in last weekend’s Price Chopper 400 from Kansas Speedway.
1. Jimmie Johnson Jimmie’s weekend: Overheat the engine and qualify 21st, spin in practice, drop to 30-something early in race, make adjustments, don’t panic, drive through field, finish second. Vintage.
2. Kevin Harvick Harvick was nearly as impressive, qualifying 24th (typical), tinkering with the car through the first half of the race (as usual) and sneaking in under-the-radar for a third-place finish (just like they drew it up).
3. Carl Edwards With Edwards sitting just 53 points out of first in the standings, people are starting to whisper that a winless champion may, in fact, be a possibility. Whether or not that’s a good thing is another question.
4. Denny Hamlin Breezed through the two trackd he was worried about (New Hampshire and Dover), but stumbled at one where he expected to run well.
5. Jeff Gordon Consistency only gets you so far. Case in point: Gordon, with zero wins but 11 top 5s, sits fifth in the point standings, trailing drivers that total 15 wins. And Carl Edwards.
6. Kyle Busch Live by the sword, die by the sword.
7. Tony Stewart Fourth-place run at Kansas shows this team can still get it done, but its feast or famine nature has all but eliminated it from title contention.
8. Greg Biffle Led the Roush contingent with a big win in Kansas. There’s four more big intermediates left in the Chase, meaning Biffle can’t be totally written off just yet.
9. Ryan Newman Had he squeaked in the Chase, Newman would be seventh right now, about 71 points back. Makes you wonder how legal Bowyer’s car was (or wasn’t) at Richmond.
10. Jeff Burton 18th at Kansas really hurts Burton’s team (101 points out), which relies more on consistent finishes than wins.
11. Kurt Busch Title-winning formula does not consist of a fourth-place finish sandwiched between a pair of 13ths.
12. Matt Kenseth The 26 laps he led at Kansas were the first he’d enjoyed since the middle of June. How was it he made the playoffs again?
13. Clint Bowyer Seemed to run in the mid-20s most of the day at Kansas, but somehow rebounded late to salvage a 15th-place showing.
14. AJ Allmendinger This team is coming on late in the season with runs of eighth, 12th and two 10ths. Should be interesting to see if this carries over into 2011.
15. Jamie McMurray If a non-Chaser is going to score a Chase win, this should be the guy. Jamie mc has runs of third, 13th and 11th going with Talladega on the horizon.
Just off the lead pack: Joey Logano, Mark Martin, Paul Menard, Juan Pablo Montoya, Martin Truex Jr.