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Edwards dumped out of the top spot

Edwards dumped out of the top spot

by Matt Taliaferro

1. Kevin Harvick  Harvick’s 2011 season is beginning to resemble his 2010 campaign. The new points leader rides consistency to the top spot with a few wins thrown in for good measure.

2. Kyle Busch  Not to hammer the “consistency” theme into the ground, but if there is such a thing as a “new” Kyle Busch, that’s what it’s being defined by.

3. Kurt Busch  Recovered from a late-race accident at Daytona to notch his seventh consecutive top-15 finish. Sits only 16 points out of the lead in the championship standings, to boot.

4. Carl Edwards  Runs of fifth and third are offset by an ugly pair of 37th-place showings for Edwards in the last four events. Every team has a slump of some size, and if this is the worst the 99 has coming, it isn’t that bad.

5. Matt Kenseth  Hendrick Motorsports should look to the Kenseth/David Ragan execution of team orders the next time the circuit hits a plate track.

6. Jeff Gordon  It was mentioned that Gordon’s job was to push Mark Martin to victory at Daytona. However, by the end of the night, it looked like an every-man-for-himself scenario.

7. Jimmie Johnson  Oh, to be a fly on the wall at Hendrick Motorsports’ weekly competition meeting. I wonder how Chad Knaus is going to explain that “dump the teammate and pit by ourselves” strategy.

8. Denny Hamlin  Went from second to 13th during the green-white-checker finale at Daytona. And did anyone else find his choice of drafting partner — Chevy’s Ryan Newman — peculiar?

9. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Looked to be a Chase lock just one month ago, but a three-race slide is raising doubts. A win would go a long way towards securing a playoff bid.

10. Clint Bowyer  For as good as Bowyer is at Talladega, he can’t seem to catch a break in Daytona. Like Earnhardt, a win would go a long way for a driver squarely on the Chase bubble.

11. Tony Stewart  Couldn’t make it four wins in Daytona’s July event. Settled for 11th instead.

12. Paul Menard  Being Harvick’s bitc … er, drafting buddy at Daytona pays off to the tune of an eighth-place run.

13. Brad Keselowski  David Ragan’s win may have hurt BK’s Chase chances but this team is trending in the right direction.

14. Joey Logano  Worked well with Kasey Kahne to scratch and claw his way to a third-place showing at DIS. Then he smiled real big.

15. Ryan Newman  From the lead to 23rd in the blink of two green-white-checker restarts. And Newman was the driver saying he felt he had more control over his own destiny with the two-car drafts.

Just off the lead pack: AJ Allmendinger, Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, David Ragan

Agree with Matt’s rankings? Disagree? Post a comment below and tell him how you feel. You can also follow Matt on Twitter @MattTaliaferro

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<p> Carl Edwards coulodn't hold off the pack forever. He's lost the top spot in Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings to the new NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader.</p>

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