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Mustache and mullet jokes need not apply
by Matt Taliaferro
1. Jimmie Johnson Two runner-up finishes in the last three races but no wins since Talladega in April. It’s almost Chase time, though, and Johnson finds himself leading the pack (albeit in a controlled four-wheel drift) as September begins. Surprise, surprise.
2. Jeff Gordon Win No. 85 was a hard-fought victory for Gordon, and possibly one of the best finishes this season. The 24 team is going to be hard to handle in the playoffs. (Sorry folks, no ‘stache and mullet jokes. There’s plenty of those hack jobs on every other power ranking post this week.)
3. Kyle Busch The handle on Kyle’s car went away prior to halfway at Atlanta and never came back. After three consecutive top-3 runs at Pocono, the Glen and Bristol, the 18 team has showings of 14th and 23rd. Will rebound at RIR.
4. Brad Keselowski The “Top 3 Streak” came to an end, but Keselowski still stood strong, notching a sixth at Atlanta. His average finish over the last six races is 2.8.
5. Carl Edwards It’s hard not to figure the 99 team has been in R&D mode. That may be over, though, after Carl turned up the heat at AMS, duking it out with the leaders all day and finishing fifth.
6. Matt Kenseth Kenseth makes for a popular sleeper Chase pick but he’s straight faded in the closing laps the last two weeks and that can’t happen in the Chase.
7. Ryan Newman Newman was more or less out to lunch at Atlanta after seven pretty nice looking performances. We’ll chalk it up to not being able to have a good day every day.
8. Denny Hamlin Denny would have to choke harder at Richmond than he did in last year’s Chase to miss the playoffs. Yeah, that’s harsh but it’s the truth.
9. Kurt Busch Like the little girl with the curl, Kurt can be very, very good or very, very bad. Problem is, that doesn’t translate into Chase success.
10. Kevin Harvick After back-to-back 22nd-place finishes, Harvick and the boys rebound with a respectable seventh at AMS. Still, something is amiss here.
11. Dale Earnhardt Jr. He’ll probably make the Chase, but at this rate that’s about all you can expect.
12. Tony Stewart Finally broke out of a nasty slump with a big third-place showing at Atlanta. More should follow. Should.
13. Martin Truex Jr. He keeps showing flashes of brilliance but just can’t finish like the big boys.
14. AJ Allmendinger Somehow ranks 13th in the standings. Probably because that’s about where he finishes each week.
15. Clint Bowyer If you were at work, YouTube his comments about Juan Pablo Montoya. Classic.
Just off the lead pack: Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, Paul Menard
Agree with Matt’s rankings? Disagree? Post a comment below and tell him how you feel. You can also follow Matt on Twitter @MattTaliaferro