NASCAR Horsepower Rankings

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The Dynamic Duo Returns

The Dynamic Duo Returns

by Matt Taliaferro

1. Jimmie Johnson  Haven’t we seen this movie before? Summer turns to fall and the 48 team shifts into another gear that no one else has, and that it seemed to be hiding all along.

2. Carl Edwards  Edwards’ tough-it-out third- and fifth-place finishes the last two weeks are the type of performances that championships are made of. Dare we call them “Johnson-esque?”

3. Brad Keselowski  Keep doubting. Yes, this ranking may seem high, but Keselowski has averaged a 5.8-place finish since the Brickyard 400 in late July. Pressure just doesn’t seem to affect the kid.

4. Kevin Harvick  It’s hard to proclaim that the driver sitting second in the point standings (by one point, no less) is flying under the radar, but that argument could be made for Harvick. And that makes him all the more dangerous.

5. Matt Kenseth  Consecutive runs of sixth, fifth and fourth find Kenseth right in the middle of this fight. However, he’s already used his mulligan in a 21st-place, fuel-mileage run gone bad in Chicago, so staying on point is important from here on.

6. Tony Stewart  Smoke somehow salvaged a Chase-saving 15th-place run in Kansas, but his 25th the week prior will be the one that bites him. Not out yet, but like Kenseth, out of mulligans.

7. Kyle Busch  Despite reasonable finishes of 11th, sixth and 11th (offset by a 22nd) in the Chase, it feels like Kyle and the boys have quietly made their playoff disappearing act already.

8. Kurt Busch  All the guys on this list have Kurt to thank for poking the sleeping dog, as Jimmie Johnson is once again proving that he’s the one getting in others’ heads — not vice versa.

9. Jeff Gordon  Gordon and the 24 team could still post a win and some nice numbers going forward, but at 47 points out, it’s likely they’ll go into R&D mode in preparation for 2012.

10. Clint Bowyer  It seems Bowyer’s performance has improved since it became clear to him where he’ll be driving next year, as evidenced by three runs of eighth or better in the last four races.

11. Kasey Kahne  Probably should be ranked higher after four straight top 15s, but it’s hard to trust the organization.

12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  The hard fact is, on a day when fuel mileage stays out of the equation, the 88 is a 12th- to 16-place car.

13. Greg Biffle  It’s hard to pin this team down. They’re as capable — and likely — of running third as they are 27th.

14. Marcos Ambrose  Consecutive ninth-place runs here. Credit him for continuing to run hard when others may not be.

15. Ryan Newman  His supposed drop in performance during the Chase may speak to others dogging it late in the regular season.

Just off the lead pack: AJ Allmendinger, Denny Hamlin, Mark Martin, David Ragan, Martin Truex Jr.

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> Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus lead the 48 team back into the title hunt — and to the top of Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings — after a dominating win in the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.</p>
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