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Hamlin in hunt with statement win

<p> Denny Hamlin is riding a wave of momentum in NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup, but it's Jimmie Johnson that slips into the top spot in Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings.</p>

1. Jimmie Johnson
Johnson, Chad Kanus and the boys have methodically clicked off consecutive second-place finishes to begin the Chase. Next up is Dover, where the 48 dominated in June. Last week: 2

2. Brad Keselowski
Much of the talk since Sunday’s New Hampshire event has centered on Denny Hamlin being Johnson’s biggest threat. Oh, how quickly we forget about Keselowski’s big win in Chicago. Last week: 1

3. Denny Hamlin
Hamlin has certainly earned a spot among the elite on this list. However, mistakes like running out of fuel in Chicago and the tire pressure issue during qualifying in Loudon raise red flags. Last week: 3

4. Clint Bowyer
Hasn’t shown the pop of the preceding three, but neither has anyone else. That said, Bowyer is rolling along with consecutive runs of first, 10th and fourth. Last week: 5

5. Kasey Kahne
Kahne has come out firing in the Chase with a pair of top-5 runs. Unfortunately for the 5 team, it hasn’t shown the speed to keep up with the team housed in the same complex. Last week: 6

6. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Junior, who has enjoyed a top-5 ranking in the standings all season, suddenly finds himself stuck in seventh since the Chase reset — and 26 points in the hole to Johnson. Last week: 4

7. Jeff Gordon
Gordon’s last five races: Third, second, second, stuck throttle, third. The problem? That stuck throttle resulted in a 35th-place bomb and has the team wondering what could have been. Last week: 8

8. Tony Stewart
Stewart’s average finish in the four races preceding Richmond: 25.0. Since: 5.6. Funny how since the Chase came into play, he’s abandoned the summer for the fall. Last week: 7

9. Kevin Harvick
Harvick’s finishing position has improved from 12.3 to 9.5 since Gil Martin was brought back as the crew chief. That’s nice, but at this rate it’s not going to win a championship. Last week: 11

10. Matt Kenseth
A noticable drop in performance within the Ford camp finds Kenseth — who spent the majority of the regular season in the top 3 in the standings — reeling near the bottom of the Chase. Last week: 10

11. Martin Truex Jr.
Will have to do better than ninth- and 17th-place runs if he’s to keep the dream alive. Last week: 9

12. Ryan Newman
In hindsight, wrecks at Atlanta and Bristol may be what’s keeping the 39 team from contending. Last week: 13

13. Greg Biffle
See: Kenseth, Matt. Last week: 12

14. Kyle Busch
After leading 48 laps in Loudon the engine went sour. That was almost too easy to predict. Last week: 14

15. Paul Menard
Nothing flashy here, as Menard chugs along averaging a 14.9-place finish throughout the season. Last week: NR

Just off the lead pack: Carl Edwards, Sam Hornish Jr., Joey Logano, Mark Martin, Brian Vickers


by Matt Taliaferro
Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro
 

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