Welcome to the Inside Track's NASCAR Power Rankings. Each week of the Sprint Cup season, the Gazette's Jeremiah Davis will rank the series' top 10 drivers.
Think the list should be different? Tweet him at @jeremiahdavis10, or comment in the comments section.
New this week: Denny Hamlin
Dropped out: Carl Edwards
|1||--||Jimmie Johnson||2||Reason No. 7,435 why Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus are the best driver-crew chief combo ever: most teams who get their right front fender caved in like that maybe make it back for a top 10 or top 15. The No. 48 was in the hunt for the win in the final stages through car repair and strategy adjustments. Incredible.|
|2||+4||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||2||Since 2011, Dale Jr. has had a handful of wins slip through the cracks - 2011 Coca-Cola 600, 2012 Kansas, 2014 Vegas come to mind - so Sunday felt like he had one coming to him. He and Steve Letarte are the closest to perfectly in-sync as is possible (see above), and they're not done winning. He's my pick at Michigan.|
|3||-1||Kevin Harvick||2||Uncle. Oklahoma. Whatever, this bunch is waving the white flag on whatever bad luck demons are torturing them this season. Harvick should probably have four or five wins already, done in by mistakes and luck. At some point, it starts to wear on a team and it could unravel. It'll be interesting to watch how the summer unfolds.|
|4||+3||Brad Keselowski||1||He's even this year on wins gifted and taken away, from his Vegas victory to Sunday. He had no good options late in the race with the trash blocking the grille - either blow it up and lose, or give up the lead and lose. A loss like that is the kind that will motivate a guy like him tremendously, and he's at his home track this week.|
|5||-2||Jeff Gordon||1||Was never a huge factor, but hung in the top 10 all race long. More importantly - we didn't hear about his back issues once this week. The longer we go without those flare-ups, the more likely it is we'll be talking about Gordon being in the hunt for that still-elusive fifth championship.|
His engine sure picked a bad time to go sour, losing oil pressure with 10 laps to go - on a restart, no less. Before that, he'd been having a now-typical Logano day at Pocono, racing in the top five and challenging for the win. He won the last time the Cup series was at Michigan, a home game for he and his teammate.
|7||-3||Matt Kenseth||0||Just a crappy day Sunday, one not indicative of how his team has run the last few weeks. I find it hard to believe he won't get a win this summer, let alone before the Chase begins. He has to have Kentucky and New Hampshire circled in that regard, which are three and four races away.|
|8||--||Kyle Busch||1||Looking at the results, I did a double-take when I saw Busch ended up 12th after everything that happened to and around him Sunday at Pocono. His old frustrated attitude has reared its head the last couple weeks - more warranted at Dover, obviously - and that's not a great thing.|
|9||+1||Kyle Larson||1||Once he learned how to shift - he admitted to missing a few shifts early in the race - the kid absolutely wheeled it to a top-five finish Sunday. I'm confident he makes the Chase, and likely with a win, the way he's been running. His year has been very impressive, especially considering he's at the fourth best Chevy team.|
|10||N/R||Denny Hamlin||1||Hamlin finally feels like a true contender each week, after a fifth at Dover and a pole and fourth-place finish at Pocono. He doesn't feel like a real threat for the title yet, but I'll get back to you at the end of summer on that. The next couple weeks could be big, with Michigan and Daytona good places for him.|
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