Power Rankings: Joey Logano’s scramble keeps him atop the standings
Our Power Rankings are far from a scientific formula. In fact, it’s the perfect blend of analytics and bias against your favorite driver. And you think we dislike your favorite driver, so it makes sense, right? Direct all your complaints to us at happyhourmailb[email protected]
1. Joey Logano (LW: 1): Logano had the Chase flash before his eyes at Texas. Hell, with 40 laps to go, he was the biggest Chase story of the race. Instead, he was an afterthought. But don’t let the fight cloud the recovery he made. Logano first fell back because of a slow pit stop caused by an extra set of tires. How? NASCAR gave all teams an extra set of tires, and since the No. 22 team had been pitting a lot, it used the tires on lap 295. However, the glue didn’t have time to set and the lugnuts fell off the wheel. Then Logano cut a tire and spun, causing a caution. His team put scuffs on the car and thanks to the stop-and-start nature of the last 30 laps, fought back to finish 12th and end up tied for the points lead.
2. Ryan Newman (LW: 3): Speaking of comebacks, Newman had one too. He had to pit late because of contact with Matt Kenseth that caused a tire rub and he went from being one of the last cars on the lead lap to finishing 15th. It’s an unfair finish for Newman, who had a top-10 car for most of the day and could unsurprisingly be the points leader if it wasn’t for the run-in with Kenseth. With the exception of a crash in February 2013, Newman has finished 21st or better at Phoenix since the repave and was seventh earlier this season. Oh, we’d also be remiss to not mention Newman’s quote about the debris cautions at Texas too. The first seven yellow flags were for debris.
3. Denny Hamlin (LW: 5): Denny Downer was straight and to the point after the race. “We had a bad car,” Hamlin said. “We made the best of it. Other guys made mistakes. We weren’t really that good. Luckily other guys had problems. That’s what happened.”
Lighten up, dude. you’ve got the freaking points lead! Sure, it could be more, but you’ve got the freaking points lead. You control your own destiny at Phoenix and as long as you finish 11th (with no laps led), you’re moving on to Homestead with a shot at the title.
4. Jeff Gordon (LW: 2): As you know by now, Gordon’s result was not reflective of the performance he put in on Sunday. The restart he had on lap 325 was incredible, pinching Jimmie Johnson down to the white line and powering ahead down the backstretch. The race was his if it wasn’t for the crash of Clint Bowyer, which given the history between the two, may cause you to chuckle. It’s also worth wondering if the flared sideskirts on the Cup cars had anything to do with Gordon’s cut tire after bumping Keselowski. (Meaning that the sideskirt of Keselowski’s car acted like a dagger into Gordon’s tire) The contact looked innocuous, and in a perfect world, should be something that enhances competition instead of ruins it.
5. Kevin Harvick (LW: 6): Should we dock Harvick for inciting the fracas? If you thought that the kerfuffle between Kenseth and Keselowski at Charlotte was like professional wrestling, goodness, it was like a pay-per-view at Texas. Harvick serves as the guy to distract Keselowski and push him, giving Gordon the impetus to use his pent-up aggression and make a move because the first move had already been made. As far as the actual race goes, Harvick finished second, but he’s still eighth in the points standings, 18 points back of first.
6. Brad Keselowski (LW: 7): We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Keselowski did nothing wrong in going for the win like he did, even if Harvick claimed he couldn’t race Gordon and Johnson like Keselowski did. Roger Penske’s statement of support of Keselowski on Monday wasn’t surprising in the slightest, and let’s be honest, don’t you want all NASCAR drivers to go for the win when the opportunity arises? It’s also worth noting that the chances of any “payback” against Keselowski for events that have happened in the Chase seem slim until a driver is out of the Chase. There’s little point risking your Chase chances to fulfill a vendetta.
7. Matt Kenseth (LW: 4): Kenseth had a fast car in clean air, but when he got back in traffic, all was lost. He had a hangup on a pit stop that dropped him back in traffic and he never really made it back up. He then had another setback with the contact with Newman and finished 25th after a late pit stop. Crazily, Kenseth is tied for fifth in the points standings, a point out of fourth.
8. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 8): After finishing sixth, there’s no way Junior could have dropped in the rankings. So here he is. He was a top-15 car for most of the race but his car got faster at the end and he made his way towards the top five. If Junior wins at Homestead, where Hendrick tested recently, he’ll be the first driver to win the Daytona 500 to start the year and at Homestead to end it.
9. Carl Edwards (LW: 9): The man Kenseth is tied with? This guy. Edwards was stinking slow all day long at Texas, but got his lap back on a lap 297 caution. From then, he moved his way in the general direction of the front as calamity kept ensuing and finished ninth. It’s an incredibly surprising top 10, and while it’s not romantic or movie-worthy, it’s a comeback that will be a focus at Homestead media day if Edwards is in contention for the title.
10. Jimmie Johnson (LW: NR): From out of Power Rankings to back in the top 10 in a week. Chad Knaus said after the race that he and Johnson were set for 2015 together. Yes, there have been some rumors that the two could be parting ways, but we don’t have to worry about what would happen to NASCAR’s version of Captain and Tennille. And no, I don’t know who is Captain and who is Tennille in this situation. That’s for you to figure out.
11. Kyle Busch (LW: 10): Yes, we said that we couldn’t drop Junior after finishing sixth, so we realize that it’s patently unfair to drop Busch a spot after finishing fourth. But Johnson won the race, so we had to move him down. Should we just call it a tie for 10th? After losing a right-rear tire early in the race, Busch and team fought back incredibly well and he ended up in the top five. Not a bad closing effort for a car that Busch said was “a bag of everything” throughout the day.
12. Kyle Larson (LW: NR): Larson gets the final spot over Tony Stewart because he finished in the top 10. Stewart fell back to 11th on the final restart after fighting his car all day. So did Larson, but he ended up moving forward at the end. Larson’s amusement during his post-race press conference was priceless. As the highest-finishing rookie, he was obligated to go to the media center, but he was mesmerized by the scenes unfolding on pit road on the media center TVs.
Lucky Dog: Jamie McMurray used the high line throughout the race and closed like a maniac to finish fifth.
The DNF: Man, the end of the race for Kasey Kahne was just brutal.
Dropped Out: Allmendinger, Stewart
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Nick Bromberg is the editor of From The Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter!