Posted: 3:39 p.m. Wednesday, June 5, 2013
By Jordan Bianchi
On the strength of his win at Dover, Tony Stewart makes his return to the weekly NASCAR power rankings, while Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth continue their jockeying for the No. 1 position.
1. Jimmie Johnson (Last week: 2)
Lost in the restart kerfuffle is the amazing transformation the 48 car went through from the beginning of the race to its conclusion. When the green flag waved on the FedEx 400, the Lowes Chevy was flat awful and even went a lap down at one point. And judging by the testiness on the radio between driver and crew chief, Dover had all the appearances of being a long afternoon. Yet with a few pit stops and key adjustments, there was Johnson in the lead en route to what should have been his third win of 2013.
2. Matt Kenseth (LW: 1)
The adage to finish first one must first finish seems an appropriate one for Kenseth, who for the second time this season lost an engine while comfortably in the lead. If there is a silver lining in the repeated engine failures, it's that there is plenty of time between now and the start of the Chase to address it. However, considering how long this issue has lingered, it's hard to be optimistic that Toyota can correct the problem.
3. Kevin Harvick (LW: 3)
In the beginning of the season the No. 29 team struggled to put together finishes. But judging by the four top-10s in the last five races, that issue has been resolved and Harvick quietly lurks at fourth overall.
4. Kyle Busch (LW: 7)
Dover was more of the same for Busch. It was the eighth time he has led over hundred laps in a race since the beginning of 2012 and the sixth time he's failed to win.
5. Clint Bowyer (LW: 5)
At no point Sunday was Bowyer satisfied with his car, and yet he still somehow finished sixth. The result was good enough to move him up to third in points, though he needs to win be taken seriously as a title contender.
6. Kasey Kahne (LW: 4)
Another race Kahne maybe should have won, but for one reason or another didn't. Also on the list of near-misses are runner-ups at Las Vegas, Kansas and Charlotte, in addition to late wrecks at Darlington and again Sunday at Dover.
7. Carl Edwards (LW: 6)
Let's all please stop referring to Edwards as "Concrete Carl," because the moniker is no longer apt. After all, it's been nearly five years since his last victory on a track with a concrete surface, and in races at Bristol and Dover this season he's finished 18th and 14th, respectively.
8. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 8)
Started 12th and finished 10th is all there really is to say about Earnhardt's Dover outing. Yeah, it was that uneventful.
9. Brad Keselowski (LW: 13)
The good news: Keselowski got his crew chief back and finished in the top five for the first time in nine races. The bad news: His car was too low in post-race tech and NASCAR docked him six points Tuesday.
10. Jeff Gordon (LW: 14)
A third at Dover continued the up-and-down nature that has defined Gordon's season, in which he has yet to string together consecutive top-10 finishes. We'll see if that can change at Pocono, where he won last August in a victory that saved what was a floundering season.
11. Kurt Busch (LW: 11)
The No. 78 car was fast in practice, and with Dover being the site of Busch's last Cup win, it wasn't far-fetched to think he would snap his winless streak Sunday. However, on long runs, that speed wasn't there and he had to fight just to finish 12th.
12. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 10)
Everything was seemingly coming together for Truex to snag career win No. 2 at the same place he scored his first Cup victory. Not only was Dover his home track, but he qualified second and was running a solid third when his Toyota engine expired prematurely. Alas, he finished 38th and dropped five spots in the standings to 14th.
13. Tony Stewart (Unranked)
Now with 48 Cup victories, Stewart is just two shy of becoming the 13th member of the exclusive 50-win club. He also now has won a race in 15 consecutive seasons, just three years behind Richard Petty's streak of 18 straight years with a victory.
14. Denny Hamlin (LW: 9)
All the good vibes from Hamlin's comeback came to a screeching halt when a tire failure sent him slamming into the wall. Consequently, he finished 34th and, more importantly, fell to 26th in the standings, 74 points out of 20th-place. Also not helping matters was Stewart winning, which throws up another roadblock in front of Hamlin's quest to make the Chase.
15. Juan Pablo Montoya (Unranked)
With top-10s in his last five starts and some tracks coming up where he is historically strong (Sonoma, Pocono), it sure appears that Montoya is peaking at the appropriate time.