March 11, 2013

Magic Mile Power Rankings

Week 3 - Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Three weeks in and we've already had three different drivers steer three difference Gen-6 manufacturers to Victory Lane. Matt Kenseth, who turned 41 on Sunday, celebrated in style by becoming just the third driver to take the checkers on his birthday.

It was an impressive win for Kenseth, who had a strong car the first two weeks of the season, but wasn't able to finish it off. This time, Kenseth outraced Kasey Kahne (arguably the best car on the track all day) to the finish line for his third-career LVMS victory - his first in Sin City since 2004.

Here's a look at the Magic Mile Power Rankings* heading into Week 4 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday:

(Getty Images)
1. Brad Keselowski - The reigning champ received a little luck when qualifying was rained out on Friday. On the pole for Sunday's race, Keselowski faded and fell as far as 13th midway through the race. But like a true championship team, the Blue Deuce found speed late and earned his third top-five in as many races, this one a third-place finish. What championship hangover?
Previous ranking: Second, +1
Consecutive Weeks in MMPR: 3

2. Jimmie Johnson - The guy wins the Daytona 500, is a runner-up at Phoenix and falls out of the top spot because he finishes sixth in Vegas? Well, yeah. This list is as much about consistency as it is anything and while Five Time was impressive for the third straight week, Keselowski was just a little bit better. Look, if there was a 1 and 1A Johnson would certainly be it. But there's not, so ... oh well.
Previous ranking: First, -1
Consecutive Weeks in MMPR: 3

3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - It's been a great start for Junior, who hasn't been flashy, but has been consistent, joining BK and JJ as the only drivers to crack the top-10 in all three races so far this season. Qualifying has been Junior's biggest issue, as his P-12 start at Vegas was his best all year - and that was only because of where he finished in points last year.
Previous ranking: Third, --
Consecutive Weeks in MMPR: 3

4. Carl Edwards - It's been a quick ascent up the Magic Mile Power Rankings for Cousin Carl. That's what a win and a top-five will do for you. Edwards followed up his first win in 70 races with a fifth-place finish at Vegas. He never led a lap on Sunday, but also never fell out of the top 10 over the final 230 laps. An impressive day to say the least.
Previous ranking: Ninth, +5
Consecutive Weeks in MMPR: 2

5. Denny Hamlin - Much like his JGR teammate (Kenseth), Hamlin has had a car that looked like it could win a race at any one of the first three stops. But it was another missed opportunity for our defending SYLVANIA 300 winner. Yet, despite all of the off-track distractions last week, he was still able to run near the front all day before falling to 15th.
Previous ranking: Fifth, --
Consecutive Weeks in MMPR: 3

6. Matt Kenseth - Let's be honest, Kenseth likely would have already been on this list had he not blown an engine at Daytona. But that bad luck has done little to knock Kenseth off course. With Chevrolet and Ford picking up wins at Daytona and Phoenix, respectively, Kenseth gave Toyota its first Gen-6 victory on Sunday. Not bad for the newly turned 41-year-old.
Previous ranking: Not ranked
Consecutive Weeks in MMPR: 1

7. Greg Biffle -  To say that the Biff's back-to-back 17th-place finishes are surprising, is certainly an understatement. Especially when you consider that Biffle had the fastest car during a testing session at LVMS earlier last week. Currently eighth in the standings, Biffle hasn't raced himself out of contention this early, but there is cause for concern.
Previous ranking: Sixth, -1
Consecutive Weeks in MMPR: 3

8. Aric Almirola - Hardly mentioned at all on TV by commentators, Double A's efforts haven't gone unnoticed here at the Magic Mile. Almirola has been Richard Petty Motorsports's best chance at making the Chase since Kasey Kahne in 2008. Almirola has yet to score a top-10, but has placed 13th, 15th and 16th through three races, a formula that worked very well for Kevin Harvick last season.
Previous ranking: Eighth, --
Consecutive Weeks in MMPR: 2

9. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - The guy just goes about his business. An 18th-place finish is certainly nothing to write home about, but when you consider it was the rookie's worst finish so far this season, there has to be plenty to be excited about when it comes to the 17 car.
Previous ranking: Seventh, -2
Consecutive Weeks in MMPR: 3

10. Clint Bowyer - It was a tough day for Bowyer, who never had a car to contend with at Vegas despite starting on the front row. Hopefully this is just a speedbump for the 15 team, which has been one of NASCAR's most consistent dating back to the beginning of last year.
Previous ranking: Fourth, -6
Consecutive Weeks in MMPR: 3

Free Pass: Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch - Kahne led 114 laps and had the best car, while Busch had a great car at times and showed why he's earned the nickname Rowdy (just ask Kasey). Their stats are nearly identical through three races, so it was tough to make a case for just one here.

Dropped out of the MMPR: Jeff Gordon

*This list is comprised of drivers that compete in the Sprint Cup Series on full-time basis.

Previous Nos. 1
Week 1 - Jimmie Johnson
Week 2 - Jimmie Johnson

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