March 3, 2014

Magic Mile Power Rankings: Phoenix




Race #2 – The Profit on CNBC 500
at Phoenix International Raceway

It may have lacked the excitement that the thrilling Daytona 500 offered in the first week, but Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway provided quite the setting for another driver that was looking to make his way into the Chase early.

Kevin Harvick had a rocket machine on Sunday, leading over 220 laps en route to his first win driving the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevy for Stewart Haas Racing. Harvick was dominant on restarts, new tires, old tires and on pit road, winning the second race of the season and clinching a spot as one of the 16 drivers to make this year’s newly formatted Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

So, how much did Harvick’s victory influence this week’s Magic Mile Power Rankings? Here's a look at the MMPR heading into Race 3 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday:


1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Nope. No budging from the perch for the 88. Once again, Junior had one of the strongest cars in the field. The Daytona 500 champ ran inside the top 5 for all but a handful of laps, yet maybe the biggest surprise of all was that at no time did Junior take the lead in the race.
Previous ranking: First, --

2. Brad Keselowski – It’s another strong start out of the gates for Bad Brad, who is hoping this year turns out a lot better than last. Keselowski was arguably the best driver during first eight races of last season, but struggled through the middle portion of the schedule before closing strong. Like Earnhardt, Keselowski was a top-five car all day at Phoenix, but like Junior never really threatened despite sitting on the pole.
Previous ranking: Third, +1

3. Jimmie Johnson – Six-Time ran inside the top-10 all afternoon, but like most of the field couldn’t find a way to catch Harvick. The sixth-place finish had a lot to do with strong driving, but the strategy of Crew Chief Chad Knaus can’t be ignored either. It was the kind of day we’ve grown accustomed to when it comes to the 48 team.
Previous ranking: Fourth, +1

4. Kevin Harvick – Simply a dominating performance for Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 car. Harvick led 224 laps, the fourth time in his career he’s led 200-plus laps in a race. He also won for the third time in the last four races at the Arizona raceway. And he did it in impressive fashion, winning every restart over the final half two-thirds of the race. Oh, and he made the Chase to boot.
Previous ranking: NR

5. Jeff Gordon – Maybe he wasn’t deserving of such a low ranking last week, but he was very deserving of his leap up after joining Junior and Keselowski as the only drivers to score top-fives in the first two races of the season. Gordon fell back as far as 14th with 40 laps to go, but drove hard and put himself in position to make a move in the final 10-15 laps. Dude’s on a mission.
Previous ranking: Ninth, +4

6. Joey Logano – Sneaking into the MMPR last week, Logano was a contender all day on Sunday. He ran no worse than third over the first 235 laps – leading 71 of them – and drove the wheels off the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford in an effort to beat Harvick on the restarts. It just wasn’t to be.
Previous ranking: 10th, +4

7. Denny Hamlin – The 11 cooled off in the latter portion of the race. It wasn’t the strong finish Hamlin likely hoped for after finishing first, second and third in consecutive races from 2012-13. Previous ranking: Second, -5

8. Matt Kenseth – After a disastrous trip to Phoenix last November (finishing 23rd and ending any realistic chances to catch Johnson in the Chase), the 20 team has to be happy driving out with a 12th-place finish. That said, there’s still a lot of room for improvement.
Previous ranking: Fifth, -3

9. Ryan NewmanIt was a seventh-place finish for the first-year Richard Childress Racing pilot, but overall it was a strong race for Newman. One of the few drivers to fall back and work his way to the front, Newman made a lot of passes, something that not many were able to do on Sunday.
Previous ranking: NR

10. Carl EdwardsTo be honest, there’s a handful of drivers that could have cracked the top 10 this week. But like Logano last week, let’s roll with Edwards, who led a lap and showed an ability to drive passed cars on a day that was otherwise very much a follow-the-leader race.
Previous ranking: NR

Wave Around: Casey Mears – Not a bad pair of races to start the season for Mears, who followed up his 10th-place finish at Daytona with a 14th at Phoenix..

Out of MMPR: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon, Greg Biffle

Previous MMPR No. 1s
Week 1 – Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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

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