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Tony Stewart leads NASCAR Power Rankings after Fontana

Fontana Power Rankings

Rain shortened Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race, but it won't shorten this week's Power Rankings. The latest edition delves into a pressing debate: What is more meaningful, wins or top-10 finishes?

Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle present an interesting contrast. Biffle leads in points with three third-place finishes, a sixth-place result and a 13th-place finish in the season's first five races. Stewart is fourth in points after scoring his second victory of the season at Auto Club Speedway, but has just two top-10 finishes. Stewart finished 16th at Daytona after getting caught in a couple of late wrecks, 22nd at Phoenix after his engine wouldn't re-fire in an effort to conserve fuel and 14th at Bristol.

So what matters more: winning or consistency? The early answer, and the Power Rankings, are below.

 
1
Tony Stewart
2012 Wins: 2
2012 Top-10s: 2
The goal in racing is to win. Thus, victories mean more than consistency, and, though his advantage over Biffle is narrow, Stewart moves to No. 1 in the Power Rankings. The pendulum swings in Stewart's favor because his victories came at Las Vegas and Fontana, Calif., locations in which horsepower and aerodynamics matter. That's significant, as those are the type of tracks that dominate the Chase.
 
2
Greg Biffle
2012 Wins: 0
2012 Top-10s: 4
Four top-six finishes in the first five races demonstrate the strength of Biffle's team. If it weren't for Stewart's win at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday, Biffle would remain at No. 1. And he very well could reclaim the top spot if he can continue his torrid pace. He'll have a chance with the series heading to Martinsville this week. Biffle has two top-10 finishes in 18 Cup starts there.
 
3
Kevin Harvick
2012 Wins: 0
2012 Top-10s: 3
A fourth-place finish at California continues Harvick's steady run, as he hasn't finished worse than 11th in the season's first five races. That streak should continue at Martinsville. He won the spring race there last year.
 
4
Denny Hamlin
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 2
Hamlin won the pole at California, but lost a potential second-place finish after he came in to pit during the caution for rain. He exited in 11th, but the rain continued and the race promptly ended. Still, a strong performance all weekend following back-to-back 20th-place finishes at Las Vegas and Bristol bodes well for future races. Now he heads to Martinsville, where he's historically fared well.
 
5
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2012 Wins: 0
2012 Top-10s: 3
Imagine this scenario for a moment: Earnhardt wins at Martinsville to break his winless drought and deliver Hendrick Motorsports its 200th career Cup victory, scoring it on a track that has been marked by triumph and tragedy for the team. Earnhardt finished second in the spring race, losing the lead to Harvick in the final laps. Can he seal the deal this time around?
 
6
Jimmie Johnson
2012 Wins: 0
2012 Top-10s: 4
Since being eliminated in a lap two crash in the Daytona 500, Johnson has placed fourth, second, ninth and 10th, respectively. And Sunday's gift of a finish -- oil leaked from his car as rain cut the race short -- could be a telling omen. That's the way it goes. Sometimes fortune is on your side, and sometimes it isn't.
 
7
Matt Kenseth
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 2
A ho-hum 16th-place finish marked Kenseth's day at Auto Club Speedway. He said afterward: "We just missed it. I thought we were going to be pretty good and we just never really were that great.''
 
8
Martin Truex Jr.
2012 Wins: 0
2012 Top-10s: 3
Truex's eighth-place finish on Sunday gives him back-to-back top-10s, and he hasn't finished worse than 17th (Las Vegas) yet this season. This team thought it could have finished better at Vegas, and showed its resolve at Auto Club Speedway. Now the key is to keep the momentum rolling and begin to challenge for victories.
 
9
Ryan Newman
2012 Wins: 0
2012 Top-10s: 2
A seventh-place finish last weekend constituted Newman's third consecutive finish of 12th or better. He's performed well on high horsepower tracks, placing fourth at Las Vegas and seventh at California.
 
10
John Middlebrook
2012 Appeals Heard: 2
2012 Rescinded Penalties: 2
The National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer rescinded most of NASCAR's penalties against Jimmie Johnson's team last week, including his 25-point penalty and crew chief Chad Knaus' six-race suspension. The 25 points helped Johnson climb in the standings, and he moved into the top 10 after Sunday's rain-soaked race. This much is evident: Middlebrook has power and he's not afraid to use it.
 
 
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