Wednesday March 23rd, 2005

NASCAR Power Rankings
RankLW Driver
Carl Edwards snookered JJ in the last turn of the last lap in Atlanta, but Johnson is still the driver everyone is chasing. He's now finished in the top 5 in each of the last four races and is looking more and more like your 2005 Nextel Cup champion.
Busch's exquisite run of good luck finally came to an end Sunday when tire problems caused him to finish a season-worst 22nd. But look for Busch to rebound when the circuit moves to Bristol for the next race on April 3. How good is Busch at Bristol? He's won four of the last six races there.
Biffle continues to impress. He and Jimmie Johnson dominated most of the race of Sunday, but a slow pit-stop late in the race cost Biffle track position ?- and a shot to take the checkers. Still, he finished third, which was his third straight finish of sixth or better.
Edwards showed that he's one of NASCAR's most talented young drivers by making that gutsy last-lap pass on Johnson in Atlanta. So far this season, Edwards has performed well on both the superspeedway of Daytona and the intermediate tracks the circuit has visited. It'll be interesting to see how he holds up on the short-track of Bristol, where he finished 33rd last season.
Gordon got caught up in a multi-car accident on Lap 1 in Atlanta and was forced to take an extended trip to the garage for repairs. Gordon finished 39h and fell to 12th in the point standings. The moral of this story? Qualifying matters. Because if Gordon had qualified better in Atlanta -- he started 25th -? he probably wouldn't have been taken out of the race even before it really began.
The Roush cars continue to flex their muscle, as Roush Fords occupied three of the top four spots in Atlanta. Martin came in fourth, which was his third Top 10 finish of '05. Last year Martin didn't get his third top 10 until April 25.
Sadler battled an ill-handling car for most of the afternoon to finish 10th in Atlanta. He moved up five positions in the points standings to eighth place. His ascent up the standings should continue; he finished fifth at Bristol last August.
Stewart's streak of seven straight top-10 finishes in Atlanta came to an end on Sunday when he finished 17th. Stewart and his crew struggled to find the right setup for most of the race and, consequently, Stewart's Home Depot Chevy kept shifting from too loose to too tight. Still, Stewart is seventh in the points standings and within striking distance of the leaders.
As soon as Newman starts racing as well as he qualifies, watch out. For the second straight week, Newman qualified on the pole in Atlanta. But Newman struggled with grip issues for most of the race and finished 14th. Considering he was a lap down at one point, that translated into a small victory for "the Rocket Man."
Wallace did not have a good performance last Sunday. He started 32nd and finished 27th. Nonetheless, he only slipped two spots in the points standings to ninth. Look for him to have a solid outing at Bristol, where he finished second in the spring race last year.

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