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Johnson, Earnhardt Jr. continue reign atop NASCAR Power Rankings

Pocono Power Rankings

This has not been the easiest season for Jeff Gordon but last weekend, things literally turned in his favor and gave him the chance to score his first win of the season. He returns to this week's Power Rankings, which has a Hendrick Motorsports flavor with all four teams in it.

 
1
Jimmie Johnson
2012 wins: 3
2012 Top-10s: 15
Johnson finished 14th -- only the third time in the last 11 races he's placed outside the top 10 -- but was the dominant driver, leading 44 of the 98 laps at Pocono. Likely would have won had it not been for a flat tire that caused him to bobble and make contact with Matt Kenseth on a late restart, allowing Jeff Gordon to shoot by and go on for the win. The last two weeks have shown that if Johnson doesn't have problems, few, if any, are likely to beat him. Now the key is if he can continue that through the Chase when it begins next month.
 
2
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 15
Transmission problems caused him to finish a season-worst 32nd. It's only the second time this season Earnhardt has finished outside the top 20. Still, he kept his points lead. He again is starting to look like Johnson in that if he doesn't have problems few people are going to beat him.
 
3
Brad Keselowski
2012 Wins: 3
2012 Top-10s: 11
Finished fourth for his fifth consecutive top-10 finish. For the second week in a row, crew chief Paul Wolfe used an alternate pit strategy to help Keselowski get to the front and it worked. Team needs to do a better job qualifying -- Keselowski has two top-10 starts in the last 14 races -- but is certainly one to watch.
 
4
Denny Hamlin
2012 Wins: 2
2012 Top-10s: 11
Announced he will become a father in January. Things didn't get much better the rest of the week. He had nowhere to go and slammed into Matt Kenseth's car in a late-race crash, finishing 29th. His inconsistent season continues. He's not had more than back-to-back top-10 finishes but he's not finished outside the top 10 more than three consecutive races. Needs to build consistency for Chase or he'll be watching someone else celebrate a title.
 
5
Kasey Kahne
2012 Wins: 2
2012 Top-10s: 11
Runner-up finish at Pocono marked the second time in the last three races Kahne's finished first or second. He's placed in the top-10 in four of the last five races. The exception was a 12th-place finish at Indianapolis.
 
6
Matt Kenseth
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 13
Kenseth was racing Johnson for the lead late at Pocono, but Johnson bobbled with a flat tire and contact was made. Kenseth wrecked. His 23rd-place showing marked the third consecutive week he's finished outside the top 10. He's placed outside the top 10 in four of the last six races.
 
7
Tony Stewart
2012 Wins: 3
2012 Top-10s: 11
Fifth-place finish marked Stewart's third top-10 result in the last four races. One disconcerting fact, though, is that Stewart has led only 40 laps in the last 11 races (he led 22 laps in his Daytona win last month and 18 laps in finishing second at Michigan in June).
 
8
Greg Biffle
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 12
Biffle slapped the wall in a late-race incident started by contact between Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth and saw his chances of a good finish disappear. Placed 15th for his third result outside the top 10 in the last five races.
 
9
Jeff Gordon
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 9
Lucked into Pocono win but, hey, he's owed one, especially after the way he lost a chance for the victory at Martinsville in the spring and the way his season has gone. Victory marked his sixth top-10 finish in the last seven races as he fights for a wildcard spot (he owns the final wildcard spot by a tiebreaker).
 
10
Brett Moffitt
2012 Wins: 0
2012 Top-10s: 1
Moffitt, who turned 20 Tuesday, finished ninth in his Nationwide Series debut last weekend at Iowa Speedway. He's the leader in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, a developmental series for young drivers. He's won twice with nine top-10 finishes in 10 starts in that series to hold a 20-point lead on Kyle Larson and a 22-point lead on Chase Elliott, son of Bill Elliott, with four races left.
 
 
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