Tom Bowles
Tuesday June 3rd, 2008

NASCAR Power Rankings
1Kyle busch
Last Week: 1
Kyle Busch
When adjectives like "warm," "hot," and "fire" don't do your season justice, you're in a league of your own. Busch's win at Dover was his fourth in Cup and tenth win overall in NASCAR's top three divisions in 2008: Cup, Nationwide, and Trucks. The win helped expand his point lead to 142 over second place point man Jeff Burton in the standings, and he's currently looking unstoppable in his quest for a first Cup title. Leading 154 of 400 laps, Busch cruised home to the checkers by 4.2 seconds over Carl Edwards in a race that wasn't even close. "That was about all she had," said Busch at the finish. "If I tried driving any harder, I probably would've just wrecked myself."
2Carl Edwards
Last Week: 4
Carl Edwards
For the second time in less than a month, Edwards came home second fiddle to Busch in a race that was once his for the taking. And for a man who's quickly being considered one of Busch's biggest rivals, that meant second place was clearly the first loser. "That darned 18 car got us again," Edwards said after the race. "I think over the day, our car was the best on average, but we just didn't put it all together. We weren't fast enough at the end." Edwards was also critical of his pit crew, whose slower stops allowed Busch to pull out to the final advantage he needed over the last long green-flag run. That's a shame, for this team and driver have nothing to hang their heads about -- they've moved up to fourth in points.
3Jeff Burton
Last Week: 3
Jeff Burton
Burton's streak of finishing every lap of every race came to an end Sunday, as the No. 31 completed 399 of 400 circuits around Dover's treacherous one-mile oval. That was still good enough for an eighth-place finish, but the bigger stat to keep an eye on was a big fat zero in the laps led column; it's now been seven races since Burton has been out front for more than a single lap. With just three top-five finishes to date, the second place point man has to turn up the wick in the season's second half if he expects to be a championship contender over the long haul.
4Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Last Week: 2
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Junior was caught between a rock and a hard place Sunday -- as in the inside wall and the No. 19 car of Elliott Sadler. Sadler's spin coming off Turn 2 ignited an 11-car wreck on Lap 18, further proof of why they call Dover's lightning fast surface the Monster Mile. Car after car piled into the melee on its narrow back straightaway, and by the time Junior got there, he had nowhere to go, smashing into cars in front of him and damaging the front splitter on his race car. "I couldn't tell what happened," he said afterwards. "But Elliott [Sadler] told me the 38 (David Gilliland) got in the back of him. It was just a miserable day at Dover, and long." Finishing 35th, it was the first time Junior didn't lead a lap since Bristol in March; but more importantly, he dropped 271 points behind Kyle Busch in his quest for a first Cup title.
5Jimmie Johnson
Last Week: 6
Jimmie Johnson
The defending two-time champ continues to show signs of life after a slow start to begin 2008. Dover's seventh-place finish was his first since winning Phoenix in April, but it built upon a solid performance the week before in which Johnson could have won the Coca-Cola 600 if not for a faulty engine over the last 100 miles. "The wreck that we had changed the race a lot," said Johnson of his Dover performance. "A lot of good cars went out, a lot of guys racing in the points. We wanted to be smart." And smart they were, as the seventh place finish left Johnson a solid seventh in the standings. He and teammate Jeff Gordon continue to be stuck together, just as they were battling for the 2007 title -- they're separated now by just two points.
6Greg Biffle
Last Week: 8
Greg Biffle
The Biff just continues to impress after a near-win at Darlington turned into a 43rd place finish due to mechanical failure. Since then, he hasn't finished lower than third in any event, collecting his third consecutive top-three finish on Sunday. What's even more impressive is that Biffle has still had to fight various mechanical woes in the process; this weekend, it was a faulty alternator that nearly sidelined the No. 16 Ford. But the team fought through it while leading a race-high 164 laps, bumping Biffle up six spots to fifth in the standings. Rumor has it Biffle will be rewarded for the hot streak with a generous contract extension within the next two weeks; his deal was set to expire at the end of 2008.
7Jeff Gordon
Last Week: 10
Jeff Gordon
For all the talk about how bad Gordon was slumping, I think it's time to realize the four-time champ's putting it all together. Sunday's fifth-place run was his third consecutive top-5 finish, headlining a push that's seen him rise to eighth in the season standings. And while the team remains winless this late in the season for only the fourth time in Gordon's sixteen-year career, don't expect that to last much longer: he's the defending champ at Pocono Raceway this weekend.
8Kasey Kahne
Last Week: 7
Kasey Kahne
It took just 20 laps for Kahne to realize the boost from winning the fan vote was limited to Lowe's Motor Speedway only. After sweeping both the All-Star Race and the 600-mile marathon there, Kahne came to Dover and qualified a ho-hum 15th. That put him back in midpack, leaving him with nowhere to go when Sadler's untimely spin took out over a quarter of the field. "We got the right front messed up in that early wreck and the car wouldn't turn the rest of the race," said Kahne. "It's very tough to go fast when these cars are perfect, and impossible if you have any type of damage to them." Kahne's now just hanging on to 12th in the season standings, leading David Ragan by only eight halfway through the regular season.
9Tony Stewart
Last Week: 5
Tony Stewart
Stewart's day was also ended via the No. 19 of Sadler, a move which left him none too happy with the Virginia native -- especially considering their two-car wreck at Darlington just three weeks earlier. "It's my fault for being even anywhere close to Elliott [Sadler]," Stewart said as his sarcasm shined through. "If I'm within a half a lap of him, I expect that to happen. It's my fault -- I'm the one that hit him [even though Sadler had spun several seconds earlier]. When I hit him, it caused all the guys behind us to wreck. So it's my fault." There's a reason why the man's so frustrated; now 11th in the standings, he's a mere 35 points above the Chase cutoff.
10David Ragan
Last Week: NR
David Ragan
While the two contenders above him were licking their wounds, Ragan was feeling pretty good about himself after the Monster Mile. A 15th-place finish was fifth best among the five-car Roush Fenway Racing stable, but it was still good enough to close the gap on the coveted top 12 in points. And with four top-15 finishes in the last five races, it appears this sizzling sophomore shows no signs of slowing anytime soon. "We just have to keep working on our package to make our cars fast on the short runs and on the long runs," said Ragan. "We need to keep working, and we'll get those Top 10s."

Dropped Out: Denny Hamlin (9)

Fan submission of the week: Don't see your driver in the power rankings? Want to make a case for why we're missing the boat? E-mail Tom Bowles at and tell us why your driver should be included. We'll pick one lucky fan who sticks up for their favorite and include their rant in the rankings each week!

This Week's Submission: Shirley Jones -- Tallahassee, Fla.:Why not give Dave Blaney the shout out he deserves? His No. 22 Bill Davis Racing team has turned it around ever since they failed to qualify at Talladega.
Well, Shirley, here's your shout out ... and Blaney finished 9th at Dover to boot, his second top-10 finish in his last four races.

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