Tom Bowles
Wednesday June 25th, 2008

NASCAR Power Rankings
1Kyle busch
Last Week: 1
Kyle Busch
Well, that was quick. One week after choosing to focus on the Cup championship rather than all of NASCAR's top three series, Busch returned to his winning ways with a surprising performance at Infineon. You wouldn't expect the 23 year old to take home a win at a road course, but this year has been unlike any other for Busch, and he followed up a Nationwide Series win at Mexico City by leading 78 of 110 laps in Wine Country. Of course, it helped to have a little luck; a timely caution after his green flag pit stop gave the No. 18 the track position it needed on Lap 31. From there, the aerodynamics of the new car kept him from being challenged all the way to the checkered flag.
2Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Last Week: 4
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Junior on a road course is like trying to have wine in the middle of a dive bar -- it just doesn't look right. But one week after his winless streak was snapped, the No. 88 kept up the momentum with a 12th place finish at Infineon, a place where he has yet to score a top 10 in nine career starts. It wasn't pretty, but the mistake-free run was enough to keep him within striking distance of rival Kyle Busch. Remaining third in the standings, Junior is now 152 behind with more friendly tracks like Daytona, Chicagoland and Indianapolis looming in the distance.
3Carl Edwards
Last Week: 5
Carl Edwards
So many drivers at Sonoma were frustrated by their inability to pass, and Edwards was high on that list. Early on, the No. 99 looked like a car that could challenge for the win, but the same cautions that gave Kyle Busch the track position he needed doomed Edwards to the back of the pack. When a Lap 70 yellow came out before he made a green flag stop, Edwards fell from the lead to about 25th when he made the lonely trip down pit road under caution. 23rd by Lap 80, Edwards fought hard, using attrition and precision-like passes to move up to 9th at the finish -- his seventh consecutive top 10 in Sprint Cup. But it was a disappointing end to Sunday, especially after Edwards ended his Nationwide Series winless streak the day before with a victory at Milwaukee.
4Jeff Burton
Last Week: 3
Jeff Burton
Burton continues to remain consistent, scoring a 13th place at Infineon to remain the only driver to finish 15th or better in every Cup race of 2008. But as we've said many times in this space, there's a difference between consistency and running up front. Just 103 behind point leader Kyle Busch, a lot of people have claimed ten of these types of Top 15 runs will be all Burton needs to challenge for the title. But remember that Johnson averaged a fifth place finish during the Chase last year to win his second championship. The average finish for Burton these last ten races? 9.2 ... with just two laps led. That's not going to be enough to get the job done ...
5Kasey Kahne
Last Week: 4
Kasey Kahne
A surprise pole sitter this weekend, Kahne had high expectations for Infineon on Sunday. But it's one thing to run one fast lap on a road course, and another one altogether to run 110 without making a mistake. By Lap 5, Kahne had fallen from the lead, and he spent the rest of the race reminding us why he doesn't have a top 20 finish at Infineon in his Cup career. "It just wasn't our day," said Kahne, who lost a lap in the pits en route to finishing 33rd. "I really can't explain what happened today." This is one guy who'll never pull for a road course in the Chase ...
6Jimmie Johnson
Last Week: 5
Jimmie Johnson
Johnson was another driver snakebit by the yellow flag. When the race's first caution came out on lap 31, Johnson hadn't yet made his green flag stop, and was forced to dive down pit road, falling from 1st to 11th on the restart. He never sniffed the front after that, as for a third straight week, Chad Knaus' pit strategy was doomed by sheer bad luck. To add insult to injury, Johnson made contact with Greg Biffle in the race's second half, spinning out the No. 48 and leaving them struggling to 15th by the checkered flag. "Dive-bombing someone around the outside of Turn 1 up into Turn 2 isn't really the smartest thing," said Johnson after the race, who had a few choice words with Biffle in the garage area.
7Matt Kenseth
Last Week: 9
Matt Kenseth
Matt Kenseth is another guy you wouldn't consider a road racer, but he and Dale Jr. were in uncharted territory in the final laps at Infineon. But while Junior had to settle for 12th, Kenseth moved up to 8th to claim his best finish at the road course for his career. "I feel like we won," he said upon exiting his car. "This is the only track on the circuit we never had a top 10 at, and we fixed that today. That's my best finish ever here -- and Dale Jr., too, that was pretty fun driving hard and racing him at the end." Kenseth had to smile when he looked at the point standings, too. His sixth consecutive finish of 8th or better has him 12th and back in the Chase./td>
8Jeff Gordon
Last Week: NR
Jeff Gordon
For a man whose cars keep driving like junk, Gordon's sure racking up his share of top-five finishes. A third place run at Infineon marked his third top-five in the last five races, enough to keep him sixth in the standings and solidly within range of making the Chase. Gordon's '08 winless streak continued at a track he's dominated in the recent past, but pit strategy and others' mistakes left Gordon in the right place at the right time to capitalize. "It's been an up-and-down year, and you know, we've been able to pull these top 5's out like this and not have great cars," he said after the race, recognizing the reality of his overachievement. "But we're just working way, way, too hard for these types of finishes."
9Greg Biffle
Last Week: 7
Greg Biffle
For all of 15 seconds at Infineon, Biffle was on top of the world. Pit strategy prior to the race's first caution gave the No. 16 car the lead, as he made his green flag pit stop just before the yellow came out. But on the restart on Lap 33, Biffle overdrove his car heading through the second turn. Spinning out and falling to the back of the lead lap, he spent the rest of the race fighting hard to simply work his way back to 11th. "I feel stupid," said Biffle after the race. "I just had a bunch of rubber on the tires and just screwed up."
10Brian Vickers
Last Week: NR
Brian Vickers
Coming off two consecutive Top 5 finishes, Vickers was hoping sheer momentum would be enough to carry him through a race at Infineon. But the harsh reality is the man has yet to finish in the top 10 at this Northern California raceway, and the No. 83 team had to settle for tying his career-best run of 14th. "The car just did not take off with restarts," he claimed. "It was way, way too loose. Staying out of trouble there at the end of the race was what [allowed] us to leave here with a solid day." At least Vickers held serve, remaining just 104 points behind 12th and a spot in the Chase.

Dropped Out: David Ragan (10)

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: Pete Long, St. Louis, Mo.:Is Tony Stewart doing that bad to leave him out of your Power Rankings? A fifth place at Michigan should have been enough to keep crew chief Greg Zipadelli from complaining about his driver -- and the push he needed to vault back into your top 10.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.