Tom Bowles
Tuesday November 4th, 2008

NASCAR Power Rankings
1Jimmie Johnson
Last Week: 1
Jimmie Johnson
With the Chase Johnson is having, it's near impossible to lose his spot in the power rankings based on one bad week. But there's no question Texas represented close to a worst-case scenario for the Sprint Cup point leader. A mistake by crew chief Chad Knaus left the car too tight for Johnson's liking early on, and he wound up falling a lap down early. Of course, this happened last week in Atlanta, and everyone figured the No. 48 would rally back to an eventual top five finish. But car and team never put themselves in position to get their lap back, and Johnson struggled simply to climb up to 15th in the final running order. With his lead chopped down to 106 with two races left, it's still the two-time champ's title to lose -- but he's given Edwards a slight opening with two races left on the season.
 
2Carl Edwards
Last Week: 2
Carl Edwards
After Edwards' electrical problems at Charlotte, most believed his Chase for the Championship was left for dead. But Cousin Carl had a career-best top five finish at Martinsville to snag back momentum, and has followed it up with wins at Atlanta and Texas to re-establish himself as Johnson's sole challenger for the title. Sunday's win was impressive for the No. 99 team, whose four-tire pit strategy under the race's final caution seemed to kill off its chances after leading 200 laps. But with the car mired in traffic, crew chief Bob Osborne chose to roll the dice and go 69 laps on their fuel tank to try to steal the win. With Edwards babying the throttle over the final few laps, the gamble paid off and left the team in position to be the only realistic threat to the No. 48. Johnson would have to keep making mistakes, but if he does, the No. 99 is now in perfect position to capitalize once more.
 
3Greg Biffle
Last Week: 3
Greg Biffle
After a disappointing run at Atlanta, Biffle bounced back at Texas with a fifth place finish, his best run of the Chase since a third at Kansas five weeks earlier. At one point, it looked like the No. 16 car may have been in position to challenge teammate Jamie McMurray for the win, but neither car had the fuel mileage of fellow Roush Fenway driver Edwards. "It's unfortunate," Biffle said. "I can't quite figure out how my teammate can go eight laps more than I can. We'll just have to go back and do our homework and see what he?s got that we don't have underneath the hood, I guess." The run leaves Biffle in a bit of a weird spot -- 143 points behind in the championship.
 
4Jeff Gordon
Last Week: 5
Jeff Gordon
For most of the race at Texas, it appeared this track would hand Gordon another in a long list of disappointing finishes. There were high hopes after the No. 24 started the race from the pole, but the car never found good grip on the 1.5-mile oval and eventually fell a lap down to Edwards during a long green flag run. But during the race's final caution, Gordon caught a lucky break, getting his lap back at the right time to take a gamble on fuel. Pitting a few laps later than everyone else under yellow, Gordon took it easy over the final 100+ miles to become the only lead lap car other than Edwards to make it to the finish without stopping. What was the secret? "I saved on the caution laps," he said of his best finish here since 2002. "I was turning the engine off, so I felt pretty confident that we could make it if we were only one lap short."
 
5Kyle Busch
Last Week: 6
Kyle Busch
As much as people have criticized Busch this year, Texas left everyone with a little something to smile about. On Saturday, the 23-year-old tied a longstanding record with his 10th win in the Nationwide Series, matching Sam Ard's mark from 1983. Since then, Ard has fallen on hard times, suffering from Alzheimer?s disease while facing mounting medical bills he's struggling to pay. But in a surprising gesture of goodwill, Busch donated $100,000 to Ard's cause as a tribute to the two-time series champion. The next day, a sixth place finish lifted them out of the Chase cellar, giving him hope of salvaging a spot on the stage in New York for the Top 10 in points.
 
6Matt Kenseth
Last Week: 7
Matt Kenseth
A ninth place finish at Texas marked Kenseth's fifth Top 10 in eight Chase races. But considering he fought for the win at the track last year, the performance had to be a bit of a letdown for a team hoping to end the year on a high note. Victories, not consistency, are what the 2003 champ is looking for at this stage of the game. While he's one of just two drivers to make all five Chase for the Championships, the No. 17 car has won just once in 48 playoff starts, a terrible batting average of just .020 that you wouldn?t expect from one of the series' best drivers.
 
7Kevin Harvick
Last Week: 10
Kevin Harvick
Just like Kenseth, Harvick's another driver who's finding that consistency just doesn't cut it when it comes to contending in the Chase. Despite finishing no worse than 20th in eight playoff starts, he's stuck in seventh in points with no top five finishes and just 23 laps led. Harvick's actually having more success as an owner as of late, with driver Ron Hornaday contending for a second straight Truck Series title. He's just six points out of the lead in KHI's No. 33 Chevrolet after a win in Texas Friday night.
 
8David Ragan
Last Week: 8
David Ragan
With an 11th place finish Sunday, Ragan has all but put the finishing touches on "Best of the Rest" in the Cup Series standings; he's now 263 points ahead of Kasey Kahne for 13th. And with six consecutive Top 15 finishes, he's easily showing the consistency needed to make next year's edition of the Chase. That should have left this sophomore smiling in the Lone Star State, but after finishing fifth out of five Roush Fenway cars, he knew there was room for improvement. "We had a Top 10 car and didn't quite get it," he said of his Texas run. "But when you have these crazy deals with people staying out and not pitting, that happens sometimes."
 
9Jeff Burton
Last Week: 4
Jeff Burton
A winner at Texas in April 2007, Burton had high hopes to get his championship Chase back on track Sunday. Instead, RCR's up-and-down season on intermediates caught up with the No. 31 team as the AT&T Chevy never got dialed in en route to a frustrating 13th place run. "We weren't able to find the right combination to help our car's handling," Burton said. "It's disappointing because Texas has been a pretty good track for us. We weren't able to master it today." Failing to capitalize on a jump to second in the standings after his Charlotte win, Burton now has three straight runs of 13th or worse to freefall to fourth and out of the title picture.
 
10Jamie McMurray
Last Week: NR
Jamie McMurray
Once ticketed for the unemployment line after a third straight disappointing season at Roush, McMurray survived the Silly Season axe -- and suddenly, he's getting his act together for 2009. A third place finish at Texas was McMurray's third Top 10 in four races, part of a late-season boost that's bumped him up to 18th in the season standings. And if it wasn't for Edwards' late-race fuel mileage gamble, the No. 26 would have ended up in Victory Lane after a two-tire stop vaulted them to the front during the race's final green flag stretch. "When you get out front it's like you have a different car," McMurray explained, noting the clean air that's made track position so crucial for the CoT. "Honestly, I ran second or third and you think that's far enough up front, but once you get to the front it's just incredible the grip that the car has."


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 tbowles81@yahoo.com and tell us why your driver should be included. We'll pick one lucky fan who sticks up for his or her favorite and include their rant in the rankings each week!

This Week's Submission: Larry Werner, Grand Rapids, MI:What about a shout out for Clint Bowyer? Last year's Chase Cinderella hasn't finished out of the Top 20 all throughout the playoffs. Isn't that enough to make your Top 10?

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