Tom Bowles
Tuesday August 26th, 2008

NASCAR Power Rankings
1Carl Edwards
Last Week: 2
Carl Edwards
Edwards' bump heard round the world at Bristol was tame by most standards - he didn't spin Kyle Busch out a la the Dale Earnhardt moves of the 1990s - but it was enough to get by the No. 18 car with 30 laps to go. Edwards then streaked to his second straight victory, boosting both confidence and momentum heading into the playoffs. Most important of all, though, is the rivalry developing between Busch and Edwards. Once Busch showed his displeasure of Edwards' bump on the cooldown lap, Edwards was neither apologetic nor remorseful for doing what he felt was needed to win. "I just had to ask myself, 'Would he do that to me?'" he said of the late race bump. "And he has before, so that's the way it goes."
 
2Kyle Busch
Last Week: 1
Kyle Busch
After being involved in several controversies through his aggressive driving this season, Busch played the role of victim after leading 415 of the first 469 laps at Bristol. After getting hit by Edwards and losing the lead, Busch never had a chance to get back to the No. 99's rear bumper until after the race - he was too busy fighting with teammate Denny Hamlin for second. But he sure let Edwards know about his displeasure as soon as the checkered flag flew. "I just, you know, got into him a little bit and let him know that I didn't appreciate the way he passed me," Busch said of his post-race antics that left fans on their feet. "He retaliated, and ended up spinning me out."
 
3Tony Stewart
Last Week: 4
Tony Stewart
While young Joey Logano has been tabbed as the replacement in the No. 20 Home Depot ride for 2009, let's not forget that Stewart's still the driver for the remainder of 2008. But for those who haven't caught on to this 37-year-old's quest to play spoiler, they'll likely find out soon enough. Stewart's eighth place finish at Bristol was his fourth Top 10 in the last six races, good enough to put him a comfy 170 points ahead of 13th place David Ragan in the standings. Barring a major catastrophe at California and Richmond, Stewart is in the playoffs with nothing to lose - and that means race fans across America win.
 
4Jimmie Johnson
Last Week: 3
Jimmie Johnson
Let's face it: Bristol and Jimmie Johnson go together like oil and water. For whatever reason, the series' most famous short track has developed into the No. 48 team's most notable Achilles' Heel. This time around, it took only 26 laps for Johnson to find trouble: coming off of turn four side-by-side, he made contact with Sterling Marlin and wound up slamming the outside wall. It took several pit stops to repair the damage, dropping the Lowe's Chevrolet to 33rd -- a whopping eighteen laps off the pace. It's their eighth consecutive start without a top 5 finish at this track.
 
5Kevin Harvick
Last Week: 6
Kevin Harvick
OK, I'll admit it: I still think Kevin Harvick's not going to make a whole lot of noise once the playoffs start in September. For the time being, though, his red hot August has made the No. 29 team impossible to ignore. Check out Harvick's finishes this month: fourth at Pocono, sixth at Watkins Glen, eighth at Michigan and fourth at Bristol have all but clinched him a spot in the Chase. So, why don't I think this'll continue in September, October, and November? Simple: Harvick's giant goose egg in the win column, leaving him in jeopardy of his first winless season since 2004. And even during this recent hot streak, the man's has gone two months since the last time he's led a lap -- at Loudon back at the end of June.
 
6Matt Kenseth
Last Week: 7
Matt Kenseth
Kenseth's bid for the Chase is also all but wrapped up after an August where he never finished lower than 12th. After a rocky start to the season, consistency remains the key for a 2003 champion who won his title based on 25 Top-10 finishes -- not on his lone race win that year. But Kenseth knows Top 10s aren't good enough to win him a second title in this year's Chase -- and that's why he continues to be critical of his race cars despite some solid runs. "It was terrible to drive," he said of what was a ninth place car at Bristol, "But my guys did a good job on pit road and did a really good job when we needed it. I'm happy to bring the DeWalt Ford home in the Top 10, [but] it's not what we aim for every week."
 
7David Ragan
Last Week: 7
David Ragan
Ragan's bid for the Chase could have been permanently sidetracked following a qualifying crash that left him stuck in a backup car. Forced to start from the rear, the sophomore looked destined to match his dismal average finish of 29.3 in three previous starts at the half-mile. But it's easier to stay out of trouble at the new, multiple-groove Bristol, and even after accruing some left-front fender damage -- causing him to come from the back not once, but twice -- Ragan picked his spots en route to a steady drive up to 10th. "It's a relief," he said afterwards. "We've just got to watch our mistakes early in the weekend. It makes for a long 500 laps on Saturday." Little does he know the hardest part is yet to come: Ragan needs two Top 10 finishes the next two weeks in order to secure an upset playoff bid.
 
8Greg Biffle
Last Week: 9
Greg Biffle
Biffle has never been known as a short track ace, so an 11th place finish was just what the doctor ordered at Bristol. Staying out of trouble, the No. 16 team watched several points contenders encounter problems of their own, boosting his stock with two races left. Sitting pretty at seventh in the standings, Biffle is now six drivers and 141 points ahead of losing a chance for his first Chase bid since 2005. But with two Top 5 finishes in the last 11 races, he's looking more like playoff filler than playoff contender at this point.
 
9Jamie McMurray
Last Week: 10
Jamie McMurray
Once again, McMurray continued his solid string of finishes this summer with a 12th place finish at Bristol. And if it wasn't for a couple of poor late-race stops by his team, things could have been even better. "We struggled a little bit on pit road," said No. 26 crew chief Larry Carter. "Other than that, it was a good car and a good night." Eliminated from the playoffs for 2008, McMurray now has a different goal in mind: he's 351 points away from being the best "non-Chase" driver at 13th in the standings.
 
10Dale Earnhardt Jr
Last Week: 8
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Junior's slump continued at Bristol with a boneheaded move at the start of the race. At the drop of the green, NASCAR's Most Popular Driver jumped the gun and passed multiple cars on the outside heading to the Start / Finish line. If it's a restart from a caution flag, that type of aggressive maneuver is legal; but on the start of the race? Not so much. "I was a little embarrassed," Junior said after a black flag for the penalty left him a lap down in 18th at the finish. "It was a tough night; it was tough to deal with. Man, we have to get our heads on straight, you know what I mean? We need to get smart; obviously, we aren't doing things right."
 


Dropped Out: None

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: Mark Freeman, Phoenix, AZ:Jeff Gordon's a four-time champion and still solidly within the Top 12; one bad month of racing shouldn't have been enough to drop him out of the power rankings! If that guy makes the Chase, he's immediately got to be considered a title favorite.

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