Tom Bowles
Tuesday July 29th, 2008

NASCAR Power Rankings
1Kyle Busch
Last Week: 1
Kyle Busch
This weekend's sorry excuse for a race played out in the worst way at Indy for a hard charger like Busch. With Goodyear tires turning to dust faster than you could blink, the longest consecutive green flag run was only 12 laps, leaving the battle for the win to be won or lost with strategy in the pits. And that's where Busch's team fell short, the victim of a mistake by one of their biggest rivals. "Dale [Earnhardt,] Jr. hit my tire carrier -- hit the tire, knocked it into him, knocked him up under the car," said Busch's crew chief Steve Addington. "We would have been in the top eight or somewhere [if not for that]." Instead, Busch wound up 15th, watching his point lead shrink slightly to 253. But at least his weekend wasn't a total loss; he led 197 of 200 laps en route to a dominating Nationwide win at O'Reilly Raceway Park Saturday night.
 
2Carl Edwards
Last Week: 2
Carl Edwards
Considering the circumstances, Edwards made a valiant charge for the win at Indy in the race's closing laps. Restarting second behind Jimmie Johnson, Edwards stalked him following the final restart from a competition caution on lap 154. But the combination of bad tires, a poor-handling Car of Tomorrow and Johnson's pure speed left him unable to mount a serious challenge. After the race, nice guy Edwards was just as concerned about fan perception about the debacle than losing out on a possible Brickyard trophy. "I want to say to the fans that everybody was doing their best to make that a race," he said. "Thanks to everybody for putting up with this. It'll get better."
 
3Jimmie Johnson
Last Week: 4
Jimmie Johnson
If there's anyone who left Indy with a smile on their faces, it was Johnson and the No. 48 team. Tire controversy be damned, Johnson was the fastest car from the drop of the green through the checkered flag Sunday -- he led 71 of 160 laps in becoming just the second driver to win the 400-miler from the pole position. Johnson's second Brickyard win follows a near-miss at Chicagoland, and those consecutive Top Two finishes have the team feeling like it's back in position to go for a championship three-peat. "We've had our butts handed to us a few times through the course of the schedule," Johnson said. "It's nice to get back with a win."
 
4Dale Earnhardt
Last Week: 5
Dale Earnhardt
Earnhardt's run quickly turned sour before the 30-lap mark at Indy. After a gamble to stay out on old tires and take the lead, the No. 88 Chevy got knocked down a peg after a flat tire -- surprise, surprise -- put him a lap behind. Near the race's halfway point, he earned the free pass and slowly used aggression and strategy to work his way back up front. But the barrage of "competition cautions" kept bunching up the field before Junior could make many passes, and he was only able to work his way up to 12th. "That was the most bizarre race I have ever run," he said. "It was bizarre. I have never seen nothin' like it. I was glad we got finished with relatively no true chaos. I am ashamed but there wasn't much we could do, besides load them up and not run at all."
 
5Jeff Burton
Last Week: 6
Jeff Burton
The Brickyard has been good to Burton in recent years, and he's one of the highest-profile drivers still without a trophy at Indianapolis. But the way the race played out, he never got the track position at the right times after a faulty charging system threatened to end his day in the early going. Instead, Burton focused on ending a slump of five straight races outside the Top 10, a hard-fought mission that ended successfully when he settled in ninth at the finish. One of NASCAR's most outspoken drivers, the 40-year-old pulled no punches when asked who's to blame for a race that had fans leaving the stands at the halfway mark. "Goodyear builds the tires," he said. "This wasn't a good day for them, for sure. I think it is hard to put [the blame] on NASCAR's shoulders -- Goodyear is the tire provider."
 
6Matt Kenseth
Last Week: 3
Matt Kenseth
Kenseth's charge through the standings has included little, if any, bad luck the past two months, so it's no surprise the law of averages finally caught up to the No. 17. Even with competition cautions every 10 laps, the tires at Indy were so bad they still kept blowing out anyway. Kenseth learned that the hard way, his right rear exploding in a spectacular display down the backstretch on lap 48. "I could see it in my mirror that part of the quarterpanel was blown off," he said afterwards. "I feel bad for the fans; we're running three-quarters speed because we're worried about the tires blowing out." And those fans should feel for Kenseth, too, who dropped to 11th in points, just six markers away from being knocked out of the Chase.
 
7Jeff Gordon
Last Week: 9
Jeff Gordon
My pick to win at Indy, Gordon had as fast a car as Johnson throughout much of the 400-mile event. But while Johnson spent most of the day out in clean air, Gordon was stuck in traffic as his fifth-place starting spot had him leading just seven laps. It seemed every time the team tried a little strategy, it was the wrong decision at the wrong time that kept them mired in midpack. "I hate that we didn't get the track position that we really needed there at the end," Gordon confirmed after finishing fifth. "That hurt us from having an opportunity, and I felt like we were as good as Jimmie [Johnson] -- but we were really a second-place car because they had the track position."
 
8David Ragan
Last Week: 10
David Ragan
Ragan's sizzling sophomore season continued Sunday with a 14th place finish. On a day when younger drivers could have easily abused their equipment, the 22-year-old knew when to play it safe and kept from paying a dangerous price. Now armed with three straight Top 15s, Ragan has closed to within 56 points of the 12th place cutoff for the Chase for the Championship. He's still a bit of a longshot, but every week the No. 6 remains in the hunt makes Ragan better positioned to pull a serious upset.
 
9Greg Biffle
Last Week: NR
Greg Biffle
The Biff started this month in serious trouble, crashing hard at Daytona and finishing dead last. That left him on the cusp of getting kicked out of the Chase, but since then he's gotten busy turning his season back around. Two straight Top 10s, including a ninth at Indy, have left him seventh in points and 100 ahead of 13th place Kevin Harvick. "I thought it was a good day for us," he said Sunday night. "I got way too loose in the middle of the [race], and I lost all my track position before finally getting it back at the end."
 
10Kasey Kahne
Last Week: NR
Kasey Kahne
Dodge's only hope to put a team in the Chase, Kahne's fighting hard to stay above the 12th place cutoff. A seventh place at Indy was his third consecutive Top 15 run, a successful day on the one-year anniversary of his team's partnership with billionaire George Gillett. That's given the team the money needed to compete -- now, if it could only find the consistency. You'd like to think the team's a lock to successfully defend its June win at Pocono, but this weekend presents a major hurdle for the No. 9 car -- it hasn't strung more than three straight Top 15s together all season.


Dropped Out: Brian Vickers (7), Tony Stewart (8)

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: Terri Robinson, Chicago, IL:How could Dale Jr. not be ranked higher? He?s led 80 laps this month and continues to hold down second in the standings ? that should be enough to count for something.

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