Brant James
Tuesday August 3rd, 2010

NASCAR Power Rankings

A week in which the sport's economic woes were -- for a brief moment -- overshadowed by a horrific plane crash involving team owner Jack Roush, ended with Roush's senior driver, Greg Biffle, ending a 65-race drought. For awhile, the focus switched back to men, machines and racing exploits, but a horrific crash by Elliott Sadler into a piece of fencing scheduled to be covered in a SAFER barrier before next season threatened to turn the story tragic. Just another weekend at Pocono, minus the wooden bears. Have a comment? Send to siwriters@simail.com. You can also follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/brantjames

1Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick
The top three finishers and six of the top 10 on Sunday at Pocono led laps. Harvick did not. But he finished fourth, stalked the leaders and continued to burnish his credentials as a championship contender with another solid finish. The points leader has 10 top-5s and 15 top-10s and has finished worse than fifth just twice in the last eight races.
 
2Greg Biffle
Greg Biffle
NASCAR's everyman had a blue collar day at the office fit for a pickup truck commercial. He carped all afternoon when things didn't feel right, battled, adjusted, and when he had his chance, he came through. Oh, and he delivered his boss one hell of a get-well-soon card as Roush, the victim of a plane crash on Wednesday, recuperated at the Mayo Clinic. Neither Roush Fenway Racing nor Ford had won a race since Talladega last year. Cue the background music song. Oh, one final thing, Greg, if you're going to visit the boss in the hospital this week, remember sponsor 3M is based in Minnesota, too. Two-fer.
 
3Jeff Gordon
Jeff Gordon
The right cloud burst here or there might have broken Gordon's career-long winless streak after he passed Sam Hornish Jr. with 30 laps left. But that short stint marked the last of his seven runs up front. Gordon settled in for a sixth-place finish and second in points.
 
4Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie Johnson
Good news: he led a race-high 96 laps and appeared completely unstoppable early in the race. Bad news: he failed to win for the fourth time in the last five races when he led the most laps. Push: He might have fallen off Kurt Busch's Christmas card list for good after an assertive bump draft late in the race sent the No. 2 Dodge careening off the backstretch. Johnson recovered to finish 10th and is fourth in points.
 
5Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin
There was no third straight win for Hamlin at Pocono but a fifth-place finish was a steadying point after not finishing in the top 5 since winning at Pocono and Michigan earlier this season.
 
6Jeff Burton
Jeff Burton
Another part of the Richard Childress Racing resurgence, Burton has cranked out seven top-10s in 10 races since finishing second at Dover in June.
 
7Carl Edwards
Carl Edwards
Notice that forlorn look in his eyes as he expressed happiness that a Ford, specifically a Roush Fenway Ford, had finally reached Victory Lane again? Obviously, Edwards has not lost his ambition amid a 57-race winless streak dating to 2008. A third-place finish on Sunday, putting three Roush cars on the theoretical podium, might finally signal that Ford's flagship team is ready to become a player again -- and perhaps an interesting Chase for the Championship variable -- with the FR9 engine. "I feel like we're building a little bit of momentum toward the Chase and that's what we need," he said. "We haven't run the way we've run in the last month for a long time, so it's a good day for us."
 
8Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart
A year ago he was the points leader. Today he's eighth, but said he feels better -- sort of -- about his situation after reeling off five top-5s and seven top-10s in his last eight races. "If (momentum) keeps building then, yes, I like the situation better," he said. "But I don't know what next week's gonna bring or the week after."
 
9Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch
Holds sixth place in the standings despite a 21st-place finish marred by a broken splitter.
 
10Kurt Busch
Kurt Busch
That was one curt Busch that emerged from the infield care center at Pocono on Sunday, saying simply that Johnson drove through him. Relegated to a 33rd place finish after being wrecked by Johnson with 36 laps left, he took a slight hit in the driver standings, dropping from fifth to seventh. He remains in solid Chase position. But that's not likely to quench what appears to be a growing disdain for Johnson, however.

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