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Keselowski maneuvers Talladega wreckage, clings to points lead

Talladega Power Rankings

When the smoke and debris cleared, there was Brad Keselowski, regaining control of his car and driving through the wreckage to a top-10 finish at Talladega that kept him atop the point standings and the Power Rankings. That’s one major hurdle cleared, but six races still remain between Keselowski and the championship.

 
1
Brad Keselowski
2012 wins: 5
2012 Top-10s: 19
Last week's rank: 1
Where is Keselowski hiding his lucky rabbit's foot? He certainly got caught up in the 25-car crash on the final lap of Sunday's race -- along with nine other Chase drivers -- but somehow he made it through with minimal damage and drove across the finish line. That marks his sixth consecutive top-10 finish and his 13th top-10 in the last 14 races -- and that’s why he retains the top spot in the Power Rankings.
 
2
Jeff Gordon
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 15
Last week's rank: 5
If Keselowski wasn't so hot, Gordon would be No. 1. His runner-up finish at Talladega marked his sixth top-three finish in the last seven races. To put that into perspective, only 11 drivers on the circuit have more top-five finishes all season than Gordon has top-three runs since the Bristol night race in August.
 
3
Denny Hamlin
2012 Wins: 5
2012 Top-10s: 15
Last week's rank: 3

Hamlin ran at the back of the pack most of the day at Talladega, and wound his day up by spinning and crashing cars to finish 14th. Not a great result for him but, as he said afterward, the goal was to not finish 20th and lose many more points to Keselowski in the title Chase. Mission accomplished. Now the focus is on this week's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a track at which Hamlin has finished in the top 10 in each of the last four points races.

 
4
Jimmie Johnson
2012 Wins: 3
2012 Top-10s: 20
Last week's rank: 2
Johnson was victimized by the last-lap crash and finished 17th, and it was only fitting that his race ended that way. In the four restrictor-plate races this season, he was eliminated by crashes twice, failed to finish another because of an engine failure and then was caught in the last-lap crash Sunday. Luckily he doesn't have to worry about another restrictor-plate race until February 2013; but now the question is if he'll be referred to as the defending NASCAR champion at that race.
 
5
Clint Bowyer
2012 Wins: 2
2012 Top-10s: 18
Last week's rank: 4
Bowyer was making a run at the bottom of the track with Kasey Kahne pushing when the wreck began and never had a chance, finishing 23rd to snap a four-race streak of top-10 finishes.
 
6
Kasey Kahne
2012 Wins: 2
2012 Top-10s: 16
Last week's rank: 6
Kahne got a close-up view of the underside of Tony Stewart's car when it rolled on its side in the last-lap crash, and still managed to finish 12th. He'll need some help to make a charge in this title race but it’s still possible.
 
7
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 18
Last week's rank: 7
Junior took perhaps the biggest hit in the title race after he was sucked into the crash. Afterward, the frustrated Earnhardt said changes must be made to restrictor-plate racing to avoid such incidents.
 
8
Tony Stewart
2012 Wins: 3
2012 Top-10s: 14
Last week's rank: 8
Stewart triggered the 25-car crash by attempting to block a charging Michael Waltrip from taking the lead (and took responsibility for the incident). Instead of a possible victory, Stewart finished 22nd and saw his title hopes take a hit.
 
9
Kyle Busch
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 15
Last week's rank: N/A

Third-place finish at Talladega was his fifth top-10 finish in the last seven races, earning him a spot back in the Power Rankings. He could be headed for more good things this week at Charlotte, where he's scored nine top-10 finishes in the last 10 races at that track.

 
10
Tom DeLoach
2012 Wins: 5
2012 Top-10s: 22
Last week's rank: N/A
The owner of Red Horse Racing in the Camping World Truck Series was back in Victory Lane last weekend at Talladega, but that's nothing new. He's won five races this season with four different drivers. Parker Kligerman, who joined the team in August, won last weekend's Truck race, joining DeLoach's other winners this season: Timothy Peters, Todd Bodine and John King.
 
 
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