By Brant James
March 01, 2011
NASCAR Power Rankings

Trevor Bayne went on a media junket. Jeff Gordon went to the Oscars after parties. That's how it's done, pupil. The veteran's first win in 66 races may or may not revive the championship-winning portion of his career, may or may not help re-fire interest in the sport. Gordon was clearly thinking smaller picture on Sunday after winning at Phoenix, as evidenced by the sheer expression of joy contorting his face. This meant something, and it was almost enough to perch him atop the weekly power poll. Have a comment? Send to You can also follow me on Twitter at

1 Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch
Denied a second sweep of Trucks, Nationwide and Cup victories at the same track on the same weekend when Gordon chased him down with eight laps left, Busch still took something tangible away from the Sprint Cup race. Gordon effusively put his victory into perspective by noting that he alone had managed to beat Busch the entire weekend. And Busch even managed to tap-dance out of a potential renewal of hostilities -- twice -- with Carl Edwards after they vied for the same space in the Cup and Nationwide races. Busch sent Edwards into the wall and to an eventual 28th-place finish with a bizarre Lap 59 move in the Cup race, but Edwards apparently accepted Busch's full apology for what they publicly deemed a mistake. The Cup points lead, Trucks and Nationwide victories, a name-drop from a four-time series champion. That's a solid week.
2 Jeff Gordon
Jeff Gordon
The 39-year-old finished off the win at Phoenix after letting it slip away last year, ending a career-long drought and possibly signaling his return to championship viability after withering in the long shadow of five-times-defending series victor Jimmie Johnson. And he did it with a nifty bump-and-go move on Busch.
3 Kurt Busch
Kurt Busch
He enters the third race of the Sprint Cup season back in his hometown of Las Vegas, second in points to his younger brother. Busch followed a fifth-place finish in the Daytona 500 with an eighth-place result on Sunday after leading 31 laps. Busch has yet to experience a happy homecoming at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, averaging a finish of 21.9 with just one top-5 in 10 starts.
4 Trevor-Bayne
Trevor Bayne
The 20-year-old had a disappointing follow-up to his Daytona 500 victory, but a few scuffs and scars help make the driver. Bayne holds on to a top-5 spot for afterglow and the classy way he handled his bumper-bounced reality check from Travis Kvapil early in the Sprint Cup race on Sunday.
5 A.J. Allmendinger
A.J. Allmendinger
The most recent caretaker of the historic No. 43 at Richard Petty Motorsports finds himself fourth in points after two business-like efforts. Allmendinger also gets credit for showing genuine interest in the Izod IndyCar Series' recently announced $5-million bounty on a win from a non-regular in the season finale at Las Vegas. Allmendinger, who won five of 13 Champ Car starts in 2006 before evacuating to NASCAR in 2007 said the "race car side of me wants to" although the "practical side has to see."

If Allmendinger, who finished a career-best 19th in points last season, can wheedle his way into the Chase, the practical side will shut the idea down as the IndyCar finale occurs the day after a night Chase race in Concord, N.C. If Allmendinger doesn't qualify for the Chase for the first time ... well, Petty has dabbled in IndyCars before, fielding Indianapolis 500 programs for John Andretti with Andretti Autosport in 2009-10.
6 Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart
He gained nine spots and improved to third in driver points with a seventh-place finish at Phoenix. That probably didn't salve the sting from another Daytona 500 that got away, but maybe swapping cars with former Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton this summer at Watkins Glen will. The recently announced event, arranged by a mutual sponsor of Hamilton and the two-time Sprint Cup champion, might prove historic eventually. Just three years after Gordon and then F1 star Juan Pablo Montoya traded cars for a publicity event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Montoya was embarking on his NASCAR career. Would Stewart get a finder's fee?
7 Bobby Labonte
Bobby Labonte
Say what? The former series champion is back in a solvent ride at JTG Daugherty and racing for relevancy again at age 46. A 21st-place finish took some of the gloss off a fourth-place run at Daytona, where he helped push Bayne into a new life. But he's tied for eighth in points and back among the viable.
8 Ryan Newman
Ryan Newman
The defending race-winner jumped 12 spots in the standings to eighth by finishing fifth on Sunday.
9 Alan Gustafson
Alan Gustafson
Gordon seemed to greatly anticipate the opportunity to work beginning this season with his new crew chief. If Hendrick Motorsports comrade Chad Knaus is the understood standard of Sprint Cup crew chiefs, Gustafson is reputedly one of the brightest of the ensuing generation. Gordon was assigned Gustafson, who worked with Mark Martin until last season, during an offseason driver rotation and results came rapidly, especially taken in the context of Gordon's winless streak. Maybe it should have been expected. Gustafson won at Phoenix with Kyle Busch and Mark Martin, too.
10 Carl Edwards's image
Carl Edwards
His potential banner day ruined -- in a race sponsored by his No. 99 Ford's sponsor -- by the Busch incident, he soldiered on to finish 28th and collect a pittance of points after starting from the pole. After finishing second at the Daytona 500, he lost the points lead but kept his relationship civil with Busch for another weekend.

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