By Brant James
May 17, 2011
NASCAR Power Rankings

Three already-defined title contenders are denied the big prize. A former champion reaches out and grabs it by grabbing two less tires. A fully inflated power rankings ... Have a comment? Send to You can also follow me on Twitter at

1 Carl Edwards
Carl Edwards
Points leader Carl Edwards led 117 laps on Sunday at Dover, but his shot at victory was undone -- along with Jimmie Johnson's and Clint Bowyer's -- by taking four tires on a final pit stop after a caution. With many of the cars pursuing the fast three opting for two tires, the class cars of the race were left with too many challengers and too little real estate to reconcile in the final 30 laps. Edwards should remain contented with another strong race car, seventh-place finish and continued hold on the top spot.
2 Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie Johnson
Ditto. Jimmie Johnson was in line to tie Bobby Allison and Richard Petty as Dover International Speedway's alltime wins leader, but his seventh victory there eluded him on the pit call. Johnson said he completely understood crew chief Chad Knaus' decision and shrugged off the result as one of those ... well, you know. Still second in points and puttering along nicely, the five-time defending series champion has the luxury of peace of mind right now.
3 Matt Kenseth
Matt Kenseth
The Chase for the Championship, so the old legend goes, was borne out of Matt Kenseth's tectonic creep to the 2003 title behind just one early season victory. Now he's all but locked himself into the 2011 Chase -- so ever-developing common assumptions go -- by winning for the second time this season and jumping four spots to sixth in points after 11 races. This Kenseth is always at the crossroads of history. His coupling with crew chief Jimmy Fennig is working out splendidly. Considering their succinct nature, there may be few words spoken in a 17-car debrief than in any other in the garage.
4 Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch
It was a relatively mundane weekend in Candyland, even in winning his second consecutive Truck series race. The Rowdy Slam was off the table when he finished second in the Nationwide Series race and his well-documented latest incident with Kevin Harvick didn't carry over after both were put on probation and fined by NASCAR. All that static aside, Kyle Busch demonstrated again just how talented he is by driving from last place at the start after changing engines to finish fourth with the benefit of just six cautions, on a one-mile track where driving conditions were slick to borderline dicey.
5 Clint Bowyer
Clint Bowyer
Clint Bowyer recovered from an early incident to lead before the final caution completely changed the complexion of the race. A sixth-place finish, however, gave him six top-10s in his last seven starts and continued to validate him as a developing contender.
6 Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick
Started 10th, finished 10th, stands fifth in points. With two wins to his credit and seemingly a certain postseason qualifier, Harvick could set the No. 29 Chevrolet on theoretical cruise control, but he's not. His average running position was 6.3 on Sunday as he passed a race-high 41 cars while running in the top-15. He, too, was caught in the four-tire mire on the final stop.
7 Mark Martin
Mark Martin
Crew chief Lance McGrew put Mark Martin out front by skipping the final yellow-flag pit sequence. Although Kenseth passed for the win, Martin held on for a much-needed second-place finish, his best of the season. The top-5 was just his fourth of the season, but Martin vaulted three spots to 11 in points.
8 Jeff Burton
Jeff Burton
He tied a season-best by finishing 11th, passing 40 cars while running in the top-15. Jeff Burton quite possibly could have jumped into the top five for the first time this season, as he was running fourth during the final caution, but Todd Berrier, too, elected four tires and the No. 31 Chevrolet was relegated to a less-than-deserved finish, as was the case with Bowyer, Edwards and Johnson.
9 Ryan Newman
Ryan Newman
A woeful afternoon (started 28th, finished 21st) at a track that three times before had left Ryan Newman unamused. "I've never driven so hard for so little," he said of a No. 39 Chevrolet that was balky throughout. Newman dropped just one spot to seventh in the standings, but is another race removed from his glory days at Dover, where he won three times in four races from 2003-04.
10 Kurt Busch
Kurt Busch
Two weeks after Kurt Busch's radio rant against team engineer Tom German, Penske Racing announced that German was taking a leave of absence to pursue a Master's Degree at MIT. That's some powerful tantrum.

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