By Dustin Long
March 13, 2012
Las Vegas Power Rankings

Tony Stewart made amends. Jimmie Johnson seeks amends. And Greg Biffle will attempt to do something only two drivers managed to do last year.

As the series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend, there's much to discuss, along with this week's Power Rankings:

Greg Biffle
2012 Wins: 0
2012 Top-10s: 3
Your new series points leader is in some kind of rut. Three races. Three third-place finishes. He's the only series driver with three top-10 finishes. Every driver would like to be in this rut. Biffle is looking to become only the third driver since last year to score four consecutive top-five finishes. Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart both did it last year. Next up is Bristol, a place where Biffle has finished in the top 10 in four of the last five races.
Kevin Harvick
2012 Wins: 0
2012 Top-10s: 2
Not a great day for Harvick at Las Vegas (11th), but it's those steady performances that are key. A lot of drivers would like to have an 11th-place finish as their worst finish of the year. He's showing signs he'll be a driver to contend with throughout the season again.
Denny Hamlin
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 2
Hamlin struggled at Las Vegas and was a non-factor in finishing 20th. It was a disappointing performance after winning at Phoenix the week before and it dropped him from atop the Power Rankings. It will be worth watching how well this team performs at upcoming speedways (Auto Club Speedway, Texas and Kansas).
Matt Kenseth
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 1
He seemed headed for a solid finish but got shoved into the wall in the final laps at Las Vegas and finished 22nd. Been a rough couple of weeks for the Daytona 500 champion. A decision to take four tires at Phoenix when most of the field took two dropped him to the back and he couldn't recover. And then this happened at Las Vegas. Bristol comes at just the right time: He's scored five consecutive top-10 finishes there.
Tony Stewart
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 1
Sunday should have marked Stewart's second consecutive win at Las Vegas. He had the dominant car last year but was penalized halfway through the race when the air hose became entangled with the left rear corner of the car and Stewart dragged it out of the pit box. Sunday's win makes amends for that and leaves only two current Cup tracks where he hasn't scored a series victory in his career: Darlington and Kentucky.
Jimmie Johnson
2012 Wins: 0
2012 Top-10s: 2
His runner-up finish at Las Vegas was big but might not be as big as the appeals panel hearing his team has Tuesday. Hendrick Motorsports seeks to overturn NASCAR's penalties issued after series officials ruled Johnson's car at Daytona had unapproved body modifications. Among the penalties was a 25-point deduction that has Johnson 23rd in the standings and a six-week suspension to crew chief Chad Knaus. Much could be riding on what the appeals panel decides.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2012 Wins: 0
2012 Top-10s: 2
He started Sunday's race strong, leading 70 laps early after he led only 52 laps all of last season. He lost track position after a four-tire stop when many took two tires, and he struggled in the dirty air. His race might be best remembered for his contact with Mark Martin when Martin came up in front of him late in the race. The contact sent Martin bouncing off the wall.
Carl Edwards
2012 Wins: 0
2012 Top-10s: 2
Scored a quiet fifth-place finish at Las Vegas and didn't lead a lap. He's now gone a year since his last Cup victory, although he still nearly won the championship last season.
Trevor Bayne
2012 Wins: 0
2012 Top-10s: 1
He finished ninth at Las Vegas, scoring his best finish since winning last year's Daytona 500. That performance came a day after he finished fourth in the Nationwide Series, where he, coincidentally, ranks fourth in the standings. He will not compete in the upcoming Cup race at Bristol but was a late addition by Roush Fenway to the Nationwide race.
Steve Addington/Darian Grubb
Combined 2012 Wins: 2
Combined 2012 Top-10s: 3
After helping Stewart win the title, Grubb was let go and joined Hamlin's team. Grubb and Hamlin won last week at Phoenix. Addington replaced Grubb and helped Stewart win at Las Vegas. The changes will be scrutinized throughout the season and it will be interesting to see how each team fares.

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