By Dustin Long
June 19, 2012
Michigan Power Rankings

All that talk about record-breaking speeds and Goodyear bringing new left-side tires a day before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series raced at Michigan went away as soon as Dale Earnhardt, Jr. crossed the finish line first.

It was the result many have said the sport needed. His first victory in four years was celebrated by many, but he'll need a bit more to climb atop the Power Rankings.

Jimmie Johnson
2012 wins: 2
2012 Top-10s: 11
He narrowly retains the top spot this week after his fifth-place finish at Michigan -- his fourth top-five finish in the last five points races. He placed fifth after starting at the back of the field when his team changed engines before the race. "We had so many issues throughout the day," Johnson said after the race. "Blistering right rear tires and ran out of fuel coming to the checkered. So, coming out ... with a top-five with all those troubles, I feel good about that."
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 12
He scores his first victory in four years and dominates, leading 80 of the final 100 laps. "We just whooped them really good," Earnhardt said. The victory gives him four top-10 finishes, including two top-fives, in the last five races. He remains the only driver to have run all 4,648 laps run this season. Something else to consider: Earnhardt's worst finish this year is 17th.
Matt Kenseth
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 11
Every week he's there. Kenseth's consistency is what has kept him atop the points standings. His third-place finish was his eighth top-five of the season, tying Johnson and teammate Greg Biffle for most in the series. Kenseth has scored nine top-10 finishes in the last 10 races. His worst result this season is a 22nd at Las Vegas, the only time this year he's placed worse than 16th.
Greg Biffle
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 9
Bounces back with a much-needed fourth-place run at Michigan. Now must build on that to recapture the consistency he had earlier when he opened the season by finishing no worse than 13th in the first eight races.
Tony Stewart
2012 Wins: 2
2012 Top-10s: 7
His feast-or-famine run continues. This time, he feasted, finishing second. Consider his results in the last seven races: 3rd, 24th, 3rd, 25th, 25th, 3rd, 2nd. While Stewart might be best remembered for telling the media that Earnhardt's win wasn't cause for a national holiday, it shouldn't be overlooked what Stewart has done the past couple of weeks. As the series heads to the road course at Sonoma, remember that he's placed in the top 10 there in five of the past seven races.
Denny Hamlin
2012 Wins: 2
2012 Top-10s: 8
A blaze of glory his day was not. After an incident, he came down pit road with fire coming from his car and quickly climbed out. The result was a season-worst 34th-place result. Even with that, he's scored five top-five finishes, including a win, in his last eight starts.
Brad Keselowski
2012 Wins: 2
2012 Top-10s: 6
Up-and-down season continues with a 13th-place finish at Michigan. Doesn't seem like much but considering how far behind Brad Keselowski was before the tire change, this was a strong recovery. Even so, Keselowski wasn't thrilled with his result: "We kind of fought some bad breaks, and I felt like we were probably a fifth to 10th-place car and came home with a 13th. That's kind of been the story of our last few weeks."
Clint Bowyer
2012 Wins: 0
2012 Top-10s: 8
He climbs into the Power Rankings after his seventh-place finish. Bowyer has finished between fifth and 13th in each of the last seven races.
Kevin Harvick
2012 Wins: 0
2012 Top-10s: 8
Scored his third top-10 finish in the last four races with a 10th-place effort at Michigan. Did it despite fighting his car's handling throughout the race.
Steve Letarte
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 12
Holds one of the toughest jobs in the sport as Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief. Every move is scrutinized. Letarte has shown he can handle it and his work with Earnhardt since last year has helped the driver and team. The result was a much-needed victory to end talk about winless droughts. This combination will be one worth watching in the coming weeks.

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