By Dustin Long
February 29, 2012
Daytona Power Rankings

One race down ... and a whole season to go. Now that NASCAR has left its version of the Bermuda Triangle -- Daytona International Speedway, where unexplained events occurred -- it's on to Phoenix, then Las Vegas, then Bristol ...

While many like to say the real racing begins at Phoenix, since cars don't need restrictor plates as they do at Daytona, the real power rankings include all races. So one race in -- and subject to change in the coming weeks -- here's a look at the rankings.

Jack Roush
2012 Team wins: 1
2012 Team Top-10s: 3
Quite a Speedweeks for the car owner. His team swept the front row for the Daytona 500 with Carl Edwards winning the pole and Greg Biffle starting second. Matt Kenseth won his qualifying race and then won the Daytona 500. Biffle placed third and Edwards was eighth in the 500. Roush's other car in the 500 was driven by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who finished 20th. Last July at Daytona, Roush's cars went 1-2 with David Ragan winning and Kenseth finishing second. Roush is king -- at least at Daytona and for one week in these rankings.
Matt Kenseth
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 1
The Daytona 500 champ won despite overheating issues early in the race, fuel problems, losing his tachometer and a radio shortage that prevented him from talking to his crew. Said Kenseth after the win: "You never expect to come down here and win, but I didn't expect to be as strong as we were down here. I am real anxious to get to the next few tracks and see how we are."
Greg Biffle
2012 Wins: 0
2012 Top-10s: 1
The Roush dominance continues. Biffle qualified second for the Daytona 500, finished third in the actual race, placed fifth in his qualifying race and was sixth in the Budweiser Shootout, leading the most laps.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2012 Wins: 0
2012 Top-10s: 1
For the second time in three years he was the runner-up in the Daytona 500. Earnhardt again drove a smooth, heady race, avoiding the pitfalls that struck other contenders. His chances of winning, though, were not good with teammates Kenseth and Biffle blocking him out at the end. Still, he managed to slip between the two and build momentum for Phoenix.
Jeff Burton
2012 Wins: 0
2012 Top-10s: 1
A strong showing for the Richard Childress Racing team, which struggled last year until the final weeks. His fifth-place finish in the Daytona 500 is his fifth top-10 finish in the last six races, dating to last season. A sign of things to come?
Denny Hamlin
2012 Wins: 0
2012 Top-10s: 1
A good opening act for Hamlin and new crew chief Darian Grubb. Hamlin led a race-high 57 laps and finished fourth in the Daytona 500. He also finished fifth in the Budweiser Shootout. Now the real test begins on this new driver-crew chief combo.
Tony Stewart
2012 Wins: 0
2012 Top-10s: 0
Typical Daytona. Runs strong in every race in Speedweeks but can't get the win in the 500. He finished second in the Budweiser Shootout, won his qualifying race and challenged for the win in the Nationwide race before he was collected in the wreck among the leaders on the last lap. Although he's typically not a fast starter, he nearly won four of the first seven races last year. Key question is if he can break that trend this year.
Carl Edwards
2012 Wins: 0
2012 Top-10s: 1
Rode the strength of the Roush cars to the pole for the 500 and left Daytona with an eighth-place finish. He has finished 11th or better in eight of the last 11 restrictor-plate races.
Marcos Ambrose
2012 Wins: 0
2012 Top-10s: 0
It was a strong Speedweeks for the Richard Petty Motorsports driver. He finished third in the Budweiser Shootout, placed third in his qualifying race and was 13th in the Daytona 500. Now, the key is to keep this run going for his team.
Brad Keselowski
2012 Wins: 0
2012 Top-10s: 0
He gained more than 100,000 followers on Twitter when he began tweeting from his car during the red flag caused by Juan Pablo Montoya's crash into the jet dryer and the subsequent fire. That's power. For that, Keselowski earns a spot in these rankings.

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