Posted: 3:50 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013
By Jordan Bianchi
With the cars from Hendrick Motorsports seemingly self-destructing, the Toyota-powered teams lacking horsepower and Joey Logano making a statement in winning from the pole, you could say Michigan did quite a number on this week's NASCAR power rankings. As for how much the order is askew, you'll just have to keep reading.
1. Jimmie Johnson (Last week: 1)
Johnson lost a car in practice then an engine in the race, so yeah it was that kind of weekend for the series points leader, who is still winless at Michigan. And if you're wondering, despite finishing 40th Sunday -- his worst result of the year -- he still has a 41-point lead over second-place Clint Bowyer.
2. Clint Bowyer (LW: 3)
With a fifth at Michigan, Bowyer now has eight top-fives on the year -- only Kyle Busch (10) and Johnson (nine) have more. This underscores the consistency of the No. 15 team, now if he could just find Victory Lane, something he hasn't been able to locate since October.
3. Kyle Busch (LW: 2)
You know Busch has an ill-handling car when he spins out not once but twice on his own accord, as happened Sunday. Per usual, he will be among the guys to beat at Bristol, where in the spring he led 56 laps and finished runner-up to Kahne.
4. Kurt Busch (LW: 8)
Busch's inspired driving continues to make up for the deficiencies his crew has in the pits, an issue that has plagued the 78 team all season. Regardless, he still finished third Sunday and incredibly, is ninth in points and appears on the verge of rolling off a couple wins in a row.
5. Kevin Harvick (LW: 12)
As he said himself afterward, a runner-up finish was exactly the kind of run Harvick needed after a month-stretch of being ordinary.
6. Kasey Kahne (LW: 4)
Considering the troubles that inflicted his teammates, Kahne has to be happy with his quiet seventh-place finish. And if he can complete the Bristol sweep Saturday, it would give him three wins on the year and more importantly, secure him a Chase berth.
7. Carl Edwards (LW: 6)
Led no laps and finished 10th at a track where he nearly won at in June. How you interpret that is up to you, but it's obvious that despite being third in points Edwards has work to do before being considered a legitimate title contender.
8. Joey Logano (LW: 14)
In the aftermath of his victory Logano spoke of how he thought he could get another win or two in the next few weeks. Although it may sound like hyperbole, it's not. In the last 12 races the No. 22 team has 10 top 10s, and only tire failures in consecutive weeks at Daytona and New Hampshire have prevented Logano from being much higher in the standings.
9. Brad Keselowski (LW: 9)
Curious pit strategy in the latter stages did Keselowski no favors, as what should have been a top five finish was instead a 12th. Nevertheless, the speed that the defending Cup champ had early in the season has returned, and a win or two in the next three weeks would not be a surprise.
10. Matt Kenseth (LW: 5)
With an average finish of 18th in his last 11 races is it time for Kenseth fans to locate the panic button? Yes and no. While it's disconcerting how much he's leveled off as of late, every team experiences a lull and the hope is once Toyota sorts out its engine issues the 20 team's performance will elevate accordingly.
11. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 7)
Three weeks ago Earnhardt was considered a borderline lock to make the Chase following a fifth at Pocono, which had him 62 points clear of the cutoff. Oh how quickly things can change. As a result of a wreck at Watkins Glen (not his fault) and a cut tire at Michigan (also not his fault), Earnhardt is only 20 points ahead of 11th-place Kasey Kahne.
12. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 11)
In the last six weeks Truex has just one lone top 10, which explains why he's squarely on the Chase bubble. And a 17th Sunday accompanied by a Logano win certainly made his footing even more tenuous. As stated numerous times before in this space, Truex's playoff hopes may hinge on how he executes at Atlanta, the kind of track he's excelled on this season.
13. Greg Biffle (LW: 15)
With Bristol and Richmond upcoming -- he's never won on a short track before -- Michigan was Biffle's best chance to score another regular season victory. Instead, his Chase chances remain wobbly as he's 10th in the standings and now he must tread water the next three weeks.
14. Ryan Newman (LW: 10)
It was a forgettable weekend for Newman on a couple of levels. First, he lost his hold on the second wild card spot. Then, after being told Stewart-Haas can't offer him a ride for next year because of a lack of sponsorship, he learns the team is considering adding a fourth car to bring Kurt Busch aboard.
15. Jeff Gordon (LW: 13)
Throughout the weekend Gordon spoke optimistically of how strong his Chevrolet was and how he thought he could secure his first win of the season. Instead he never ran higher than eighth, had an average position of 17th, which is where he finished. In short, Michigan was a disaster and now he needs to win at least once if not twice in the next three weeks if he wants to make the Chase.