Sporting News Power Poll after Michigan
We likely will be seeing a lot of Kyle Busch, left, and Jimmie Johnson in the coming weeks. They are shaping up to be the favorites to win this year's Chase, and are 1-2 in this week's Sporting News Power Poll. (John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)
On the strength of top-10 finishes at Michigan, Mark Martin and Kasey Kahne were the biggest movers up in this week's Sporting News Power Poll. Martin finished fourth and Kahne seventh, though both seem destined to miss the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup unless they produce some wins in the final three races. The poll is a weekly collaboration of Sporting News, SceneDaily.com, Rowdy.com and NASCAR Illustrated.
1. Kyle Busch (last week: 1st) Whether or not he believes it, Busch made a statement with his win over Jimmie Johnson at Michigan.
2. Jimmie Johnson (2nd) He was snookered by the master of restarts, but Five-Time gave Busch all he wanted down stretch at Michigan. You'll see these two duel some more in the Chase. They are the favorites.
3. Jeff Gordon (4th) Gordon led 50 laps at Michigan, more than he led at his Pocono victory in June and second only to his Phoenix victory this season.
4. Brad Keselowski (7th) With his third top three in three races—broken ankle and all—Kez deserves respect.
5. Carl Edwards (3rd) His plan to go all-out for the win got short-circuited by a balky electrical system. In the past 10 races, Edwards has finished 36th or worse three times.
6. Matt Kenseth (6th) Kenseth had a shot at winning but let it slip away. He should get a few more shots on downforce tracks.
7. Ryan Newman (9th) Newman made up for sliding through his pit stall by racing his way back into the top five. And he passed a fading Kurt Busch in points along the way.
8. Kevin Harvick (5th) A loose lug nut early in the day didn't help this team, as Harvick finished 22nd. Too bad he can't take the winning momentum he has from the truck series.
9. Tony Stewart (10th) Stewart is still clinging to a spot in the top 10, but if he makes the Chase, fuggedaboutit. Says Tony: "Our stuff is so bad right now that we're just wasting one of those top 12 spots.”
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (11th) A late pit stop at Michigan probably cost Junior a few points, but he still has a 30-point cushion on a Chase spot.
11. Kurt Busch (8th) Busch has had two dismal finishes in a row and suddenly has fallen behind teammate Keselowski. Busch must right his ship quickly to stay in the top 10.
12. Clint Bowyer (13th) An eighth-place run was great considering he started 35th. But he has just three races left to make up 24 points on 10th-place Stewart.
13. Greg Biffle (15th) A whiff by the Biff at MIS could prove costly. Starting from the pole he looked like a race winner at first, only to finish 20th.
14. Mark Martin (20th) Just when you thought Martin and crew chief Lance McGrew might go quietly, Martin reels off a strong fourth-place finish. Martin now has as many top fives (two) as DNFs this season.
15. Kasey Kahne (21st) Unfortunately for Kahne, his new beard was the most newsworthy development of the weekend. He led three laps on the way to a seventh-place finish.
16. Denny Hamlin (12th) Hamlin bottomed out after a tough run at Michigan. All is not lost, but the next three races are crucial. He's great at Richmond, and he may have to be to get into the Chase.
17. AJ Allmendinger (17th) Still a long shot to make the Chase, Allmendinger is 15th in points, which represents a very solid season so far for the 43 team.
18. Joey Logano (14th) Logano was 26th at Pocono, fifth at the Glen and 21st at Michigan. He's looking to regain some consistency before the end of the year.
19. David Ragan (23rd) Ragan put himself back in the top 20 of the standings with a 12th-place run. But a wild-card berth still looks shaky given there are three drivers ahead of him. He needs another win in the next three weeks.
20. Paul Menard (16th) With Hamlin struggling, Menard missed another opportunity to take a big chunk out of Hamlin's wild-card advantage. Instead he finished 26th. He needs to be better.
21. Martin Truex Jr. (19th) Truex finished 19th but was never a factor. It's back to the drawing board for the No. 56 team.
22. Regan Smith (25th) Smith's 13th-place finish was his seventh top 15 this season. He had four all last year, and none was a top 10. He has four top 10s this year, including a win, with 13 races to go.
23. Marcos Ambrose (18th) Ambrose posted a victory for the second weekend in a row. Unfortunately for him, it was on Saturday.
24. Jeff Burton (24th) It was back to the Burton we've come to know and love—a finish in the teens.
25. Juan Pablo Montoya (22nd) When finishing on the lead lap is the highlight of your weekend, it's obvious you have problems.