He drops out of the rankings this week after 2 poor showings. In the 2 races that are actually worth points, he's finished 16th and 22nd. I realize last week was the Daytona 500 where he has Earnhardtitis, but at Phoenix he finished 2 laps down and couldn't get anything to go right. Whether it's because he's investing too much time in Danica, no more Darian, or the Championship hangover, Smoke needs to get it in gear, because several drivers are already off to the races, and he's still stalled on pit lane at Daytona.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (did not race)
Tony Raines (did not race)
Terry Labonte (did not race)
Tony Stewart (finished 22nd, 2 laps down)
Dave Blaney (finished 23rd, 3 laps down)
Marcos Ambrose (engine failure, DNF-ed in 32nd)
NEW THIS WEEK:
Juan Pablo Montoya
ON THE GAS:
Martin Truex Jr.
ON THE BRAKES:
20. Clint Bowyer (-9):
Clint stays in by the skin of his teeth. You ever have one of those Murphy's Law days, where everything can and WILL go wrong? That was what happened to Clint at Phoenix. He had a tire go down and brought out a caution. He got a replacement, went back out on track, and the damage from the first wall pancake cut the tire down again. The second verse was harder than the first. Clint finished outside the top 30 and you know he was thrilled to see the checkered flag.
19. Paul Menard (-13):
Menard was another driver who was happy to see the race end at Phoenix. He was doing well early on, but finished the day 9 laps down and outside the top 30. He went crashing down the standings as well as this week's rankings. RCR is performing much better to start the year though, so here's hoping Menard is a new face that can stay in the rankings all year.
18. Jeff Burton (-13):
If this man has ANY luck at all, it's usually bad. Burton just can't catch a break. He was in contention for a great finish, and led some laps in this race. He was running near the front most of the afternoon, but with 21 laps to go the 31 started spewing smoke out the back, and Burton made that dreaded left turn into the garage after the engine went kablooey.
17. Kurt Busch (previously NR):
Busch is driving for an underfunded team this year even though he's supplied by Hendrick engines. This time, the elder Busch brother ran the entire race and led a couple laps, finishing 15th. It's not the greatest day, but for his new team it's enough to put him back into the lower end of this week's rankings.
16. Aric Almirola (previously NR):
Almirola may not have led a single lap, nor was he ever in contention to win, but he gave the King a 12th place finish in the historic #43. For never having any sort of success in the Cup Series, and Richard Petty's #43 never amounting to anything for well over a decade, this spot on the rankings is a call to Almirola for a solid day.
15. Juan Pablo Montoya (previously NR):
Would you look at that? Montoya didn't hit any jet dryers this week, kept the car in one piece, and low and behold came home just shy of the top 10 with an 11th place showing. He goes from last week's dishonorable mention to a new addition to this week's power rankings.
14. Bobby Labonte
"Bobbily Abonte," as our Debi's (JrCanuckFan) son used to affectionately call him, stays right where he was last week. He didn't have a great day, but it wasn't terrible either. He's better off than the big names who struggled either here or at Daytona. If you don't believe me, then consider this. Labonte's 16th place finished moved him up 3 spots and into the Chase, making him the only Chaser after 2 races without a top 10 finish.
13. Carl Edwards (-5):
12. Jeff Gordon (previously NR):
Welcome back, Kotter? No, but welcome back the #24 to the power rankings where you'd expect to see him every week. NASCAR's winningest active driver led at Phoenix and finished 8th. Look for him to start climbing up the rankings. Can you believe this is Gordon's TWENTIETH year in Cup?! I still can't!
11. Brad Keselowski (previously NR):
Keselowski also makes it back into this week's rankings in a big way. He was out front for a while and had a shot to win this race at one point. The Blue Deuce is back as Brad came home 5th at Phoenix. Last year's Chase Cinderella ain't Cinderella anymore.
Check page 2 for the top 10