Magic Mile Power Rankings: Kansas
Chase Race #4 - Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway
Just when it looked like Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson were going to run away with this Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, a new contender has made his way toward the front.
With a dominant performance on Sunday, Kevin Harvick has put himself into the mix for the championship, winning at Kansas Speedway and climbing within 25 points of Kenseth for the championship lead.
Here's a look at the Magic Mile Power Rankings* heading into Saturday night's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway:
1. Jimmie Johnson - After three straight top-fives to begin the Chase, including a win at Dover, Five-Time cooled off this past week at Kansas with a ... sixth. Not exactly a bad day, especially when you consider how much trouble some of the other top Chasers had at the Midwest cookie cutter. And with points-leader Kenseth finishing outside the top 10 and Johnson now just three points behind him, this is now a two-man race for the title.
Previous ranking: Second, +1
2. Matt Kenseth - All things considered, an 11th-place finish at Kansas was a respectable day. The 1.5-miler is looked at as much as a wild-card track as Talladega. But it was Kenseth's worst finish there since 2009, ending a streak of six straight top-10s and a run at three consecutive victories.
Previous ranking: First, -1
3. Kevin Harvick - Well, hello there Mr. Harvick. Welcome to the Chase. It was a three-driver before Kansas, and it's a three-driver after Kansas, too ... just not the same three drivers. With his win at Kansas, Harvick has made himself an instant contender despite a 25-point deficit. The good news is that there's still plenty of time to make that up.
Previous ranking: Sixth, +3
4. Jeff Gordon - It's safe to say that the 24 team is taking full advantage of the opportunity NASCAR has given it when it comes to the Chase. Back-to-back top-fives (fourth at Dover, third at Kansas) has Gordon still in the hunt for the title. There's still plenty of work to be done, and it's likely going to take a slip or two from the 48 and 20, but with Talladega still on the docket, anything's possible.
Previous ranking: Fourth, --
5. Kyle Busch - Nothing went right for the 18 this weekend. Crash in practice. Transmission issues on the backup car. A first-lap spin out. And run-ins with virtually every driver on the track. And to cap it call off, he finished 34th. It's tough to rebound from a finish like that in the Chase, but if anyone can, it's Rowdy.
Previous ranking: Third, -2
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Another week, another top-10 for Junior. "Is possible to have a redo at Chicagoland?," said every Junior Nation fan on the planet.
Previous ranking: Seventh, +1
7. Kurt Busch - Second place. That's better. No matter what happens over the next six races, Furniture Row has a lot to be proud of. And, more importantly, Busch has his swagger back, which is good news for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014.
Previous ranking: Ninth, +2
8. Joey Logano - Sliced Bread is in the same predicament as Junior. Take away the first race, or in Joey's case, the first two, and he's right in there. His fourth-place finish on Sunday now gives him 16 for the season - the sixth most in all of Sprint Cup.
Previous ranking: 10th, -2
9. Greg Biffle - It was a ho-hum 13th-place finish for Biffle, who has the third-best average finish at Kansas, trailing only Johnson and Brad Keselowski.
Previous ranking: Fifth, -4
10. Clint Bowyer - No one wanted to put together a strong day more than Mr. Kansas himself. But it wasn't to be as Bowyer was stuck in the middle of the pack all day and could never make a move toward the front.
Previous ranking: Eighth, -2
11. Carl Edwards - It's too little, too late for Cousin Carl. The fifth-place finish did help alleviate some of the disappointment from Dover, but a 60-point deficit with six races to go is nearly an impossible feat to ask - even for one of the best drivers in the sport.
Previous ranking: 11th, --
12. Kasey Kahne - He's out of the Magic Mile cellar. That's about all you can say at this point.
Previous ranking: 13th, +1
13. Ryan Newman - Wrong place at the wrong time sums up the Rocketman's day at Kansas.
Previous ranking: 12th, -1
Top Non-Chaser. Paul Menard - Not only did the 27 put together a strong day, but he had a legitimate chance to win the race on Sunday. So much so, the team was probably disappointed with a seventh.