Magic Mile Power Rankings: Charlotte
Chase Race #5 - Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway
Spoiler alert! Reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski isn't going to go away quietly, as he earned not only his first win of the 2013, but kept the bonus points away from the likes of Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson, who had to settle for third- and fourth-place finishes, respectively.
It certainly has become a two-horse race between Kenseth and Johnson, who are now separated by only four points, while Kevin Harvick sits 29 points behind in third. Johnson trails Kenseth in the standings, but has he been hot enough to hold on to the top spot in the MMPR?
Here's a look at the Magic Mile Power Rankings heading into Sunday's race at Talladega Superspeedway:
1. Jimmie Johnson - Five-Time is doing exactly what makes him so good at this time of year. Johnson's consistency is just sickening, as his fourth-place finish at Charlotte on Saturday night gave him his fourth top-five in the first five races and maintains his 4.0 average finishing position during that stretch. They don't call him Superman for nothing.
Previous ranking: First,--
2. Matt Kenseth - All in all it was a good day for Kenseth (third), who increased his lead over Johnson to four points, despite the 48 leading 130 laps and starting the race 16 spots ahead of the Joe Gibbs Racing 20.
Previous ranking: Second, --
3. Kevin Harvick - It's not inconceivable to believe that Mr. Happy still has a legitimate shot to win this thing. But he's going to need a little help from the 48 and 20. And he's also going to need to find a way to finish stronger at Talladega, a track he hasn't cracked the top 10 in the last four starts.
Previous ranking: Third, --
4. Kyle Busch - Rowdy rebounded nicely with a fifth-place finish at Charlotte, one week after a demoralizing weekend at Kansas. And while history says a 35-point deficit is too much with five races to go, Talladega has a way of making a mess out of everything.
Previous ranking: Fifth, +1
5. Jeff Gordon - The 24 is doing everything he can to stay within striking distance, recording his fourth top-10 in five Chase races. But reality says that it's going to take victories to win the championship, and what better place than Talladega (six-career wins) to get that mojo started.
Previous ranking: Fourth, -1
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - It's safe to say that a 15th-place finish just isn't going to get it done for Junior Nation. He pretty much has to win-out at this point ... and that's to even have a shot.
Previous ranking: Sixth, --
7. Kurt Busch - This team has a lot to be proud of. What a run it's been for the first one-car team to ever make the Chase.
Previous ranking: Seventh, --
8. Kasey Kahne - Double K was able to shake the cobwebs on Saturday night, leading a race-high 136 laps. A runner-up finish has to feel like a win for this team right now.
Previous ranking: 12th, +4
9. Carl Edwards - Another top-10 for Cousin Carl. But this team just can't find the speed to contend right now.
Previous ranking: 11th, +2
10. Clint Bowyer - It was a respectable night for Bowyer (11th), who at this point probably just can't wait for the checkers to fall in Miami.
Previous ranking: 10th, --
11. Ryan Newman - It's certainly been hit or miss for Newman over the last five weeks. He either contends for the win or is nowhere to be seen.
Previous ranking: 13th, +2
12. Greg Biffle - See Carl Edwards.
Previous ranking: Ninth, -3
13. Joey Logano - Much like Newman, Logano has been pretty hit or miss during the Chase. If nothing else, this is going to be a huge learning experience for one of the best young drivers in the sport.
Previous ranking: Eighth, -5
Top Non-Chaser. Brad Keselowski - Duh. The reigning NASCAR champ still has a little fight left in him after all.