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Magic Mile Power Rankings: Homestead-Miami
There's a new champion (sort of) atop the NASCAR world, as Jimmie Johnson climbed back atop the NASCAR mountain after a two-year hiatus. Although it wasn't smooth-sailing, Five-Time has become Six-Time thanks to a ninth-place finish, besting Matt Kenseth by 19 points to win his sixth championship in the last eight years.
Not to be lost in all of this was the winner of the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Denny Hamlin. It was the lone win of the season for Hamlin, who missed four races with a broken back and closed the season with only four top-fives, the worst season of his career, statistically. But his strong day on Sunday certainly makes turning the page to 2014 a whole lot easier.
Here's a look at the final Magic Mile Power Rankings for the 2013 season:
1. Jimmie Johnson - Matt Kenseth had a heck of a season, but when it mattered most the 48 was right where he needed to be. And with two wins and a 5.1 average finish in the Chase, there's little doubt as to who should be driving home with the hardware. Love him or hate him, it was a much-deserved championship.
Previous ranking: First, --
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Take away that 35th-place finish and Junior has a 5.6 average finish over the last nine races. Even with that finish he closed out the Chase races with an 8.5 average finish, which is pretty consistent and impressive. But all it does is leave his fans questioning what might have been.
Previous ranking: Third, +1
3. Matt Kenseth - It had to be a disappointing sight for Kenseth to see Johnson holding up the trophy amidst a cloud of smoke and confetti. It looked for so much of the season like it would be the 20 celebrating a second championship, his first in the Chase-era. It wasn't to be, however, it was hardly a lost season as he set a new career-high with seven wins, more than he amassed in the three previous seasons combined.
Previous ranking: Fourth, +1
4. Kevin Harvick - It's the end of an era for Harvick, who is now officially a member of Team Stewart-Haas. But unlike some drivers who fail to be competitive during the silly season, Harvick raced hard and entered Sunday's race still with a chance at the championship.
Previous ranking: Second, -2
5. Kyle Busch - The Chase started so well for the 18, but a 34th at Kansas, a track that has plagued his career, put Busch too far behind to catch up. Five top-fives in the Chase has to be a good sign for the future, though, right?
Previous ranking: Seventh, +2
6. Clint Bowyer - Nobody is probably happier to see this season over with than Bowyer. A great deal of credit has to go to this team for its hard work in spite of a very difficult circumstance entering the Chase.
Previous ranking: Eighth, +2
7. Jeff Gordon - The reality is that he shouldn't even have made the Chase. But he did, and he didn't disappoint, winning a race and finishing sixth in points.
Previous ranking: Sixth, -1
8. Joey Logano - It was certainly a crazy final 10 races for Logano, who closed out his first Chase with three straight top-10s. Sliced Bread's future looks as bright as it ever has.
Previous ranking: Ninth, +1
9. Kasey Kahne - The second half of the season was a terrible one for KK, who went from contender to pretender as fast as it takes for a right-side tire to go down in traffic. One has to wonder if the lingering effects will motivate or hinder his 2014 outlook.
Previous ranking: 12th, +3
10. Kurt Busch - This team has a lot to be proud of, and so does Busch, who helped put the last two years behind him and make him a serious threat as he moves to Stewart-Haas next season. He also legitimatized the 78, too, putting serious pressure on the next driver to sit in that seat (Martin Truex Jr.).
Previous ranking: Seventh, -3
11. Ryan Newman - It wasn't the kind of finish to the season that he was looking for, but there's always next year.
Previous ranking: 10th, -1
12. Carl Edwards - Oh, boy. Is it 2014 yet?.
Previous ranking: 13th, +1
13. Greg Biffle - See Carl Edwards.
Previous ranking: 12th, -1
Top Non-Chaser. Denny Hamlin - It was an emphatic exclamation point on the most disappointing season of they young pilot's career. That said, what a way to go into 2014.