Magic Mile Power Rankings: Phoenix
Although it took a little help from Carl Edwards's fuel tank, Kevin Harvick was able to find Victory Lane for the fourth time this season, and for the fourth time in his career at Phoenix International Raceway. The win keeps Mr. Happy in contention for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, and equals the win totals of points leader Jimmie Johnson and second-place Matt Kenseth, who also each have two wins in the Chase.
Johnson survived two scares - from Joey Logano and Carl Edwards - to finish third, while Kenseth battled with his No. 20 Toyota Camry all day, finishing 23rd, the worst finish by any driver in NASCAR's playoff.
Here's a look at the Magic Mile Power Rankings heading into Sunday's final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway:
1. Jimmie Johnson - There were times on Sunday that it looked like the 48's run at a sixth championship were all but lost. However, when all was said and done, it was Johnson crossing the finish line in third, giving him a 28-point lead over Matt Kenseth and 34-point cushion over race-winner Kevin Harvick. Dust off the shelf, Jimmie. Time to make room for another trophy.
Previous ranking: First, --
2. Kevin Harvick - What a great run for Harvick, who led a race-high 71 laps and put himself in position to capitalize on Carl Edwards's lack of fuel at the end of the race on Sunday. The fact he's still mathematically alive is impressive, but the fact he has two wins and only two finishes outside the top 10 (20th at Loudon, 12th at Talladega) just shows how good you have to be over the last 10 races.
Previous ranking: Third, +1
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - He's certainly saved his best racing for last. At this point, the hope is that it carries over into 2014 - because outside of a win on Sunday, this will be considered yet another lost season by Junior Nation.
Previous ranking: Fourth, +1
4. Matt Kenseth - How the mighty have fallen. What once seemed like Kenseth's championship to lose, he now enters Homestead as a severe underdog behind Five-Time. It's not impossible, but with two finishes outside the top 20 in his last four races hardly give his fan club any confidence that he'll be able to close that gap.
Previous ranking: Second, -2
5. Kyle Busch - You have to admire his tenacity. If there's one thing to be said about the 18, it's that there's been no give up. And considering how porous a day it was for JGR, his seventh-place finish on Sunday has to be considered an achievement in of itself.
Previous ranking: Seventh, +2
6. Jeff Gordon - He started on the pole and led 49 laps. Well done. Moving on.
Previous ranking: Sixth, --
7. Kurt Busch - How about that? Just when it looked like he was all but done making history for Furniture Row, Busch adds another top-five for the 78 team. He continues to set the bar high for 2014.
Previous ranking: 10th, +3
8. Clint Bowyer - A tough day for Bowyer, who had been one of the most consistently good drivers over the last month.
Previous ranking: Fifth, -3
9. Joey Logano - He led 33 laps on Sunday and finished ninth. One more solid finish will set the tone and make him one of the favorites entering 2014.
Previous ranking: 9th, --
10. Ryan Newman - It was a good day for Newman, who led 31 laps and finished 10th.
Previous ranking: 11th, +1
11. Greg Biffle - He led a lap. So, that's something.
Previous ranking: Eighth, -3
12. Kasey Kahne - And out of the cellar is Mr. Kahne. Truth be told, he's been pretty good over the last couple weeks. That being said, this has not been a good Chase for the 5.
Previous ranking: 13th, +1
13. Carl Edwards - Cousin Carl just needed another drop of fuel. Instead, his descent in the MMPR plummets to the bottom.
Previous ranking: 12th, -1
Top Non-Chaser. Juan Pablo Montoya - In his last season in the Cup Series, Montoya has been, consistently good, surprisingly, over the last nine races. Guess it's better to go out with a bang.