Magic Mile Power Rankings: Texas
The end of Sunday's race will only magnify and add intensity to the budding rivalry between Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth, who didn't even race on Sunday thanks to his two-race suspension. Jimmie Johnson, one of the most respected drivers in NASCAR, passed Brad Keselowski, who led a million laps on Sunday, with six laps remaining and pushed ahead for his first win since May 31, giving the 48 team a little boost in spite of being out of the Chase for the championship.
Logano's pass on Kenseth at Kansas has been the source of controversy over the last few weeks, and now fuel has been added to the fire as many believe the way Johnson went about his business on Sunday was the way Logano should have gone about his on Oct. 18. But that's an argument for another time.
With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, here's a look at the rankings heading into the 35th race on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz:
- Joey Logano (28 points) - It's been a rough two weeks for Logano, who was bullied by Matt Kenseth at Martinsville and victimized by a bad tire at Texas this week. He's still atop the MMPR thanks to three straight wins last round, but his chances at winning the Chase are slim unless he can win this week at Phoenix.
Last week: First, --
- Jeff Gordon (25 points) - It was a quiet week for Gordon. But the fact he can finish in the top-10 and have it be a quiet week is definitely a good sign for fans that want to see the 24 go out as a champion.
Last week: Second , --
- Brad Keselowski (16 points) - You've got to give it to Kes, who really needed a win at Texas, but chose to race clean as Jimmie Johnson made a late pass for the win.
Last week: Ninth, +6
- Carl Edwards (11 points) - The second half of the season has been a strong one for Edwards, who finally seems to be adjusting to the new team and Toyota manufacturer change. The 19 team has just three finishes outside the top-10 since July and should be a lock for one of the three spots in the title race in two weeks.
Last week: Eighth, +4
- Kyle Busch (15 points) - Rowdy is quietly having the best season of his career with an 11.5 average finishing position. Yes, he missed the first 11 races, so there's a rightful asterisk to accompany said stat, but that doesn't take anything away from what the 18 has done since he's been back. He has been consistent and strong, and deserves his opportunity at the title should he get there.
Last week: Fifth, --
- Martin Truex Jr. (14 points) - He lacks the hype, the well-known team name and the personality that typically come with a championship contender, but all Truex is doing is competing at a high level week in and week out. His eighth-place finish on Sunday could have been better, which is a truly telling tale for the 78 team.
Last week: Seventh, +1
- Kevin Harvick (13 points) - A dominant car for much of the season, Harvick has shown the ability to get lucky (see Talladega) and step up his game (see Dover) when the pressure is on. He'll need one or the other this week at Phoenix, a track he's won four straight races at five of the last six overall.
Last week: Third, -4
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (13 points) - It has to be frustrating for Junior fans to watch their pilot race so well without a chance at the title. Under the old school points system, the 88 team would be 87 points back with two races to go, so even his consistency this year wouldn't have been good enough under the previous format.
Last week: Fourth, -4
- Jimmie Johnson (12 points) - Good to see the 48 team find its form as the season comes to a close. There have been times this season that you have to wonder if the magic is gone for Johnson and Knaus, but a win like they had on Sunday at Texas certainly goes a long way in making sure 2016 looks a little brighter.
Last week: NR
- Kurt Busch (11 points) - Another top-10 for Kurt. But at this point, only a win is going to extend his bid at a championship beyond Phoenix.
Last week: 10th, --
Wave Around: Austin Dillon - One spot away from his first career top-10 at the Fort Worth track, Dillon has pieced together four decent runs in his last five starts.
*This list is comprised of drivers that compete in the Sprint Cup Series on full-time basis.
Win: 10 points
Top-5: 5 points
Top-10: 3 points
Most Laps Led: 2 points
Pole: 1 point
*The most recent five races are counted.
(Last five weeks' point total in parentheses)