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Magic Mile Power Rankings - Week 5

Monday, March 25, 2013

Well, has the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series gotten your attention? If not, then clearly you don't like high speeds, intense action and bitter rivalries. Sunday's race certainly had a little bit of everything, right down to a final-turn pass and a post-race scuffle.

Kyle Busch took the checkers, but it was Joey Logano that created the most fireworks, first blocking Tony Stewart on a late restart and then colliding with Denny Hamlin during a fight to the finish. It'll certainly be an interesting two weeks as the Cup Series enjoys a brief "bye week" during Easter weekend.

Here's a look at the Magic Mile Power Rankings* heading into Week 6 at Martinsville Speedway on April 7:

1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Sure, Junior took advantage of a crazy situation in front of him to lock in his second runner-up finish, and third top-five in the first five races. But you have to be running up front in order to seize the day - and Junior has been doing just that, securing his fifth top-10 in as many races to begin the season. Junior ranks first in average spots gained per race and quality passes: that all adds up to the 88 now being your leader in the points standings and, more importantly of course, your leader in the MMPR.
Previous ranking: Second, +1
Consecutive Weeks in MMPR: 5

2. Brad Keselowski - When you can finish 23rd in a race and still be averaging well inside a top-10 finish for the season, you know you're doing something right. No, Sunday at Fontana was not Bad Brad's best day since winning last year's championship, but considering it was only his fourth finish outside the top-10 in his last 25 races, there isn't any reason to believe Sunday was anything but a fluke.
Previous ranking: First, -1
Consecutive Weeks in MMPR:

3. Kyle Busch -  Okay, I admit it, he deserves to be here. I took a beating on my ninth-place ranking of Rowdy last week, but after Sunday it's clear he deserves to be talked about among the hottest drivers in the game. Much like Earnhardt, Busch was in the right place at the right time with his high pass of the dueling Logano and Hamlin, but it's a safe bet that he would have passed them anyway given how much momentum he had at that point in the race. A much deserved win and an albeit much deserved ascent in the MMPR for the 18.
Previous ranking: Ninth, +6
Consecutive Weeks in MMPR: 2

4. Jimmie Johnson - What's this? Is the 48 team showing signs of struggle? Well, you know things can't be that bad when you're finishing 12th in a race and everyone's talking about how bad things are for you. Five-Time is still averaging the third-best finishing position in the series and his 110.2 driver rating is tops among all drivers. Martinsville - where he owns a ridiculous 5.5 average finish in 22 career starts - in two weeks should provide more perspective on just where exactly this team stands right now.
Previous ranking: Third, -1
Consecutive Weeks in MMPR:

5. Matt Kenseth - Take away some bad luck at Daytona and Bristol, and it's likely Kenseth would probably be the points leader right now. But Sunday's finish had to feel good for the 20 team, which had yet to put back-to-back strong races together this season. Momentum is a fickle thing, and it can go either way. It seems to be finally swinging in a positive way for Kenseth.
Previous ranking: Fifth, --
Consecutive Weeks in MMPR: 3

6. Carl Edwards - Cousin Carl is starting to look like the guy that won nine races in 2008 and competed head-to-head for a championship with Tony Stewart in 2011. With his fourth-place finish on Sunday, Edwards now has as many top-fives this season as he had total in 2012. The 99 has his confidence back and that means trouble for the other 42 drivers week in and week out.
Previous ranking: Seventh, +1
Consecutive Weeks in MMPR: 4

7. Kasey Kahne - To say Kahne's ninth-place finish on Sunday was disappointing is certainly an understatement. A top-10 car for much of the day, Kahne looked like he'd give Kyle Busch the biggest challenge over the final 10-15 laps. Instead, Kahne's car faded and he squeaked out a top-10. But there's little doubt in anyone's mind right now that the 5 car is one of the tops in the field each week, however, Martinsville is one of his worst tracks, historically. The extra week off could be a blessing in disguise.
Previous ranking: Sixth, -1
Consecutive Weeks in MMPR: 2

8. Paul Menard - Oops, this must be a misprint. Well, no, not at all, actually. One of my darkhorses to make this year's Chase for the championship is looking every bit the contender five weeks into the season. With his third straight top-10 finish, Menard has raced himself into eighth place in the points standings. Menard has gotten better every year he's been in the Cup Series, and that's the case again so far in 2013.
Previous ranking: 10th, +2
Consecutive Weeks in MMPR: 2

9. Joey Logano - The knock on Sliced Bread over the years is that he lacks the aggression and fortitude to challenge the best drivers in the world. Well, that isn't the case so far this season and the results are speaking for themselves. A week after confronting Denny Hamlin as he was about to exit his vehicle, Logano got into a heated, physical exchange with Tony Stewart after Smoke blamed Logano for a block during a late restart. Nevertheless, Logano's new attitude has him ninth in points.
Previous ranking: Not Ranked, +2
Consecutive Weeks in MMPR:

10. Kurt Busch - Hey, you can't deny the results. After stumbling out of the gates, the elder Busch has two top-fives in his last two races - at two very different racetracks. Yes, it would be a surprise to see Busch sneak into the top 10 in points, but there's no denying that when this guy gets in the right frame of mind, he's one of the best there is behind a steering wheel.
Previous ranking: Not ranked, +1
Consecutive Weeks in MMPR: 1

Wave Around: Denny Hamlin - It doesn't look good for Denny, who was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his lower back on Monday afternoon. Time will tell what this means for Hamlin, but had it not been for his run-in with Logano, things might be looking a lot different right now for the driver of the 11 car.

Dropped out of the MMPR: Clint Bowyer

*This list is comprised of drivers that compete in the Sprint Cup Series on full-time basis.

Previous Nos. 1
Week 1 - Jimmie Johnson
Week 2 - Jimmie Johnson
Week 3 - Brad Keselowski
Week 4 - Brad Keselowski