The race is done, and that means it's time for Power Rankings. Each week throughout the season, we'll size up who's rising and who's falling, based on current standings, behind-the-scenes changes, expected staying power, recent history and general gut feelings. It is not scientific, nor is it meant to be. And remember, whoever your favorite driver is, we're biased against him and like someone else better. We continue with a guy who will bring the crowds to their feet...
1. Matt Kenseth: Ol' Flatline is growing on us around these parts. He's got the dry wit that kills in press conferences but reads like total boredom on the page. Still, they don't race on paper (though it might make for better racing than Kansas! Zing!) and that, combined with yet another strong race, is why Kenseth is now No. 1. Last week: 2.
2. Greg Biffle: Bit of a slide for the Biffster this week, as he finished 12th at Darlington. Not the end of the world, certainly, but it's his second finish outside the top 10 in the last three weeks. The sky is falling! Or, at least, it's not quite as bright as it was last week. Last week: 1.
3. Jimmie Johnson: You know that you're successful when you start putting together legions of haters. And you just watch, as Jimmie Johnson continues to rack up strong finishes and wins, the haters will start coming out in force. Saturday night was an impressive race all the way around for the 48 team. Chad Knaus didn't have to sacrifice a crew member this time around. Last week: 8.
4. Kyle Busch: Here's another guy who's underperformed in the early part of the season but appears to be getting his feet (wheels?) under him. This is good news for Busch, bad news for the guys like Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards who haven't taken enough advantage of Busch's downtime to put some distance between him and them. Last week: 5.
5. Tony Stewart: There needs to be something more to spark the Stewart-Johnson rivalry, something mean and nasty. Stewart needs to steal away Chad Knaus or date Jimmie's sister (does he have a sister?) or something like that. We need to get this into a total who-ya-got, pick-a-side back-and-forth. These two are the best in NASCAR, the only champions since 2004, and it's only right that they have a big-time rivalry. Last week: 6.
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: All right, we give. We don't know when the hell Junior's going to win again. No idea. He'll probably win at the All-Star race just to throw a wrench into the whole "can't win" thing. But beyond that? Who the hell knows? We'll write a "this week is THE week" article, you'll scream that he's not as good as his daddy, the road goes ever on. Last week: 3.
7. Brad Keselowski: Here's my theory: Keselowski has his career planned out down to the microsecond. I mean, anybody who scripted out an end to that Talladega race the way he did has to have already planned out his Sprint Cup championship acceptance speech, right? I would. Last week: 4.
8. Martin Truex Jr.: Look, it's great that Truex is running really well, and it's too bad that some late snafus cost him a chance at a win, but the fact that Michael Waltrip was announcing the duel between Denny Hamlin and WALTRIP'S OWN FREAKING CAR is horse[mess]. You could hear the hitches in Waltrip's voice as he tried to preserve some weak veneer of objectivity. Last week: 7.
9. Denny Hamlin. Hamlin looked great in his old-school throwback firesuit, and the fact that Cale Yarborough signed it for him makes it all the cooler. Question: what's he going to do with that suit now that it's signed? I mean, he's got to wash it before displaying it, right? That thing's gonna reek. Last week: 11.
10. Kasey Kahne: Another fine run for Kahne, who continues to impress with another solid race. Problem is, he's still more than a full race out of the 10th spot. Yes, he'll need to win in order to get into the Chase, but it's looking more and more like that's a very real possibility. Last week: 10.
11. Carl Edwards: There was a brief moment Saturday night when it appeared Edwards might make a run at the lead. But Busch, Johnson and Kenseth kept the lead well in hand, which should cause some concern for Edwards and others who are running well but not spectacularly. Last week: NR.
12. Kevin Harvick: Here's another situation where we've got a guy who's running solidly but not spectacularly, and if he's not careful, he'll find himself fighting for a Chase spot. Sure, it's early, but Harvick only has two top-10s in his last five races, not the best trendline. Last week: 12.
Dropping out: Clint Bowyer
Lucky Dog: Marcos Ambrose. If they gave drivers two mulligans out of every three races, Ambrose would probably be in the Chase. Of course, so would a bunch of other guys. If he can sustain his good fortune, he'll be a threat. For now? A good race is just that, a good race.
The Jeff Gordon DNF: Yep, Jeff Gordon. Do we really need to tell you any more? This time around, a blown left tire. It's time to start a pool to decide what malady will befall Gordon next race. I'll go with "live weasel in the wheel well."