Kansas has been resurfaced, but I fully expect the same group of suspects to be running up front when the checkered flag falls. Without further ado, here are the power rankings for this week’s race.
Pole position: Brad Keselowski
After dominating at Charlotte and missing the win by a few gallons of fuel, look for points-leader Keselowski to rebound and challenge for the win on Sunday.
Outside pole: Denny Hamlin
If it was’t Bad Brad leading the way at Charlotte, it was Denny Hamlin, who still isn’t to be denied a top-five running position in any race of late. Winner of the spring race at Kansas, Hamlin should take the repaved Kansas Speedway by storm.
Position 3: Jimmie Johnson
It’s no coincidence that the top-three speedsters at Charlotte are currently 1-2-3 atop the points standings and 1-2-3 in these rankings. Jimmie leads a bunch of stats at Kansas, including poles and laps led, so predicting that he’ll be good this weekend is a prophesy already fulfilled.
Position 4: Jeff Gordon
A combination of an ill-handling car and a mid-race speeding penalty cost Gordon a probable top-10 at Charlotte, a it will take a win-contending run to hold on to any title hopes team #24 still has. He’s won twice at Kansas, and he should be able to return to top-three form shortly.
Position 5: Kasey Kahne
Slight inconsistencies–some beyond his control–continue to keep Kahne from being within 15 points of the leader, but he’s run as well as any man during this Chase. A top-five run is in the offing at Kansas.
Position 6: Clint Bowyer
With his third win of the season, Bowyer has suddenly sprouted up in journalistic circles as a 2012 title contender. He might’ve been grinning all along, but whatever the case, a top-10 run is expected on Sunday.
Position 7: Kyle Busch
The cream of the non-Chase drivers continues to contend for wins and flirt with crashing the Chase party, but as yet, he still sits on his single win from spring’s April Richmond race. He’s close to stealing the spotlight for a week, so keep a spare eye on those M&M’s. The ones on his car, that is.
Position 8: Greg Biffle
The mildly variant bar graph of Biffle’s 2012 performance is currently on an upswing, and he’s looking like he could grab another win before 2012 turns off the lights on a season that was almost meant to be. Kansas is a very Roush-Fenway Racing type of joint, so team #16 should look sporty this Sunday.
Position 9: Matt Kenseth
Kenseth continues to lie dormant in the 2012 Chase, with his ‘Dega win being the lone (and lucky) bright spot on somewhat of a shockingly low-performance Chase. He still has enough mojo to easily crack the top-10 in these power rankings, but a top-five is sorely needed to keep his spot in these rankings, and much more importantly, the Chase top-10.
Position 10: Tony Stewart
Like Biffle above, Stewart’s year has been characterized in great part by a number of upswings and downswings, and unfortunately, Smoke currently travels the wrong direction on the performance elevator. But like Kenseth, he tends to bust a move when one leasts expects it. Whatever the case might be, he still has some top-10 steam left in his 2012 sails.
Position 11: Joey Logano
Talladega was the only blip on Joey’s top-10 parade of late, and he continues to run solidly to close out the 2012 year, Penske Racing and a hugely bright future just around the corner. Turn 2 of his Cup career might be catching his focus now, but turn 1 at Joe Gibbs Racing is at least bowing out with grace.
Position 12: Martin Truex Jr.
The jury is looking increasingly doubtful on whether or not Truex Jr. will catch a win in 2012, but at least a solid top-10 points run is entirely forthcoming. He was the runner-up in ths spring race at Kansas, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see similar performance this weekend.
Lucky Dog: Kevin Harvick
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