Posted: 9:44 p.m. Wednesday, May 8, 2013
By Jordan Bianchi
Through the first few weeks of the season Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and even Dale Earnhardt Jr. all jostled for the top spot in the weekly rankings. But with steady consistency along with an ability to avoid the pratfalls which have befallen the others, one driver has firmly established a foothold as No. 1.
1. Jimmie Johnson (Last week: 1)
There has been a noticeable shift in the strategy the No. 48 team employs at Daytona and Talladega. No longer does Johnson linger in the back for three-fourths of the race hoping to avoid the "Big One" and then charge late. He now makes it a point to run up front throughout and that approach has paid dividends this season with a win in the Daytona 500 and a fifth at Talladega.
2. Matt Kenseth (LW: 2)
More proof that Kenseth has equated himself to life at Joe Gibbs Racing: Through 10 races this year, he's been in front of the field for 764 laps. This exceeds the total number of laps he's led in nine of 13 full seasons.
3. Carl Edwards (LW: 4)
It's apparent the rapport between Edwards and crew chief Jimmy Fennig is strengthening with every race. It's also clear that this team is on the cusp on reeling off a couple victories in a row.
4. Brad Keselowski (LW: 5)
Another week, yet another self-created controversy for the defending Sprint Cup champion. This time when he erroneously claimed David Ragan had lined up improperly on a late-race restart. With appeals process now over with, the best thing Keselowski can do for the next few months is keep his head down and stay out of the headlines.
5. Kyle Busch (LW: 3)
In a five-race stretch from Las Vegas to Texas, Busch won twice and finished no worse than fifth. However, he's now immersed in run of futility where he's wrecked in three consecutive weeks including Talladega where he was the catalyst for 16-car pileup in Turn 1.
6. Clint Bowyer (LW: 6)
The bad news for Bowyer is his run of top five finishes came to an end at two. The good news is despite finishing 18th, he still moved up a spot in the standings to fourth.
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 8)
It was a quiet Sunday for Earnhardt Jr., who for just the third time in 27 Talladega starts failed to lead a lap en route to a 17th-place finish.
8. Kasey Kahne (LW: 7)
After being wrecked at Daytona and Talladega by Kyle Busch, Kahne says he will now be staying far clear of the 18 car in future plate races. The fabricators at Hendrick Motorsports thank him.
9. Aric Almirola (LW: 10)
In the midst of a four-race stretch where he's placed no worse than 10th, Almirola has taken the No. 43 team to heights it hasn't experienced since 1996 when Bobby Hamilton was driving the iconic STP Pontiac.
10. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 12)
After the frustration of getting spun while running second the week before at Richmond, Truex bounced back nicely at Talladega with a seventh.
11. Kevin Harvick (LW: 9)
Harvick's momentum from his thrilling win at Richmond lasted all of 44 laps before being swept up in the multi-car melee created by Kyle Busch.
12. Jeff Gordon (Unranked)
When is an 11th at Talladega deemed a successful outing? When, like Gordon, you get a piece of both of the "Big Ones" and do so despite a heavily damaged frontend.
13. Paul Menard (LW: 13)
Talladega wasn't kind to Menard, who dropped cylinder and ended up posting his worst result of the year (26th).
14. Greg Biffle (LW: 11)
Call it a freefall if you will, as Biffle has plummeted from third in points to 11th and limps into Darlington with back-to-back finishes of 36th.
15. Regan Smith (Unranked)
With a dearth of drivers deserving of this spot the nod goes to Smith. Not only did he win the Nationwide Series race Saturday with a daring pass coming to the checkered flag, but he also vaulted into the points lead -- a first for JR Motorsports. And his weekend was topped off with his second Cup top 10 of the year in just four starts.