NASCAR power rankings: Spirited Martinsville shuffles order

Streeter Lecka

This week’s NASCAR power rankings sees Matt Kenseth surge past Jimmie Johnson on the strength of a surprising runner-up finish at Martinsville.

Angry drivers, crumpled fenders and tight racing are what you expect to see at Martinsville Speedway. And the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 certainly didn't disappoint.

The last short track race of the year was a down and dirty affair featuring a season-high 17 cautions. But when the smoke cleared and Greg Biffle had been restrained, a familiar face was in Victory Lane celebrating his first win of 2013.

1. Matt Kenseth (Last week: 2)

On a track where he has traditionally struggled, and where his championship counterpart is sublime, Kenseth not only took Johnson's best shot but beat him at his own game, leading a race-high 202 laps and finishing second. Three weeks from now, Martinsville could be where Kenseth looks back as the race that won his second series title.

2. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 1)

Frequently during the regular season, the No. 48 team left numerous wins and points on the table, a trend that's continued into the Chase. The latest, and more damming example, was this past weekend. Not only did Johnson fail to lead the most laps, but by finishing fifth he actually lost ground to Kenseth.

3. Jeff Gordon (LW: 6)

When you consider the greats who were productive well into their late 40s, there is no reason to think Gordon, 42, won't continue to win for years to come. However, the truth is the four-time Cup champion has openly talked about his desire to retire sooner rather than later, all of which makes his Martinsville triumph something to cherish.

4. Kevin Harvick (LW: 4)

Harvick bookended his sixth-place finish Sunday with a pair of apologies. The first mea culpa was to Ty Dillon and Richard Childress for his outburst the day before. This was followed by a post-race "I'm sorry" sent out to Ryan Newman after Harvick clipped the rear of the No. 39 car and sent him hard into the Turn 1 wall.

5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 5)

In the thick of a lot of skirmishes throughout the day, Earnhardt persevered to finish eighth. It was his fifth top-10 in seven Chase races, and with Johnson the only Chaser to collect more points, it makes that engine failure at Chicagoland all the more agonizing.

6. Kyle Busch (LW: 3)

The quest for Busch's first Cup championship took a serious blow at Martinsville, as he finished 15th and is now 36 points in arrears of the leaders. If there is a place, however, for him to make a last stand, appropriately it's at Texas. He won there in the spring and has excelled on the mile-and-a-half tracks this season.

7. Clint Bowyer (LW: 8)

In a statistic that causes you to do a double-take, Bowyer's third-place finish was the first time he's finished fifth or better since mid-August at Michigan -- a span of 10 races.

8. Carl Edwards (LW: 7)

Not once but twice Edwards had to issue apologies within the first 100 laps as he ran over both Jeff Burton and Travis Kvapil in separate incidents. And with that out of his system, Edwards settled down and kept his bumper clean the rest of the afternoon to place 12th.

9. Jamie McMurray (LW: 11)

The upswing in performance for McMurray continues as he followed his victory at Talladega with a 10th Sunday. This is noteworthy because this is just the second time all season he's posted top-10s in consecutive weeks.

10. Brad Keselowski (LW: 13)

On the smallest track on the circuit it's hard to stay out of the fray and leave with a car relatively unscathed. However, that's exactly what Keselowski pulled off and he was rewarded with a fourth-place finish, his fourth consecutive top-10 at Martinsville.

11. Greg Biffle (LW: 15)

Biffle was certainly within his right to confront Johnson, but to yank him by the collar from behind is taking it a step too far. Biffle's lucky Johnson reacted as calmly as he did, since not many drivers in similar situations would have been able to keep a level head and not let the situation escalate.

12. Kurt Busch (LW: 9)

With Busch posting three consecutive finishes outside the top-10 -- his worst stretch since this spring -- the clock has definitely struck midnight for NASCAR's Cinderella team. More troublesome, the speed which the 78 team has shown throughout the year has seemingly vanished.

13. Joey Logano (LW: 12)

A driver's first Chase foray usually is a roller coaster featuring more downs than ups. Logano has followed this pattern, as he has just two top-10s and is lacking the week-to-week consistency needed to finish higher in the standings.

14. Ryan Newman (LW: 10)

As it often happens on a short track, Newman was victim of someone else's recklessness. This time the offending party was Harvick, who hooked his bumper and turned Newman into the wall ending what had been a decent day as he had been running in the top-10.

15. Kasey Kahne (LW: 15)

What has been a downtrodden Chase for the No. 5 team continued this past weekend. This time with Kahne somehow, inexplicably getting stuck in a small patch of grass in Turn 3 and needing to be towed out. The calamity cost him four laps and he finished 27th.

More from SB Nation:

Complete coverage of the 2013 Sprint Cup Chase

Kevin Harvick apologizes for 'spoiled rich kids' comments

Harvick, Dillon feud at Martinsville

Brad Keselowski: Doctors don't understand our sport

The good times, hard life and shocking death of Dick Trickle

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