NASCAR power rankings 2013: The defending champ moves to No. 1

Kevin C. Cox

As to be expected following an eventful race at Bristol, there is a shakeup in this week's NASCAR power rankings and the result is a familiar face atop the standings.

He probably should have been ranked No. 1 last week, but Brad Keselowski's fourth consecutive top-five finish is too much to ignore and he takes over the top spot from Jimmie Johnson.

And what do we make of Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin, who have shown plenty of speed but not the week-to-week consistency?

1. Brad Keselowski (Last week: 2)

The defending champ still doesn't have a win, but what he does have is four top-five finishes to start the year and at this point, it's only a matter of time before he finds his way to Victory Lane.

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 4)

It isn't flashy, but the way Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 have grinded out top 10s is impressive nonetheless. Although, Earnhardt Jr. will be the first to tell you that this team has a ways to go before it is in the same league as the 2 and 48 teams.

3. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 1)

Johnson would have kept his point lead -- and likely the No. 1 ranking -- if it weren't for a balky front tire that let go with 40-some laps to go. No matter, he heads to Fontana as one of the favorites with a track-best five victories and 10 consecutive top 10 finishes.

4. Matt Kenseth (LW: 3)

If Kenseth can make it to the checkered flag, he's a force to be reckoned with. But whether it's him blowing a motor at Daytona while leading or him getting wrecked at Bristol, that whole finishing a race thing is something Kenseth is still working on.

5. Kasey Kahne (LW: 11)

Should Kahne be considered a title contender along the same lines of Keselowski and Johnson? That's a topic for another day. Right now, the pertinent question is whether Kahne at Fontana can do something he never has done before: Win Cup races in consecutive weeks?

6. Kyle Busch (LW: 12)

For the second straight week Busch made it harder on himself by incurring a penalty for speeding on pit road and then had to rally back to leave with a top-five finish. Imagine what he could do if he stopped having a lead foot every time he hit the pits.

7. Clint Bowyer (LW: 9)

Bowyer's fifth-place run at Bristol represented a nice rebound after a dreadful outing in Las Vegas. And overall, last year's championship runner-up has had a solid -- albeit quiet -- start to his year and finds himself fourth in points heading to Fontana.

8. Carl Edwards (LW: 5)

Considering that Edwards was under the weather so much so that he got sick in the car and said afterward that was "the most miserable race I've ever been through," coming back from an early wreck to finish 18th isn't so bad.

9. Denny Hamlin (LW: 6)

Said it last week but it bears repeating, there are simply too many points being thrown away by the 11 team this early in the season. And what Hamlin needs more than anything at Fontana is a quiet, controversy-free weekend that sees him leave Southern California with a top 10.

10. Greg Biffle (LW: 14)

Bristol was an up-and-down race for Biffle that saw him struggle through the early portions, surge in the middle and then slide back to finish 11th. And considering he has been anything but stellar this year with just a lone top 10, the Roush driver has to be ecstatic to be fifth in points.

11. Kevin Harvick (LW: 10)

No matter its configuration, Bristol is just a track that doesn't agree with Harvick, who on Sunday finished outside the top 10 for the eighth time in nine races. Does anyone else get the sense that the next few weeks will define Harvick's season one way or another?

12. Tony Stewart (LW: 7)

Sitting 24th after a crash-induced his 31st-place finish at Bristol, the reality is that Stewart has never been this far down the standings (24th) after four events. Although it's still too early to hit the panic button, this is a team that with another bad race or two might soon have to pin its Chase hopes on the wildcard.

13. Paul Menard (Unranked)

While it may come as a surprise to see Menard in the top 10 in points -- he's currently ninth -- it shouldn't be. This is a regular occurrence for the RCR driver, who every year since 2010 has been in the top 10 in points after four races.

14. Mark Martin (LW: 8)

Let's call this a collective ranking for the 55 car, as Martin took a week off and still has more points than a host of drivers including Gordon, Ryan Newman, Stewart and Jeff Burton. And in Martin's absence, Brian Vickers filled in admirably and gave the No. 55 team its second top 10 in four races.

15. Kurt Busch (Unranked)

For the first time all season Busch put together a complete race and he was justly rewarded with his first top-five result since June.

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