NASCAR Phoenix power rankings

Christian Petersen

The top four drivers remain unchanged, but after that, there is quite a bit of movement in this week's NASCAR power rankings.

As to be expected after just the second race of the year, there are a lot of drivers moving up and down in this week's NASCAR power rankings. And it should come as no surprise that that the driver who made the biggest jump this week was Carl Edwards, thanks to his resounding victory at Phoenix.

1. Jimmie Johnson (Last week: 1)

A win at Daytona and a second at Phoenix means if Johnson continues the pattern, a third at Las Vegas seems inevitable. But no matter where he finishes, it's obvious the changeover to the Gen-6 has not thrown the 48 team for a loop, and Johnson now heads to a place where he has a track-best four victories.

2. Brad Keselowski (LW: 2)

Speaking of not missing a beat, your defending champ has opened the season with a pair of fourth-place finishes and could have easily won either race. It will be interesting to see how Keselowski performs at Vegas, where in four starts, his best result is 26th.

3. Denny Hamlin (LW: 3)

Contrary to what he said about not having a fast car, Hamlin's Toyota had plenty of speed; it takes more than just savvy track position to go from last to third. And without a pre-race engine change and having to forfeit his top-10 starting spot, it's a good guess that Hamlin would have been celebrating in Phoenix's Victory Lane for the second straight year.

4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 4)

I thought Earnhardt Jr.'s comments after Phoenix where he expressed frustration with finishing fifth were telling. This is a driver who knows he needs to win with greater frequency and understands that for the second week in a row, he let a good opportunity slip through his fingers.

5. Matt Kenseth (LW: 6)

After being among the fastest in practice, it was surprising Matt Kenseth wasn't more of a factor Sunday -- he didn't lead a single lap. Then again, he did run in the top 10 just about all afternoon and rolled across the finish line in seventh.

6. Carl Edwards (LW: Unranked)

It's probably too early to call Sunday a statement victory, so we'll refrain. Instead, just know that the last time Edwards snapped a 70-race winless streak, he followed that up by winning the subsequent week. And don't be at all surprised if history repeats itself, as Vegas is a track where Edwards owns two wins and his 10.2 average finish is good for second-best overall.

7. Clint Bowyer (LW: 8)

It was an eventful day for Michael Waltrip Racing, as all teams encountered some sort of adversity. For Bowyer it was miscommunication on an early pit stop that saw him clip a crew member, which resulted in him dropping to the back. But unlike his two teammates, Bowyer was able to recover nicely and netted his first top 10 of the year.

8. Tony Stewart (LW: 12)

The good news for Tony Stewart is he wasn't victimized by blown tires like Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick were. However, the bad news for Stewart is because both Newman and Patrick slammed the wall and incurred significant damage, the $130k he netted for finishing eighth is already spent.

9. Mark Martin (LW: 9)

After pacing practice and winning the pole, it seemed inevitable that Martin would be in the mix for his first win in three-and-a-half years. But between an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel and an ill-advised call to go with four tires instead of two, the veteran driver simply never had the track position that was so critical in deciding the outcome.

10. Jeff Gordon (LW: 13)

Considering what happened last time Gordon visited the Arizona desert, Sunday's ninth-place run was about as eventful as visiting a library.

11. Greg Biffle (LW: 5)

Considering how dominant Roush Fenway Racing is at Las Vegas -- its seven victories are tops among all teams -- it comes as a bit of a shock that Biffle is still looking for his first win on the 1.5-mile oval.

12. Kevin Harvick (LW: 11)

Is it me, or do the pair of victories Harvick had in the Sprint Unlimited and Budweiser Duel feel like forever ago? Because you get the feeling that if he has another so-so weekend in Vegas, all that talk about being a lame-duck is going to return in spades.

13. Aric Almirola (LW: Unranked)

A strong finish to 2012 has carried over, as Almirola has posted solid finishes of 13th and 15th at Daytona and Phoenix, respectively. However, with three DNFs in four Vegas starts it's going to be a challenge for him to continue that run this weekend.

14. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (LW: Unranked)

As that other rookie driver continues to hog the spotlight, Stenhouse has had very solid start to his freshman season. He followed a 12th-place effort at Daytona by coming home 16th at Phoenix, which came in spite of him scrubbing the wall early. And don't be surprised if his first career top-10 finish comes this weekend at Vegas -- it's the kind of track on which his team excels, and Stenhouse won the Nationwide race here last year.

15. AJ Allmendinger (LW: Unranked)

With a dearth of suitable options, let's go ahead and give AJ Allmendinger the nod this week for finishing 11th in what was his first start of the year. It's too bad he doesn't have a ride this weekend to see if he can carryover that momentum.

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