NASCAR power rankings: Harvick makes big move following Richmond win

Jerry Markland

What did a topsy-turvy race at Richmond do to this week’s NASCAR power rankings?

Often, the finishing order in a short track race will have some unfamiliar names near the front. This was again the case at Richmond, where 406 laps of hard racing combined with off nights for Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Kasey Kahne produced a different mix of drivers in the top 10.

Consequently, this week's power rankings see lots of fluidity with some drivers making noticeable leaps forward, while others took sizeable steps in the other direction.

1. Jimmie Johnson (Last week: 1)

Typically, finishing 12th would bring about a change in the top spot, but this is no ordinary week. With Johnson sustaining damage in an earlier wreck (not of his doing) and having to rally back just to finish where he did, along with Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski not having runs worthy of moving them up, last week's No. 1 stays put for another week. It also doesn't hurt that Johnson has a commanding 43-point lead in the standings.

2. Matt Kenseth (LW: 4)

How damaging was the 50-point deduction imposed by NASCAR? With those 50 points, Kenseth would be fifth overall and just nine markers out of second. Instead, he finds himself 13th in the standings, 30 points behind Paul Menard for 10th. At least he has that second win to fall back on in case he needs it. Oh wait, never mind.

3. Kyle Busch (LW: 3)

For the first third of the Toyota Owners 400, Busch looked like anything but the driver who had won four consecutive spring Richmond races. Then the No. 18 car magically came to life and assumed its customary position at the top of the leaderboard. However, all good things must come to an end and when Tony Stewart spun Johnson it left Busch with nowhere to go. The resulting damage negated any chance he had to win, and he placed 24th.

4. Carl Edwards (LW: 6)

Edwards is still missing the consistency that has been flashed by other drivers where he finishes in the top for multiple weeks at a time. That said, what he's doing is working, as he has a win, is ranked second in points and heading into stretch of tracks that plays into his strengths.

5. Brad Keselowski (LW: 2)

After blowing a tire and hitting the wall, it appeared "Captain Comeback" would live up to his moniker as he still drove back into the top 10 despite a wounded machine. But there is only so much Keselowski can overcome as an engine down a cylinder proved to be his undoing.

6. Clint Bowyer (LW: 8)

With four top fives in his last six races, it's obvious Bowyer is at the same level he was at a year ago. The only thing missing from his résumé and why he isn't ranked higher is the donut hole in the win column. That could easily change at ‘Dega, where he is a two-time winner.

7. Kasey Kahne (LW: 6)

Got caught up in a wreck and left Richmond in 21st, but that's short-track racing for you. Interesting note about Kahne: Despite being 0-35 in plate races, he has led at least one lap in nine of the last 10 Talladega races.

8. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 9)

Remember when Earnhardt used to win restrictor-plate races with regularity? It's hard to believe that his last points victory came in 2004 when he was still driving for his family-owned team in the iconic No. 8 Budweiser car. Ah, memories, Junior Nation.

9. Kevin Harvick (LW: 14)

Amazing how quickly a victory can change the perception of a team. Before Richmond, Harvick was viewed as a fringe Chase contender. Now, the 29 team has the inside track, and unless it completely falls apart during the summer -- ala Ryan Newman last year following his win at Martinsville -- Harvick should make the Chase for the fourth consecutive year.

10. Aric Almirola (LW: 12)

An eighth-place finish at Richmond marks a career-best three straight top 10s for Almirola.

11. Greg Biffle (LW: 7)

An up-and-down season has taken its latest dip, as Biffle has posted finishes of 36th and 19th in the last two weeks.

12. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 10)

The 17th-place finish doesn't tell the whole story, as Truex was spun by Kurt Busch while running second with 54 laps to go. If there is a positive sign to take out of Richmond it's that this team has seemingly turned the corner after a slow start to the year.

13. Paul Menard (LW: 11)

Just as he has done all season, Menard continues to quietly turn in solid -- albeit unspectacular -- results, the latest being a 13th at Richmond, which tied his career-best finish at the Virginia short track and has him 10th in points.

14. Joey Logano (LW: Unranked)

In the previous five weeks, Logano has alternated between finishing in the top five with finishing 20th or worse. And considered he was third at Richmond, you know what that means for his chances at Talladega.

15. Kurt Busch (LW: Unranked)

Busch and Furniture Row Racing are on the verge of getting that breakthrough win. But until his luck matches his speed, Busch's 51-race winless streak is only going to increase.

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