After 26 races on a combination of short tracks, superspeedways, midsize ovals and a pair of road courses NASCAR's regular season has concluded. But before the Chase for the Sprint Cup becomes all consuming over the next 10 weeks, here are the final power rankings of the regular season.
1. Matt Kenseth (Last week: 2)
The No. 1 Chase seed has always wanted to win at Chicagoland, the track closest to his hometown of Cambridge, Wis. And with prowess of the Joe Gibbs Racing cars on the mile-and-a-halfs this season, this might be the year Kenseth finally gets that victory.
2. Kyle Busch (LW: 1)
For the second consecutive September Richmond race Busch had a fairly quiet night, though it didn't help getting trapped a lap down while making a pit stop. Regardless, it doesn't matter as Busch enters the Chase seriously poised to contend for his first Cup title.
3. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 3)
Never before has Johnson posted four consecutive finishes in the 30s. This dip in performance will test the theory that come playoff time, the No. 48 team can simply flip the switch and resume its dominance. We'll see.
4. Carl Edwards (LW: 9)
Lost in all the hubbub of "Spingate" and who made the Chase and who didn't, did you realize that it was Edwards who won the race? No, seriously he did. They gave him the trophy and everything. And did you know he had accumulated more points during the regular season than anyone else? This is also true.
5. Kevin Harvick (LW: 5)
Were it not for a caution that pinned him down a lap, the spring Richmond winner felt he was in a position to complete the sweep. Alas, he finished 11th and heads to Chicagoland where he's been victorious twice (2001, '02).
6. Kurt Busch (LW: 10)
As others saw their Chase fortunes sway up-and-down at Richmond, Busch was a rock. He started on the outside of the front row, never ran lower than seventh, and led 73 laps en route to a runner-up finish. And with that result he becomes the first driver to make the Chase driving for a single-car team.
7. Kasey Kahne (LW: 7)
Thanks to a pair of victories, the perpetually inconsistent Kahne didn't have to sweat through Richmond and finished 14th. However, because he failed to move into the top-10 in the standings he won't get any bonus points for his wins at Bristol and Pocono.
8. Clint Bowyer (LW: 6)
If there is an underlying subplot in Bowyer's spin it's that the subsequent caution played a prominent role in Jeff Gordon missing the Chase, which has seemingly reignited their feud. Bowyer even joked that he wished he could take credit for Gordon failing to qualify during his ESPN interview Tuesday. Call it a hunch but I'm thinking Gordon extracts his revenge sometime over the next 10 weeks.
9. Joey Logano (LW: 4)
As he prepares for his first Chase appearance, there is one thing Logano should do: send a thank you card to MWR. Without chicanery of Bowyer and everyone else, Logano would have fallen out of the top-10 in points and wouldn't have had enough wins to snag a wild card.
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 8)
Though there is little doubt that he would be Chase-bound, Earnhardt made it official thanks to a steady 13th-place effort. This marks a career-best third straight year he's qualified.
11. Jeff Gordon (LW: 11)
Post-race Gordon said it best, explaining his team simply wasn't good enough and thus deserving of a Chase spot. Unlike last year when he was saddled with rotten luck for much of the regular season, this season was more about failing to capitalize when those too few opportunities arose.
12. Ryan Newman (LW: 14)
With the frustration of losing a win otherwise secured accompanied with missing the Chase, it's understandable. But did anyone else notice how quickly -- and often -- Newman pointed the finger at his pit crew for the slow stop that cost him the win?
13. Martin Truex (LW: 12)
Have to feel bad for Truex who didn't ask for the circus that became the final seven laps Saturday, but paid the price when he got booted out of the Chase. How he reacts to that stomach punch over the next 10 weeks will be telling. Does he use it as motivation or become an afterthought the rest of the way?
14. Greg Biffle (LW: 13)
The 16 yo-yoed for much of night, and for a while it looked like Biffle might be the odd man out, even with his Michigan win, but in the end he was three points above the cutoff.
15. Jamie McMurray (LW: Unranked)
One of those guys who runs better than he's finished this season, McMurray's fourth was just his second top five on the year.