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Late night Daytona madness keeps Jimmie Johnson No. 1 in NASCAR power rankings

Even a chaotic Daytona race wasn’t enough to unseat Johnson from the top spot in this week’s rankings.

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Of course a restrictor-plate race taking the green flag at nearly midnight on the East Coast is going to offer sheer craziness. And as expected, that's exactly what unfolded late Sunday night, early Monday morning at Daytona International Speedway in a race no one will soon forget.

1. Jimmie Johnson (Last week: 1)

Though not often regarded as a great plate racer, Jimmie Johnson's stats say otherwise. Only Jeff Gordon (12) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (10) have more combined Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway victories than Johnson's five. This season alone, he owns two seconds and a fifth in three plate starts, finishing runner-up to Earnhardt both times.

2. Kevin Harvick (LW: 2)

Only when you're having an outstanding season as the one Kevin Harvick is in the midst of, does consecutive fourth-place finishes where he failed to lead a lap in either race feel like a bit of a letdown.

3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 5)

Watching Earnhardt control the draft on Sunday was a thing of beauty. Seeing a charge was coming, he would quickly shoot over and stunt the momentum then dart back to cutoff the other pack of cars. And while a lot of drivers excel at restrictor-plate racing and know all the tricks of the trade, like Earnhardt, few make it look as easy. If there is a comparison, it's similar to how a maestro extracts the optimum sound out of an orchestra.

4. Kurt Busch (LW: 3)

One of the stranger streaks in NASCAR continues with Kurt Busch moving to 0-for-58 in Cup races at Daytona and Talladega after a fifth-place effort Sunday. And it's not as if drafting is a weakness for the 2004 Cup champion, as evident by a career average finish of 16.9, which is sixth-best among active drivers. If anything, it's more happenstance and randomness.

5. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 4)

After going 15 races with just a single result outside the top 10, Martin Truex Jr. has finished 38th and 42nd the past two races. But don't take that as a sign of a driver regressing back to his career median following a torrid start. More than anything, it's a byproduct of the wackiness almost guaranteed to ensue when a restrictor-plate race is scheduled right after a road course.

6. Joey Logano (LW: 6)

Any chance Joey Logano had of becoming the sixth driver to win both Daytona races in a single season was erased when he got a piece of the Lap 3 crash started when David Gilliland chopped down across Clint Bowyer. In the aftermath, Logano's car suffered significant front-end damage rendering him non-competitive the rest of the night.

7. Jamie McMurray (LW: 8)

He just keeps doing enough every week to maintain a high enough points position that should earn him a Chase for the Sprint Cup spot even if Jamie McMurray fails to win a regular season race. He is 26 points ahead of the next winless driver in the standings (Jeff Gordon), following a 15th-place run at Daytona.

8. Denny Hamlin (LW: 11)

One of the few who looked capable of challenging Earnhardt, Hamlin had several opportunities over the final laps to make a bid for victory. But every time he mounted a charge, Earnhardt stymied him and Hamlin finished third. Not that anyone will remember that result, as a tap from Harvick sent Hamlin spinning in front of the field ultimately into Austin Dillon, who then catapulted into the front stretch catch fence just past the start/finish line.

9. Matt Kenseth (LW: 7)

Among the many caught up in the proliferation of multi-car wrecks that saw three different accidents Sunday with no less than seven drivers involved each time -- and that doesn't include the Dillon incident that came after the race was officially over. Which explains why Matt Kenseth finished 23rd.

10. Kyle Busch (LW: 12)

When Kyle Busch got loose and smacked the wall, his long shot playoff hopes seemed to grow even more remote. But he overcame the damage and salvaged a 17th-place finish. A result that he will likely look back on when the regular season concludes as the defining race whether he qualified for the Chase or missed out.

11. Brad Keselowski (LW: 9)

If Brad Keselowski felt like a pinball early Monday morning, he had good reason. In addition to being collected in two of the three multi-car pileups, he also collided heavily into Dillon's disabled car after the catch fence had stopped it from flying into the grandstands.

12. Ryan Newman (LW: Unranked)

Following the carnage Sunday night/Monday morning, Ryan Newman again vocalized his contempt for restrictor-plate saying, "NASCAR got what they wanted," and "don't pay attention to safety" in comments made to USA Today. While the rhetoric may be over the top and not accurate, give Newman credit for remaining outspoken about a topic even though he's been fined for similar remarks previously.