CUP: Daytona 500 Power Rankings

Jimmie Johnson put on a late charge Sunday to win his second Daytona 500 and move to the top of the Power Rankings.

This week’s list.

1. JIMMIE JOHNSON — The five-time champ was quiet during most of Speedweeks but came on strong when it mattered, in a run reminiscent of David Pearson. He really does want to win eight championships and this is a great start to his pursuit of No. 6. Last week: 7.

2. DANICA PATRICK — Winning the Daytona 500 pole wasn’t a fluke. Patrick proved that by becoming the first woman to ever lead a Sprint Cup race, posting the best finish ever by a woman in a Cup race and by becoming only the 13th driver ever to lead both the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500. Last week: 2.

3. BRAD KESELOWSKI — Even with the nose of his Penske Ford torn up, Keselowski damn near won the 500 anyway. He will be a force to be reckoned with for quite some time. Last week: 6.

4. MATT KENSETH — The 2003 champ dominated the race, leading 86 of 200 laps before the engine in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota let go. Would not be a shock if he wins it all this year. Last week: 3.

5. DALE EARNHARDT JR. — For the third time in the last four years, Junior made a big charge at the end to finish second. Good way to start the year. Last week: 14.

6. KEVIN HARVICK — It was a great Speedweeks for Harvick up until Kyle Busch turned Kasey Kahne, triggering a multi-car pileup that took several top contenders out, including Harvick. Last week: 4.

7. RYAN NEWMAN — It was a trying week for Newman who fought illness and a wreck during a prelim to come back and post a solid top-five finish. Last week: 13.

8. TONY STEWART — Smoke’s Daytona 500 hard luck continued, as he got caught in the same crash that took out Harvick, Kasey Kahne and others. Last week: 1.

9. MARK MARTIN — The ageless one finished third behind Johnson and Earnhardt and got mega cool points for having rapper 50 Cent up on his pit box for the race. Last week: Unranked.

10. GREG BIFFLE — From start to finish, The Biff was the best of the Fords in Daytona, hands down. Couldn’t get hooked up on the last lap, though, and finished sixth. Last week: 11.

11. KYLE BUSCH — Fast car, DNF because of engine failure. A frightening flashback to last year for Busch. Last week: 9.

12. KASEY KAHNE — Speaking of frightening flashbacks, Kahne got wrecked out of the Daytona 500 again, not the start he wanted. Last week: 8

13. JEFF GORDON — A disappointing 20th-place finish for Gordon, who fought overheating issues along with bad drafting luck. Last week: 5.

14. DENNY HAMLIN — Once Kenseth and Busch fell out, Hamlin had no drafting partners. Had an interesting post-race Twitter spat with Joey Logano. Last week: 10.

15. CLINT BOWYER — It looked like Bowyer might finish in the top two or three, but he faded at the end. Last week: 15.

16. REGAN SMITH — Driving for tiny Phoenix Racing, Smith mixed it up with the big boys to finish seventh. Great run. Last week: Unranked.

17. MICHAEL MCDOWELL — Team owner Phil Parsons didn’t even bring a backup car for McDowell. He didn’t need one as McDowell drove to a ninth-place finish. Last week: Unranked.

18. MARTIN TRUEX JR. — Fast car, broken Toyota motor. Sensing a theme here? Last week: 17

19. CARL EDWARDS — No one is happier to leave Daytona than Edwards, who wrecked five cars. Last week: 16.

20. BOBBY LABONTE — When all the Toyotas were running, Labonte was in the top 10. Still finished a respectable 15th. Last week: Unranked.

Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for You can follow him online at