Published March 10, 2013
Matt Kenseth’s victory in Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was indeed impressive, as he won for the first time with his new team, Joe Gibbs Racing.
The FOXSports.com/SPEED.com Power Rankings have never been closer at the top, but on the basis of his third consecutive top-four finish, defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski narrowly takes over the top spot from five-time champ Jimmie Johnson.
This week’s list:
1. BRAD KESELOWSKI — After his third-place finish, Keselowski was bemoaning the fact that he is yet to win this season. But he has been awfully close in each of the first three races and looked rock solid again in Las Vegas. He’s not going anywhere. Last week: 2.
2. JIMMIE JOHNSON — What’s wrong with the 48? After winning at Daytona and finishing second at Phoenix ,Johnson was sixth in Sin City. Of course absolutely nothing is wrong with the 48, as Johnson is still plenty strong. Last week: 1.
3. MATT KENSETH — OK, let’s cut to the Chase: As early as this season is, Kenseth nearly won the Daytona 500 and now has a victory under his belt. If someone other than Kenseth, Johnson or Keselowski wins the championship this year, it will be a surprise. The top three already are in a class by themselves. Last week: 6.
4. CARL EDWARDS — The Missouri native backed up his Phoenix victory last week, with a top-five finish and appears back on form after last year’s dismal season. Last week: 3.
5. DALE EARNHARDT JR. — Three races, two top-five and three top-10 finishes for Earnhardt, who is off to a very strong campaign this year. Third in points right now is an excellent way to start the season. Last week: 4.
6. DENNY HAMLIN — Like his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Hamlin had a very fast Toyota in Vegas. A late-race pit road penalty cost him a good finish, as he ended the day 15th. Last week: 5.
7. KASEY KAHNE — For the first time all season, Kahne dominated, leading nearly half the race, but got beaten by pit strategy. Still, it was his best run of the year by far. Last week: 15.
8. MARK MARTIN — The ageless one was good but not great at Las Vegas, finishing a respectable 14th. Last week: 9.
9. KYLE BUSCH — The younger Busch finally put together an incident-free day and finished fourth after leading 27 laps. Last week: 16.
10. TONY STEWART — Like a lot of his fellow drivers, Stewart was awful early, going a lap down to the field. But he rallied near the end to salvage an 11th-place finish. Last week: 8.
11. GREG BIFFLE — Regarded as one of the threats to win, Biffle surely had to be disappointed with his 17th-place finish. Last week: 11.
12. CLINT BOWYER — Virtually from the drop of the green flag, Bowyer’s day was a complete and utter disaster, resulting in a 27th-place finish. Last week: 7.
13. ARIC ALMIROLA — Believe it or not, 16th at Vegas was Almirola’s worst finish of the season. And believe it or not, he’s 10th in points. Last week: Unranked.
14. KEVIN HARVICK — Finally, Harvick managed to have a solid run, earning his first top-10 points-race finish of 2013. Ninth place at Vegas was pretty good. Last week: 12.
15. JEFF GORDON — Three of the four Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets at Las Vegas finished in the top seven. Gordon finished 25th, a disastrous run on what should have been a good track for him. Last week: 10.
16. RICKY STENHOUSE JR. — Certainly, an 18th-place run wasn’t what Stenhouse was shooting for, but he’s 11th in points, which has to be ahead of where he expected to be at this point. Last week: 13th.
17. PAUL MENARD — Is Menard’s first top-10 finish of the season cause to declare it’s Menardi Gras time? Maybe, maybe not. But in any event it was a good day for Menard. Last week: Unranked.
18. JOEY LOGANO — By finishing 12th at Las Vegas, Logano posted his best result to date since joining Penske Racing. Last week: Unranked.
19. MARTIN TRUEX JR. — Like Harvick, Truex put his early season bad luck behind him at Las Vegas, where he had his first top 10 of the year. Last week: 20.
20. MARCOS AMBROSE — Not a great race for Ambrose, but not a horrible one, either, as he finished 22nd. Last week: Unranked.
Points After Vegas
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100.