Published March 24, 2013
With his runner-up finish in the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes over the No. 1 spot in the FOXSports.com/SPEED.com Power Rankings.
This week’s list:
1. DALE EARNHARDT JR. — Five races into the season and Junior has three top-five and five top-10 finishes, including his second place on Sunday. He’s off to the best start of his career. Last week: 4.
2. BRAD KESELOWSKI — For the first time all season, Keselowski failed to finish in the top five, as he had myriad problems throughout the weekend in Southern California. Last week: 1.
3. KYLE BUSCH — The younger Busch has always been a streaky racer and his sweep of the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races could launch him to a great season. Last week: 8.
4. KASEY KAHNE — One of six drivers who bounced off the wall after hitting Timmy Hill’s oil slick, Kahne rebounded to finish ninth and hold on to seventh place in points. Last week: 2.
5. JIMMIE JOHNSON — Don’t let the 12th-place finish fool you: Johnson was awful at Auto Club Speedway, which is usually one of his very best tracks. Last week: 3.
6. CARL EDWARDS — A week earlier at Bristol, Carl Edwards puked in his car and lost 12 pounds in the process. This week, he finished fourth as he had a strong run. Last week: 9.
7. GREG BIFFLE — Another up-and-down weekend for Biffle, who at times was really fast and at times not. He finished a respectable sixth. Last week: 7.
8. MATT KENSETH — Surprisingly, perhaps, Kenseth was the least competitive of the three JGR Toyotas, although he ended the race in seventh place. Last week: 5.
9. PAUL MENARD — Quietly, Menard is putting together a very strong season. He finished in the top 10 for the third time in five races so far. Last week: 11.
10. DENNY HAMLIN — Although he officially was credited with 25th, Hamlin came within half a lap of winning at Auto Club before crashing hard. Last week: 10.
11. JOEY LOGANO — Wow, Logano sure pissed Tony Stewart off and he won’t be on Denny Hamlin’s Christmas card list, either, but he finished a strong and controversial third. Last week: 12.
12. KURT BUSCH — With his second consecutive top-five finish, Kurt Busch is one of the most interesting storylines of the still-young season. Last week: 15.
13. CLINT BOWYER — On a weekend when the Toyotas were pretty much all fast, Bowyer lost an engine and finished 35th. Huge disappointment. Last week: 6.
14. RICKY STENHOUSE JR. — Twentieth wasn’t very good, but for the fourth race in a row, Stenhouse finished ahead of girlfriend Danica Patrick. Last week: 13.
15. KEVIN HARVICK — For the first time all season, Harvick led a lap, although he could do no better than finish 13th. Last week: 14.
16. TONY STEWART — Wow. Stewart blew up at Joey Logano, who blocked him on the last restart. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next with those two. Last week: 19.
17. JAMIE MCMURRAY — The veteran cracked the top 20, but just barely, finishing 19th. Last week: 16.
18. JEFF GORDON — The four-time Sprint Cup champion was all over the map, finishing 11th after being as far back as 33rd. Last week: 17.
19. MARTIN TRUEX JR. — One of the few Toyotas that didn’t run well, Truex finished the race 18th. Last week: 18.
20. ARIC ALMIROLA — A decent 14th-place finish for Almirola. Last week: Unranked.
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.