Dustin Long: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. the man to beat atop NASCAR Power Rankings

The wrong call kept Denny Hamlin from winning at New Hampshire, but a number of right calls have made Dale Earnhardt, Jr. a threat this season in many races. That success has Earnhardt leading the way in this week?s Power Rankings.
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 14
His sixth top-10 run in the last eight races vaults Earnhardt to the top spot of the Power Rankings. Earnhardt, though, wasn?t satisfied with his fourth-place finish Sunday at New Hampshire. ?We?ve just got to get another notch and start winning some more races,?? he said. ?We?re pretty excited about our chances when we get to the Chase, but we?ve still got some things to learn and accomplish before we get there.??
2. Jimmie Johnson
2012 Wins: 2
2012 Top-10s: 14
Johnson rallied to finish seventh after getting caught a lap down when the caution came out shortly after he pitted. It?s his sixth top-10 in the last seven races. ?I think we have enough speed on the race track and on pit road to get it done in the Chase,?? Johnson said. ?So, I?m real happy with where we are.?

3. Matt Kenseth
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 13
Kenseth?s consistency continues. His 13th-place finish keeps a streak going. He has not finished worse than 13th in the last 14 races. Kenseth has noted that New Hampshire is not one of his better tracks. ?You always want to run good, but since the introduction of the COT car it has been a struggle here,?? he said. ?We?ve got to keep working on it.??
4. Brad Keselowski
2012 Wins: 3
2012 Top-10s: 9
He is on the rise. His fifth-place finish marked his third consecutive top-10 result. That ties him with Kasey Kahne for the longest active streak. He said that ?Wins are really what matters for us?? but also notes ?that we can bring something back here for the Chase and feel comfortable about it.??
5. Denny Hamlin
2012 Wins: 2
2012 Top-10s: 10
Had it not been for a miscommunication with crew chief Darian Grubb before the final pit stop, Hamlin likely would have won at New Hampshire. Instead of taking two tires like the leaders, Grubb ordered four tires for Hamlin, who fell to 13th before rallying to finish second. Grubb said the mistake was his fault. Even so, Hamlin?s runner-up finish was his third top-five in the last six races.
6. Kasey Kahne
2012 Wins: 2
2012 Top-10s: 10
The new leader in the race for a wildcard spot after his victory. He seems to be back on a roll after a mild stumble. He had seven consecutive top-10 finishes from April to early June before finishing 14th or worse in three races in a row. Sunday?s victory was his third consecutive top-10 finish.
7. Tony Stewart
2012 Wins: 3
2012 Top-10s: 9
Never was a factor at New Hampshire, finishing 12th. In his last six races, he has a win, two seconds, a third, a 12th and a 32nd-place finish. With Indianapolis next, Stewart could be primed for another victory.
8. Clint Bowyer
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 10
Credited crew chief Brian Pattie for pit call that helped him finish third at New Hampshire. Since his win at Sonoma, Bowyer had placed 16th at Kentucky and 29th at Daytona. Now has five top-10 finishes in the last seven races.

9. Greg Biffle
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 11
Scored a ninth-place finish Sunday but just hasn?t been the same team as early in the year. New Hampshire finish was his third top-10 in the last seven races. Said brake problems hindered him in the race. ?I?m a terrible driver when it comes to taking care of the brakes,?? he said.
10. Roger Penske
2012 Wins: 3
2012 Top-10s: 12
Awaiting the results of driver AJ Allmendinger?s ?B?? sample this week, Penske could make the biggest impact on NASCAR?s silly season. Although he?s said that if Allmendinger?s ?B?? sample passes, Allmendinger will be back in the car at Indianapolis, the question remains what will Penske do next year since the driver has only a one-year contract. Could Brad Keselowski have a new teammate next year? If so, will it be Penske?s Nationwide driver Sam Hornish, Jr. or a Cup free agent?
New Hampshire Power Rankings
The wrong call kept Denny Hamlin from winning at New Hampshire, but a number of right calls have made Dale Earnhardt, Jr. a threat this season. That success has Earnhardt leading the way in this week’s Power Rankings
1. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
2012 wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 14
His sixth top-10 run in the last eight races vaults Earnhardt to the top spot of the Power Rankings. Earnhardt, though, wasn’t satisfied with his fourth-place finish Sunday at New Hampshire. ?We’ve just got to get another notch and start winning some more races,” he said. ?We’re pretty excited about our chances when we get to the Chase, but we’ve still got some things to learn and accomplish before we get there.”
2. Jimmie Johnson
2012 Wins: 2
2012 Top-10s: 14
Johnson rallied to finish seventh after getting caught a lap down when the caution came out shortly after he pitted. It’s his sixth top-10 in the last seven races. ?I think we have enough speed on the race track and on pit road to get it done in the Chase,” Johnson said. ?So, I’m real happy with where we are.?
3. Matt Kenseth
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 13
Kenseth’s consistency continues. His 13th-place finish keeps a streak going. He has not finished worse than 13th in the last 14 races. Kenseth has noted that New Hampshire is not one of his better tracks. ?You always want to run good, but since the introduction of the COT car it has been a struggle here,” he said. ?We’ve got to keep working on it.”
4. Brad Keselowski
2012 Wins: 3
2012 Top-10s: 9
He is on the rise. His fifth-place finish marked his third consecutive top-10 result. That ties him with Kasey Kahne for the longest active streak. He said that ?Wins are really what matters for us,” but also notes, ?that we can bring something back here for the Chase and feel comfortable about it.?
5. Denny Hamlin
2012 Wins: 2
2012 Top-10s: 10
Had it not been for a miscommunication with crew chief Darian Grubb before the final pit stop, Hamlin likely would have won at New Hampshire. Instead of taking two tires like the leaders, Grubb ordered four tires for Hamlin, who fell to 13th before rallying to finish second. Grubb said the mistake was his fault. Even so, Hamlin’s runner-up finish was his third top-five in the last six races.
6. Kasey Kahne
2012 Wins: 2
2012 Top-10s: 10
Say hello to the new leader in the race for a wild-card spot following his New Hampshire victory. He seems to be back on a roll after a mild stumble. He had seven consecutive top-10 finishes from April to early June before finishing 14th or worse in three races in a row. Sunday’s victory was his third consecutive top-10 finish.
7. Tony Stewart
2012 Wins: 3
2012 Top-10s: 9
Was never a factor at New Hampshire, finishing 12th. In his last six races, Stewart has a win, two seconds, a third, a 12th and a 32nd-place finish. With Indianapolis next, Stewart could be primed for another victory.
8. Clint Bowyer
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 10
Credited crew chief Brian Pattie for pit call that helped him finish third at New Hampshire. Since his win at Sonoma, Bowyer had placed 16th at Kentucky and 29th at Daytona. Now has five top-10 finishes in the last seven races.
9. Greg Biffle
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 11
Scored a ninth-place finish Sunday but just hasn’t been the same team as earlier this year. New Hampshire finish was his third top-10 in the last seven races. Said brake problems hindered him in the race. ?I’m a terrible driver when it comes to taking care of the brakes,” he said.
10. Roger Penske
2012 Wins: 3
2012 Top-10s: 12
Awaiting the results of driver AJ Allmendinger?s ?B” sample this week, Penske could make the biggest impact on NASCAR?s silly season. Although he?s said that if Allmendinger’s ?B” sample passes, Allmendinger will be back in the car at Indianapolis, the question remains what will Penske do next year since the driver has only a one-year contract. Could Brad Keselowski have a new teammate next year? If so, will it be Penske?s Nationwide driver Sam Hornish, Jr. or a Cup free agent? View full post on SI.com – Motorsports

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Posted by fmv on Jul 17 2012 Filed under Racing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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