Chase driver rankings: Charlotte

Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR

The ultimate wildcard for the Chase is over. And boy, was it ever a wild one.

A 25-car crash on the final lap of Sunday’s Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 at Talladega Superspeedway made for a scene that Greg Biffle described as “something out of a video game.”

Ahead of the mess, Matt Kenseth cruised to the checkered flag for his second win of the 2012 season.

While Kenseth won the race, he didn’t win this week’s power rankings.

1: Brad Keselowski- This may be the year Roger Penske picks up his first Sprint Cup title. After escaping Talladega with a seventh place finish, Keselowski now holds a 14-point lead over Jimmie Johnson heading into Saturday night’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

2: Jimmie Johnson- Leaving Talladega, Johnson has to be pleased by finishing his first race at the two super speedway’s in 2012. As he heads into what many consider his best track, Johnson is going to revive his Charlotte magic of the past two overtake Keselowski.

3: Jeff Gordon- The five-time champion just continues to impress in this Chase. Entering the melee outside of the top-10, Gordon came out the other side running in the second position. Now sitting 42-points behind Keselowski, the No.24 needs a win Saturday night at Charlotte to continue to gain ground.

4: Denny Hamlin- As is typical for Hamlin at Talladega, he rode around in the back of the pack trying to avoid the “big one”, instead he was part of it. The once favorite for the championship is now 30-points back of the lead. On the bright side, he did finish second at Charlotte in May.

5: Clint Bowyer- After winning the past two October Talladega races by leading laps and running up front, Bowyer stayed towards the back of the field for most of the day. He was never a factor until the closing 20 laps, but then he had a front-row seat for Tony Stewart’s crash and finished 23rd.

6: Kasey Kahne- His chances at winning the championship are seemingly over, but Kahne has been one of the most consistent drivers throughout the Chase. After running well all day at Talladega, Kahne heads to the track where he picked up his first win of the season back in May.

7: Dale Earnhardt Jr.-  The fans of Junior Nation are going to hate hearing this, but Earnhardt Jr.’s championship chances took a route similar to the big crash on Sunday; demolished. He’s eleventh in the points and hasn’t won a race since June. His chances are done for 2012.

8: Tony Stewart- It doesn’t appear as though Stewart is going to repeat as champion. While he’s going to give it his all to win the five remaining races of the season, making up 46-points over five races is going to be a tough task especially when two of the tracks remaining are among his worst (Charlotte, Martinsville).

9: Kevin Harvick- There’s no denying that the No.29 team has made great strides since Gil Martin took over as crew chief in August, but it’s not enough for the championship. Showing his Talladega excellence of old, Harvick was running second until the big wreck claimed him, barely.

10: Matt Kenseth- Claiming his crown as king of the plate tracks in 2012, Kenseth has gotten a much needed jolt of light as the end of his season has been covered with black clouds, black clouds, and more black clouds. He’s always a threat to win, but it’s more and more unlikely each week.

11: Greg Biffle- After starting off the season with three-straight third-place finishes, Biffle recorded his best finish of the Chase on Sunday with a sixth. While there’s nothing to boast about by not having a chance at the championship, he does have the opportunity to get Roush Fenway Racing on the stage at Las Vegas.

12: Martin Truex Jr.- If it wasn’t for TV coverage telling you Truex Jr. was in the race, you may not have realized it. Hanging around in the back to miss the big wreck, Truex Jr. escaped the carnage—for the most part—but still finished outside the top-10.

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