Trying to sort through a wild night in Daytona left me with these drivers in the first edition of NSCS power rankings:
1. Matt Kenseth – Without question, Kenseth has to be considered one of the all-time greats. Yes, I said it. This 2-time Daytona 500 winner is also a past series champ. After winning the 2012 Daytona 500, Kenseth sets his eyes on Phoenix. The last time Kenseth won the Great American Race (2009), he then went on to win the second race of the season (California).
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Junior Nation has something to be proud of. After finishing second last Monday night, Junior has started the same way he started last season off – with a bang.
3. Denny Hamlin – Hamlin looked like he had the strongest car during the Great American Race. He led the most laps. But he just couldn’t get by the Roush Fenway cars of Kenseth and Biffle. Hamlin has six top-10s in 13 Phoenix starts.
4. Greg Biffle – Biffle had a great finish during the 500, but, he did finish behind both Kenseth and Earnhardt, due to a mediocre green-white-checkered start.
5. Carl Edwards – I’m weary to include Edwards in the top-5, but, he did finish in the top-10 and start on the pole for the Great American race. All in all, not a terrible way to start the season.
6. Tony Stewart – Even though Stewart finished 16th and wasn’t much of a factor during the race, I’m not willing to throw him out of the top-10 just yet. On to Phoenix, Smoke goes.
7. Kyle Busch – Rowdy is in the same boat as Stewart. Both could have finished much worse, but also weren’t factors during the race, and probably should have been.
8. Jeff Burton – Burton finished P5 during the race, which is pretty impressive for an RCR car, since Roush seemed to be the team to beat for most of the night.
9. Kevin Harvick – Frankly, I’m surprised Harvick didn’t make any more noise than he did. Ole happy is known for his restrictor-plate skills.
10. Jimmie Johnson – After a disappointing 42nd place finish, and a whopping penalty handed down from NASCAR on Wednesday, Johnson should consider himself blessed to make the top-10 this week. Johnson must finish around 20th or better in Phoenix, just to reach the zero-mark in the points standings (currently 70pts back from points leader Kenseth).