Posted: Tuesday May 10, 2011 1:11PM ; Updated: Tuesday May 10, 2011 2:02PM
Brant James
Brant James>NASCAR POWER RANKINGS

Edwards lands top spot, but Johnson impresses at Darlington

NASCAR Power Rankings

So much animosity with so much of the season remaining. Kevin Harvick doesn't like Kyle Busch. The feeling is apparently mutual. Maybe they can commiserate over their identical $25,000 fines and four-race probations after their latest row at Darlington. Probably not. In less venomous activity, a popular everyman for a small Colorado-based team won his first Cup race. Have a comment? Send to siwriters@simail.com. You can also follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/brantjames

1Carl Edwards
Carl Edwards
Points leader Carl Edwards led four times for 57 laps on Saturday at Darlington, but surrendered the lead late with a final pit stop, recovering only to second place. But that's a good day at Darlington, especially considering the finish was his fourth consecutive of fourth place or better. Certainly, he'd rather not assume the Jeff Gordon-like blessing/curse of amassing second-place finishes -- he has three in 10 starts this season. Moreover, a 23-point margin over five-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson should make that second-place finish feel a little better.
 
2Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie Johnson
First, he was spun by Juan Pablo Montoya -- who apologized and said he'd locked his brakes entering a corner -- then Johnson spun alone later and still recovered to finish 15th. That is some serious lemonade-making at a ruthless venue such as Darlington.
 
3Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch
Well, that was another interesting weekend, with a renewal of a seemingly simmering rivalry with Kevin Harvick, a punt of the No. 29 Chevrolet and then a wonton push of the driverless car into a pit wall as Harvick approached Busch after the race. Busch laid out his cause and effect for his actions after the race, right down to the broken reverse gearing that prevented him from backing away from Harvick's car before nudging it forward toward a, thankfully, vacant area. He and Harvick were each levied $25,000 fines and placed on probation for all NASCAR activity through June 15. A deterrent, it was not.
 
4Regan Smith
Regan Smith
The well-liked 27-year-old Regan Smith thought he earned his first Sprint Cup victory in 2008 at Talladega, but NASCAR officials ruled he had advanced his position below the yellow boundary on the final lap and awarded the victory to Tony Stewart, whom he had passed. There was no room for interpretation on Saturday, as he assumed the lead by skipping a final pit stop and held off Edwards on two restarts -- one in overtime - to win in his 105th start.
 
5Ryan Newman
Ryan Newman
Safe from the vengeful nudges of Juan Pablo Montoya, Ryan Newman tied his season-best of fifth for the fourth time this season.
 
6Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
An almost certain top-10 and possible top-5 finish was ruined when the No. 88 Chevrolet struck a commitment line cone on the final pit sequence, and a subsequent pass-through penalty relegated Dale Earnhardt Jr. to 14th. He admitted he "choked" attempting to expedite the final stop and apologized to his team. Still fourth in points, he needs to regain traction after finishing second, ninth and fourth before faltering the past two weeks.
 
7Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick
There is just something about Busch essence that Harvick does not like. He once famously dubbed the elder Busch brother "Rubberhead" as a symbol of his derision and has now found a willing antagonist in the younger. Their feud plays out over both the Cup and Trucks series, in which both have won owner championships. Busch even took away former KHI crew chief Rick Ren and made him general manager when he started his own truck team.

Harvick wrecked Kyle Busch last season at Homestead-Miami Speedway and has contested the same space several times since. The talented and temperamental tandem found each other again on Saturday, and perhaps Harvick emerges as the more aggrieved this time, although he made an attempt to punch Busch through his window on pit road after the race. His sound bite wasn't nearly as analytical after the race, but at least he was chivalrous enough to dismount his steed for a proper duel. Busch just rammed his car again and drove away.
 
8Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart
The two-time series champion led at Darlington with a scheduled 29 laps left, but pitted with most of the field late and finished seventh. Stewart has been demonstrably frustrated in recent weeks after finishing 17th or worst three times since a runner-up performance at Las Vegas eight races ago. His Darlington finish allows him to jump three spots to seventh in the standings and perhaps soothes his outlook.
 
9Clint Bowyer
Clint Bowyer
The collateral damage in the Busch-Harvick shenanigans before it became a full-on kerfuffle, Clint Bowyer was vying for a top-5 finish with five scheduled laps to go before being sent nose-first into the wall by a nudge from his Richard Childress Racing teammate, who had just made contact with Busch. Still ninth in points, Bowyer had a strong run of finishes end on Saturday, having posted five straight top-10s and two runner-up finishes since coming in 35th with an engine failure at Bristol.
 
10Greg Biffle
Greg Biffle
His methodical march into postseason contention continued with an eighth-place finish after starting 22nd. Though Greg Biffle scored just his fourth top-10 finish of the season (and doesn't have a top-5), he's been picking off standings positions in pairs since finishing fourth at Texas four races ago. Now 12th, Biffle is one point behind A.J. Allmendinger for 11th and nine behind Roush Fenway teammate Matt Kenseth for 10th.

 
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