Posted: Tuesday September 18, 2012 12:02PM ; Updated: Tuesday September 18, 2012 12:03PM
Dustin Long
Dustin Long>NASCAR POWER RANKINGS

Brad Keselowski takes over Power Rankings after Chase's first race

Story Highlights

Brad Keselowski regained points lead and top spot in the Rankings with victory

Kasey Kahne's stretch of solid runs was topped off by third place at Chicago

Denny Hamlin dropped in the rankings after running out of fuel and finishing 16th

Chicago Power Rankings

The Chase represents a new beginning and with it comes a new No. 1 in this week’s Power Rankings, but it’s not someone we haven’t seen before. The opening race at Chicagoland not only changed the top spot but also jumbled this week’s rankings, as some drivers fell out and new ones took their place.

 
1
Brad Keselowski
2012 wins: 4
2012 Top-10s: 16
Last week's rank: 2
Keselowski's victory, his 10th top-10 finish in the last 11 races, moved him into the points lead. In the last four races on 1.5-mile speedways, he has two wins and four top-five finishes; though Keselowski isn?t looking back. "I'm going to focus on the next nine [races], and I know everybody on my team is going to do that," he said. "It's great to get to the points lead, but we've got so much racing left and it would be a disservice to [Sunday's] accomplishments to allow our focus to get off of tomorrow's workload."
 
2
Jimmie Johnson
2012 Wins: 3
2012 Top-10s: 18
Last week's rank: 3
Johnson's runner-up finish Sunday was his third in 11 career starts at Chicagoland Speedway, a track where he's still not won a Sprint Cup race. "My philosophy is just to stay in the hunt," Johnson said. "Let's get midway through this Chase, and see who's where and what to do."
 
3
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 18
Last week's rank: 5
Consistency has been the name of the game for this team all year, and Earnhardt left Chicago with an eighth-place finish after starting at the rear of the field because of an engine change. "Eighth is all right, but I know Brad [Keselowski] is going to run well and [Jimmie Johnson] is obviously going to be tough," Earnhardt said. "You can't run eighth every week and win the championship."
 
4
Kasey Kahne
2012 Wins: 2
2012 Top-10s: 14
Last week's rank: N/A
Third-place finish continued stretch of solid runs. He's scored seven top-10 finishes in the last 11 races. Of those four races he placed outside the top 10, he finished 12th twice, 13th and 23rd.
 
5
Clint Bowyer
2012 Wins: 2
2012 Top-10s: 16
Last week's rank: 6
Bowyer started ninth, gained four spots in the last 25 laps and finished 10th at Chicago. However, he still remains winless in his Cup career on 1.5-mile tracks; with four 1.5-mile tracks left in the Chase, he'll need to be stronger to contend for the title.
 
6
Tony Stewart
2012 Wins: 3
2012 Top-10s: 13
Last week's rank: N/A
After his sixth-place finish, Stewart said his team was a "little bit off" on the car and its setup. Still, he ended a five-race streak this season on 1.5-mile tracks where he had finished no better than 13th.
 
7
Denny Hamlin
2012 Wins: 4
2012 Top-10s: 13
Last week's rank: 4
Hamlin was headed for a top-10 finish until he ran short on fuel at the finish and placed 16th. Now, the question is: will losing seven positions (and points) hurt him later in the Chase? The series heads to New Hampshire where he finished second earlier this season, and he tweeted that he would win this time. If he can deliver on that tweet, he'll move up in next week's Power Rankings.
 
8
Martin Truex Jr.
2012 Wins: 0
2012 Top-10s: 15
Last week's rank: 8
Truex struggled a good part of the day before rallying to finish ninth, but he has to be better than what he showed Sunday. "It wasn't the way we wanted to start the Chase," Truex said.
 
9
Kyle Busch
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 13
Last week's rank: N/A
A fourth-place finish at Chicagoland was his fourth top-10 finish in the last six races. Struggles throughout the season, though, prevented him from making the Chase.
 
10
Ryan Blaney
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 6
Last week's rank: N/A
Blaney, the 18-year-old son of Cup driver Dave Blaney, won last weekend's Camping World Truck race at Iowa to become the youngest winner in series history. He's running select Truck and Nationwide races this season but has already had some impressive runs.
 
 

 
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