A year after engaging in a terrific championship battle, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson have been slow to reach victory lane. Johnson got his first win of 2014 last weekend and while Kenseth is coming off of a season-best finish of third. Both drivers are the biggest movers in this week's Atlanta Motor Speedway Power Rankings.
The rankings are determined by the top drivers in the NASCAR driver ratings in addition to five bonus points awarded for a race victory, three for a top-five finish and two for a top 10.
1. Joey Logano
(Last week: 1st)
Logano simply continues to be a model of strong consistent efforts from week to week. He qualified toward the front and ran near the lead for most of the way on Sunday. He remains tied for the lead in top-five finishes out of all drivers with six.
2. Jeff Gordon
(Last week: 2nd)
Gordon sent a strong message to any doubters about his will to win despite being a veteran driver (which makes some of us feel old to say). Fighting back pain, Gordon was a factor to win late in the race at Charlotte before ending up with a top-five finish in the longest event of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
3. Jimmie Johnson
(Last week: 7th)
It was bound to happen at some point, and it occurred Sunday with Jimmie Johnson claiming his first win of 2014 with his Coca-Cola 600 victory. Johnson is also tied with Joey Logano for the most points earned from NASCAR's driver rating categories. With the pressure of earning his first win of the season out of the way, the No. 48 team is expected to be more relaxed, that could be a dangerous thing for other competitors.
4. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
(Last week: tie for 3rd)
Here's an indicator of how much stronger Earnhardt Jr. is running this year than the past few years. Before 2014, social media postings would light up with excitement when Dale Jr. made a pass to get into a top five position during a race. This year, there is less buzz since it has happened multiple times this season. Simply put, Earnhardt Jr. running near the front of the field has become expected.
5. Kevin Harvick
(Last week: 4th)
Even after falling behind following a slow pit stop, Harvick still found a way to become a late-race factor, claiming a runner-up finish for the second race in a row. The No. 4 team is showing that if it can get a few kinks ironed out, it could be the team to beat for the championship.
6. Matt Kenseth
(Last week: 8th)
It can be argued that Kenseth took the biggest step so far this season toward a victory on Sunday night. In a race reminiscent of last season when he won seven times, Kenseth was a very serious contender for the race victory during the closing laps as he battled for the lead with Jimmie Johnson before finishing a season-best third.
7. Kyle Busch
(Last week: 5th)
Busch put on a clinic of overcoming adversity last weekend. After wrecking his car during practice and starting from the rear of the field, Busch fell off the lead lap before clawing back for a top-ten finish.
8. Carl Edwards
(Last week: 9th)
Edwards and crew chief Jimmy Fenning nearly outsmarted the field in Charlotte with a pit strategy that had Edwards en route to victory before a caution with 20 laps to go. Edwards still has strong momentum in hand with finishes of sixth or better in the past two points events.
9. Brad Keselowski
(Last week: 6th)
Keselowski drops three spots in the AMS Power Rankings heading into this weekend. In the past nine races, Keselowski has finished better than 10th place just once. He is in need of a strong top-five run at Dover to give the No. 2 team a surge.
10. Denny Hamlin
(Last week: 10th)
While Brian Vickers inches closer each week to a spot in the AMS Power Rankings, Hamlin continues to hold onto the tenth position. Although Hamlin has just three top five finishes, the fact that one of them is a race victory greatly helps his resume.