Winning races is rewarded more than ever before in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and that is carrying over to the Atlanta Motor Speedway power rankings. The top three drivers in the rankings have each won a race so far in the 2014 season.
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. Brad Keselowski
(Last week: 1st)
A top-five finish was spoiled during the late stages last weekend for Keselowski, but his strong performance week-to-week still has him atop our power rankings. Also helping him stay at the point is a series-leading average running position of 7.4 as well as completing 93.6 percent of his laps in the top 10 which also leads all drivers.
2. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
(Last week: 2nd)
Earnhardt Jr. salvaged a 15th-place finish after damage early in the race on Sunday. He and Keselowski are tied for the most top-five finishes in the points standings with three a piece.
3. Kyle Busch
(Last week: 8th)
Busch virtually put himself in position late in the race to win and took advantage at Fontana as he prevailed in the race's final restart. Being locked into the Chase should take a heavy burden off of the shoulders of the No. 18 team. It'll be interesting to see if they take more chances from week to week.
4. Jimmie Johnson
(Last week: 4th)
Johnson is the highest ranking driver without a race victory, and he was on his way to a win before cutting a tire down in the final stages of Sunday's race. Johnson has three finishes of no worse than sixth with his other two showings being tainted by tire problems. If the No. 48 team can avoid bad breaks, it is not a matter of if Johnson will win, but when.
5. Jeff Gordon
(Last week: 7th)
Gordon's strong and consistent start to 2014 nearly resulted in a win at Fontana, but he was one of many drivers whose chances at either a win or strong finish were thrwarted by tire issues. Still, it's hard to gripe about a start to a season that includes four finishes within the top 10. Gordon also leads all drivers with 510 "quality passes," which are passes against cars racing in the top 15 during green flag conditions.
6. Carl Edwards
(Last week: 6th)
Edwards is the overall points standings leader and has strung together four top-10 finishes in a row. But with the AMS power rankings factoring in NASCAR's overall driver rating formula, Edwards is further down this week. Edwards' driver rating places him ninth overall and he is ranked no higher than fourth in any of the categories that NASCAR uses to calculate the driver rating.
7. Matt Kenseth
(Last week: 9th)
Kenseth has completed an impressive 99.53 percent of his laps so far this season on the lead lap. When a driver is able to do that, they'll find themselves more able to contend for wins late in the race against lead-lap cars.
8. Kevin Harvick
(Last week: 5th)
Harvick's bad luck continues with good finishes being undone by problems not of Harvick's doing. This past week, it was a tire problem that caused damage. Despite a race victory, Harvick is 25th in the points standings. He must finish within the top 30 of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings in order for his race victory to qualify him for the Chase.
9. Joey Logano
(Last week: 3rd)
Logano is in need of a positive momentum swing as NASCAR heads to Martinsville. A broken rear end on his car dropped him to a 39th place finish. Logano has now finished 20th or worse the past two weeks with mechanical issues being a factor in both results.
10. Denny Hamlin
(Last week: 10th)
Even though Hamlin didn't even race on Sunday due to vision problems caused by a sinus infection, his previous performance through the first four races of the season is enough to keep him in the top ten of the AMS Power Rankings. Hamlin ranks second among all drivers in laps completed on the lead lap and is third in quality passes.