By: MRN Staff on October 26, 2010 | 3:05 P.M. EST
Denny Hamlin took delivery of his fourth Martinsville grandfather clock after his win on Sunday. (Photo: Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin tops the rankings this week after he moved within six points of Jimmie Johnson in the standings with his victory at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday. Motor Racing Network's rankings are based on a combination of season-to-date loop data, season standings and staff selections by Jeff Wackerlin and Rachael West.
1. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin appears to be the new king of Martinsville after he scored his third consecutive victory there on Sunday. After starting on the pole and losing position early in the race, he pushed back to come back to the lead in the closing laps and earn his series-leading seventh victory of the season. The win moved him within six points of the points leader with four races left in the Chase. Hamlin has not been as consistent at Talladega, where he has more finishes outside the top 20 than within the top 10. But, he's coming off a fourth-place finish this spring.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 95.8
2. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson saw his ranking and his hold on the standings slip this week after he finished fifth at Martinsville. He ran in the top 10 for most of the race, but developed handling issues late in the race when the field saw longer runs that kept him from holding off a few drivers. Johnson will try to grow his points lead at Talladega as he tries to overcome a disappointing 31st-place finish there this spring. His last of seven top 10s there came in this event last year
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 108.6
3. Kevin Harvick: Despite tangling with his teammate Jeff Burton during the race at Martinsville, Harvick managed to hang on for his first career top-five finish at the track in 19 races. He had a strong race, where he led six times for 97 laps, en route to the third-place finish. With the result, which was his 22nd top-10 of the season, he gained 15 points on Jimmie Johnson and heads to Talladega 62 points behind. Harvick is coming off his first victory at Talladega from this spring, which was welcome after posting five finishes of 20th or worse in the previous races at the track.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 96.8
4. Kyle Busch: Busch rallied back from a disappointing qualifying effort of 26th at Martinsville to post a fourth-place result after battling with and passing Jimmie Johnson late in the race. The finish equaled his career-best finish at the track and was his 10th top five of the season. Busch will try to make up some of his 172-point deficit on the leader at Talladega, where he's posted one win and four top-15 finishes in five races with Joe Gibbs Racing. He's coming off his second-best finish there of ninth this spring.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 99.2
5. Mark Martin: Martin jumped up the rankings from his runner-up finish at Martinsville Speedway. He worked his way up through the field from a 21st-starting position and even managed to overcome accident damage suffered in a multi-car accident midway through the race to score his third top 10 in four starts with Hendrick Motorsports. Martin is coming off his first top 10 with Hendrick at Talladega, where he finished fifth this spring. In 45 starts there, he has two victories, 11 top fives and 23 top 10s.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 81.7
6. Carl Edwards: Edwards gained a spot in the rankings this week after finishing eighth at Martinsville. The top 10 came with the help of good pit calls and patience, as Edwards avoided trouble during the race. He will have to try to employ the same strategy at Talladega, where he hasn't finished in the top 10 in his last seven starts. His average of 22.5 at Talladega is the second-to-worst of all Chase drivers.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 89.7
7. Jeff Burton: Burton is back on the rankings after leading the most laps at Martinsville (134) en route to posting his 15th top-10 effort of the season. He may have finished better than ninth, had he not lost grip with a worn down tire in the closing laps. Burton jumped two spots in the standings as a result and may continue to gain some more ground in the standings at Talladega, where he's posted 13 top 10s in 33 starts. Five of them have come in 12 starts with Richard Childress Racing.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 98.1
8. Jamie McMurray: McMurray slipped in the rankings after finishing 11th at Martinsville. He had to battle back from an early pit road speeding penalty to work his way into the top 15. Still, McMurray continues to show consistency during the Chase and has scored more points than nine of the drivers fighting for the championship. He's the defending winner at Talladega where he's also coming off a runner-up finish from this spring.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 87.6
9. Jeff Gordon: Gordon's day at Martinsville looked promising after he started 11th and led 56 laps, but took a turn for the worse when he got tangled with Kurt Busch on Lap 385. His salvaged 20th-place finish dropped him one spot to fifth in the standings, 203 points behind Johnson. Gordon's standing might not improve after Talladega, where he last posted a top 10 in this race in 2007. Still. he's a six-time winner at the track and may be able to find some of that past magic this weekend.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 102.1
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Earnhardt Jr. is back on the rankings after posting his first top-10 finish since New Hampshire, and eighth of the season. He looked strong during the race where he led three times for 90 laps, but also suffered handling issues on the longer runs towards the finish, relegating him to seventh at the finish. Junior is a five-time winner at Talladega, but has yet to win there with Hendrick Motorsports. In five starts with the team, he's finished 13th or better on four occasions, including a runner-up finish last year in the spring.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 76.7