By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on April 5, 2011 | 2:00 P.M. EST
Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. each made big jumps in this week's Power Rankings. (Photo: Getty Images)
This week's Power Rankings has Kevin Harvick jumping to the top spot after he became the first repeat winner of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season with his win in the Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
1. Kevin Harvick: Harvick jumps to the top off the rankings thanks to back-to-back wins at Auto Club Speedway and Martinsville Speedway. Harvick did not have the best car during the Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville, posting a 16.3 average running position, but the Budweiser team worked on the car through-out the race to put him in contention for the win. Harvick passed Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the closing laps to win his first Sprint Cup race at Martinsville and to become the first repeat winner in 2011. The victory boosted him four positions in the rankings and in the championship standings. Just like his last three results on the 2011 schedule, Harvick also is coming off three consecutive top 10s at Texas Motor Speedway, this site of this weekend's race.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 91.2
2. Kyle Busch: For the second consecutive week, Busch dominated the race but wound up short of picking up the checkered flag. Busch led the most laps (151) in the Goody's Fast Relief 500 but was passed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. with 20 laps-to-go. Busch has been dominating the Loop Data statistics this season and remains first in driver ratings (117.2) following topping a number of categories at Martinsville including average running position (3.2) and green flag speed (91.672). Busch moved into the championship points lead with his third-place finish and will look to continue the momentum at Texas Motor Speedway where he's recorded four top-10s in 12 starts.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 117.2
3. Jimmie Johnson: A pit road speeding penalty on the last pit stop hindered Johnson's attempt to win his seventh race at Martinsville Speedway. Johnson was forced to start at the tail of the field on lap 471 and then wasn't able to make up ground after leading 65 laps earlier. His 11th-place result marked his first finish outside the top 10 in the last 18 races at the .526-mile track. Even with the disappointing run, Johnson was able to move up two positions in the championship standings to third. Now Johnson will head to Texas Motor Speedway where he's won once and finished in the top 10 in his last two starts.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 98.3
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Earnhardt Jr's second-place run in the Goody's Fast Relief 500 boosted him up in both the rankings and the championship standings (+4). The finish was Earnhardt's first top five since New Hampshire Motor Speedway last fall and the first with crew chief Steve Latarte. The No. 88 team was one of the top closers in the last 50 laps of the race, leading 17 laps and moving up five positions to when the checkered flag flew. Earnhardt has put together an 11.2 average finish in the six races this season and will now head to Texas Motor Speedway where he has one win and eight top -10s in 17 starts.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 88.4
5. Carl Edwards: Edwards dropped one position in the championship standings after finishing 18th in the Goody's Fast Relief 500. Although Edwards led three laps while green flag pit stops were taking place, the No. 99 team struggled to find speed in the car. Edwards posted the 15th-best average running position, at 16.4, in the 500-lap race and was plagued with power steering problems when his No. 99 Ford was at low RPMs. Edwards will look to regain the championship lead at Texas Motor Speedway where he has three wins in 12 starts.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 97.6
6. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth put together the biggest comeback in the Goody's Fast Relief 500 after he was dealt a pass thru penalty at the start of the race for changing lanes before the start-finish line. Kenseth ran the first half of the race in the low 30s before finally cracking the top 10 by the halfway mark. With 50-to-go Kenseth was in eighth and he raced to a sixth-place finish to mark his seventh top 10 in 23 starts at Martinsville Speedway. Kenseth now heads to one of his best tracks - Texas Motor Speedway - where he's finished in the top 10 nine times in the last 11 races, including a runner-up finish last fall.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 84.4
7. Clint Bowyer : Bowyer moved up one spot in the rankings after one of his best performances at Martinsville Speedway in ninth. Although Bowyer does have one top-five finish at the .526-mile track, Sunday's Goody's Fast Relief 500 marked the first time he's led laps. His 91 laps led were second among the record 12 drivers that were up front on Sunday. Bowyer now heads to Texas Motor Speedway where he's coming off his fifth top 10 in 10 starts.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 88.2
8. Juan Pablo Montoya: Montoya started 27th and completed the most green flag passes (91) in the Goody's Fast Relief 500 en route to a fourth-place finish. Montoya was also the second-best closer in the race moving up six positions in the final 50 laps. Montoya moved up one position in the standings to seventh with his second top five at Martinsville Speedway. Montoya will now head to Texas Motor Speedway where he hasn't had much luck as of late, posting a 33.0 average finish in the last three races. His last of two top 10s at TMS came in the spring event in 2009.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 89.1
9. Jeff Gordon: Gordon started 21st in the Goody's Fast Relief 500 and was able to work his way into the top 10 by lap 175. Gordon led three times for 37 laps to put his total at Martinsville Speedway to 2,981. Gordon was third with 50 lap-to-go and fell to fifth in the final rundown after track conditions changed for his car following the final caution. The top-five run was the 24th for Gordon at Martinsville and it moved him up four positions in the championship standings. Gordon heads to Texas Motor Speedway as the 2009 winner of the spring race. Last year, he led 124 laps in that event before getting caught-up in a multi-car accident.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 92.0
10. Ryan Newman: Newman fell in both the rankings and championship standings (-4) after a good day went bad at Martinsville Speedway. Newman started second, led three laps, and ran in the top 10 up until lap 328 when his Haas Automation Chevrolet suffered a broken header pipe. He was able to continue even with a cut on horsepower, but a flat left-rear tire on lap 372 helped relegate Newman to a 20th-place finish in the Goody's Fast Relief 500. Newman is off to his best start since joining Stewart-Haas Racing, but he now heads to Texas Motor Speedway where he's yet to post a top 10 in four starts with the team.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 99.8
Off This Week: Tony Stewart (was 7) and Kurt Busch (was 10).
Other Notable Drivers Making Moves in the Point Standings: Mark Martin, +4 to 10th; David Ragan, +4 to 18th and Jamie McMurray, +5 to 23rd.