By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on September 7, 2011 | 10:00 A.M. EST
Jeff Gordon held off Jimmie Johnson to win the AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon earned the top spot in the rankings after winning the AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Tuesday.
1. Jeff Gordon: His Atlanta win was Gordon’s 85th career Cup win but maybe more importantly number three of the season, which puts him near the top of the Chase seedings. The 24 team is putting it all together at exactly the right time of the season and will carry a ton of momentum into the playoffs.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 98.5
2. Jimmie Johnson: Rising to the top as the Chase gets nearer and in the last three weeks has shown great strength on a diverse trio of tracks in Michigan, Bristol and Atlanta. Classic duel down to the wire in Atlanta showed Johnson can muscle a racecar with the best of them.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 99.2
3. Brad Keselowski: Nice rebound from early race issues on Tuesday to knock down yet another top-10 finish with a sixth-place run in Atlanta. Punched his ticket to the Chase as at least a wild card but still has not given up hope of racing his way into the top 10 in the standings with one race left in the regular season.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 86.4
4. Matt Kenseth: Had a strong outing in Atlanta and a typically good Roush Fenway racing entry on a 1.5-mile track. Shows no signs of slowing down from the string of consistent finishes Kenseth has turned in pretty much all season.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 96.3
5. Carl Edwards: Showed the life most expected from Edwards at Atlanta and needs to keep that momentum alive this week in Richmond to hit the Chase at full steam. The 99 team still feels like something’s missing and it better be found in short order.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 98.1
|6. Kyle Busch: A multitude of problems got in the way of Busch’s day in Atlanta including a commitment line penalty and then a mechanical problem. Other than that he did have a fast racecar capable of challenging for the lead but didn’t stick around long enough to be a factor.|
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 108.8
7. Kurt Busch: Tuesday’s fourth-place finish could not have come at a better time for Busch and the recently struggling No. 22 team. Clinched his Chase berth and will use Richmond as a fine-tuning outing for a strong start to the Chase.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 96.4
|8. Ryan Newman: Also punched his ticket to the Chase with his Atlanta performance and will now be in position to just go out and try to win Saturday night in Richmond, which has been a good track for Newman during his Sprint Cup career.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 88.6
|9. Tony Stewart: The pressure’s not completely off Stewart but the two-time champion has to be sleeping a little easier these days after his third place finish in Atlanta. He’s 23 points to the good of holding on to the final Chase spot with one of his favorite tracks on the schedule in Richmond dead ahead.|
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 89.4
|10. Denny Hamlin: Stayed right where he was entering Atlanta and that’s probably just fine with Hamlin. Still holds the second wild card spot and can seal that deal with one of his usual stellar performances at his home track in Richmond on Saturday night.|
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 91.9
Out This Week: Martin Truex Jr. (was Eighth)
Current Chase Wild Cards: Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin