By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on February 25, 2014 | 10:48 A.M. EST
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is No. 1 in this week's Power Rankings but Denny Hamlin isn't far behind. (Photo: Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. kicked off 2014 in grand fashion with a victory in the Daytona 500 and vaulted to the top of the Power Rankings:
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: He started the season in the best way possible. He led 54 laps but far from dominated the race. He chose his moves wisely and made them count. For those who still need to compare Junior to his father, try this on for size - he has two 500 wins compared to Senior's solo win in "The Great American Race."
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 133.1
Point Standings: 1st
2. Denny Hamlin: Came up only one position shy of sweeping Daytona with wins in the Sprint Unlimited, Budweiser Duel and the 500. But there's no doubt the Joe Gibbs Racing FedEx team and Hamlin are set to contend for wins and perhaps the championship in 2014.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 113.8
Point Standings: 2nd
3. Jimmie Johnson: The 2013 Daytona 500 and Sprint Cup Series champion had an eventful week with crashes in both the Sprint Unlimited and his Budweiser Duel. Despite being forced to a second back-up car, Johnson turned in a very solid top-five finish on Sunday.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 101.2
Point Standings: 5th
4. Brad Keselowski: He said he had the best car he’s ever had at Daytona on Sunday and was a force throughout the 500. He was in contention for the checkered flag until the last lap when he got shuffled back in the pack and settled for a third-place finish.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 117.1
Point Standings: 3rd
5. Jeff Gordon: A fourth-place finish for the four-time Sprint Cup Series champion wasn't a bad way for Gordon to start the year. Looked very competitive throughout Speedweeks and appears ready to challenge for title number five.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 102.7
Point Standings: 4th
6. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth didn't lead a lap and had a couple of adventures on pit road Sunday but still managed to turn in a sixth-place effort in the Daytona 500.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 98.2
Point Standings: 6th
7. Greg Biffle: Slapped the wall early in the race but battled back to be a contender on Sunday. Put on a furious battle with Earnhardt for several laps with the two swapping the lead eight times over one single circuit. Biffle faded at the end but still kicked off the year on a positive note.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 94.1
Point Standings: 8th
8. Austin Dillon: Started his rookie season on the pole bringing the No. 3 back to NASCAR's top series. Experienced a couple of challenges during the race but ended up with a top-10 finish.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 83.4
Point Standings: 9th
9. Carl Edwards: Until the end of the race when he was wrecked, Edwards was a mainstay near the front of the field. He didn't come home with the finish to show for the effort but Edwards was impressive in the season opening race.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 87.0
Point Standings: 16th
10. Kevin Harvick: Put up a 13th-place finish in his official debut with Stewart-Haas Racing but Harvick was solid all week, despite failing post race inspection after his Budweiser Duel race. Was involved in Sunday's last-lap crash but was strong until that unfortunate ending.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 85.1
Point Standings: 12th