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NASCAR Cup Series Power Rankings

POWER RANKINGS: Auto Club 400

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1. Kyle Larson (—)

Larson’s weekend sweep at Auto Club Speedway after three consecutive runner-ups in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series proved he’s the sport’s hottest driver. The Chip Ganassi Racing wheelman leads the points standings five races into the season.

2. Brad Keselowski (—)

Early trouble in Fontana wouldn’t keep Keselowski at bay on Sunday. After spinning through the frontstretch grass on Lap 4 and suffering damage to his No. 2 Ford, he rallied for a second-place result.

3. Martin Truex Jr. (+2)

Truex led 73 laps at the two-mile oval but finished fourth after not pitting late in the race. Still, the No. 78 team showed speed, with a Stage 2 victory.

4. Chase Elliott (-1)

The 21-year-old finished third in the first two stages but ended up 10th after 200 laps due to an ill-timed caution fumbling crew chief Alan Gustafson’s strategy. It won’t be long before Elliott finally visits Victory Lane, though — he’s in contention each week.

5. Joey Logano (-1)

Logano finished fifth, which is also his position in the standings. It’s only fitting the No. 22 driver is there for this week’s power rankings.

6. Kyle Busch (+1)

“Rowdy’s” eighth-place finish marked his second consecutive top-10 finish.

7. Ryan Blaney (+1)

The Wood Brothers Racing driver earned his third top-10 of 2017 by finishing ninth after starting 19th in Southern California.

8. Kevin Harvick (-2)

When the field stacked up on the start of Sunday’s event, Harvick got the worst of it. His No. 4 Ford suffered nose damage and cut a tire in Stage 1, forcing him to pit under green. He wound up 13th and was never a factor — a rarity for the 2014 series champion.

9. Jamie McMurray (+2)

The driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet continues to ride in the shadow of his CGR teammate, but McMurray earned 12 stage points and finished sixth.

10. Clint Bowyer (Not ranked last week)

Stewart-Haas Racing’s newest driver is “having fun again.” He finished third, marking his first top-five since August 2015.

11. Erik Jones (+4)

The Furniture Row Racing rookie posted his first career top-10 in Phoenix two weeks ago and finished 12th last weekend after a pit road penalty. He sits 15th in the standings, four spots above the next highest rookie, Daniel Suarez.

12. Denny Hamlin (+2)

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver said he had a “fifth or sixth-place” car at best but was shuffled back to 14th after electing to stay out on old tires for track position with nine laps to go.      

13. Ryan Newman (-4)

After his upset victory in Phoenix, Newman came back to reality. He finished 15th in Fontana, but the win locked him into the playoffs, which he failed to make last season.

14. Jimmie Johnson (-4)

It has not been an ideal start to 2017 for the seven-time champion. Johnson has one top-10 and has finished outside the top-15 three times.

15. Daniel Suarez (Not ranked last week)

Auto Club was essentially a repeat of Phoenix for the JGR rookie. The No. 19 Toyota was a top-15 car most of the race, yet ended up seventh when the checkered flag waved.

16. Kurt Busch (-3)

The West Coast swing was not good for this year’s Daytona 500 champion. Busch finished 30th in Las Vegas, 25th in Phoenix, and 24th in Fontana.

Dropping out of the top-16 rankings this week: Kasey Kahne (was 12th) and Matt Kenseth (was 15th).

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

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By John Haverlin

John Haverlin is currently studying Communication at Arizona State University. He has been a reporter at Phoenix International Raceway for three years and has written news stories for the track's official site. Born and raised in Long Island, N.Y., Haverlin has lived in Arizona the past three years.