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Power Rankings: The Fast 15

Each week during the season, Popular Speed Executive Editor Matt Weaver will provide a power rankings list for the top-15 drivers in NASCAR.

The Fast 15 is a list of intangible qualities, based on momentum, attention and overall success in NASCAR over the past several weeks, meaning that it’s entirely possible that an XFINITY Series or Camping World Truck Series driver appears over one of his Sprint Cup counterparts.

Don’t agree with the list? That’s okay! Just let Weaver know in the comments section at the bottom on this page.

Here are the updated rankings following the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

  1. Joey Logano (LW: 2)

Last week, I called Joey Logano the best playoff contender that no one was talking about and he backed that statement up by winning the Bank of America 500 on Sunday at Charlotte. Guess what? They’re talking now.

  1. Kevin Harvick (LW: 1)

It was a difficult decision to knock Harvick from the top spot in the Fast 15 after finishing second at Charlotte, but I did it because Logano has been more consistent during the entirety of the Chase and has already locked himself into the Eliminator Round. Harvick could very well be right behind him this weekend.

  1. Denny Hamlin (LW: 5)

This is what Denny Hamlin has done over the past two seasons since the introduction of the knockout playoff format — post a steady diet of top-10 en route to the Championship Race. There’s no reason to think Hamlin can’t do it again after finishing fourth in Concord.

  1. Carl Edwards (LW: 6)

The knock on Edwards in the first half of the season was the alarming number of accidents and DNFs. He’s cut those completely out of his resume during the Chase and is poised to make a deep championship run.

  1. Kurt Busch (LW: 7)

Even though he isn’t receiving the same attention as teammate Harvick, Busch is continuing to plug along, earning a fifth in the Bank of America 500. That’s a veteran who is doing everything he is supposed to do and maximizing the value of his equipment.

  1. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 12)

The stats aren’t flashy but Truex continues to silently lurk and post top-5 and top-10s, finishing third on Sunday. This is a team seemingly peaking at just the right time.

  1. Jeff Gordon (LW: 10)

In many ways, this is some of Gordon’s best work of his career. Sure the stats don’t back it up but it’s no secret that the four-time champion isn’t a fan of this competition package and Hendrick Motorsports isn’t competing at a championship level right now. For Gordon to take his 24 to a top-10 on Sunday at Charlotte speaks volumes about how hard he’s driving right now.

  1. Brad Keselowski (LW: 8)

Good news, bad news for Brad Keselowski. The 2012 champion just hasn’t looked all that competitive during his latest playoff effort. On the other hand, he keeps doing just enough to survive, which could mean everything should he catch up to the performance of his championship leading teammate, Logano.

  1. Ryan Newman (LW: 9)

Several readers have fussed at me for using the made-up verb Newman-ing earlier this week to describe how the Rocket Man continues to attack this playoff format. Look folks, it’s a compliment. He finished second last season at Homestead and has put himself in position to have a chance once again in 2016. I would love for my driver to Newman in the Chase … if I had one.

  1. Kyle Busch (LW: 4)

It was a double dose of bad news for the younger Busch brother, who collided with Kyle Larson on pit road on the way to a 20th place finish at Charlotte. It was bad because a.) it left him ninth in the standings and 10 points out of the next round and it forces him to make up the ground at Kansas and Talladega, two tracks that have not been very kind to the polarizing Toyota contender.

  1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 11)

After trending the wrong direction for much of the second half, Dale Earnhardt Jr. might have had all the bad luck hit him at once, spinning hard into the wall at Charlotte due to oil on the track. The incident left him 28th in the standings and 22 points outside of a provisional playoff advancement spot.

  1. Matt Kenseth (LW: 3)

What a momentum killer … After looking like one of the obvious favorites to win the championship for much of the second half, Kenseth hit the wall, both metaphorically and literally after a run-in with Ryan Newman. He finished 42nd and is now 33 points outside of the playoff cutoff.

  1. Jamie McMurray (LW: 14)

Even though he was eliminated after the first round, Jamie McMurray has continued to post consistent results, finishing 12th at Charlotte. Chip Ganassi Racing is slowly but surely trying to fit the pieces around McMurray and Kyle Larson.

  1. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 13)

When it rains, it pours. The six-time Sprint Cup champion responded to his untimely playoff elimination by running in the top-five but ultimately was forced to retire from the event when his engine expired on Lap 257.

  1. Aric Almirola (LW: 15)

The driver of the No. 43 team has posted finishes of 11th or higher over the past six races, perfectly coinciding with the announcement that Richard Petty Motorsports will be staying with Ford moving forward. This is a team on the rise.

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

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By Matt Weaver

Matt Weaver is the Executive Editor of POPULAR SPEED. He has covered NASCAR since 2011 and full-time since 2013. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He has been published all across the country and routinely makes radio appearances on Sirius XM Satellite radio and NBC Sports Radio Network.