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Power Rankings: Kyle finds mile-and-half groove

by | Special to CBSSports.com
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Updated July 11

The only traffic Kyle Busch worried about this weekend at Kentucky Speedway was the kind he was passing on the racetrack.

Busch followed up his Camping World Truck Series victory Thursday night with a dominating performance in the inaugural Sprint Cup Quaker State 400.

Kyle Busch really dug Kentucky. (Getty Images)  
Kyle Busch really dug Kentucky. (Getty Images)  
The win was his third of the season, but since it came in the inaugural Cup outing at Kentucky, Busch considers it one of his most memorable.

"This one ranks right up there with the best of them," he said. "I haven't won any of the big races, unfortunately, yet. But, you know, it ranks right up there with Las Vegas being another of my prestigious wins that I feel like I've accomplished so far."

Busch has accomplished the feat of climbing to the top of the series standings as the season moves closer to the start of the Chase. But more importantly, with so many 1.5-mile tracks similar to Kentucky ahead on the schedule, Busch is proud of his performance Saturday night, which he believes will be beneficial down the road.

"Sure, that's something that [crew chief] Dave [Rogers] and I have talked about and looked at and know that we need to get better at our mile-and-a-half program," Busch said. "The 11 [Denny Hamlin] was certainly really good at it last year. We've been looking a lot at their stuff, trying to figure out why, what we were doing differently that we could do better to run up front with those guys."

At least in the short term, Busch feels his team has a handle on the important intermediate track program and hopes to continue in the direction as the schedule moves on.

"We had it here tonight certainly," Busch said. "It was really good to figure this place out in Kentucky. But, you know, the next steps are, of course, going to be the Chase races that are the mile-and-a-halfs, like Chicago and Texas; Charlotte is in there, [and] Homestead is in there. Those places we've run well at in the past, but maybe not on a consistent basis. It would certainly be nice to know that we're figuring things out."

POWER RANKINGS
CurrentDriverPrevious
1Brad Keselowski2
Took over the Chase lead by 20 points thanks to a sixth place finish and Jimmie Johnson?s misfortune. This is now the Penske Racing driver?s championship to lose.
2Jimmie Johnson1
Saw his seven point lead evaporate thanks to a cut tire and trip into the wall on Sunday. Johnson now must hope a similar such fate happens to Keselowski next week at Homestead to have any shot at a sixth title.
3Kyle Busch4
Nearly ran the table in Phoenix by leading all practices and taking the pole had he been able to win the race. But a poor decision on lane choice for a late restart cost Busch a shot at Victory Lane.
4Kasey Kahne5
Ending the year on a positive note but wasn?t able to match his Phoenix victory of last November. Still a solid day with a fourth place performance.
5Clint Bowyer3
Was the victim of Jeff Gordon?s revenge that completely eliminated Bowyer from championship contention. He wasn?t an angel in the turn of events but Bowyer definitely got the worst of the situation.
6Denny Hamlin8
Hamlin?s second place finish in Phoenix a welcome rebound from two weeks of disappointment for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. He?ll be a factor for a win next Sunday in Homestead.
7Kevin Harvick12
Snapped a 44-race winless drought with Sunday?s win ironically coming on the weekend when reports of his evacuation from Richard Childress Racing to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014 broke out.
8Greg Biffle6
A decent day for ?The Biff? in Phoenix, who was able to dodge all the last lap craziness to bring home his Roush Fenway Racing Ford seventh.
9Joey Logano13
Minding his own business until getting swept up in the Gordon-Bowyer fight. Logano was on his way to a nice effort to follow up his ninth Nationwide Series win on Saturday.
10Ryan Newman14
Rough way to earn a fifth place finish as Newman was one of the unfortunate souls to get caught in the last lap crash on the main straightaway.
11Tony Stewart9
Not a god day at all for Smoke who spun late after making contact racing for position. A 19th place finish for Stewart.
12Matt Kenseth11
Will make the final Sprint Cup start of his career for Roush Fenway Racing next week at Homestead on the heels of a 14th place effort in Phoenix.
13Martin Truex Jr.10
His race was over nearly before it started with a blown engine. After a stellar regular season Truex Jr. has suffered mightily throughout the Chase.
14Carl Edwards15
An 11th place finish for Edwards as he brings to a close one of the most disappointing seasons in his career.
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