Chase driver rankings: New Hampshire

Brad Keselowski was able to gut-out a hard-fought victory over Jimmie Johnson in the closing laps of Sunday’s GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

We know who won the race; But how does’s Brian Wiggins see the 12 Chase drivers following the first race of the Chase?

1: Jimmie Johnson : Sunday at Chicagoland, Johnson showed us all why he’s a five-time champion. He had the car to beat, and then it was beat when Brad Keselowski took charge in the closing laps. Johnson is the five-time champion. That’s why he’s number one. Previous Rank: 2

2: Brad Keselowski : There may be an antidote to the for Johnson in his quest for his sixth Sprint Cup championship, and it may come in the form of the No.2 Miller Lite Dodge. Winning the first race of the Chase, Keselowski is the points leader for the first time in his career. Previous Rank: 6

3: Denny Hamlin : After a solid—not strong—run for the majority of the day Sunday at Chicagoland, Hamlin ran out of fuel on the final lap, taking away what would have been a top-10 finish to the back-half of the top-20. Previous Rank: 2

4: Kasey Kahne : From the outset of the race, it looked as though Kahne would have a car cabable contending for the win. He never mustered up enough speed to make a challenge for the win. Solid day, none the less. Previous Rank: 12

5: Dale Earnhardt Jr. : Starting in the back due to an engine change, Earnhardt Jr. never was able to contend much further than the top-10 all day. A fast car, but he never got the break with the long, green flag runs. Previous Rank: 5

6: Tony Stewart : The defending champion was unable to back-up his win in the race from one year ago, but a sixth place finish isn’t anything to get mad at. It’s something to build on heading into New Hampshire. Previous Rank: 10

7: Jeff Gordon : His mustache from his early days must have brought Gordon back some of the awful luck he had back then when his throttle hung midway through the race. Mustache is now gone. Previous Rank: 4

8: Clint Bowyer. : On his radio after the race, you heard one word from Bowyer that summed up their day: “ugly.” That may be true, the team never reached the top-five except during green flag pit stops. Previous Rank: 8

9: Greg Biffle: You expect Roush Fenway to always be quick on the 1.5-mile tracks, but not at Chicagoland. The weekend started off rough for Biffle and never got much better, finishing 13th. Previous Rank: 9

10: Martin Truex Jr. All through the day, Truex Jr. was never pleased with the handling of his car on a track which everyone expected him and his team to shine on. The next two races for him are critical. Previous Rank: 3

11: Matt Kenseth: If you’re looking for one thing that would sum up Kenseth’s day at Chicagoland, I’m sure the track worker who picked up Kenseth’s shock off the front stretch could show you.  Previous Rank: 11

12: Kevin Harvick: Chicagoland is one of Harvick’s best tracks; or at least it used to be. Struggling finding a good balance in his car all day long, the only thing Harvick could do was race around mid-pack. Previous Rank: 7