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Chase driver rankings: Dover

Denny Hamlin thoroughly dominated Sunday’s Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Leading 193 of the 300 laps in the race, Hamlin picked up his series-leading fifth win of the 2012 season.

As the Chase heads to Dover International Speedway for the third race of the ten-race schedule, this week’s rankings by OnPitRoad.com’s Brian Wiggins have taken a shuffle.

1: Jimmie Johnson: After two second place finishes in the first two races of the Chase, Johnson leads the points heading into arguably his best track on the circuit. I think that speaks for itself. Previous Rank: 1

2: Denny Hamlin: Following the disappointment on the final lap at Chicagoland Speedway, Hamlin came to New Hampshire ready to win. Having the field covered all weekend, the only thing Hamlin didn’t finish first in was qualifying on Friday. Previous Rank: 3

3: Brad Keselowski: Although his race on Sunday was a quiet one, when the pay window opened up, Keselowski showed up. Running the majority of the race outside the top-10, Keselowski made up time on the final pit stop for a sixth place finish. Previous Rank: 2

4: Kasey Kahne: Back-to-back top-five finishes for Kahne have landed him in a spot to possibly contend for his first Sprint Cup title. While Dover will be one of his toughest tasks in the Chase, his consistency to this point has been some of the best. Previous Rank: 4

5:Tony Stewart: Unlike last year, Stewart has been anything but flashy in the Chase. A sixth place finish at Chicagoland and a ninth at New Hampshire have Stewart sitting fourth in points heading to his worst track.  Previous Rank: 6 

6: Clint Bowyer: With his new team, Bowyer hasn’t been stellar in the Chase thus far, but he has been among the best. After struggling at Chicagoland and finishing in the back-half of the top-10, Bowyer came to New Hampshire and ran in the top-five throughout the day. At Dover in June, he finished fifth. Previous Rank: 8

7: Jeff Gordon: Ditching the mustache, Gordon bounced back at New Hampshire by winning the pole and finishing third in the race after running strong all day. At Dover in June, Gordon had arguably the fastest car but pit strategy damaged his chances for a win. Previous Rank: 7 

8: Dale Earnhardt Jr.: There’s no denying that Earnhardt Jr. hasn’t had the speed he had before the Chase started. Another mediocre run Sunday at New Hampshire has the No.88 seventh in the standings. A bright side of this may be how strong Earnhardt Jr. was at Dover in June. Previous Rank: 5

9: Martin Truex Jr.: Coming into the Chase with little expectations, many would have thought Truex Jr. could make a charge in the early races at the championship. However, to this point, it’s been a struggle. Racing at his home track this weekend should boost his confidence.  Previous Rank: 10

10: Kevin Harvick: If there’s a good way to sum up Harvick’s first two Chase races, it would be average. Running mid-pack at Chicagoland and back-half of the top-10 at New Hampshire, Harvick heads to the track where he posted a second pace finish. Previous Rank: 12 

11: Greg Biffle: So far, the 2012 Chase hasn’t been what Biffle was hoping for. Leading the points at the end of the regular season, Biffle has started out the Chase flat with back-to-back finishes outside the top-10.  Previous Rank: 9

12: Matt Kenseth: It’s hard not to think things are starting to fall apart in the No.17 team. With Kenseth’s impending move to Joe Gibbs Racing, his chances at winning the championship are finding the key to lock the door. Previous Rank: 11

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