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NASCAR Power Rankings Heading Into the Coke 600

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Well I have had one hell of a week. Other than having a good friend get fired from my work, I started a second job at one of the big corporate warehouses out there and since I need the money I won’t mention which one of the two it is but I will guarantee a YAPS coming as soon as I can find the time because the training videos I have been forced to watch this past week are just out of this world awful. Then yesterday I had to attend my sister’s college graduation. All of which resulted in me missing out on an All Star weekend preview and ultimately resulting in me passing out shortly after the race went green. The good news is I would have picked Harvick to win and he came home as the runner up. To make up for it I have some mid season power rankings with the top 20 drivers thus far.


20. Kurt Busch

Luckily for Kurt he got just the right amount of pissed off at Martinsville to drive to the front and earn himself a victory. If not for that win and the Chase format change, this might be the worst season of his career. The week prior to his win at Martinsville Kurt finished 3rd in Fontana. If you took those two finishes away Kurt does not have a top 20 finish. To take it a step further… if you take away his 21st finish in the Daytona 500 and his 23rd place finish in Richmond, he hasn’t finished inside the top 25. Maybe the worst stat for Kurt is that he is currently behind Danica in overall driver points despite having picked up a win. Hopefully next weekend when he attempts the double at the Indy 500 and the Coke 600 leaves a better taste in his mouth.

19. Tony Stewart

You could certainly argue that Kurt should be ahead of Smoke on this list because of the win but Kurt has been that bad to fall behind his struggling teammate/owner. In fact Smoke has accumulated a 57 point lead on Kurt despite Kurt’s win and Smoke’s last place finish at Talladega. Smoke really needs to turn things around starting next Sunday. He has only led laps in one race, at Texas where he started on the pole. But he has at least tallied two top 5’s and four top 10’s with only three finishes coming outside the top 25 and two of those were at the two  crapshoot restrictor plate races we have seen. The weather is getting warmer and it’s time for Smoke to rise.

18. AJ Allmendinger

Dinger has had himself quite a nice little comeback tour. After starting the season with back to back 26th place finishes he managed to race his way back into the top 25 in every race until last weekends race in Kansas. In between that time frame he managed three top 10’s and five top 15’s. He hasn’t been great and has some work still to do to make the Chase, but if you told him he would be 17th in points after starting his comeback tour with back to back 26th place finishes, I’m sure he would take it.

17. Paul Menard  

If not for a 32nd place finish in the Daytona 500 and a 41st place finish at Darlington, Mr. Menard would be having himself a real strong year. Other than those two races he has finished inside the top 25 in every race and has posted five top 10’s.

16. Kasey Kahne

Kahne has been the NASCAR equivilent to the baseball player that “When he’s hot he’s hot but when he’s cold he’s cold”. He has already been up and down the rollercoaster in just eleven races. He started off with a 31st place finish in the Daytona 500 but then followed that up with finishes of 11th, 8th and 8th. After that he posted a 41st place finish in Fontana then a 22nd place finish at Martinsville. Then he came out of the dark a bit with an 11th place finish in Texas only to drop back to 37th at Darlington. But what bumps him up ahead of Menard is that he is currently on the upswing after finishing 14th, 8th, and 3rd in the last three points races heading into the All-Star Race. He typically loves racing in Charlotte and the Coke 600 might just make or break his season.

15. Brian Vickers

Is everyone aware that Brian Vickers has the 10th most points this year? That is especially surprising after he missed the final five races in 2013 due to a blood clot in his right calf. This year he has qualified poorly but has been consistent with his finishes. He is a whopping +42 in his difference between starting and finishing positions. He managed to win a race at Loudon without a full time ride last year, now this year he is running as well as he ever has and is a legitimate threat to earn one of those spots in the Chase.

14. Austin Dillon

That #3 team has put together a great inaugural season. Along the lines with Vickers, Dillon has struggled in qualifying, outside of earning pole position at the Daytona 500, but has managed some nice finishes in the 11-20 range. His only top 10 came from the pole at the Daytona 500 but on the flipside he has only finished outside the top 25 once all the while putting together three finishes in 11th place. This young team/driver is still learning and the second time through some of these tracks might really show us what he has to offer.

13. Ryan Newman

Newman has quietly put together a strong year in which he has collected the 8th most points among all the drivers. While he only has four top 10 finishes, he also only has one finish outside the top 20 when he finished 22nd in the Daytona 500. Some of his stronger tracks are still upcoming on the schedule too. Newman might be a nice dark horse bet to win the championship right now, if there were any odds posted online I’d provide them but they’re still off the board after the Nationwide race today. Regardless Newman is running consistently between 10th-20th, if he can score a win he has a legit shot to shake things up come the Chase.

12. Greg Biffle

The Biff has been another quiet surprise this year. Outside of his 40th place finish in Fontana, he has been really fast. In the final five races heading into the All-Star break he posted finishes of 6th, 5th, 15th, 2nd, and 16th respectively. I don’t know if he will make his way to victory lane this year, but if he keeps racing the way he has he might be able to sneak his way into the Chase.

11. Kyle Larson

Well in the Daytona 500 he was clearly doomed by the ghost of Juan Pablo where he finished 38th. Now 10 races removed, this rookie is sitting in 13th in the points standings thanks to two top 5’s, six top 10’s and only one other finish outside the top 20. Not too shabby for only having ten races to accumulate points compared to everyone else’s eleven.

10. Denny Hamlin

...Speaking of having success in just ten races. He missed the start in Fontana due to a combo sinus infection and having something in his eye, yet he finds himself sitting in 12th in the points standings. He followed up his 2nd place finish in the Daytona 500 with a win in the next restrictor plate race at Talladega. In fact if you take all the points and non-points events this year, nobody has won more than Hamlin.

9. Brad Keselowski

Brad and the #2 crew seems to have found the perfect combination for having a super fast car that finishes incredibly poorly. He has started on the front row six times in the eleven races run this year as well as starting inside the top 5 in eight of the eleven. His problems haven’t been due to a lack of speed but more so a lack of luck. After a stellar start to the season, that was overshadowed due to Dale Jr’s start, where he finished 3rd, 3rd and 1st in the first three races he lost all momentum. Over the course of the remaining eight races he posted two finishes of 38th while only finishing inside the top 10 once. But look at Harvick’s season. When you problem isn’t due to a lack of speed, things will work their way out. Brad has a legit shot to win himself another championship.

8. Jimmie Johnson

What the hell is wrong with the #48? No wins and 7th in points through eleven races? Time to hit the panic button and blow it up. Obviously I’m joking since he has posted three top 5’s and six top 10’s. He finds himself in just 7th place in points because he has finished outside the top 20 four times. But let me be clear, I assure you this will be the furthest down the list you will find the #48 team maybe ever. You know him and Chad have done nothing but worked on the Coke 600 trim since they got to Charlotte last week. I’m not predicting that they will win the Coke 600, at least not at this point in time, but there is a damn good chance that they turn on the burners and toast the field the rest of the way.

7. Carl Edwards

Consistent Cousin Carl has managed to finish inside the top 20 in every races outside of Talladega. In fact his only other finish outside the top 15 was in the Daytona 500. Outside of those two restrictor plate tracks he has been nothing short of spectacular. He sits 5th in points and might have gotten his head back on straight after Tony Stewart broke his confidence a few years back. This is without a doubt his best shot at getting back to Homestead with a chance to win a championship.

6. Kyle Busch

Rowdy hasn’t been so Rowdy this year, which may bode well for his championship hopes. He hasn’t seemed to have raced with that, if I don’t win I lose, mentality this year and it has paid dividends in the points standings. He has already grabbed a win, sits third in points and his only finish outside the top 20 was a 29th place finish at Bristol despite leading 73 laps. I promise you he will make up for that one the next time through Thunder Valley. Right now, I am feeling as high about Kyle’s ability to win a championship as I have been at any point in his career.

5. Matt Kenseth

Last year’s success for the #20 team has made people not realize how good he has been this year. He hasn’t won any races but he has only finished outside the top 13 in one race, Talladega. Having eight top 10’s in eleven races is one hell of a great start to any season. It just so happens to be that this season is the one that values wins the most. But let’s be honest if he keeps doing what he is doing, he is going to find himself in victory lane rather soon.

4. Dale Jr.

Dale Jr. could easily be #1 and have the points lead if not for that 43rd place finish in Texas. Believe it or not, being 4th in points and having a win already is a bit disappointing to Jr. Nation right now. Why you ask? Because he has four top 2 finishes, five top 3’s, six top 5 finishes and seven top 10’s in just eleven races. He could easily have found himself with four wins already and the points lead already.

3. Joey Logano

Front row Joe is growing up before our eyes. He has started on the front row four times and inside the top 5 six times in eleven races. By the way his two wins have come from a starting position of 10th or worse. Maybe the best stat proving he is growing up before our eyes, he has led multiple laps in every single race except for Fontana. Penske has put together one hell of a racing package so far this season and they don’t seem to have any intentions on slowing down.

2. Kevin Harvick

Harvick’s season is like a combination of Dale Jr’s and Brad Keselowski’s. He could have four wins already like Dale Jr. if not for the bad luck similar to Brad’s. After winning at Phoenix he finished outside the top 35 in four out of five races thanks to parts failures and other nonsense mishaps before winning again at Darlington. I don’t think anyone would disagree with him having the fastest car for the season on the whole at this point. If I had to bet on anyone closing the season with the most wins, it would be Harvick without a doubt. Although it wouldn’t be a value play since I think he might be -200 to achieve just that.

1. Jeff Gordon

Jeff really tipped the scales in his favor over Harvick with that win at Kansas after having his worst week of the season in the form of a 39th place finish at Talladega. It has been a long time since the #24 has looked this good. One win, five top 5’s, eight top 10’s and the points lead, not to forget that outside of Talladega his worst finish is 13th, is good enough to earn him the top spot in these rankings. He is without a doubt one of the favorites to win himself another championship. Before you think he may ride off into the sunset if he were to win another title, he seems to be having as much fun this year as he has in any year of his career. He seems to appreciate it a little more. There is no way this will be his final full time season in the Cup Series. No way no how.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

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