The Frontstretch: Frontstretch Sprint Cup Power Rankings : Top 15 Free Agents For 2009 by Mike Neff -- Wednesday July 23, 2008

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Frontstretch Power Rankings

With the off week in full swing, it presented an opportunity for the Frontstretch experts to do something a little different. Instead of grading the Cup guys, we took a look at those drivers who often get shunned from the spotlight these days … the drivers exclusive to the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series desperate to make a name for themselves. These divisions are filled with established veterans and young guns mixed together to provide a cornucopia of driving talent. And since you never know when a Cup ride will become available … we thought it’s high time to figure out who’s proved himself most worthy of filling the spot as of late.

Read on to see if your favorite non-Cup driver made the list in this special edition of the top 15.

How The Rankings Are Calculated: Frontstretch does their power rankings somewhat similar to how the Associated Press does them for basketball or football — writers on our staff will vote for the Top 20 on a 20-19-18-17-16-15…3-2-1 basis, giving 20 points to their first place driver, 19 for their second, and so on. In the end, Mike Neff calculates the points, adds some funny one liners, and … voila! You have the power rankings from our dedicated staff.

Rank Driver (First Place Votes) Votes Career Cup Starts
1 Brad Keselowski (2) 112 4
It’s not a matter of if the JR Motorsports car is headed to Cup next year … it’s with who.
2 Justin Allgaier 101 0
Looking more like a potential star every race.
3 Todd Bodine (2) 76 231
Continues to ruffle the feathers of his rivals — much to the delight of the fans — but will his team have enough sponsorship to continue?
4 Brendan Gaughan 68 36
Made rim riding popular when everyone else was afraid of it.
T – 5 Matt Crafton 62 0
Hasn’t gotten on that winning roll yet … but expect that to change real soon.
T – 5 Jason Leffler 76 65
He’s been the best of the Nationwide-only drivers for years.
7 Ron Hornaday, Jr. 59 45
The 2007 Craftsman Truck Series champ is putting together all the patchwork sponsorship 2008 champ Johnny Benson wishes he could have.
8 Mike Bliss 54 84
The wily old veteran continues to get the job done.
9 Chad McCumbee 48 8
Apparently, acting as Dale Jr. wasn’t his only talent.
10 Scott Lagasse, Jr. 42 0
Another former CGRFS driver succeeding with other teams.
11 Mike Skinner 47 256
Sprint Cup’s Super Sub continues to showcase his true talent in the Truck Series.
12 Timothy Peters 41 0
Finishing in the top 10 with a truck he maintains in a garage with three of his buddies. Amazing …
T – 13 Johnny Benson (1) 38 274
Done amazing things for years in inferior equipment. If he could get some “real” rides, imagine how good he’d be…
T – 13 Terry Cook 39 0
Nationwide start and parks aside, he’s a good driver deserving of a sponsor to continue on in the Truck Series.
15 Jason Keller 33 2
Let’s put it this way: the most starts ever in the Nationwide Series didn’t happen because he sucks…
Also Receiving Votes: Michael Annett (27), Tony Raines (24), Stephen Leicht (23), J.R. Fitzpatrick (22), Kelly Bires (21), Michael McDowell (20), Dennis Setzer (20), Travis Kvapil (20), Rick Crawford (17), Danny O’Quinn, Jr. (16), Steven Wallace (14), Mike Wallace (14), Kenny Wallace (14), Jeremy Clements (14), Marc Davis (13), Scott Wimmer (12), Max Papis (10), Brian Scott (10), Erik Darnell (10), D.J. Kennington (9), James Buescher (8), Morgan Shepherd (8), Colin Braun (7), Donny Lia (6), Peyton Sellers (5), Brandon Whitt (4), Bryan Silas (3), T.J. Bell (3), Mark McFarland (3), Joe Nemechek (2), Johnny Sauter (2), Ricky Carmichael (2), Eric McClure (1).
Who Voted: Tom Bowles, Tony Lumbis, Mike Neff, Doug Turnbull, Vito Pugliese, and Phil Allaway.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
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07/23/2008 01:37 PM

Jeremy’s not in the Top 15?! His record has to be better than probably 13 of those other drivers, not to mention how fan friendly he is, plus the wonderful commercials he’s done for sponsors in the past! Then again, I don’t recognize anyones’ name that did the voting, so I shouldn’t let their opinions bother me… :)

07/23/2008 02:47 PM

Well, you got one and two right but it gets silly after that. Jeremy Mayfield and Casey Mears are 3 and 4 easily. Mayfield’s accomplishments would rank second on that list behind Newman. Mayfield has as many career wins as 3 through 15 combined and that’s with Schrader’s 4 that happened 17+ years ago.

Heck, take Newman out and Mafield has more wins and chase appearances in the last 10 years than the other 39 drivers listed combined.

07/23/2008 03:21 PM

What was said about Mayfield above is mostly pretty accurate. However, he’s been a bit of a problem child for the organizations for which he’s driven. I’m betting that’s the reason why he isn’t higher on the list. He doesn’t play well with others, and people don’t like working with him.

I like Casey Mears…I think everyone does…but as far as success goes in Cup, he really hasn’t done much except make mediocre equipment mediocre, and make great equipment mediocre. I don’t know if he just hasn’t had the stability, or right people around him, or whatever…but the results aren’t spectactular.

I’m not sold on Blaney to the extent that the voters are, but beyond that I don’t have much issue with the order.

07/23/2008 03:34 PM

Truex isn’t a free agent, but even if he was he shouldn’t be higher on the list than Mayfield. Jeremy should be in the top 2 of that list based on his accomplishments, his fan friendly attitude and his work ethic.

07/23/2008 04:25 PM

I think Jeremy should be up there as well. He has proven that he knows how to get the job done. When you put him with the right people and equipment that is up to par, he can drive the wheels off that car.

07/23/2008 05:30 PM

Steve wrote: “Heck, take Newman out and Mafield has more wins and chase appearances in the last 10 years than the other 39 drivers listed combined.” Not true. Ward Burton has 4 wins in the last ten years, Benson has one, Truex one, Mears one, Steve Park has two and Ricky Craven has two. That’s 11 (unless I missed one somewhere). Mayfield has 4 in the last ten years (one of his wins was in April 1998) driving for Penske and Enernham in top notch equipment. Yeah, he’s a good driver, but if you’re going to shoot your mouth off like Mayfield did, you better be Kyle Busch good.

07/23/2008 08:35 PM

OK, you’re right but let’s take into account that Ward Burton and Craven have retired and aren’t looking for full-time rides and Park is a long way from being recovered enough to run in Cup. Skinner is 15th on the list and he has said many times that he is happy in the Truck series and doesn’t want a full-time cup ride. Ruetimann is not a free agent. The list is a joke. Do you really think Kenny Wallace, Mike Skinner or Boris Said have a better chance at landing a quality ride than Casey Mears? The top four should be Newman, Truex (whose FA status is ?), Mayfield and Mears and it’s not even close.

07/24/2008 04:57 PM

I agree that Mayfield is a talented driver. The fact that he’s 16th on the list probably has to do with his dustup with Evernham and is not a reflection of his talent, although his 18 DNQ’s last year in the Bill Davis #36 car didn’t help his case. I can see that you’re a fan of his and I respect that. My point is that you can’t burn any bridges in NASCAR, it’s a very small community.

07/24/2008 07:13 PM

*I’m not a big fan of Mayfield. He should think about ARCA. *I’m surpised that Matt Crafton did not place on the list. As much as like Tony Raines, I would put Crafton on the list before Raines. *What about Donny Lia from New York, his Mansfield win was pretty impressive.


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