The Frontstretch: Sprint Cup Power Rankings: Preseason Top 15 / Daytona 500 by Frontstretch Staff -- Wednesday February 16, 2011

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Sprint Cup Power Rankings: Preseason Top 15 / Daytona 500

Frontstretch Staff · Wednesday February 16, 2011

 

Frontstretch Power Rankings

After nearly three months of hibernation, the green flag drops on NASCAR’s 2011 points championship this week. As usual, there are several new obstacles for the teams to deal with as they get ready to compete in the Sprint Cup Series this year: A new type of racing fuel, a new fuel delivery system, one less man over the wall and a hard limit on tires are all going to make crew chief strategies and decisions more important than ever. And we haven’t even gotten to the drivers yet; but in the end, no matter what changes are thrown a team’s way the basic concept of how to win a championship remains the same. The best combination of a crew able to adapt matched with a wheelman able to execute when it counts will be the ones climbing the stage and accepting the big awards come the end of the year.

So is Jimmie Johnson going to be able to win another title with a new set of challenges laid before him? Can Denny Hamlin overcome his team’s collapse over the last two races of 2010 to take the big prize this season? Will the addition of a fourth team to the RCR stable drag the organization down as it did in the past, or will Kevin Harvick and company be able to rise above and grab the brass ring this year? Read this week’s top 15 rankings to see where our pollsters have ranked your favorite heading into the heart of Daytona Speedweeks.

FRONTSTRETCH TOP 15 POWER RANKINGS: FEBRUARY 16th
Rank Driver (First Place Votes) Votes Last Week
1 Jimmie Johnson (5) 126 1
No more fingers on his hand for a sixth straight title. Will he grow one? That may be the biggest obstacle in his path for 2011.
2 Kevin Harvick (1) 122 2
Hmm. Black car at Daytona on the 10th Anniversary of Dale Earnhardt, Sr.’s passing. Note there is still a small No. 3 by the B-pillar – and for good reason.
3 Carl Edwards 111 4
Second baby on the way, two straight wins to end 2010 and two 9’s on the side of his car. All of this stuff points to … another runner-up finish in the standings, as long as Mr. Johnson stays on track.
4 Denny Hamlin 104 3
Between the yellow line penalty and the steering wheel coming off, don’t you have this feeling that 2011 is going to be “that kind of year” for this guy?
5 Kurt Busch (1) 96 15
Won the Bud Shootout just in time to give Jamie McMurray’s new baby a nice little baptism trophy. He knows where the bread is buttered … you don’t want the guy to choose Matt Kenseth instead next time out, right?
6 Kyle Busch 92 12
His maturity level continues to rise, and the potential for him to actually contend for a title grows in tandem.
7 Jeff Gordon 89 11
For Gordon, the old adage must be “Life Begins At 40.” But if he endures a crappy season after a crew chief change, with Regis’ spot available on that corny morning talk show will it be “NASCAR Career Ends At 40?”
8 Clint Bowyer 88 8
Hoping for all of the 1/16ths of an inch measurements to be on the right side of the gauges this year.
9 Greg Biffle 80 5
Expect him to fade late in the year when he has to start changing diapers.
10 Jeff Burton 75 NR
Still recovering from his “Worst of the Best” Chase effort where the team fell flat on their faces. Can RCR’s veteran leader shake it off and start bulldozing the competition all over again?
11 Matt Kenseth 68 6
Still hasn’t found the right replacement for Robbie Reiser but he’s still consistent enough to be a top-5 driver year in and year out.
12 Jamie McMurray 65 NR
One year ago, you probably never thought he’d hear the words “Defending Daytona 500 champion” preceding his name during driver introductions.
13 Tony Stewart 59 7
If he can keep the Australian incident from causing him to travel around the world multiple times during the season he’ll still be a contender.
14 Ryan Newman 53 14
Not sure what was more shocking for Newman – that he lost the Bud Shootout lead on the last lap, or that he finished a restrictor plate race right-side up and in one piece.
15 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 39 NR
Hard to rank him this low after winning the 500 pole. But hard to believe Junior’s year is turned around until we see what he does AFTER Daytona.
Dropped Out: Mark Martin (9), Joey Logano (10), A.J. Allmendinger (13).
Also Receiving Votes: Mark Martin (36), Joey Logano (35), Juan Pablo Montoya (31), A.J. Allmendinger (24), Paul Menard (22), Trevor Bayne (20), Martin Truex, Jr. (13), David Reutimann (6), Brad Keselowski (5), Bill Elliott (4), Brian Vickers (3), Marcos Ambrose (2), Kasey Kahne (1), Derrike Cope (1).
Writer Voting Panel: Phillip Allaway, Thomas Bowles, Bryan Keith, Tony Lumbis, Mike Neff, Vito Pugliese and Garrett Horton.

Contact Mike Neff

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Contact Mike Neff

Recent articles from Mike Neff:

Special Winter Sprint Car Series set for January debut at Cocopah Speedway
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Want to find out more about Mike Neff? Maybe see all the articles he's written here at the Frontstetch? Check out his article archive and bio page then!