The Frontstretch: Sprint Cup Power Rankings: Top 15 Post-Fontana by Frontstretch Staff -- Wednesday March 30, 2011

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Sprint Cup Power Rankings: Top 15 Post-Fontana

Frontstretch Staff · Wednesday March 30, 2011


California looked like another Kyle Busch display of dominance Sunday, back-to-back sweeps seemingly a mere formality for about the first 350 miles. But that’s when Andy Lally spun, giving Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick their second chance to interrupt a party that ended with the two of them – not Busch – battling for Victory Lane at closing time. While Harvick won the slugfest with Johnson, courtesy a last-lap pass Carl Edwards quietly took the lead in the championship with a sixth-place finish behind them.

That makes this week’s edition of the power rankings a tough, nail-biting decision for our experts. With Edwards coming home sixth, killing them with consistency was he able to hold onto the top spot in the rankings? Or with Kevin Harvick taking the win, part of RCR’s recent resurgence after engine problems did he supplant the leader in the rankings and the point standings? Take a look at the Top 15 this week and find out which drivers traveled back to the east coast carrying a little extra gift in their baggage: momentum.

Rank Driver (First Place Votes) Votes Last Week
1 Carl Edwards (4) 135 1
Very realistically could have four wins in five races this year. Now, if only the rest of the Ford Fusions can get close to Edwards the Bowtie Brigade might find itself with a real American racing rivalry on its hands for the first time in oh, about a decade.
2 Kyle Busch (1) 128 T – 2
Kyle just got passed for the lead in the last five laps, didn’t bounce it off of the wall, finished third and gave a calm post-race interview. Did he get married or neutered?
T – 3 Ryan Newman 117 5
Fifth place seemed appropriate for this guy since that’s where he always finishes. Our guess is he’s practicing for the Chase, when his Hendrick equipment for Stewart-Haas will be precisely fifth-best in the fleet – behind the four Hendrick Motorsports cars.
T – 3 Kevin Harvick 117 9
It wasn’t dumping Terry Labonte for the win, but that move at the end of the race to get past Johnson sure looked a lot like the guy who used to drive those cars.
5 Jimmie Johnson 115 4
Wow; that doesn’t happen very often. Let’s just say the Anyone But Johnson crowd had to be whipping victory donuts after that one…
6 Kurt Busch 99 T – 2
The former point leader had been killing them with consistency. But on Sunday, it was his race car who spent the whole race half-dead.
7 Tony Stewart 98 6
Creating a 2011 highlight reel under “epic collapses” which is bringing back the Smoke temper of old. Maybe he needs to go out and get a wife? Does Samantha have a sister?
8 Matt Kenseth 88 10
Running in the top 5 just often enough that he can see his teammate Edwards ahead of him from time to time. That might be about as close as he’ll get in 2011.
9 Paul Menard 84 7
Before you get all excited, remember Menard was in a really good position five races into 2010 before heading to Martinsville. Then, it all fell apart… so let’s not call him a “Chase lock” quite yet.
10 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 73 8
Can you say darkhorse pick for Martinsville? If Steve Letarte can get this guy to finish 12th on a racetrack where the No. 88 is all but invisible, just imagine what he can do at a track where Junior nearly won last Fall.
11 Kasey Kahne 65 12
One for the ouch category: Kahne’s top-10 finish this weekend, his third in five starts this season equaled the total number of those such efforts posted by Scott Speed… during his entire Red Bull career. (70+ starts)
12 Juan Pablo Montoya 60 15
Showing the consistency he did in the 2009 campaign that made him a Cup contender. Now go follow him on Twitter and learn how he feels about remote control airplanes!
13 Jeff Gordon 50 11
An 18th-place finish, running like junk at one of his best tracks and he still gains three spots in the standings? This new point system is weird.
14 Martin Truex, Jr. 36 14
If the ADD people had their wish with shorter races, he could very well be your points leader right now.
T – 15 Greg Biffle 35 NR
Ho-hum 11th at Bristol, but let’s put it this way: at least he didn’t end up flipping down the front straight like he does in that video game commercial.
T – 15 Clint Bowyer 35 NR
Welcome to the 2011 Cup season, Mr. Bowyer! Too bad you’re about a month and a Chase bid too late?
Dropped Out: Mark Martin (13).
Also Receiving Votes: Mark Martin (32), Brian Vickers (28), A.J. Allmendinger (28), Denny Hamlin (14), Bobby Labonte (12), Jeff Burton (9), Marcos Ambrose (4), Landon Cassill (3), Joey Logano (3), Brad Keselowski (1), David Ragan (1).
Writer Voters Include: Phillip Allaway, Bryan Keith, Tony Lumbis, Mike Neff, Vito Pugliese and Garrett Horton.

Contact Mike Neff

Wednesday on the Frontstretch:
Five Races, Five Contenders: Who’s Stood Out To Take The Cup Title In 2011
Top 10 Ways To Make The Racing Better At Fontana
Beyond The Cockpit: The Direction of Ford, Front Row, and Car No. 37
Mirror Driving: Hidden Gems, Hiding Rookies, And Horrid Luck For Gibbs

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Today on the Frontstretch:
NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment
Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
Going By the Numbers: A Week Without Racing Can Bring Relief But Kill Momentum


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03/30/2011 02:22 PM

That’s interesting… 6 voters and 5 1st place votes.

Mike Neff
03/30/2011 03:00 PM

By golly you are right Linda. I apologize, I missed one of the first place votes for Kevin Harvick. Thanks for keeping me honest.

03/30/2011 06:41 PM

Menard finished 13th and 14th in the two Martinsville races last year. His season went downhill starting Texas, where he was running T15 when Stewart forgot how to drive and wrecked about 10 cars. Your point stands, but any drop-off isn’t likely to truly begin for a few weeks.


Contact Mike Neff

Recent articles from Mike Neff:

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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!