Everyone thought that a little game of road course bumper cars at Infineon would stir up the Frontstretch Power Rankings. But one week later, it was actually the (mostly) caution-free, flat one-mile oval in New Hampshire that threw the top 15 into the blender. Four drivers climbed into the rankings this week, while four fell out after awful performances during a killer, 201-lap green-flag run that destroyed the day for several ill-handling top contenders.
Yet when the smoke cleared from some late-race yellows and a shocking little bump ‘n’ run, it was another familiar face on top of the final results. Jimmie Johnson nudged Kurt Busch out of the way and into victory lane, giving him back-to-back victories for the second time this season while reasserting himself as the 2010 title favorite. Was that enough to bump the reigning four-time champ back into the number one spot? Or did Kevin Harvick hold on after yet another top-five finish, giving him a comfy 105-point lead in the real regular-season standings just nine weeks before the Chase?
Read below to find out how our experts voted on your favorite driver, and if – after three straight top-11 finishes – they’re even ready to believe enough in Dale Earnhardt Jr. by launching him into the upper echelon of our weekly Power Rankings.
|FRONTSTRETCH TOP-15 POWER RANKINGS: JUNE 30th|
|Rank||Driver (First-Place Votes)||Votes||Last Week|
|1||Jimmie Johnson (7)||191||5|
|Talk about a guy who’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. Headlines two weeks ago: What’s Wrong With Johnson and The No. 48 team! This week: Is Jimmie Winning Constantly Bad for NASCAR?|
|2||Kevin Harvick (1)||183||2|
|Stroking is good for the regular season, but the Chase? Not so much.|
|3||Kurt Busch (1)||174||3|
|The bump was perfect. The run? Let’s just say that car needs to spend a little more time at the gym.|
|Any coincidence that he is now tradin’ paint with the guy who let him drive his Formula One car in a promotion that was titled, “Tradin’ Paint?”|
|Todd Berrier was feeling miserable this week until he opened the door to a room full of Thank You cards from everyone who hates Kyle Busch. So it all worked out….|
|6||Denny Hamlin (1)||150||1|
|Two weeks removed from a dominant win at Michigan, the No. 11 team appears not quite ready for prime time – again.|
|As the summer heats up, the Smoke begins to rise.|
|Tied for the lead with Jeff Gordon this season in the category: Race Wins Lost in the Last 10 Laps.|
|Says he’s not nervous about losing crew chief Greg Erwin, but everyone at Ford should be nervous about their jobs these days with the way those Fusions are running.|
|10||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||85||NR|
|Two top 10s in the last three races – while the other one was an 11th on a road course he wants to blow up with dynamite. Still, it’s hard to find an article out there titled, “Will Junior and the No. 88 Team Make the Chase?” Just wait until after Daytona – there will be. Lots of them.|
|Probably ran better Sunday than when he won the race on fuel mileage last year.|
|Really bummed that Reed Sorenson took out Montoya before he had a chance to do it himself. Oh well, there’s always Bristol in August…|
|Word has it Robbie Reiser to return as crew chief in 2011. In other Roush Fenway news, Biffle to be reunited with Randy Goss, and Carl Edwards with Kevin “Cowboy” Starland.|
|Not only is he making a great case to be the No. 1 driver at RPM, he runs the coolest paint schemes on a weekly basis, hands down. Someone at Berlin City Auto Group is one heck of an artist…|
|You’d have to figure he’ll start riding the boss’ coattails at some point… right?|
|Dropped Out: Kasey Kahne (11), Mark Martin (12), Carl Edwards (13), Juan Pablo Montoya (14)|
|Also Receiving Votes: Kasey Kahne (53), Mark Martin (43), Carl Edwards (38), Marcos Ambrose (33), Juan Pablo Montoya (29), Jamie McMurray (26), Martin Truex Jr. (21), David Reutimann (20), Elliott Sadler (9), Paul Menard (4), David Stremme (2), Brad Keselowski (1), Morgan Shepherd (1)|
|Writer Voting Panel: Phillip Allaway, Brock Beard, Thomas Bowles, Bryan Davis Keith, Tony Lumbis, Mike Neff, Vito Pugliese, Mike Ravesi, Kurt Smith, and Matt Taliaferro|
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.