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Sprint Cup Power Rankings: Top 15 Post-Daytona 500

Frontstretch Power Rankings

The 2011 season is underway, and it started off with a Cinderella story for the ages – or at least for the last nine years. Not since Jamie McMurray came out of relative obscurity to win his second race at Charlotte has someone won in their Cup career as quickly as Trevor Bayne did in taking the Daytona 500. Mind you, while they both share the speed record now there’s a big difference between the two situations. In McMurray’s case, he was in a car that had won two races earlier that season and had been leading the points shortly before he got behind the wheel. Bayne took the checkered flag first for a team that hadn’t won a race in almost ten years and had nearly gotten out of the sport just three years ago. So if the rest of the year comes close to living up to the standard set by this 500 – a race that included a record 74 lead changes – well, then expect 2011 to be a racing season none of us will soon forget.

So after the complete Mixmaster that was the first race on the new Daytona pavement – just three of last year’s Chasers finished inside the top 10 – the standings are a complete gallimaufry that may take months to shake out with the new point system. With that as a backdrop for this week’s rankings (and now that you’ve looked up a word in the dictionary) know the jumbling carried over right into our pollster’s voting ballots. How badly did Jimmie Johnson’s customary slow start cause him to fall through the standings? Could last year’s regular season darling, Kevin Harvick keep a place in the poll after a 42nd-place finish in the Great American Race? Did Trevor Bayne’s win give him the momentum to start the season where you’d never expect: in position number one? And did his biggest helper, Bobby Labonte, get rewarded for his first top-5 performance since 2006? Check out the Top 15 Rankings this week to see if your favorite driver was able to succeed in the two-car tangos Sunday, moving up in the rankings or if they fell to the bottom after their engine done blowed up.

*FRONTSTRETCH TOP 15 POWER RANKINGS: FEBRUARY 23rd*
*Rank* *Driver (First Place Votes)* *Votes* *Last Week*
*1* *Carl Edwards (4)* 135 3
Was running second coming down to the last lap at a plate track… and didn’t get ten feet off the ground and into the fence at the finish. Does that get a bonus point under this new system?
*2* *Kurt Busch* 112 5
Would never have guessed that A) he’d pick Regan Smith, of all people to work with at the 500. That’s like getting nine “nos” before the Prom and settling for what’s left; B) he has three second-place finishes in the 500, seeing as he didn’t win a plate race until last Saturday’s Shootout; C) in the last laps, without a drafting partner he’d try and turn to his evil Twin, er brother for help.
*3* *Trevor Bayne (2)* 104 NR
More “Aw, shucks” than Carl Edwards ever dreamed of being. Let’s hope we never uncover another side to him.
*4* *Kyle Busch* 99 6
Looks like a lot of people wanted to steal M&M’s on Sunday, because this guy’s front end looked like it had been through 500 laps at Bristol by the end of the race.
*5* *Mark Martin* 83 NR
Just your typical come from three laps down to line up in the second row on the final restart performance for Martin in the Daytona 500. Way to totally not bring attention to it, FOX.
*6* *Bobby Labonte* 77 NR
The last time Bobby came that close to winning and didn’t, he kicked the side of his car. Luckily, this time it’s only David Ragan kicking himself after that one.
*7* *Juan Pablo Montoya* 76 NR
Did you realize that he finished sixth in the Daytona 500? We didn’t, either. Although when you think about it, any package where you have to bump people repeatedly is perfect for him…
*8* *Tony Stewart* 75 13
With 22 different leaders in this year’s 500, it is hard to believe that Stewart’s name is not on that list.
*9* *Clint Bowyer* 69 8
Heartbreaking ending for him after leading over 30 laps in the 500. But hey, we can look at it this way considering recent history: At least he didn’t blow up and finished on all four wheels.
*10* *David Gilliland* 67 NR
What were the Vegas odds on a Trevor Bayne-Carl Edwards-David Gilliland trifecta? Ask the guy who just bought an island in the Caribbean Monday; he should know.
*11* *Jimmie Johnson (1)* 64 1
27th or worse in five 500s in a row… so don’t write him off for title number six just yet.
*12* *Paul Menard* 61 NR
Led 11 laps in the Daytona 500. We’re amazed the world hasn’t ended yet … then again, there’s still time ’til Sunday….
*13* *A.J. Allmendinger* 60 NR
You know The King is going to be on A.J. now to get the No. 43 back into Victory Lane; he can’t let the Pearson/Wood Brothers camp one-up him now, right?
*14* *Regan Smith* 57 NR
The best two weeks of his Sprint Cup career, yellow line notwithstanding…
*15* *Denny Hamlin* 40 4
Didn’t finish on the lead lap but fared better than almost all of the Chase contenders from last year. Good thing Daytona’s a horse of a different color…
*Dropped Out*: Kevin Harvick (2), Jeff Gordon (7), Greg Biffle (9), Jeff Burton (10), Matt Kenseth (11), Jamie McMurray (12), Ryan Newman (14), Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (15).
*Also Receiving Votes:* Ryan Newman (36), Kevin Harvick (35), David Ragan (30), Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (26), Bill Elliott (24), Robby Gordon (22), Jeff Gordon (19), Jeff Burton (19), Jamie McMurray (19), Greg Biffle (16), Matt Kenseth (11), Terry Labonte (10), Steven Wallace (7), Joey Logano (6), Kasey Kahne (4), Brian Vickers (3), Martin Truex, Jr. (2), Brian Keselowski (2).
*Writer Voting Panel:* Phillip Allaway, Thomas Bowles, Bryan Keith, Tony Lumbis, Mike Neff, Vito Pugliese and Garrett Horton.

“Contact Mike Neff”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/14354/

Wednesday on the Frontstretch:
“Did You Notice? … Fixing The Points… Already, Daytona Means No Chase, And Stewart’s Shocking Defeat”:https://frontstretch.com/tbowles/32869/
“Throwback or Throw Up? Plate Racing Realities Going Forward”:https://frontstretch.com/vpugliese/32871/
“Mirror Driving: Tire Talk, Daytona’s Feel-Good Stories And Nati-sui-cide”:https://frontstretch.com/md/32874/
“Beyond the Cockpit: Truck Veteran Mike Skinner Lends a Hand to Owner Eddie Sharp”:https://frontstretch.com/bkeith/32863/
“Top Ten Ways Trevor Bayne’s Life Will Change This Week”:https://frontstretch.com/jmeyer/32866/
“The Frontstretch Foto Funnies! Daytona, February 2011”:https://frontstretch.com/fotofunnies/32867/
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