Race Weekend Central

Sprint Cup Power Rankings: Top 15 Post-Martinsville

Sometimes older really is better. NASCAR’s classic short track in Martinsville, Virginia, on the schedule since 1949 treated us to one of the best races of the season Sunday. It also provided the Most Popular Driver in the sport a giant tease, dangling the end of a 98-race winless streak in front of him before Kevin Harvick snuck by for his second victory in as many weeks, a phenomenal finish to a 500-lapper that left the fans on their feet with a record 31 lead changes. Most importantly, Harvick brought a new face to the front of the pack, allowing someone besides Denny Hamlin or Jimmie Johnson to take home the coveted grandfather clock for taking the checkers first. In fact, the two drivers who have owned the speedway in recent years both ended up outside the top 10, the first time that’s happened since Johnson was a rookie back in 2002.

Further back, Carl Edwards lost his power steering and, although he led a lap for the first time at the big paperclip in Virginia he lost the points lead. Was that enough to kick him out of the top spot in this week’s rankings? Could Harvick, the winner of two straight races take his place despite sitting fifth in points? Or was Kyle Busch’s strong performance, a third-place effort enough to move him up from second in this poll? Read this week’s Top 15 to find out if your favorite driver was able to bump and run his way up the rankings or if they got shuffled to the outside and sent into those nasty Martinsville marbles.

*Rank* *Driver (First Place Votes)* *Votes* *Last Week*
*1* *Kevin Harvick (4)* 117 T – 3
He’s never won three straight in Sprint Cup. Richard Childress has won just once at Texas. It’s either a recipe for disaster… or a career-defining trifecta upcoming.
*2* *Kyle Busch (2)* 116 2
The “old Kyle” nearly came out during two heartbreaking losses, but “new Kyle” kept it all tucked inside. We’re beginning to wonder if it’s healthy; hopefully Samantha has a punching bag or something he can use down in the basement? Or maybe that’s why he signed Kimi…
*3* *Jimmie Johnson* 102 5
The pit road speed radar jamming device must have malfunctioned on that pit stop.
*T – 4* *Matt Kenseth* 90 8
A ho-hum top-10 finish is good for Kenseth, but we liked it better when he and Jeff Gordon spent the end of the race nearly wrecking, then verbally going after each other. The most underrated NASCAR rivalry there is…
*T – 4* *Dale Earnhardt, Jr.* 90 10
99 races without a win and he’s worried about being the bad guy? He’s definitely a different driver than his daddy…
*6* *Carl Edwards* 89 1
Finally led a lap at Martinsville, even if he did have to use all of those big muscles to do it with no power steering.
*7* *Juan Pablo Montoya* 79 12
Shocking fact of the week: this guy hasn’t been lower than eighth in the points all year.
*8* *Jeff Gordon* 78 13
Not sure what this team did after Phoenix, but boy, was that one hell of a hangover. Next time take some Vitamin C before bed…
*9* *Ryan Newman* 66 T – 3
Krissy Newman and Kevin Harvick appear to be friends. Maybe they can convince her husband to play nice?
*T – 10* *Kurt Busch* 65 6
After missing the last two events, Kurt returns at… wait, he was actually competing in those races?
*T – 10* *Clint Bowyer* 65 T – 15
Looks like this team has stopped pressing the snooze button two months into 2011. Now, can someone go set the alarm at Jeff Burton’s house?
*12* *Mark Martin* 53 NR
The only driver inside the top 20 in points who hasn’t led a lap. Maybe he’s thinking NASCAR will apply the senior discount and let him into Victory Lane for finishing 10th?
*13* *Tony Stewart* 40 7
His weekend was so bad, FOX didn’t care to tell the viewers that Smoke went behind the wall.
*14* *A.J. Allmendinger* 38 NR
Making last year’s near-bankrupt disaster at Richard Petty Motorsports seem like a distant memory. That is, of course, until the next merger comes around this summer…
*15* *Jamie McMurray* 33 NR
Still not sure about the green car, but his pit crew certainly wasn’t making anyone turn green with envy on Sunday.
*Dropped Out*: Paul Menard (9), Kasey Kahne (11), Martin Truex, Jr. (14), Greg Biffle (T – 15).
*Also Receiving Votes:* Denny Hamlin (23), Paul Menard (19), David Ragan (19), Brian Vickers (16), Greg Biffle (15), Joey Logano (5), David Reutimann (5), Martin Truex, Jr. (4), Brad Keselowski (2), Ken Schrader (2), Bobby Labonte (1).
*Writer Voters Include:* Phillip Allaway, Bryan Keith, Tom Bowles, Tony Lumbis, Mike Neff and Garrett Horton. (No Vito Pugliese this week)

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

Wednesday on the Frontstretch:

“The Closer”:http://www.athlonsports.com/columns/nascar-monday-recap/closer

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