Race Weekend Central

Top 15 NASCAR Power Rankings: Up-And-Coming Drivers

The Cup Series has the week off so the Power Rankings turns its focus this Wednesday towards a different subset of drivers: the ones trying desperately to make it there. There are rising stars from the Nationwide Series, Camping World Truck Series, K&N and ARCA all trying hard to climb the ladder and reach the pinnacle of their chosen profession, battling for the best future opportunity while simply trying to survive through a trying 2011 for developing talent. Some of them have been competing at their current level for some time while others are gradually making their way up the ranks after proving themselves in each series along the way.

So which one of them, underdogs and favorites alike, has made the biggest impression so far this season? Is it Richard Childress’ grandson, fast-tracking his way towards an automatic Sprint Cup ride? Could it be Johnny Sauter, looking for one last chance at redemption after a failed Cup attempt at RCR and Haas CNC? Or is it Red Bull Racing’s newest young prodigy, tearing apart the Truck Series while keeping his eye on future openings elsewhere? Check out the Top 15 Power Rankings this week to see if your driver made the list or if they still have some work to do to get their name out there.

*How The Rankings Are Calculated:* Frontstretch does our power rankings somewhat similar to how the Associated Press does them for basketball or football — writers on staff will vote for the Top 20 on a 20-19-18-17-16-15… 3-2-1 basis, giving 20 points to their first place driver, 19 for their second, and so on. In the end, Mike Neff calculates the points, adds some funny one-liners, and … voila! You have one batch of power rankings to serve to our fans.

*Rank* *Driver (First Place Votes)* *Points* *Previous Rank (March)*
*1* *Cole Whitt (2)* 106 T – 4
Even if he was doing terrible, either Kasey Kahne’s “lame duck” effort or Brian Vickers’ pending free agency would make him a “lock” to run Cup in 2012. The fact he’s running better than Scott Speed or A.J. Allmendinger at this stage of the game (five races, five top-15 finishes) is simply an added bonus.
*2* *Austin Dillon* 103 2
Already showing glimpses of ability that make him better than his grandfather’s talent behind the wheel… although it surely doesn’t hurt to have his grandpa’s money behind those efforts.
*3* *Justin Allgaier (2)* 102 1
In some ways, running better than he did with Penske but falling victim to what happens in his series when you get ditched by a big team: “no one cares” syndrome.
*4* *Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.* 97 T – 4
Making it harder and harder for Jack Roush to solve the “Who Will Replace David Ragan Sweepstakes: Stenhouse or Trevor Bayne?” Too bad UPS has the right answer under wraps; jumping ship before they make a choice.
*5* *Timothy Peters* 90 T – 15
The quiet contender, liked by nearly everyone from his crew to fellow competitors. The only problem comes with the small group that won’t be satisfied with a man of few words: those guys with the money trying to sell products and sponsor race teams.
*6* *Trevor Bayne* 83 3
He has all of the off the track qualities to be a star; now, if he can start winning on tracks that don’t require restrictor plates…
*7* *Ty Dillon* 71 NR
He and Austin are like the Kurt-Kyle Busch combo, Part II; the only things missing are the trashing of other competitors, ditching interviewers and acting like jerks on the radio portion of their personality. Didn’t someone tell them they have the right to be entitled? Oh, that’s right… humility is a good thing…
*8* *Aric Almirola* 57 9
Got a question for Kelley Earnhardt… Kelly Bires lost this ride while Aric keeps it because…?
*9* *Parker Kligerman* 39 NR
With the right amount of sponsorship, he might be able to do better than his boss in the Blue Deuce. Bad Brad better be careful.
*10* *Brian Scott* 35 NR
Better step it up while he’s got a ride in Joe Gibbs Racing equipment or he’ll be looking for work driving something much slower.
*T – 11* *Josh Wise* 34 NR
Needs to realize he was picked up from the poorhouse; he’s at the JR Motorsports palace now. No need to hold out that Folgers can and race at 80 percent anymore.
*T – 11* *Clay Rogers* 34 NR
This ain’t the Pro Cup Series but Rogers continues to surprise this season.
*13* *Matt Crafton* 32 13
Once again, he’s a Truck Series championship contender. But if he doesn’t want to be a lifer in this series, may we suggest winning races, like, now? He’s not getting any younger.
*T – 14* *Reed Sorenson* 30 6
The perfect example of a lucky Casey Atwood… someone who got to party, racing on the side through his entire 20s instead of just one year.
*T – 14* *Ricky Carmichael* 30 NR
The GOAT continues to learn more about this four-wheeled racing stuff and just might surprise with a win this season.
*Dropped Out:* Ron Hornaday, Jr. (7), Johnny Sauter (8), Todd Bodine (10), Jason Leffler (T – 11), Elliott Sadler (T – 11), Landon Cassill (14), James Buescher (T – 15).
*Also Receiving Votes:* Ryan Truex 29, Craig Goess 23, Sergio Pena 22, Coleman Pressley 22, Darrell Wallace, Jr. 22, Jeremy Clements 20, Johnny Sauter 18, Steve Wallace 16, Nelson Piquet, Jr. 15, James Buescher 15, Jason Leffler 12, Elliott Sadler 10, Kimi Raikkonen 10, Brad Sweet 10, Landon Cassill 10, Max Papis 9, Michael Annett 8, Ron Hornaday, Jr. 6, Andy Moffitt 6, Chase Elliott 6, Todd Bodine 5, Matt DiBenedetto 5, Brandon McReynolds 4, George Brunnhoelzl III 3, Ryan Blaney 3, Johanna Long 2, Greg Pursley 2, Danica Patrick 1, Nick Hoffman 1, Steve Arpin 1, Maryeve Dufault 1.
*Writer Voting Panel:* Tony Lumbis, Mike Neff, Bryan Keith, Phillip Allaway, Tom Bowles, and Garrett Horton.

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

Wednesday on the Frontstretch:
“Did You Notice? … Who’s The Short Track King?, Quick Hits, And Sliced Dreams”:https://frontstretch.com/tbowles/33787/
“Up In Smoke: Yunick’s Hall of Fame Legacy Burns in Daytona Beach”:https://frontstretch.com/vpugliese/33783/
“Mirror Driving: Carl’s Contract, All-Star Racers And A Solution to Nationwide Interlopers?”:https://frontstretch.com/md/33784/
“Denny Hamlin’s Curse and Why Richmond Should Help”:https://frontstretch.com/sdreyer/33780/
“Top 10 Excuses For Spinning Someone Out On A Short Track”:https://frontstretch.com/article/33785/

“The Right Way”:http://www.athlonsports.com/columns/garage-talk/right-way

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