Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Sprint Cup Power Rankings: Top 15 After Darlington

It was only a matter of time, and Saturday’s race at Darlington Raceway solidified what everyone already expected to eventually happen: Hendrick Motorsports’ 200th career victory. Jimmie Johnson was the driver who was able to seal up the 200 trips to Victory Lane, which came as little surprise to anyone who has been following the sport for more than six years. Meanwhile, a tangle on pit road between Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, and their crews overshadowed the win, in addition to some solid runs by drivers like Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin.
How did their top 5 runs impact their position in our rankings? And was Johnson’s win enough to volt him to the top? Keep reading to find out:

1. Greg Biffle (2) 148 – 1
The No. 16 team, protesting that the Southern 500 should still be run on Labor Day weekend, insisted on setting their car up for a Sunday afternoon rather than Saturday night. _Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com_
2. Jimmie Johnson (2) 140 – 10
Don’t look now but Jimmie Johnson has Dale Earnhardt on his radar next on the all-time win list. _Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com_

3. Matt Kenseth (2) 130 – 3
The announcement of the “new number” on Kenseth’s car this year was the only reason anyone paid attention to him this week. Even then, everyone proceeded to quit caring once they realized it was just the confusing name of a bank. _Summer Dreyer, Frontstretch.com_
4. Denny Hamlin (1) 127 – 6
Not quite as effective at dumping the leader as his teammate. _Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com_

5. Tony Stewart 129 – T8
Can’t wait to get to Charlotte on Memorial Day weekend where there will be 100 extra miles to wreck more cars. _Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com_
6. Kyle Busch 114 – 5
Text message from Kyle to Kurt: “Hey big bro, thanks for making sure I won’t end up on Darlington’s billboards next year. Appreciate it!” _Kelly Crandall, Speedwaymedia.com_
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 99 – 2
All-Star race weekend will be the one week this year where everyone will be shocked if Earnhardt _doesn’t_ win. Of course we are talking about the All-Star Fan Vote. Otherwise, yes, we will be very surprised. _Summer Dreyer, Frontstretch.com_
8. Martin Truex Jr. 97 – 12
A shame Truex’s car owner can’t give him advice about winning anywhere besides plate tracks. _Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com_
9. Carl Edwards 94 – 13
Edwards made more noise during the Nationwide Series race on Friday night, and he wasn’t even in the race! Still, seventh place is nothing to sneeze at. _Summer Dreyer, Frontstretch.com_
10. Kevin Harvick 87 – 11
Y’know Kurt, if you breathe between swear words you can usually rip off a lot more of them in a single rant. _Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com_
11. Brad Keselowski 83 – 4
Keselowski made a tremendous comeback through the field in Darlington after contact with the wall, yet somehow still gets overshadowed by former teammate Kurt Busch. _Summer Dreyer, Frontstretch.com_
12. Clint Bowyer 69 – 7
Bowyer just happy to make it to the finish ahead of the melee this year. _Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com_
13. Kasey Kahne 64 – T8
I’d say the pressure is on for Kahne to start performing better, but until Jeff Gordon gets his mojo back I’m not sure anyone will even notice _Summer Dreyer, Frontstretch.com_
14. Paul Menard 55 – T15
There is plenty of evidence to signal trouble at RCR when their top finishing car was 13th…and it was Paul Menard that finished there. _Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com_
15. Ryan Newman 47 – NR
Overheard while Newman was leaning in the window on Pit Road: “There’s only one syllable in F$%^! Kurt”. _Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com_
*Others Receiving Votes:* Joey Logano (41), Kurt Busch (33), Marcos Ambrose (28), Mark Martin (21), Jeff Gordon (19), Jeff Burton (17), Regan Smith (12), A.J. Allmendinger (9), Aric Almirola (6), Juan Pablo Montoya (6), David Ragan (3), Jamie McMurray (1), Trevor Bayne (1)
*Who Voted:* Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com; Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com; Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com; Kelly Crandall, Speedwaymedia.com; Carolyn Brewster, NASCAR Illustrated; Dustin Long, Athlon Sports; Matt Taliaferro, Athlon Sports; Summer Dreyer, Frontstretch.com

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