Rain, tornado warnings, countless lightning strikes, and an impressive performance by Air Titan (who even received a Power Rankings vote) dominated Sunday’s Daytona proceedings. When Mother Nature finally let up, though more than six hours of waiting couldn’t keep Dale Earnhardt, Jr. from writing his name into the history books with a second Daytona 500 victory late Sunday night. Denny Hamlin finished second, only one position away from a weekend sweep after winning the Sprint Unlimited and his Duel. Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson completed the top 5.
The first 38 laps before the rain arrived were tame compared to the hard racing that would follow. Three-abreast, white-knuckle competition led to multiple cautions within the final 55 laps, including a last-lap, last-turn accident that collected a number of drivers racing inside the top 10. Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Jamie McMurray were just a few of those involved, while other crashes claimed fan favorites Danica Patrick and Kyle Larson. They weren’t the only ones ready to jump on the plane and fly from the Beach; engine issues plagued outside pole sitter Martin Truex, Jr. and Clint Bowyer while Tony Stewart spent a number of laps in the garage changing a fuel line.
How did all that chaos change how our experts voted? Find out while seeking your favorite driver’s rank, browsing our post-Daytona 500 poll before NASCAR’s new format and “normal” racing takes center stage at the one-mile oval in Phoenix this Sunday.
How The Rankings Are Calculated: Frontstretch does our power rankings similar to how the Associated Press does them for basketball or football. Our expert stable of NASCAR writers, both on staff and from other major publications will vote for the Top 20 on a 20-19-18-17… 3-2-1 basis, giving 20 points to their first-place driver, 19 for second, and so on. In the end, Mike Mehedin calculates the points, adds some funny one-liners, and… here you go!
FRONTSTRETCH TOP 15 POWER RANKINGS: February 26th
(First Place Votes)
|1||Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (10)||237||3|
|Say it with me… “JUNIOR, JUNIOR, JUNIOR!” Justin Tucker, Frontstretch.com|
|May be showing a return to the consistent form that won him the 2012 Championship. Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com|
|3||Jimmie Johnson (2)||207||1|
|He worked well with Dale Jr. late in the going – and didn’t beat him – so hopefully Jimmie finds himself off the hook with Junior Nation for owing him one from Talladega 2011. Kelly Crandall, PopularSpeed.com|
|Think what he’ll do with a spotter and a radio in Phoenix. Jim Noble, ESPN/Sirius XM NASCAR Radio/PRN|
|The good teammate, here, gave Junior a nice little bump on that final restart. But Gordon also made some key impressive moves in the final laps to put himself in contention late. Jeff Wolfe, Frontstretch.com|
|Went from leading 86 laps in the 2013 Daytona 500 – a race-high – to zero this year. But with that blown engine last February derailing a dream I’m sure he’ll take a top-10 finish instead. Tom Bowles, Frontstretch.com|
|Yes, he got taken out at the end of the Daytona 500. I don’t care. He’ll have that first win somewhere in the first five races. Jim Noble, ESPN/Sirius XM/PRN|
|Without a doubt the best of the Stewart-Haas Racing bunch, as he had been all of Speedweeks. Harvick’s not missing a beat since leaving RCR. Kelly Crandall, PopularSpeed.com|
|If only Dale Jr. would have understood how a Daytona 500 victory could have put an extra zero on Biff’s next contract. Tom Bowles, Frontstretch.com|
|10||Joey Logano||116||T – 10|
|Very quiet 11th-place finish in the 500. Can’t help but think this week is the start of a make-or-break year for “Sliced Bread.” Justin Tucker, Frontstretch.com|
|11||Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.||112||NR|
|We may be sleeping on this guy. Sophomore slump? Ehhh… hard to tell as of yet, but a sixth-place finish is a great start to the season. The next few weeks will be big tests for the younger driver. Andrew Stallings, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio|
|No backflips at Daytona, but you get the sense he’s looking to be a serious contender this year. Jeff Wolfe, Frontstretch.com|
|Austin, dude, you’ve got to be careful. Has EA Sports’ NASCAR game taught you nothing? One more of those incidents and people are going to go out of their way to make your life miserable on-track. Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com|
|14||Kurt Busch||68||T – 10|
|Yes, he got tangled up in the closing laps, but it looks like he’s going to love racing in top-tier equipment this year. Jeff Wolfe, Frontstretch.com|
|Another driver looking to rebound after a poor 2013 and was in the right position to do so; that is, up until the fourth turn on the final lap of the Daytona 500. Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com|
|Dropped Out: Clint Bowyer (12), Tony Stewart (14), Kasey Kahne (15)|
|Others Receiving Votes: Casey Mears (41), Kasey Kahne (41), Ryan Newman (38), Tony Stewart (36), Clint Bowyer (34), Landon Cassill (20), Marcos Ambrose (18), Paul Menard (17), Reed Sorenson (13), Martin Truex, Jr. (8), Cole Whitt (7), Bobby Labonte (6), AJ Allmendinger (5), Aric Almirola (4), Brian Vickers (3), Danica Patrick (2), Terry Labonte (1), Air Titan (1).|