Kevin Harvick could barely contain his excitement during the offseason, and now we know why. The driver knew his new team would be strong and he proved that Sunday. Happy held a wide smile after leading 224 laps, taking his first win of the 2014 season and first for Stewart-Haas Racing in only his second points-paying start.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. rode the wave from his Daytona 500 victory finishing second, once again the highest-running Hendrick Motorsports driver. Penske teammates and front-row starters Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano ran strong all day, leading a combined 74 laps, and both posted top-5 finishes.
On the flip side, Kurt Busch, who announced that he will attempt the Indy 500/Coke 600 “double” was looking to rebound after a rough weekend at Daytona but lost an engine, resulting in a disappointing 39th. Meanwhile, Justin Allgaier tangled on a restart, wrecking multiple drivers and resulting in some choice words for the young rookie from the “veteran” Danica Patrick.
The West Coast swing continues this weekend in Las Vegas as we get a look at the ever-important 1.5-mile track packages. Before the drivers double-down, trying to punch their ticket into the Chase, see where you favorite driver ranks in this week’s Power Rankings..
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: March 5th
2092 words (1986 + 106) | permlink
Driver (First Place Votes)
|1||Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (13)||278||1|
|As said by renowned 20th century poet laureate LL Cool J, “Don’t call it a comeback; I’ve been here for years.” Vito Pugliese, Frontstretch.com|
|Starting 2014 like he did in 2013, with two strong top five finishes. He just hopes he’s doing it with a legal rear-end housing this year. Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com|
|Happy Harvick, Freaky Fast, use whatever headline you please. But the story will remain the same: Harvick is going to prove a point this year. Kelly Crandall, PopularSpeed.com|
|If Jeff Gordon says he is planning to race until he wins his fifth championship. Well then, he will be racing until he is older than James Harvey Hylton. Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com|
|5||Jimmie Johnson (1)||228||3|
|Fifth at Daytona and sixth at Phoenix but yet has work to do. Translation: I have them right where I want them. Justin Tucker, Frontstretch.com|
|Before the season started, Logano was my dark-horse candidate to make the Final Four at Homestead. I have seen nothing to change that so far. Jim Noble, ESPN/Sirius XM NASCAR Radio/PRN|
|Patience grasshoppers, it is early. There is nothing wrong with the No. 20. Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com|
|Derrike Cope still holds the best all-time finish in a Skittles-sponsored machine (5th, Atlanta ’97). Nice job, nice effort by KB, though. Andrew Maness, NASCARnomics.com|
|All good streaks must come to an end. The goal now is to keep Phoenix just a small bump in the road. Thomas Bowles, Frontstretch.com|
|He’s not quite in the back-flip zone yet. Jeff Wolfe, Frontstretch.com|
|Never a good sign these days when people refer to you as an “aging veteran” or “oldest full-time driver” on the circuit. Thomas Bowles, Frontstretch.com|
|I feel strongly this team is about to move up these Power Rankings. Slowly and methodically.Jim Noble, ESPN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio, PRN|
|Has the arrival of the much heralded rookie Kyle Larson awoken him a bit? Vito Pugliese, Frontstretch.com|
|Anyone with half a brain knows this start to the season will not last, but I have to give an underfunded guy some love while it lasts. Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com|
|Trying hard to be the Hendrick driver who will be replaced by Chase Elliott instead of Jeff Gordon. Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com|
|Dropped Out: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (11), Austin Dillon (13), Kurt Busch (14).|
|Others Receiving Votes: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (76), Tony Stewart (66), Clint Bowyer (55), Kurt Busch (46), Austin Dillon (31), Marcos Ambrose (18), Kyle Larson (15), Aric Almirola (12), Reed Sorenson (7), Brian Vickers (3), Paul Menard (3), Martin Truex, Jr. (2), Bobby Labonte (1).|
Who Voted: Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com; Thomas Bowles, Frontstretch.com; Kelly Crandall, PopularSpeed.com; Dwight Drum, Racetake.com; Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com; Andrew Maness, NASCARnomics.com ; Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com; Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com ; Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com ; Jim Noble, ESPN/SIRIUS XM NASCAR Radio/PRN; Vito Pugliese, Frontstretch.com; Matt Taliaferro, Athlon Sports; Justin Tucker, Frontstretch.com; Jeff Wolfe, Frontstretch.com
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