Road course racing continues to creep slowly toward restrictor plate status. Simply put, anything can happen. Carl Edwards proved that Sunday afternoon, beating Jeff Gordon to the checkered flag. Edwards’ win at Sonoma is his first road course victory and second of 2014, putting him in good company when the rankings reset for the Chase.
Although the Hendrick Motorsports win streak came to an end at Sonoma, the team as a whole continues to run strong as all four drivers logged consecutive top-10 finishes. However, other top Power Ranking drivers didn’t fare so well. Five drivers finished outside the top 20, including Matt Kenseth, who had a hard crash off the nose of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., resulting in a 42nd-place finish.
This weekend, drivers stop off at Kentucky on their way home from the West Coast. But before that, see if your favorite driver was able to survive left and right turns.
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!
How ironic that the best hope to keep Johnson from matching Earnhardt’s feat of seven titles is Earnhardt’s kid. Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com
First Place Votes: 8
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has said he doesn’t do well on road courses. After bumping into and crashing Matt Kenseth, it’s likely that Matt agrees with Dale, Jr. Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com
First Place Votes: 1
All of the talk surrounding Gordon for years has been about winning a fifth Championship, and this year is looking like his best chance to accomplish it. Kelly Crandall, PopularSpeed.com
Harvick is no longer racing his 42 competitors. Instead, he is simply trying to reach the checkered flag before the fuse that someone lights on his car at the drop of the green flag reaches the end. Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com
Ever since Brad’s comments that the Hendrick cars “are a year ahead” of everyone else’s, the Penske cars have been a little flat. Coincidence? Jim Noble, ESPN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio/PRN
Carl Edwards is moving on to a new team next year. He better hope his present team doesn’t let him down over that. Edwards has a good Chase spot with two wins, the best since losing the title to Tony Stewart in 2011. Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com
Getting better at the tracks he used to struggle at, which shows that team and driver are maturing nicely. Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.comm
Sonoma may have been the performance that gets people starting to believe that this team could be for real this year. Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com
He is slowly getting better each time out. I said slowly. Very slowly. Will it be fast enough to make the Chase? Jim Noble, ESPN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio/PRN
There’s a reason why Chip Ganassi keeps tapping McMurray to drive in the Rolex 24. Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com
Expected a lot more from Larson on a road course. I’m disappointed. Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com
Kenseth’s confidence heading into Sonoma had to be low considering his record on road courses. After Sunday’s incident with Dale, Jr., his confidence has to be at rock bottom. Kenseth has three straight finishes of 14th or worse. Justin Tucker, Frontstretch.com
Invisible Sunday, until he spoke up about M&M’s on the radio at the end of the race. “Is the contract signed yet?” No Kyle, it isn’t. Start running better and it might be. Jim Noble, ESPN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio/PRN
Can breathe a lot easier now that he is in the top 30 in points. Jeff Wolfe, Frontstretch.com
Newman was solid but not great at Sonoma, finishing 11th, but it has to be kind of troubling being the second-best driver in the Childress stable when you were brought in as the lead guy. Justin Tucker, Frontstretch.com
Others Receiving Votes: Kasey Kahne (55), Greg Biffle (45), Tony Stewart (45), Denny Hamlin (42), Marcos Ambrose (20), Austin Dillon (10), Brian Vickers (8), Martin Truex Jr. (8), AJ Allmendinger (2), Aric Almirola (1), Brendan Gaughan (1)
Participants: Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com; Kelly Crandall, PopularSpeed.com; Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com; Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com; Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com; Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com; Jim Noble, ESPN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio/PRN; Justin Tucker, Frontstretch.com; Jeff Wolfe, Frontstretch.com.