It was not the way anyone expected or wanted the race to end, but one fact cannot be denied: Aric Almirola is a winner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He put the famed No. 43 back in Victory Lane for the first time since 1999, launching it right into the 2014 Chase during the process. Rain postponed the race from Saturday to Sunday afternoon, eventually forcing NASCAR officials to call the Coke Zero 400 only 112 laps into the event.
In true restrictor plate fashion, two big wrecks slowed the pace and collected more than half the field. The end result? Only one driver (Clint Bowyer) from the top 10 in the Power Rankings from Kentucky finished in the top 10 Sunday afternoon. Almost all other Power Rankings drivers received damage in one of the two wrecks, including last week’s leader, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and his three Hendrick Motorsports teammates.
How did that shake up our poll before the teams head Northeast to New Hampshire? While the teams take their battered cars – and spirits – back to Charlotte, see how your favorite driver ranks after Daytona.
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!
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Admit it – you were just as curious to see if he was going to survive two wrecks, lose a lap, then still come back and win. Kelly Crandall, PopularSpeed.com
First Place Votes: 1
Don’t be fooled by these last few races. Summer equals cruise control for the No. 48 bunch. Any wins, top 5s or dominant races from here until September are simply icing on the cake. Tom Bowles, Frontstretch.com
First Place Votes: 6
Survived the carnage with a 12th-place finish and had Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. as a scapegoat to avoid Stewart’s wrath. Not a terrible day, really. Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com
First Place Votes: 3
Imagine the wounds he can inflict with that huge championship bottle of champagne!? Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com
His crew must have been relieved when Harvick wrecked before they had a chance to do something wrong. Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com
Logano tried to go to the garage after being involved in the big wreck on lap 97, but couldn’t turn in. Instead, the team made repairs on pit road and Logano finished on the lead lap. Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com
Matt Kenseth is winless outside the Chase leaders with 11 top 10s. Is it time for Kenseth to admit the new Chase format changes mental approach? Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com
He’s one of only a handful of drivers that escaped the calamity at Daytona. Busch was even in position for his first Daytona Sprint Cup win until Almirola passed him for the lead just before the rains came. Five straight finishes of 13th or better, including a third at Daytona gives the 2004 Champion his biggest surge of momentum this season. Justin Tucker, Frontstretch.com
Part of an RCR trio of drivers point racing their way straight towards the Chase. Hint: It’s working. If the season ended now, the entire organization could punch their postseason ticket. Tom Bowles, Frontstretch.com
Refreshing to see his sense of humor after rolling over and after a crazy weekend like Daytona, it’s better to laugh than cry. Kelly Crandall, PopularSpeed.com
History says we shouldn’t take him seriously, but 10th in points is becoming hard to ignore. Jeff Wolfe, Frontstretch.com
There is no amount of Subway Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyakis that could cure Edwards’ issues since his win at Sonoma. From nothing short of a horrendous showing at Kentucky, finishing 17th, to a 37th at Daytona, Edwards is fortunate to have two wins in the bag. Justin Tucker, Frontstretch.com
Ran pretty well at Daytona. But it’s starting to look like a surprise win will be his only shot at making the Chase. Can he do it at New Hampshire? Clint’s pretty good there. Jim Noble, ESPN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio/PRN
It took two days, rain at the right times and there will always be some sort of asterisk attached. But for the rest of his life, haters, Aric can say the magic words that’ll never apply to you: Sprint Cup race winner at Daytona. It’s a title fit for a King (or for somebody that drives for one). Tom Bowles, Frontstretch.com
Boy, did he need a top 10. Got it at Daytona. He could springboard his summer with that one. Jim Noble, ESPN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio/PRN
Others Receiving Votes: Kasey Kahne (52), Austin Dillon (47), Brian Vickers (39), Tony Stewart (25), Jamie McMurray (29), Kyle Larson (18), Greg Biffle (16), Casey Mears (15), Marcos Ambrose (15), Danica Patrick (8), Michael McDowell (2), Terry Labonte (1)
Participants: Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com; Tom Bowles, Frontstretch.com; Kelly Crandall, PopularSpeed.com; Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com; Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com; Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com; Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com; Jim Noble, PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio/ESPN; Justin Tucker, Frontstretch.com; Jeff Wolfe, Frontstretch.com.