With the new Chase format, there is such an emphasis on winning, but for AJ Allmendinger, Sunday’s win meant a little bit more. He claimed his first Sprint Cup Series victory, the first for JTG Daugherty Racing and put the “little team that could” into the 2014 Chase. It was a valiant fight to the end with veteran road racer Marcos Ambrose, who was also hoping to race his way into the Chase but fell one position short.
I’m sure a number of drivers leading the Power Rankings are happy that a road course is not in the Chase as only three drivers (Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth) in the Power Rankings top 10 after Pocono finished in the top 10 Sunday afternoon. Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch all finished outside the top 25. While Gordon, Keselowski, Johnson and Busch are all safely locked into the Chase, Newman and Bowyer can ill-afford any more poor finishes if they want to keep their Chase hopes alive.
The high-speed, high-banked oval of Michigan is next on the card as teams look to rebound after a tough week in New York. See if your favorite driver made the grade this week.
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.
He might be disappointed with his run, but he pulled off exactly what he needed to do. Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com
First Place Votes: 6
The worst time to miss a “connection” inside the car is when your boss flies up on a Sunday in the midst of a major tragedy. Some rough time in the No. 24 shop this week because the reality is their main competition next month (hint: his number is 48) never seems to make those mistakes. Tom Bowles, Frontstretch.com
Harvick has conquered a lot this season, but he was nearly failed by bean bags Sunday. Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com
The forgotten man among the title contenders as of late. Has this year plateaued out or is it simply the calm before the storm? Tom Bowles, Frontstretch.com
One of the hottest drivers heading into the “off week” but suddenly seems to be skipping a beat. Pre-Chase testing, missing the setups or a little bit of both? Tom Bowles, Frontstretch.com
Unless something unforeseen happens and there are four different winners over the next four races, Kenseth should make the Chase on points, but he is going to need to find the 2013 winning formula quick or it may not even matter come Chase time. Justin Tucker, Frontstretch.com
The funk continues, but it isn’t like Johnson didn’t run well on Sunday. He was in the hunt for a decent finish until Matt Kenseth got nerfed into him. Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com
Kyle Larson keeps running with the big dogs. It’s only a matter of time before he leads the pack with a win. Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com
Thank goodness for that win because Hamlin has been non-existent since. Seems like the Gibbs organization across the board is missing something this year. Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com
Wow, that was some wreck. Newman had a point in his post-wreck interview. I’m still surprised NASCAR and Watkins Glen haven’t taken more steps to improve safety. Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com
M&M’s is the wrong sponsor for this guy. How about a yo-yo company? Tom Bowles, Frontstretch.com
Edwards was surprisingly the best on the road courses in 2014 with a win at Sonoma and a fifth-place finish at the Glen. Justin Tucker, Frontstretch.com
Quietly re-entering the picture for a potential Chase berth on points, assuming that no more new drivers make it to Victory Lane. Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com
Was on a roll and now sits on the edge of not making the Chase. Bowyer will need to step up his game and finish strong over the next few weeks or MWR won’t be represented in the Chase. Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com
Greg Biffle had a top-10 finish at Watkins Glen. He could be the lucky 13th different driver to visit Victory Lane next race in Michigan. Biffle has four wins at Michigan. Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com
Others Receiving Votes: AJ Allmendinger (40), Kurt Busch (40), Austin Dillon (34), Marcos Ambrose (16), Jamie McMurray (12), Aric Almirola (9), Casey Mears (7), Brian Vickers (6), Justin Allgaier (2), Paul Menard (2)