Mother Nature seems to have it out for NASCAR this season. Rain once again delayed the start of the race, but that didn’t stop the fans from enjoying the Fourth of July fireworks on and off the track. Dale Earnhardt Jr. reasserted himself as the restrictor-plate king, leading 96 laps en route to his second plate-track win of the season. Junior’s worst finish in a restrictor-plate race so far this season is third in the Daytona 500.
In these types of races, you usually find a new name amongst the top finishers, but the leaderboard was full of heavy hitters Sunday night. The top-five finishers have combined for a total of 11 wins this season. However, two notable names in the top 10 included Trevor Bayne (ninth) and Austin Dillon who, considering he’s lucky to be alive, finished a respectable seventh.
The big one came just past the start-finish line when Kevin Harvick turned Denny Hamlin, sending a majority of the field in every direction, including up. Dillon was sent airborne and into the catchfence before landing on his roof. He thankfully walked away with some soreness and is ready to go racing at Kentucky.
Surely the talk all week will be about how NASCAR needs to fix restrictor-plate racing. Not sure if there is a solution. While you mull that over, see if your favorite drive made the top 15 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!
Happy Harvick only managed a fourth-place finish at Daytona. Maybe he’s spoiled us with all of those top-two finishes, but I expected better. Aaron Bearden, Frontstretch
First Place Votes: 5
NASCAR could increase his chances for a title by including three more plate races or at least finishing the season at Daytona. Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com
First Place Votes: 2
Hanging around, taking some chances, using the regular season as a test session. Have we seen this movie before? Six times? Tom Bowles, Frontstretch
First Place Votes: 1
Busch has come a long way since his suspension early in the season. He could ride strong momentum into the Chase. Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com
Logano may be torn on his affection for restrictor-plate racing. He owns a prestigious Daytona 500 crown, but two of his three worst finishes on the season have come at Talladega (33rd) and a 22nd-place finish in his return to Daytona. Mike Zizzo, Texas Motor Speedway
After two straight weeks of bad finishes, the No. 78 team is even more thankful for its Pocono victory. Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch
Hamlin may not smile much, but he can grin about his win earlier this season and a third-place at Daytona, despite crashing at the end. Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com
Doesn’t like road courses. Doesn’t like plate races. Ready to get back to everything else and start collecting some top-10 finishes again. Tom Bowles, Frontstretch.com
Gordon’s final start at Daytona simultaneously summed up the highs and lows of his career as he recorded both a solid top-10 finish in January and was involved in the big one Sunday night. Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch
Up to sixth in points now. The No. 1 team is strong on a weekly basis but still not setting the world on fire. Phil Allaway, Frontstretch
Keselowski was nowhere all weekend in Daytona after struggling in Sonoma. Perhaps it’s just a phase. Phil Allaway, Frontstretch
With crew chief Luke Lambert back, and Newman through Daytona with a top 10, drivers looking to make the Chase on points better watch out. Aaron Bearden, Frontstretch
Bowyer may be on the 5-Race Energy rather than the 5-hour Energy of late. His 10th-place finish at Daytona was his fourth top 10 in the last five races to move him up to 15th in the points. Mike Zizzo, Texas Motor Speedway
NASCAR’s babyface is going through a rough patch at the worst possible time. Down to 11th in points with the Chase approaching. Aaron Bearden, Frontstretch
The Eau Claire, Wis. driver had to have high hopes running second in the closing laps, but he got shuffled out and finished 16th. That’s Daytona for you. Aaron Bearden, Frontstretch
Others Receiving Votes: Kyle Busch (35), Austin Dillon (30), Carl Edwards (25), Trevor Bayne (17), Aric Almirola (15), Kyle Larson (13), Greg Biffle (6), Casey Mears (5), Tony Stewart (5), Landon Cassill (5), Danica Patrick (3), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (3), David Ragan (1)