Kyle Busch is doing everything he can to ensure he makes the 2015 Chase. He utterly dominated the race Saturday night, leading 163 of the 267 laps and claiming his second win in the last three races, though he still sits 87 points outside of the top 30.
The big story leading up to the race was the new, lower downforce rules package. Car control was placed back in the drivers’ hands, reducing the clean air advantage. More passing was evident, but the most surprising outcome was the results. All four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers and both Team Penske drivers filled the top-six positions. The first Hendrick driver finished seventh (Jeff Gordon), and Kevin Harvick finished eighth. So, have Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing met their match? It’s far too early to tell, but it makes for some interesting headlines.
Teams head North to New Hampshire to a flat track and the old aero package. Is it afe to say that order is most likely going to be restored this weekend? You never know. While we wait to find out, see if your favorite driver made the top 15 after Kentucky.
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!
Saturday was rare for Harvick. An intermediate race where he really never was in contention to win. Something worth looking into if NASCAR decides to use the low-downforce package in the Chase. Phil Allaway, Frontstretch
First Place Votes: 4
Mixed in with that Hendrick-powered juggernaut at the back of the top 10. Looks like the new package might have Knaus staying up a bit later as the Chase gets closer. In no way, shape or form is the 2015 championship a ‘gimmie’ for Jimmie. Mike Mehedin, Frontstretch
If Logano keeps his present pace he may match Harvick in top finishes before they duel it out in the Chase. Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com
When his car was working correctly, Earnhardt Jr. was actually quite fast Saturday night for a time. However, his consumables just weren’t up to the task. Phil Allaway, Frontstretch
A top-10 finish without leading a lap. I know a number of drivers who would take that type of finish hands-down. For Busch, however, that’s an off-day for his No. 41 team. Mike Mehedin, Frontstretch
I suppose Truex couldn’t keep up his performance for the whole year. Looks like he’s falling back to earth right now, just like he did in 2013. Phil Allaway, Frontstretch
Team Penske has had the speed all season. JGR has caught up. Keselowski typically delivers heading into the Chase. It could be Penske vs. JGR near the checkered flag more often now. Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com
Two strong finishes in a row. Haven’t seen this kind of consistency from Hamlin all season. A flat track coming up next week could mean a third top-three finish for the No. 11 team. Mike Mehedin, Frontstretch
Looks like JGR got its mojo back. Kenseth was the lowest-finishing of the four-car team… in fifth. Mike Mehedin, Frontstretch
Still Chase eligible and currently the highest ranked driver in points without a win. Will need less subpar finishes like he had in Kentucky to ensure his place in the top 16. That, or win a race. Mike Mehedin, Frontstretch
Gordon needs to trade in his pole winning prowess for race wins soon. His final season is dwindling in opportunities. Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com
If anyone thought Sonoma was a fluke, please sit down. Kyle is tied for second with Harvick and Earnhardt Jr. for number of wins (2). But, there’s a big BUT. None of it matters unless he gains 87 points by Richmond. Mike Mehedin, Frontstretch
Is it the driver? Is it the team? Is it the new package? That’s the worst I’ve seen Kahne perform on a 1.5-mile track in a long time. Mike Mehedin, Frontstretch
I never know what to do with Menard. He’s there, but he’s not. Hanging out in the top 16 (14th) without a win. Has a couple top fives but just doesn’t seem to have the consistency necessary to stay ahead of some of the hungrier drivers behind him. Mike Mehedin, Frontstretch
Edwards is starting to catch up to other Chase contenders with wins. Looks like JGR has found some speed. Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com