Well… no one expected that. Oh, sure, Kevin Harvick winning isn’t a surprise, but being able to pull through in a high-pressure situation has been a struggle for him as of late. Then Dover comes – a track Harvick had never formerly won at at – and WHAM! there he is in Victory Lane again. Just like that, he moves onto the next round of the Chase when no one thought he would.
You know who everyone thought would win? Jimmie Johnson. You know who finished 41st and is now out of Chase contention? Jimmie Johnson.
To say the least, these two performances affected our rankings as they will also have a huge impact on the ultimate champion. Johnson was one of the favorites and Harvick was one position short of being out of it. Now, Harvick is in and Johnson is out for good. Oh, and let’s not forget that Paul Menard, Clint Bowyer and Jamie McMurray were also eliminated from the Chase in the final race of the Challenger Round.
Onto the Contender Round… but first, our 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!
He came, he saw, he kicked butt. Everyone else in the Chase better be worried because they didn’t shut him down when they had the chance. Mike Neff, Frontstretch
First Place Votes: 3
This guy is just like his favorite football team, the Green Bay Packers. Consistent, wins and always a threat in the playoffs. Mike Zizzo, Texas Motor Speedway
First Place Votes: 1
Second place at Dover was overshadowed by everything else that happened. One has to wonder if Busch will have another Chase meltdown as in years past. Summer Bedgood, Frontstretch
First Place Votes: 1
Logano was in contention at Homestead last year. He and team could repeat as they are able to produce consistency. Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com
Remember, Talladega is in this round.. Mike Neff, Frontstretch
Even with the Harvick dominance at Dover, it’s still hard to bet against Joe Gibbs Racing moving forward. Summer Bedgood, Frontstretch
Going to be surprising if Cousin Carl isn’t one of the drivers battling to make the cut at Talladega. Mike Neff, Frontstretch
Busch got off to a great start in the Chase – third at Chicagoland – and then followed with a pair of mediocre performances outside the top 15 to move on. He will have to step up in this round… and probably will. Mike Zizzo, Texas Motor Speedway
Truex continues to finish strong. His team momentum could help him be in contention when four more will drop out after the next three races. Dwight Drum RaceTake.com
Nearly made it two out of the last three champions not to make it into the Contender Round. Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch
He survived the first round, but it’s up in the air whether or not he’ll survive the next one. Summer Bedgood, Frontstretch
You would think he would have at least run Junior up the track a little bit considering it was for a transfer to the next round. Mike Neff, Frontstretch
Newman is up to his old Chase tricks like last year. Postseason starts and he is a darkhorse, but he puts together a consistent string of runs to advance without winning. A top five, a top 10 in the opening three-race Chase segment. Mike Zizzo, Texas Motor Speedway
He didn’t make the Chase, but he’s doing his darndest to make sure we don’t forget about him. Summer Bedgood, Frontstretch
Johnson may have been eliminated, but he is going to win a race over the final seven, and that might mess up someone else’s title hopes. Mike Neff, Frontstretch