With a new year comes new opportunities.
Such was the case for Denny Hamlin, who somehow managed to turn a block into the biggest win of his career, and such is the case for Frontstretch in 2016.
For years, this site has handled Power Rankings, breaking down the top 20 drivers of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with ease after each race. However, the time has come to switch things up a bit.
1) The Panel
The Frontstretch staff are dedicated people who truly know their stuff. However, when it comes to ranking the best in the Sprint Cup Series garage, we needed a little help.
Thankfully, we found plenty.
Joining the regular staff this year in voting for the Power Rankings is an arsenal of NASCAR veterans. With voters ranging from Motorsport and USA Today writers to Twitter standouts like Annoying Race Fan and a certain traffic cone, this year’s panel is sure to offer excellent insight while entertaining you along the way.
If you’re curious to see who all voted on any given week, you can see the entire list of contributors at the bottom of the article. We’ll also add their Twitter info so you can give them a follow.
2) The Drivers
With an elite panel comes a need for an elite group of drivers to rank.
The Power Rankings field has been cut from 20 to 10 drivers this season. The move cuts the fluff out of the article, because let’s face it: We don’t want to write about Johnny Rocket finishing 21st for the 12th-straight week any more than you want to read about it.
Each voter will submit their top 10 drivers after each race, with a few throwing in one-liners, fun facts and other anecdotes for your enjoyment. The 10 selected drivers will then be given points based off where they were ranked, with first place getting 10 points, second getting nine points, etc., all the way down until the 10th-place choice, which gets a single point. Points will then be tallied, and the top 10 drivers will get their share of glory and caption hilarity.
Curious to see who didn’t quite make the cut? We’ve got you covered. The two closest drivers to the top 10 in votes will get a little shoutout in the “Close, But No Cigar” section, an appropriate name given the series’ old ties to R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.
Alright, with all of the initial chatter complete, let’s get down to business.
Hamlin surged ahead of Martin Truex, Jr. by a mere .011 seconds to claim his first Daytona 500 victory, and the first since Joe Gibbs Racing since Dale Jarrett won the Great American Race in 1993. Was that enough to give Hamlin a perfect score on the season-opening Power Rankings? Was Truex’s nail biting loss enough to keep him second?
Let’s find out.
Power Rankings: Post-Daytona 500
1. Denny Hamlin (206 Points)
Dominant all day and in victory lane at the end of the day after one of the most dramatic moves in Daytona history. He has 11 letters in his name, he drives number 11 and he was in his 11th Daytona 500. If he didn’t lead my list, the Illuminati would eliminate me. – @TheOrangeCone
“What’s gonna work? Team-work! WHAT’S GONNA WORK? TEAM-WORK!” – Summer Bedgood, Frontstretch
2. Kyle Busch (155 Points)
“The defending series champion won one of his Can-Am Duels and finished third in the Daytona 500. Yeah, like he’s not going to be top three at least.” – Kevin Rutherford, Frontstretch
“Good to see him run well after missing last year’s 500.” – Bryan Gable, Frontstretch
3. Martin Truex, Jr. (151 Points)
“Leave it to the older brother to find a way to one-up Ryan Truex’s Daytona heartbreak on Friday.” – Aaron Bearden, Frontstretch
“HE WOULD’VE FINISHED 15th IN A CHEVROLET.” – @AnnoyingRaceFan
“A disappointing loss for sure, but proves that Truex will once again be a threat for it all in 2016.” – Sean Fesko, Frontstretch
4. Kevin Harvick (109 Points)
“Had the best year on paper last year and did nothing during Speedweeks to tell us he’s stepped down a notch for 2016.” – Tom Bowles, Frontstretch
“Another top five for the series’ most dominant driver over the past two seasons, but no laps led. Free Bloomin’ Onions gets him a nod.” – @TheOrangeCone
5. Joey Logano (112 Points)
“Almost pulled off the trifecta of second-place finishes but ultimately settled the 500 in fifth.” – Fesko
“Weirdly felt like a non-story all day despite a sixth-place finish. Oh well, who am I kidding, not like we’ll be able to say that much this season.” – Rutherford
6. Matt Kenseth (104 Points)
“‘Jumpman, Jumpman, Jumpman, them boys up to something,’ – Kenseth, watching the outside line in the closing lap. Should’ve stayed low, Matt.” – Bearden
“ALMOST, MATT, BUT THE RUSSIAN JUDGE GAVE YOU A 10.0 FOR THAT SAVE.” – @AnnoyingRaceFan
7. Carl Edwards (80 Points)
“Did you see Edwards’ car after the race? It looked like it just finished 500 laps at Martinsville. I wouldn’t have expected it to finish inside the top 20, much less inside the top 5.” – Brian Eberly, Motor Racing Digest
“Highest-finishing Toyota driver to not lead a lap Sunday. Wait, he didn’t lead a lap? In a Toyota? Shun!” – Rutherford
“Tells you just how good the Toyota power plant was on Sunday when Carl still managed a top-5 finish with the sheet metal hanging off the right front of his car.” – Toni Montgomery, Frontstretch
8. Kyle Larson (56 Points)
“Had a quiet Speedweeks, but finished no worse than seventh in his three races.” – Fesko
“Finally had a nice finish at Daytona.” – Gable
9. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (46 Points)
Result: “The story of Amelia ended just like the real one… the plane went down and it’s not coming back.” – Bowles
“He did lead 15 laps and looked to be a factor before his late-race wreck caused all of NASCAR Twitter to erupt in tears.” – @TheOrangeCone
10. Jimmie Johnson (27 Points)
“Showed a lot of power at Daytona, just didn’t seem to have many friends out there. He’s done well at Atlanta the last few years but this new aero package could really change things.” – Pete McCole, AutoRacing1.com
“You know it was a long day for Hendrick Motorsports when I saw Jeff Gordon’s Homestead car on-screen more than Jimmie Johnson.” – Bearden
Close, But No Cigar
These two drivers just missed the cut after Daytona, which is a lot like being relegated to page two of a Super Bowl recap. Nothing to be ashamed of, but they have some improvement to make.
Kurt Busch (26 Points, Finished 10th) – “He had a quiet but decent day at Daytona, but at least he was in the race. If you’ll recall, both he and brother Kyle were absent from the Daytona 500 last season (albeit for very different reasons).” – Bedgood
Austin Dillon (9 Points, Finished 9th) – “After the way his last race at Daytona ended, I figured he was losing the draft by design at the start of the 500. Still, nice comeback for the cowboy hat.” – Bearden
Others receiving votes: Brad Keselowski (9), Chase Elliott (6), Ryan Newman / Regan Smith (5), Michael McDowell / Ryan Blaney / Jeff Gordon (1). – No, Gordon isn’t a typo. Someone actually voted for him.
|AnnoyingRaceFan||@AnnoyingRaceFan||I’M @annoyingracefan ON TWITTER (AND INSTAGRAM). PEOPLE CALL ME ARF. I’M A RELATIVE NOBODY.|
|Brian Eberly||@beberly18||Writer, Rubbings Racing, Motor Racing Digest|
|Mike Hembree||@MikeHembree||Writer, USA Today|
|Ben Hinc||@lemonlovr||Owner, The Apex|
|Jerry Jordan||@kicknthetires||Owner, Kicknthetires.Net|
|Pete McCole||@PeteMcCole||NASCAR Writer, AutoRacing1.com|
|The Orange Cone||@TheOrangeCone||I am an orange traffic cone.|
|Kyle Pokrefky||@KPokrefky||Writer, The Fourth Turn|
|Reid Spencer||@Reid_Spencer||Lead Writer, NASCAR Wire Service|
|Doug Turnbull||@DougTurnbull||Announcer, PRN Live, Atlanta Motor Speedway|
|Jim Utter||@jim_utter||NASCAR Editor, Motorsport.com|