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The 10: Young Guns, High Speed and a Shootout in Pure Michigan

After weeks – no, years – spent waiting for a new young driver to score a legitimate breakthrough in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, fans of the series saw not one, but two future stars shine in the Irish Hills of Michigan.

In the end, it was Kyle Larson that got the best of Chase Elliott on a late restart to take a long-awaited first victory in the Pure Michigan 400 and stamp his name into the Chase field. With Larson’s win, he joins a group of young stars including Elliott, Austin Dillon and Chris Buescher on the preliminary Chase grid.

However, while the youth shone bright in Michigan, the veterans still have a stronghold over the sport.

Was Larson’s win enough to elevate him into the top 10? Did good runs from Elliott or Ryan Blaney help elevate them back into the field?

Let’s find out.

POWER RANKINGS: Pure Michigan 400 Edition

1. KEVIN HARVICK (95 POINTS, No Change)

(Photo: NASCAR)
(Photo: NASCAR)
“Found a novel way to get an edge–launch a rival’s air gun.” – Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
“HE CHANGED HIS NICKNAME FROM “HAPPY HARVICK” TO “MEH HARVICK” AFTER FINISHING FIFTH AT MICHIGAN.” – @AnnoyingRaceFan
“Still consistent, still surly when he doesn’t win. Informative when he wants to be. That’s Kevin Harvick.” – Phil Allaway, Frontstretch

2.  BRAD KESELOWSKI (87 POINTS, +1)

(Photo: NASCAR)
(Photo: NASCAR)
“Keselowski made waves early in the weekend when he drove a 1901 Ford around the two-mile oval. He probably should’ve stuck with it all weekend, too. It had a better chance to pass post-race inspection.” – Aaron Bearden, Frontstretch
“Should have won the Southern 500 last year. He will be good in his throwback scheme.” – Dustin Albino, Frontstretch

3. CARL EDWARDS (72 POINTS, +2)

(Photo: NASCAR)
(Photo: NASCAR)
“HE USED HIS ARRIS SURFBOARD CAMRY TO RIDE THE WAVES TO A SEVENTH PLACE FINISH AT MICHIGAN. THAT WAS A BAD JOKE.” – @AnnoyingRaceFan

“Didn’t handle the high speeds at Michigan as well as his sponsor ARRIS does, but a return to ‘Carlington’ should be a welcome sight for Joe Gibbs Racing‘s newest driver. Edwards ends the regular season at back-to-back tracks where he’s won the most recent race.” – Bearden

4.  KYLE BUSCH (60 POINTS, -2)

(Photo: NASCAR)
(Photo: NASCAR)

“Has had a terrible two-race-stretch, but is still running well at least at some point almost each week. ” – Doug Turnbull, PRN

“Time to step up the pace. The Chase is nigh.” – Spencer

5.  DENNY HAMLIN (53 POINTS, -1)

(Photo: NASCAR)
(Photo: NASCAR)
“The No. 11 team has really come alive in the last few weeks.  Can they carry that momentum into the Chase?” – Bryan Gable, Frontstretch

“The No. 11 team is at its peak of 2016, finishing in the top 10 in each of the last six races. The team has qualified in the top 10 for 23 straight races. ” – Albino

 6.   JOEY LOGANO (43 POINTS, +1)

(Photo: NASCAR)
(Photo: NASCAR)

“Great run to 10th at MIS after the air hose snafu.” – Spencer

“Couldn’t back up past Michigan dominance with an ill-handling car most of the race.” – Turnbull

7.   KYLE LARSON (34 POINTS, Prev. Unranked)

(Photo: NASCAR)
(Photo: NASCAR)
“YOUR TEAM GOT RED GATORADE ALL OVER MY GRAY SHIRT IN VICTORY LANE. CONGRATULATIONS, WHERE DO I SEND THE DRY-CLEANING BILL?” – @AnnoyingRaceFan
“You keep knocking on the door to Victory Lane, eventually it opens.” – Jim Utter, Motorsport

8.   JIMMIE JOHNSON (30 POINTS, Prev. Unranked)

(Photo: NASCAR)
(Photo: NASCAR)
“Looked like a potential winner early on at Michigan. Next up: Darlington, where JJ’s won three times.” – Bearden 
 Hendrick Motorsports appears to be turning the corner just in time for the Chase.” – Utter

9. KURT BUSCH (27 POINTS, -3)

(Photo: NASCAR)
(Photo: NASCAR)
“He had 14 top-10 finishes in the first 16 events. In the last eight, he’s had two. On the downside.” – Albino
“Struggled all day with a loose race car but rallied to finish better than he started. After some great races in the second quarter of the season, Busch has gone six-straight races without a finish higher the 10th.” – Pete McCole, AutoRacing1

10. CHASE ELLIOTT (20 POINTS, Prev. Unranked)

(Photo: NASCAR)
(Photo: NASCAR)
“His cheeks are swollen from beating himself up.” – Spencer

“After a string of bad luck, the lights are on and somebody’s home.” – Turnbull

CLOSE, BUT NO CIGAR

These two drivers each earned their way into the Chase with emotional wins over the summer, but they’ll need to pick things back up and find some luck if they hope to make it back into the top 10.

Martin Truex, Jr. (13 Points) – “What does this dude need to do to have a clean day? Car falls off the jack and its like he’s Fall-Apart Rabbit from Bonkers.” – Allaway

Tony Stewart (12 Points) – “Back-to-back tough races for Smoke. However, his won goal prior to the 2016 season was winning Darlington, a track he’s never been victorious at. Here’s your shot, Smoke. ” – Albino

Others receiving votes: Matt Kenseth (7), Ryan Blaney (3), Jamie McMurray (2), Austin Dillon, Kasey Kahne (1)

Contributors

NameTwitter
Dustin Albino@DustinAlbino
Phil Allaway@Critic84
Aaron Bearden@AaronBearden93
Summer Bedgood@SummerBedgood
Tom Bowles@NASCARBowles
Greg Davis@GregMDavis
Sean Fesko@TheWriterSean
Michael Finley@FinleyFactor
Bryan GableN/A
Tony Lumbis@TonyLumbis
Toni Montgomery@ToniLMontgomery
Kevin Rutherford@surfwax83
Jason Schultz@NASCARJason
Joseph Wolkin@JosephNASCAR
NameTwitterPosition/Description
AnnoyingRaceFan @AnnoyingRaceFan I’M @annoyingracefan ON TWITTER (AND INSTAGRAM). PEOPLE CALL ME ARF. I’M A RELATIVE NOBODY.
MatthewDillner@MatthewDillnerNASCAR
Brian Eberly@beberly18Writer, Rubbings Racing, Motor Racing Digest
Mike Hembree@MikeHembreeWriter, USA Today
Ben Hinc@lemonlovrOwner, The Apex
Jerry Jordan@kicknthetiresOwner, Kicknthetires.Net
Pete McCole@PeteMcColeNASCAR Writer, AutoRacing1.com
The Orange Cone@TheOrangeConeI am an orange traffic cone.
Kyle Pokrefky@KPokrefkyWriter, The Fourth Turn
Reid Spencer@Reid_SpencerLead Writer, NASCAR Wire Service
Doug Turnbull@DougTurnbullAnnouncer, PRN Live, Atlanta Motor Speedway
Jim Utter@jim_utterNASCAR Editor, Motorsport.com

How they’re made: Following the conclusion of each NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, members of a voting panel, including Frontstretch writers, members of accredited media including Motorsport, NASCAR and USA Today, as well as writers from other sites and social media favorites, submit their top 10 drivers for the Power Rankings. The drivers are then given points based off their position, with first place getting 10 points, and each subsequent driver getting one fewer point until the 10th-place driver, who gets a lone point. Points are then tallied, and the rankings are created.

Do you agree with our rankings? Think someone got snubbed, or that one of the top drivers is overrated? Let us know in the comments, and tell others what your top 10 would be.

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