With the start of the Round of 12, the Chase for the Sprint Cup was set to ramp up as NASCAR returned to its home track at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Then, as if that drama wasn’t enough, Mother Nature threw in a hurricane.
Having not seen their cars since the beginning of the weekend, the NSCS field strapped in for 500 miles as the first of two races on the day in Sunday’s delayed Bank of America 500 at the 1.5-mile Charlotte oval. With little track time, a clean track and unexpected daytime conditions to deal with, only the best in the series were able to take advantage of the race to soar to the top of the charts.
Enter the six-time champion.
Jimmie Johnson returned to his peak Charlotte form in a convincing win that stamped his ticket to the Round of 8. With the victory, Johnson can sleep easy through the next two weeks, including the wild card round finale at Talladega Superspeedway.
While Johnson is right now the only one who is safe, six of his fellow Chase contenders also exited Charlotte with smiles on their faces after avoiding disaster. The other five, on the other hand, weren’t so lucky, finishing 30th or worse amid a litany of issues that included blown motors and vicious crashes.
The Chase Grid has been blown open with Sunday’s mixed results, but what of our Power Rankings? Have they suffered the same fate?
“See what happens when you run a mistake-free race and win? Number one in the rankings.” – Doug Turnbull, PRN
“Already in the final eight and with more laps led (363) than anyone else in the Chase thus far. Looks like someone is on the verge of mastering another format… could a seventh championship be six short weeks away?” – Tom Bowles, Frontstretch
“If he would have been around at the end of the race, Elliott might have had the only car capable of catching Johnson.” – McCole
“This rookie’s had the feeling of a veteran with his calm, cool and collected attitude throughout the entire year. Let’s see if he can keep that up in the pressure cooker that is the Chase bubble.” – Bearden
Both of these drivers have ran good enough to stay afloat in the Chase so far, though one of the two failed to make the playoff to begin with. Still, both drivers need to run just a tick better to crack The 10.
Kurt Busch (8 Points) – “Quiet, consistent and in a good position to advance. This is starting to feel like Denny Hamlin’s Chase run in 2014.” – Bearden
Kasey Kahne(7 Points) – “On a streak as of late and now the “best of the rest” among drivers who didn’t qualify for this year’s Chase. But it still baffles me that a Hendrick Motorsports car has gone all 29 races this season without leading a lap.” – Bowles
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.
A graduate of Ball State, Aaron rejoins Frontstretch for his second season in 2016 following a successful year that included covering seven races and starting the popular "Two-Headed Monster" column in 2015. Now in his third year of covering motorsports, Aaron serves as an Assistant Editor for Frontstretch while also contributing to other popular sites including Speed51 and The Apex. He encourages you to come say hi when you see him at the track.
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