The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returned to Kansas Speedway this past weekend for the second chopping block of the playoffs. The goal: do whatever it takes to not be one of the bottom four drivers in the standings at the checkered flag. The playoff system currently in place leaves little room for mulligans and there would be no second chances.
Martin Truex Jr. needed no such things, thanks to his win at Charlotte Motor Speedway two weeks ago. The comfort provided by knowing his place is secure must be worth at least a little extra speed, as Truex overcame a penalty to score his seventh win of 2017. The championship hunt ended six races earlier than expected for four of the competitors. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who won his first two races in 2017, failed to advance, along with ultra consistent Jamie McMurray and 2003 Cup champion Matt Kenseth.
The biggest shock of the weekend came when Kyle Larson‘s engine let go, sending the No. 42 machine to the garage. One of the favorites at the beginning of the playoffs, Larson found himself eliminated.
So where does that leave the Power Rankings? Well, our contributors were comforted by the fact that their rankings were also safe from elimination. Whether they should be or not is always up for interpretation. Did they make a list worthy of being allowed to continue on? Or should they have faced the same fate as the four eliminated drivers? Take a look and let us know what you think.
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 10 on a 10-9-8-7… 3-2-1 basis, giving 10 points to their first-place driver, nine for second and so on. In the end, Frank Velat calculates the points, adds some funny one-liners and… here you go!
Can he start all races a lap down just to make it fair? – Michael Massie, Frontstretch
First-Place Votes: 6
And to think we were all worried about the dreaded sophomore slump. – Bryan Gable, Frontstretch
Arguably, Sunday’s race at Martinsville is his best shot to earn a spot in the Championship 4. – Rob Tiongson, The Podium Finish
It’s pretty rare that we get through a race weekend at Kansas without Kyle Busch winning any races. How rare? Last time was in May of 2015. – Frank Velat, Frontstretch
This is about the time of the season the No. 48 team really turns up the heat. 2017: TBD. – Dustin Albino, Frontstretch
Stage win, top five finish, advancement to the next round. That’s a pretty great day for the No. 11 team, but no doubt Hamlin is looking for more. – Gable
He moved up 37 spots at Kansas, going from 40th to third. If only 38 cars had showed up for that race, does that mean he wins? – Massie
Sure, old Happy Harvick hasn’t been dominating races but with consistent runs and finishes, the 2014 Cup champ may be this year’s version of Terry Labonte in terms of sneakiness. – Tiongson
The nature of the beast in the playoffs: if something is going to go wrong, it’s going to go wrong at the worst possible time. It’s a lesson Larson learned the hard way on Sunday. – Pete McCole, Auto Racing 1
Kansas was Truex’s lucky number seven. Kenseth probably has a much different opinion of that number. – Velat