The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series headed to Phoenix this weekend for the penultimate race of the season. For the drivers still chasing a spot in the Championship 4, it was the last opportunity to keep their title hopes alive. The goal was simple: win and advance. Otherwise, it’ll be a long offseason reflecting on what could have been.
Matt Kenseth wound up crashing the playoff party, scoring his 39th, and potentially final, career Cup win. A past champion, Kenseth ends the year facing the prospect of being rideless in 2018. However, he seems content with his body of work as it stands. But that wasn’t the only kind of crashing going on in the desert on Sunday. Denny Hamlin had his race ended with a little retribution from Chase Elliott. Additionally, seven-time champ Jimmie Johnson ended his quest against the SAFER barrier as well.
Fortunately, none of our contributors did any crashing this weekend. At least, not until they were safe inside their hotel rooms. In the event that they did, they all managed to wake up in time to compile our Power Rankings. But did they rise and shine and come up with a coherent list? Or did they start typing before coming out of their slumber? You decide.
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!
Truex might be the only one in the Championship 4 without a title but that just gives him all the more motivation. – Pete McCole, Auto Racing 1
First-Place Votes: 6
While Rowdy considers himself the “underdog” for the title battle, don’t overlook the 2015 Cup champ. He knows how to make it happen. – Rob Tiongson, The Podium Finish
If Matt Kenseth needs a part to fix his Phoenix trophy, he probably should call Harvick. He certainly has a few to spare. – Frank Velat, Frontstretch
He drove such a slow and cautious race after he was in on points that we are still waiting for him to finish the Phoenix race. – Michael Massie, Frontstretch
This really shouldn’t be the time to wish Kenseth farewell. He should be racing another couple of years. – Phil Allaway, Frontstretch
He may not have figured out how to close out a Cup win but he certainly gets an A in revenge. – Velat
Live by the bumper, die by the bumper. Hamlin will live to race another day, but his championship hopes for 2017 died in the desert. – Bryan Gable, Frontstretch
Yeah, yeah, people are fast to attribute some radio backlash between Johnson and Knaus as the “end of the 48 dynasty.” Look for this bunch to be mighty tough in 2018. – Tiongson
Take time this week to enjoy how awesome it’s been to see Blaney race the retro No. 21 because next year this car will have the ugliest of neon yellows all over it when Menards takes over. – Massie
It has been a season of solid improvement for Jones, and sometimes that is all you can ask of a rookie. – Gable