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(Photo: Nigel Kinrade / NKP)

The 10: NASCAR Cup Series Power Rankings After Kentucky

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visited Kentucky Speedway Saturday night (July 14). Most of the time when a horse dominates in horse racing, retirement is just around the corner, but that’s nowhere near the case in NASCAR. Martin Truex Jr. straight up dominated another MENCS race and he’s nowhere near stopping. Truex joins Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer as aging veterans at the top of their game thus far in 2018.

Before the 2016 season, Truex had just three wins to his credit. On Saturday night, he picked up his 19th career victory which tied him with NASCAR Hall of Fame Nominee Davey Allison, Buddy Baker, Greg Biffle, Fonty Flock and Joey Logano on the all-time list. That’s 16 total in just the last three years with Furniture Row Racing.

Why are we only bringing up Truex, you ask? Well, no one else really came close to threatening his new status as power rankings top dog. See below what else changed besides last year’s champion reassuming his throne (at least for now).

1. Martin Truex Jr. (+2)

Did we mention Martin Truex Jr. dominated on Saturday?

Truex is edging closer to his championship form from last season and that has to have the field on their toes. If he and the No. 78 team keep this recent performance up, he could run away with the championship again. That would make him the first back-to-back title winner since Jimmie Johnson did so from 2006-2010.

2. Kyle Busch (-1)

For a Kentucky track that Kyle Busch has been pretty dominant at since the series made its first Cup visit in 2011, he wasn’t in the picture up front very much. That was surprising for the two-time Kentucky winner, especially considering his recent success on 1.5-mile ovals (see: Chicagoland). Busch has been fast at New Hampshire, though, so don’t write him off just yet. The No. 18 cruised to Victory Lane last fall and will be a favorite to do so again.

3. Kevin Harvick (-1)

Could Kentucky be that track that eludes Kevin Harvick? If Harvick can win in two weeks at Pocono, Kentucky will be the only track on the active schedule that the driver of the No. 4 hasn’t won at. Much like Busch, he wasn’t a factor much Saturday night and that also came as a surprise.

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4. Kyle Larson (+1)

After flat out missing driver intros, something not many drivers can say they’ve done, Kyle Larson raced his way to the front alongside fellow in-the-back racer Denny Hamlin. Had he started where he was supposed to, Larson could’ve been a threat to Truex. But in a season where Truex clicks and runs away, you MUST have a mistake-free race even if that means before the race itself. Of course, even with a broken track bar adjuster, Larson still managed a ninth-place finish. The No. 42 is clearly the best Chevrolet on the circuit right now.

5. Clint Bowyer (-1)

In most races where the other Stewart-Haas Racing cars aren’t threats, Clint Bowyer normally shows up and rises above to make a statement. That wasn’t the case on Saturday, though. Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford wasn’t a threat at all throughout the night and just missed the top 10.

Bowyer did get to test the Charlotte ROVAL on Tuesday, though.

6. Kurt Busch

Strategy was the only way anyone was going to have a shot at defeating Truex, and that was just what Kurt Busch and team did on Saturday. But two tires created a slightly worse result than it did in both the Truck and XFINITY races earlier in the weekend. Busch was able to stand up to Truex for roughly a few laps before the eventual winner blasted past him on fresh rubber.

Still, consistency will be what lands the No. 41 in the playoffs. Another top-10 finish is just what the doctor ordered for this championship darkhorse.

7. Erik Jones

A week removed from his first career victory, Erik Jones was looking to do something very few drivers in the Cup Series have accomplished: score his first two victories consecutively. He had a strong car and qualified in second, but after that, he just got behind. Jones still finished in seventh and is beginning to find out that he now just needs to land points to take toward the playoffs. After all, Bristol is coming up and that’s where Jones almost got his first victory last year.

8. Brad Keselowski

Much like Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski has been the other half of dominance at Kentucky. It was another past success that just didn’t come to fruition on Saturday, but he still left Kentucky with a third-place finish. It’s results like that which will bring the momentum the No. 2 team so desperately needs.

It’s also good to know the 2012 Cup Series champ continues to speak out as one of the sport’s most opinionated veterans.

9. Ryan Blaney (NR)

Kentucky was the Ryan Blaney that the Cup Series has been missing. A night of improvement almost resulted in Blaney’s second career victory. Had there been one more stage, Victory Lane was a possibility. But a second-place finish could be the start of some great momentum for the No. 12.

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10. Aric Almirola (NR)

Creepin’? Aric Almirola is creeping closer and closer to that second career victory and first with SHR. A strong run for Almirola is just what he and his team have done to rebound all season, following up a disappointing 27th-place finish at Daytona.

About Christian Koelle

Christian Koelle
Christian Koelle returns to Fronstretch in 2018 after joining the organization in late 2017. He is looking to write full-time this season with Frontstretch. Christian enjoys going to Minor/Major League Baseball games during his free time. He and his family reside in Ooltewah, TN, a town just outside of Chattanooga.

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