NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The 10: NASCAR Cup Series Power Rankings After ISM Raceway II

New layout, a packed house and an exciting 312 laps took place on Sunday (Nov. 11) at ISM Raceway. Seven drivers entered the weekend chasing three spots for this weekend’s Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. One of those drivers didn’t have to win, but he did anyway.

Kyle Busch was able to take his eighth victory of 2018, tying the most in a single season for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. Busch looks for his ninth victory of the season on Sunday at Homestead, which would break his record and earn him his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.

Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola had to battle for that final transfer spot. Almirola had to win and Harvick had to make sure that didn’t happen. Almirola had another strong race but it wasn’t enough as he joined Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and Chase Elliott as eliminated drivers.

How did Sunday’s race make the cookie crumble in power rankings? Keep reading to find out…

1. Kevin Harvick

The flat tire Harvick had just before the end of stage one could’ve been catastrophic for his playoff hopes, but as the No. 4 team has shown this season, they’re not going to back down. That don’t back down attitude has landed Harvick in the Championship 4 alongside fellow Big Three drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch along with Joey Logano.

2. Kyle Busch (+1)

For the last three weeks, Busch has been a viper just waiting to pounce. That is just what he did on Sunday, stealing the victory from Harvick and Almirola to put an exclamation mark on this round of the playoffs. Busch’s last victory at ISM Raceway was his second career win in 2005 and on Sunday, Busch earned his 51st.

3. Joey Logano (-1)

Tire issues plagued the No. 22 team on Sunday but it didn’t really matter. Logano’s victory at Martinsville punched his ticket to Homestead so these last two races have been momentum builders. Logano has had everything go wrong at Homestead in this situation before, but can he finally pull off the championship victory on Sunday?

4. Martin Truex Jr. (+2)

It wasn’t pretty but he made it. Truex will be able to defend his 2017 title on Sunday at Homestead and could hit a walk-off for Furniture Row Racing in its final race. He joins one of the most stacked Championship 4 fields we’ve had since this format was adopted in 2014. Can he become the first back-to-back champion since Jimmie Johnson and the first since the new playoff system was adopted in 2014? If he can, it would be a heck of a high note for FRR to go out on.

5. Kurt Busch

You have to feel for Kurt Busch. It seemed he had a shot at winning Sunday’s race or at least point his way into the next round until an accident took him and Chase Elliott out of contention. Busch was met by team owner Tony Stewart on pit road where the two embraced. In what could be his final two races with the organization he’s been with since 2014, it’s gotta be emotional. Especially after being so close yet so far away.

6. Chase Elliott (-2)

Elliott was like the Georgia Bulldogs mascot on Sunday (see below): Ready to attack when needed, winning Stage One after benefitting from Kevin Harvick’s tire issues. He was later taken out by the accident involving Kurt Busch, which ultimately ended his shot to win and thus his chance to compete for the title this weekend.

It was a good season for Elliott and there is one more race remaining that he could realistically win.

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7. Aric Almirola

Almirola made it further than a lot of people believed he would. On Sunday, he almost made it to the Championship 4 as his car rocketed to the front .. just not enough to take the lead and win.

It was nowhere near a lost season for Almirola and it was good to see the No. 10 car up front for the first time since Johnny Benson wheeled that car many years ago.

8. Brad Keselowski (NR)

If that race didn’t get you in the Christmas spirit after watching Brad Keselowski race, you just can’t get there. Keselowski almost secured the victory on Sunday, and it would’ve been entertaining to see what he could’ve done if there was an overtime finish or if there was a problem on the No. 18.

9. Kyle Larson (NR)

Larson has been sneaking back into the picture, which is a very bad thing for the rest of the field as we approach Homestead. He’s got a better string of momentum than he did this time last year which has to make Larson the favorite for Homestead, right?

10. Erik Jones (-1)

Jones was up front a majority of the race (in my personal favorite paint scheme from this season), but had a flat tire late in the race after contact which forced the No. 20 team to pit, ultimately relegating him to 17th. It’ll be exciting to see what Jones will be able to do in that No. 20 car next season, especially after what he’s done in these last few races.

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