After a controversial finish to the Clash, Jimmie Johnson finally returned to Victory Lane. Even though it was an exhibition race, is this a sign that the seven-time champ will be a real contender this year? Will the Big Three reign supreme again this season? Can Joey Logano get off to a strong start as the defending Cup Champion? Will Chase Elliott keep the momentum going after having his breakout season? How will Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch adjust to their new rides?
While all these questions are yet to be answered, our Frontstretch experts were challenged with picking their top 12 driver going into the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
How the rankings are calculated: Following the conclusion of each Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, members of a voting panel, including Frontstretch writers and members of accredited media outlets as well as writers from other sites and social media personalities, submit their top 12 drivers for the Power Rankings.
The drivers are then given points based on their position, with first place getting 12 points, and each subsequent driver getting one fewer point until the 12th-place driver, who gets a single point. Points are then added together, and the rankings are subsequently produced.
Power Rankings: 2019 Preseason
1. Kyle Busch – 230 Points
First Place Votes: 11
After a stellar 2018, the 2015 Cup Series champ expects nothing less in 2019. Despite crashing out of the Clash, Busch enters this season riding high off of another Championship 4 run. Time will tell, but he looks poised to do it again, despite being a delicate 33-year-old….
So apparently it’s harder for a 33yo to keep up w a 3.5yo at the trampoline park. I’m carrying a limp in my step today from rolling my ankle. Doing some treatments to get ready for today, I’ll b good to go!
— Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) February 10, 2019
“He’s a near-lock for the Championship 4 each year and has won nearly everything the sport has to offer, except for a Harley J. Earl trophy. He may want to steer clear of trampoline parks moving forward, though.” – Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Beat
2. Kevin Harvick – 218 Points
First Place Votes: 3
After the retirement of Matt Kenseth, Harvick enters 2019 as the longest tenured full-time driver in NASCAR. With 18 seasons under his belt, the Californian looks to get his season started off right with a good showing in the Daytona 500. He just better hope that it doesn’t end like his 2019 Clash did.
— Stewart-Haas Racing (@StewartHaasRcng) February 11, 2019
“He gets better with age, but his Daytona 500 win was so long ago, it was during one of Mark Martin’s original retirement tours.” – Michael Massie, Frontstretch
3. Joey Logano – 208 Points
First Place Votes: 5
Logano snuck past the Big Three last season to claim his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship of his career. The champ looks to go back-to-back but will have to overcome the challenge of the brand new Ford Mustang body style, which replaced the Fusion.
— Joey Logano (@joeylogano) February 10, 2019
“Sure, the proverbial preseason pick is Kyle Busch, but the top spot ought to be the man who won it last year against the triple threat for last year’s title. Joey Logano has most of his team intact, one of the best crew chiefs in Todd Gordon, and oh yeah, he’s got a Yates engine with a sweet Ford Mustang.” – Rob Tiongson, The Podium Finish
4. Martin Truex Jr – 194 Points
First Place Votes: 2
Change is in the air for Truex. Along with crew chief Cole Pearn, Truex leaves Colorado and the closed Furniture Row Racing behind to strap behind the wheel of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota. Only time will tell if he is the right fit for the team, but the dynamic duo of Truex and Pearn will have a lot to prove in 2019.
— Martin Truex Jr. (@MartinTruex_Jr) February 9, 2019
“He lost the battle, he lost the war, he lost his team. He’s got to feel like he has a lot to prove this season.” – Scott Page, the late Jayski
“New team, new number, same old consistent player.” – Ed Coombs, Speedway Media
5. Chase Elliott – 175 Points
The newly minted most popular driver looks to back up his incredible 2018 season. The young Georgian racked up three wins and a respectable sixth-place finish in the final points standings. Elliott has already shown aggressive competitiveness, as he and teammates William Byron, Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson swept the first four qualifying positions for the Daytona 500.
— Hendrick Motorsports (@TeamHendrick) February 10, 2019
“A breakout 2018 season has the No. 9 on a hot streak, but don’t expect Bill to be on track this year.” – Adam Cheek, Frontstretch
6. Brad Keselowski – 158 Points
An excellent plate racer, Keselowski hopes to capture the checkered flag in the Daytona 500, a race that has long eluded him. Despite his track record of bad luck in the Great American Race, Las Vegas still puts him as the favorite going into the opening race of the season.
— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) January 17, 2019
“Keselowski had a bit of a quiet year before winning three straight in September. He fell out of the Round of 12 but can see them in the final four with the new Mustang.” – Darian Gilliam, Black Flags Matter
7. Ryan Blaney – 104 Points
Ryan Blaney, or YRB (Young Ryan Blaney) as he has been affectionately known as, hopes to find consistency in 2019, something that dogged him in 2019. Yet, YRB has managed to keep a positive attitude and is still proving that he is one of the best characters in the garage.
Well this was hilarious. Ordered food after getting my mouth numbed from the dentist and the lady looked at me funny. Wondered why… then I looked in the mirror and realized the left side of my face wasn’t working… pic.twitter.com/S0w38LHL9l
— Ryan Blaney (@Blaney) February 7, 2019
“His popularity with fans is huge, which is important for the sport as veterans retire, and he’s pretty good on the track as well.” – Wesley Coburn, Frontstretch
8. Kyle Larson – 77 Points
Even with his fantastic battle with Kyle Busch at Chicagoland last season, Larson went winless in 2018. Will he turn it around in 2019? Only time will tell, yet many believe Larson has the most potential in the garage area. Heck, he’s already been in the NASCAR Hall of Fame this year… even if it was just to induct his childhood hero Jeff Gordon into the Hall.
Such an honor tonight to introduce someone who has had such a big impact on all of Motorsports and especially helping to pave the way for us dirt racers to make it to Cup! Thank you and congratulations @JeffGordonWeb on your @NASCARHall induction!
— Kyle Larson (@KyleLarsonRacin) February 2, 2019
“Yung Money could smell victory lane a few times last season but went winless in Cup. Close but no cigar.” – Kobe Lambeth, Kobelambeth.com
“Did someone say SLIDE JOB?” – Zach Gillispie, Frontstretch
9. Jimmie Johnson – 72 Points
All of NASCAR is wondering what happened to Jimmie Johnson in 2018. After going winless last season for the first time in his career, Johnson has already erased a goose egg in the win bracket. Although his victory came in the Clash exhibition race, he has momentum on his side. However, all the Paul Menard fans may say otherwise.
Jimmie Johnson and the Ally Racing team celebrate in Victory Lane with the Ally 48 Chevrolet after The Clash, which was shortened due to rain. pic.twitter.com/2ph1E7W2iV
— Ally Racing (@allyracing) February 10, 2019
“Hendrick cars are fast and you can make the argument that the crash on Sunday showed Johnson has the aggression it takes to win the Daytona 500.” – Tommy McCoart, Racing Reference
“Very proficient at punting cars in the Clash.” – Leon Hammack, Working on My Redneck
10. Aric Almirola- 70 Points
His tweet speaks for itself.
— Aric Almirola (@Aric_Almirola) February 11, 2019
“It’s quite neat knowing that Double A brought the No. 10 car back to Victory Lane for the first time since Ricky Rudd’s survival of the fittest win in 1998 at Martinsville. The difference is, he can bring home the bacon for race fans.” – Tiongson
11. Clint Bowyer- 63 Points
With two wins last season, Bowyer looked to carry the momentum with him through the offseason. However, if his social media was any indication of his offseason, he seemed to be distracted by a foray of activities including exploding dishwashers, houses on wheels and an impersonator of Andy Reid, the head coach of Bowyer’s beloved Kansas City Chiefs.
— Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) January 20, 2019
“You can have fun and race.” – Godwin Kelly, The Daytona Beach News Journal
12. Kurt Busch – 46 Points
A big transition from Stewart-Haas Racing to Chip Ganassi Racing greets Kurt Busch in 2019. With a brand new team and a brand new start, Busch nearly won the Clash last weekend. If this is any indication, Busch is poised for a strong run in 2019.
— Kurt Busch (@KurtBusch) February 11, 2019
“Bringing Chip’s Nascar team back to relevance by winning… maybe.” – Rob Dutzar Jr., Rob’s NASCAR Blog
OTHER DRIVERS WHO RECEIVED VOTES:
- Denny Hamlin: 30 Points
- William Byron: 21 (including 1 first place vote)
- Erik Jones: 18
- Paul Menard: 14
- Alex Bowman: 11
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr: 4
- Austin Dillon: 3
THIS WEEK’S VOTING PANEL
|Jake Baskinger||@jbaskinger41||Jake Baskinger on YouTube|
|Aaron Bearden||@aaronbearden93||Motorsports Beat|
|Ed Combs||@combsed||Speedway Media|
|Bryan Davis Keith||@bryandaviskeith||Frontstretch|
|Rob Dutzar Jr||@rob_dutzar||Rob’s NASCAR Blog|
|Eric Estepp||@ericestepp17||Out of the Groove|
|Darian Gilliam||@blackflagmatter||Black Flags Matter|
|Leon Hammack||@captainblowdri||Working on My Rednck|
|Ryan Holman||@realryanholman||Ryan Holman on YouTube|
|Dr. Mark Howell||@DrMarkDHowell||Frontstretch|
|Godwin Kelly||@godwinkelly||The Daytona Beach News Journal|
|Tommy McCoart||@nascarman_rr||Racing Reference|
|Scott Page||@slpage||the late Jayski|
|Rob Tiongson||@robtiongson||The Podium Finish|
Do you agree with our rankings? Think someone was left out, or that one of the top drivers is overrated? Let us know in the comments, and tell others what your top 12 would be.