Defending champion Joey Logano held off his Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski to claim the win in the Pennzoil 400. Is the duo of Logano and Keselowski the ones to beat as NASCAR transitions to the new aero package era?
After another spectacular weekend which included the capture of two checkered flags, is Kyle Busch nearly unbeatable in the undercard events, and will that translate to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series as the season progresses?
Kurt Busch surprisingly emerged as the top Chevrolet in Las Vegas, but can he and his new team harness the momentum as the west coast swing moves into its second leg? Meanwhile, Martin Truex Jr nearly won at Atlanta, but was noticeably noncompetitive at LVMS. Will consistency issues continue to plague him as the series rolls on into the spring?
Numerous questions are still unanswered as NASCAR packs up and heads south from Las Vegas to Phoenix. Yet, our Frontstretch experts underwent the challenging task of determining the top 12 drivers in present day NASCAR. Here are the power rankings after Vegas.
How the power 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 ranking by our panelists, 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: Pennzoil 400 Edition
1. Joey Logano – 225 Points
First place votes: 10
Last week’s ranking: 5th (+4)
The color yellow was the topic of conversation in Las Vegas. There was not a single yellow flag outside of the two stage caution breaks throughout the race. However, Logano drove his bright yellow Pennzoil sponsored Ford to victory in the aptly sponsored Pennzoil 400. Only three races into the season, Logano has slipped into the point lead.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) March 5, 2019
“The most appropriate thing to do after winning the Pennzoil 400 was to perform a burnout on the Pennzoil logo. He wants to know if Ford will sponsor him in the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He’ll do a burnout on their logo too!” – Mark Kristl, Frontstretch
2. Brad Keselowski – 221 Points
First place votes: 8
Last week’s ranking: 1st (-1)
Like Truex in Atlanta, Keselowski came very close to collecting his second consecutive race win but couldn’t muster up enough momentum to pass his teammate. No “SLIDE JOB, SLIDE JOB” this time. However, Logano and Keselowski have made a statement that Team Penske may be the team to beat.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) March 5, 2019
“Well if Keselowski was being nice, shouldn’t he have finished last? Ah well, second’s not too bad in a race or on this list.” – Rob Tiongson, The Podium Finish
“Second place is good, but I’m convinced he would have won if he had a stomach virus or something.” – Eric Estepp, Out of the Groove
3. Kyle Busch – 191 Points
First place votes: 1
Last week’s ranking: 2nd (-1)
196th win: 2019 Las Vegas Spring Truck race
197th win: 2019 Las Vegas Spring Xfinity race
198th win: Not the 2019 Las Vegas Spring Cup race
After nearly sweeping the weekend, Kyle Busch’s quest to 200 wins had to wait after a disappointing race on Sunday. The 33-year-old was quoted saying, “We were the most impressive, but that doesn’t matter because we don’t have a trophy.” While Busch is on the precipice of history, one must ask, how in the world do you store all those trophies?
I believe @KyleBusch maybe the most talented race car driver I’ve even seen, what he does in all 3 series is exceptional, no it’s extraordinary, 197 wins is ludicrous, and guess what, he’s the only one that’s done it, lately!!
— Darrell Waltrip (@AllWaltrip) March 3, 2019
“Pit road blues.” – Godwin Kelly, The Daytona Beach News Journal
4. Kevin Harvick – 181 Points
Last week’s ranking: 3rd (-1)
Harvick qualified on pole and claimed the stage one crown. Toward the latter segments of the race, he slipped just a bit, but ultimately wound up crossing the line fourth. Overall, it was a solid, uneventful race for the veteran driver. Most importantly, Harvick remembered to keep his wide array of sponsors happy, by thanking them on Twitter following the race.
— Kevin Harvick (@KevinHarvick) March 2, 2019
“Here’s a new NASCAR challenge. Eat Jimmy John’s while drinking Busch Beer and then enjoy a steak and lobster from Outback. I dare you.” – Tiongson
5. Kurt Busch – 135 Points
Last week’s ranking: 8th (+3)
Giving a nod to his racing beginnings, Busch drove his throwback Star Nursery scheme to an impressive fifth-place finish at his home track, which backed up his top-three finish in Atlanta. Busch has quietly had the best string of performances of any driver who changed teams in the offseason. Along with his brother’s third-place finish, this was the first time that both Busch brothers finished in the top five in the same race since Michigan last June.
— Chip Ganassi Racing (@CGRTeams) March 4, 2019
“Busch was one of the ‘stars’ of the day, as his old sponsor came on board for a fifth-place finish.” – Adam Cheek, Frontstretch
6. Martin Truex Jr – 125 Points
Last week’s ranking: 4th (-2)
Where in the world was Truex? The driver out of New Jersey started 23rd, very uncharacteristic for him across the last several years. Although the 2017 champ initially did not have competitive speed, Truex and his team made wholesale changes throughout the event and miraculously came away with a top-10 result. However, are Truex’s Las Vegas struggles an isolated occurrence, or should the No. 19 team be concerned?
Solid race for our @BassProShops team. We weren’t very good in practice, but felt like we were a top-5 car at times today. Just too tight in the last stage. Really proud of how @colepearn and the guys stuck with it to give us a chance. #TeamToyota pic.twitter.com/JM4tHslEW5
— Martin Truex Jr. (@MartinTruex_Jr) March 4, 2019
“All of the Gibbs cars are lagging behind Kyle Busch right now.” – Estepp
7. Denny Hamlin – 119 Points
First place votes: 1
Last week’s ranking: 7th (No Change)
What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
Vegas ready. pic.twitter.com/QsmQO91h2t
— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) March 3, 2019
“Your Daytona 500 winner is sitting third in points and is locked into the playoffs. Don’t snooze on JGR this season. It seems like they’ve got something figured out.” – Trey Normile, Gator Games
“For the second consecutive week, it almost seemed like the Daytona 500 champion was not in the race, but Hamlin did get a top 10 out of it this week.” – Ryan Holman, Ryan Holman on YouTube
8. Aric Almirola – 88 Points
Last week’s ranking: 11th (+3)
Almirola might as just be called “Mr. Consistency.” Time and time again, the Floridian doesn’t make many headlines, but he always brings home the bacon. Almirola had an uneventful, clean day and rattled off yet another top 10.
— Smithfield Brand (@SmithfieldBrand) March 3, 2019
“A seventh-place finish has Aric Almirolling into the next round of the West Coast swing.” – Kobe Lambeth, Kobelambeth.com
9. Kyle Larson – 78 Points
Last week’s ranking: 6th (-3)
Issues have continued to follow Larson. This time, a controversial too-many-men-over-the-wall penalty subbed Larson from a top-10 finish. Yet, week-after-week, Larson continues to drive his heart out to try and leave the problems behind.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) March 3, 2019
“Don’t you just hate handsy pit crew members?” – Zach Gillispie, Frontstretch
“Larson didn’t need the extra helping hand on pit road, as it might have cost him a top 10.” – Cheek
10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr – 61 Points
Last week’s ranking: Not Ranked
Stenhouse is seventh in points, ahead of names like Truex, Bowyer, Elliott, Almirola, Blaney and Johnson, not to mention he was also ahead of them throughout the event at Las Vegas. Despite the surprising success of the early season, Stenhouse has not made very many friends. Just ask Erik Jones.
After earning his third straight top-10 qualifying position, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. drove his Fastenal Ford to a sixth-place finish collecting stage points in all three stages at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon. https://t.co/Wd5n1FQzN1 pic.twitter.com/7cPKZdRXMM
— Fastenal Racing (@FastenalRacing) March 4, 2019
“Honestly, Stenhouse should have settled any on-track issues with some Little Hugs. Literally.” – Tiongson
“Racing Code 101: If you are a Jr, you have to be a good driver. Maybe Stenhouse might actually be living up to that.”
11. Erik Jones – 57 Points
Last week’s ranking: 10th (-1)
Like Almirola, Jones has quietly become a quietly consistent driver. In Las Vegas, however, Jones completely shed his silence. The Byron, Michigan native was exasperated with Stenhouse. We will see if Jones can keep his cool as the series traverses to the heat of the Phoenix desert for the annual contest at ISM Raceway.
Super excited for the new season of Game of Jones. pic.twitter.com/ttivWY1Q60
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) March 5, 2019
“It figures he’d be ranked around Stenhouse since he loves racing with him so much.” – Michael Massie, Frontstretch
12. Chase Elliott – 39 Points
Last week’s ranking: Not Ranked
Elliott has not had the best of starts. After the first three events this season, he lies in a mediocre 14th in the points standings. Yet, a 14th placement in points is far ahead of the first three races last season. Elliott hadn’t even broken the top 20 in points by the time the series left Las Vegas in 2018.
— Hooters (@Hooters) March 3, 2019
“Of course the new package was hated. Chase Elliott didn’t win. How can we expect fans to like a package when he doesn’t win?” – Massie
OTHER DRIVERS WHO RECEIVED VOTES
- Clint Bowyer: 11 Points
- Ryan Blaney: 11
- Alex Bowman: 4
- William Byron: 4
- “Aside from Chase Elliott, Bowman has kept Hendrick relevant just like Pokémon Go has with millennial folks walking.” – Tiongson
- Daniel Suarez: 2
- Paul Menard: 1
THIS WEEK’S VOTING PANEL
|Jake Baskinger||@jbaskinger41||Jake Baskinger on YouTube|
|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|
|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.