In one of the most dominant performances in recent memory at Martinsville Speedway, Brad Keselowski claimed the top spot at the paperclip. Can he keep the momentum up as NASCAR heads to a more downforce sensitive track?
When the green flag flew, pole-sitter Joey Logano fell like a rock, only to finish 19th at Martinsville. Was Logano’s poor performance a fluke, or is he lagging behind his two thriving Penske teammates?
Just when you thought that Hendrick Motorsports was having major problems, Chase Elliott had a strong run at Martinsville, only to fall just short when the checkered flag waved. After Elliott’s display of driving excellence, can Hendrick finally give their drivers winning shots on tracks that aren’t short tracks of super-speedways?
For the first time since Daytona, Kurt Busch failed to notch a top 10. History shows that Busch is a driver who thrives with momentum. Can he overcome a slight performance dip and prove history correct?
Questions remain as NASCAR treks to the Lone Star State this weekend. After a stop at the first short track of the season, the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway greets stock car racing’s best drivers, before returning to two more short tracks.
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: STP 500 Edition
1. Kyle Busch – 243 Points
First place votes: 15
Last week’s ranking: 1st (No Change)
Busch had a dreadful, horrific, appalling, no good, unspeakable, spine-chilling, hair-raising, horrendous, abominable, atrocious, shocking, and downright bad finish at Martinsville. Third place for the No 18 driver is absolutely unbelievable for a driver of his caliber.
Oh, he’s pretty good.
When P3 is your *worst* national series finish in three weeks, you know you've been hot.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) March 25, 2019
“No, your TV didn’t play tricks on you. Kyle Busch is indeed growing a beard except it’s not laden with M&M’s.” -Rob Tiongson, The Podium Finish
2. Brad Keselowski – 231 Points
First place votes: 6
Last week’s ranking: 3rd (+1)
Tick-tock, tick-tock, Brad Keselowski won a grandfather clock. The Michigander did it in dominating fashion too. Leading 446 out of 500 scheduled laps, Keselowski survived a late charge from Chase Elliott to post his second victory this season, which ties him with the “unbeatable” Kyle Busch for checkered flags this year. Unfortunately for Keselowski, he was still beat out on speed by father Bob this weekend.
229mph. Way to go dad! https://t.co/HIQq7b0BM2
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) March 23, 2019
“Administered an old fashioned blue collar butt whooping to the field at Martinsville.” -Leon Hammack, Working on My Redneck
3. Denny Hamlin – 172 Points
Last week’s ranking: 7th (+4)
Sure, he won the Daytona 500, but Hamlin hasn’t made much noise since. However, after Martinsville, the Virginian has quietly slipped into second place in the point standings, which is nearly equivalent to when a tree falls in a forest when no one is around. Yet, while teammate Kyle Busch has stolen the headlines the last several weeks, Hamlin may be trying to challenge Charles Barkley for his basketball analyst job.
— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) March 20, 2019
“Hamlin’s team has his back. He was about to lose his pit penalty streak at Martinsville, so his crew had an uncontrolled tire violation.” -Michael Massie, Frontstretch
“Once FedEx decided to have less of Barney’s colors, I guess you could say that the 11 team’s success was far from our imagination.” -Tiongson
4. Kevin Harvick – 170 Points
Last week’s ranking: 4th (No Change)
Third in points, three top fives, five top 10s in six starts. Uncharacteristically, Harvick has not tallied a victory yet this season. However, Harvick might just be taking a page out of teammate Aric Almirola‘s playbook: consistent top-10 finishes are all you need to make the playoffs. While Harvick has not quite mastered up a win yet, son Keelan has already mastered the slide job… sort of.
“He’s been showing consistent driving this year instead of dominating the series. We haven’t seen this out of Harvick in a long time, but he’s still up there in the points battle.” -Jake Baskinger, Jake Baskinger on YouTube
5. Joey Logano – 169 Points
Last week’s ranking: 2nd (-3)
While Brad Keselowski had an exceptionally good day at Martinsville, and Ryan Blaney proved he can be competitive at a short track, the third Penske car of Joey Logano disappeared after starting from the pole. Although he didn’t quite drop off the face of the earth, the defending Martinsville race winner landed in the 19th position to close out the day. Logano looks to double his win total at the Texas Motor Speedway this weekend.
— Joey Logano (@joeylogano) March 24, 2019
“Logano didn’t win this battle, but neither did Martin Truex Jr.” -Massie
6. Ryan Blaney – 134 Points
Last week’s ranking: 8th (+2)
Blaney was vocal about his struggles during short runs at Martinsville. Despite his lack of fire off speed, Blaney finished inside the top five for the third straight race. That is quite the improvement from 3,347th.
Went out on a limb with Woffard.. there’s still a chance for me to come in 3,347th.. https://t.co/PZPl7gSJ8n
— Ryan Blaney (@Blaney) March 23, 2019
“Ryan Blaney finished fourth. He had the fourth best car. Another adjustment or so & Blaney may have contended for the STP 500 win.” -Mark Kristl, Frontstretch
7. Martin Truex Jr – 121 Points
Last week’s ranking: 6th (-1)
Since Furniture Row Racing closed its doors, Truex’s transition to Joe Gibbs Racing has seemingly been off to a smooth start, but for competitive drivers, the start Truex has had would have likely been fulfilling. However, compared to his last couple seasons, Truex’s 2019 has been pretty dismal and Martinsville was no different.
— Martin Truex Jr. (@MartinTruex_Jr) March 24, 2019
“Has either finished second or eighth in five of the six races so far.” -Joy Tomlinson, Frontstretch
8. Chase Elliott – 116 Points
Last week’s ranking: Tied 11th (+3)
Brad Keselowski led the most laps at Martinsville with 446 circuits out front. Chase Elliott led the second most with a stark 49. After losing significant ground in the waning laps, the Dawsonville, Ga native changed his driving line up, which quickly shrunk the previously lost ground. Elliott may have reached Keselowski if the STP 500 was rebranded the STP 502, much to the chagrin of the Elliott fans. But, Elliott has the best average finish among active drivers at Texas Motor Speedway. Can the tides finally turn at TMS for the Chevrolet camp?
That’s exactly how I felt my friend 🤬 https://t.co/GhNJ9rStiz
— Chase Elliott (@chaseelliott) March 26, 2019
“It’s too bad Elliott couldn’t bump Keselowski out of the way for the win. That would’ve been great racing. But it’s good that Keselowski didn’t bump Elliott out of the way for the win. That would’ve been dirty racing.” -Massie
9. Aric Almirola – 101 Points
Last week’s ranking: 9th (No Change)
Top 10s in 2019: 5
Top 10s in a row: 5
Overall, it was a great weekend. We might not have left with a grandfather clock, but we did bring home our fifth top-10 finish in a row. We'll keep working hard. We'll get there. 💪#Shazam | #SmithfieldRacing pic.twitter.com/MdeGMIG1sR
— Aric Almirola (@Aric_Almirola) March 24, 2019
“If Almirola drove the No. 5 car, I’m pretty sure he would bring home top fives every week.” -Zach Gillispie, Frontstretch
10. Kurt Busch – 77 Points
Last week’s ranking: 5th (-5)
After four straight top 10s, Busch slid to 12th this week, which was a good finish considering his day at Martinsville. Even though he rebounded to the top 12, Chevrolet only put one driver inside the top 10. The winningest manufacturer in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series should be very concerned.
Thanks for a hard days work @CGRTeams. We threw everything and the kitchen sink at the #1 @gearwrench @TeamChevy. Back to the drawing board for @MartinsvilleSwy build sheet. pic.twitter.com/4LpH7YOa30
— Kurt Busch (@KurtBusch) March 24, 2019
“For what it’s worth, a top-15 finish with a car that hadn’t been to Busch’s liking is like some of us getting an 80 on that math test.” -Tiongson
11. Clint Bowyer – 43 Points
Last week’s ranking: Not Ranked
On this week’s edition of Clint Bowyer’s social media escapades: Slow left-lane drivers, “grabbin” gears, and profitable investment in Goodyear’s stock of left side tires.
Man I love the intensity of a short track like @MartinsvilleSwy. It brings out every ounce of emotion you have in you. THAT’S what racing is all about!!! Need more short tracks…
— Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) March 25, 2019
“Despite getting a pit lane speeding penalty twice, Bowyer still managed to finish in seventh place.” -Ryan Holman, Ryan Holman on YouTube
“Has the need for speed… on pit road.” -Dan Greene, Frontstretch
12. Kyle Larson – 29 Points
Last week’s ranking: 10th (-2)
Larson has just one top 10 at Martinsville and only four at Texas. We might not be in Larson’s niche of race tracks, but based upon his performance at other tracks, he needs to find some speed to be a legitimate contender again.
— Kyle Larson (@KyleLarsonRacin) March 22, 2019
“The high line at Martinsville Speedway wasn’t the fastest line. Kyle Larson will benefit from the high speeds of the high line at Texas Motor Speedway.” -Kristl
OTHER DRIVERS WHO RECEIVED VOTES
- Daniel Suarez: 15 Points
- Austin Dillon: 9
- “To start 29th and get up to 10th in one stage should already put you on this list. However, he kind of stalled there.” – Baskinger
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr: 3
- Ty Dillon: 2
- Bubba Wallace: 1
- Ross Chastain: 1
- “You win a stage and finish in the top five in a truck race for of all teams, Niece Motorsports. You then give the fans a show and nearly wrecked the leaders with your axle grease. Then you to get your destination so fast so that Fox can’t find you. Atta boy.” – Gillispie
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 Redneck|
|Ryan Holman||@realryanholman||Ryan Holman on YouTube|
|Godwin Kelly||@godwinkelly||The Daytona Beach News Journal|
|Tommy McCoart||@nascarman_rr||Racing Reference|
|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.