After a rough and tumble day, Texas winner Denny Hamlin has shown that Kyle Busch is not the only Joe Gibbs Racing driver that can win races. Although it is a long way out, can Hamlin be a championship threat?
All three Team Penske drivers encountered trouble in the Lone Star State. Can Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney climb back on their horses and lasso back their winning ways, or will lady luck continue to deal the trio a bad hand?
Kurt Busch has been victorious at Bristol Motor Speedway six times, including last fall. Can Busch hit the lucky number seven this weekend to tie with brother Kyle as the winningest active drivers at BMS?
Daniel Suarez was a surprising face inside the top five at Texas. Was it a fluke, or can Suarez wrangle his long-eluded consistency in the races to come?
Questions remain as NASCAR heads to the Last Great Coliseum, Bristol Motor Speedway. With these questions circulating, our Frontstretch team of panelists was asked with the difficult job of deciphering the 12 best NASCAR drivers following Texas.
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: O-Reilly Auto Parts 500 Edition
1. Kyle Busch – 238 Points
First place votes: 18
Last week’s ranking: 1st (No Change)
In what seems like a monotonous trend, Busch nearly completed the weekend sweep. After winning the Truck and Xfinity races, Busch led 66 laps in the Cup race at Texas. While one single driver did not dominate the event, Busch’s laps out front gave him the most laps led in the Lone Star State. Unfortunately for Busch, the Interstate Batteries Toyota slapped the wall, prompting an extended stay on pit road under green flag circumstance. Yet, the No. 18 was able to rally to a 10th-place day. This team is sure resilient.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) March 31, 2019
“Kyle, Kyle, Kyle of the speedway! Watch out for that wall! To the tune of George of the Jungle.” -Dan Greene, Frontstretch
“Only finished 10th on Sunday? Sounds the alarms, ring the bells and take cover. The end must be nigh.” -Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Beat
2. Denny Hamlin – 243 Points
First place votes: 3
Last week’s ranking: 3rd (+1)
Here are some 2019 Denny Hamlin stats to ponder:
Second in points… only behind Kyle Busch
Second in average finishing position… only behind Kyle Busch
One of only two drivers to complete 100% of scheduled laps… tied with Kyle Busch
One of three drivers to have scored multiple wins so far this season… alongside Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski
One of only three drivers to score a top 20 in every race… alongside Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott
He might be closing in on Busch before too long. Also, Joe Gibbs Racing may be running out of wall space with all the winning that has been going on.
Almost slipped 😉 pic.twitter.com/5C4HCUUl3d
— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) April 1, 2019
“When DH is able to be penalized twice and still come back to win, it pretty much confirms FedEx is able to ship your items…at least in a racetrack.” -Rob Tiongson, The Podium Finish
3. Kevin Harvick – 149 Points
Last week’s ranking: 4th (+1)
A rare occurrence unfolded at Texas. Harvick was consistently the worst Stewart-Haas Racing car throughout the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500. There is no need to worry though. All four of the SHR cars placed inside the top eight positions Sunday. Not bad, unless you are a perfectionist, a la crew chief Rodney Childers. He’s still third in points. What are you complaining about?
Wish I could say something good or positive about today.. It sucked and I cant stand racing like that..
But,, all 4 cars finished in the top 10 again. Thanks to the fans that came out and watched today @TXMotorSpeedway .. @StewartHaasRcng @FordPerformance
— Rodney Childers (@RodneyChilders4) April 1, 2019
“Unhappy Harvick and his team search for answers, in order to produce a more competitive car.” -Kobe Lambeth, Kobelambeth.com
4. Brad Keselowski – 147 Points
Last week’s ranking: 2nd (-2)
A week after sitting atop the scoring pylon, Keselowski suffered a rear gear issue under caution and was forced to go behind the wall. The No. 2 crew was able to get its Mustang back onto to the track in the closing laps, but a tinge of disappointment and the sting of bad luck follow Team Penske out of Texas. Is Keselowski losing touch with consistency? We will find out at Bristol.
— Team Penske (@Team_Penske) March 31, 2019
“Break dancing is a thing. Break driving is not. Broken rear ends make driving hard.” -Greene
“From hero to zero in a week’s time.” -Darian Gilliam, Black Flags Matter
5. Aric Almirola – 145 Points
Last week’s ranking: 9th (+4)
Top 10… again. Enough said.
.@Aric_Almirola is almirolling!
He's finished top 10 in the last six races of 2019, his career longest streak. pic.twitter.com/O62pSezhVb
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) April 1, 2019
“The latest round of ‘pushing through the flu virus’ award goes to Double-A who, after finishing in the top-10 for the billionth time in a row, was revitalized by Texas-sized Smithfield bacon.” -Tiongson
6. Joey Logano – 136 Points
Last week’s ranking: 5th (-1)
In 20 starts, Logano has scored two wins at Bristol. Yet, the series goes to short tracks, Logano seems to always be a spectacle, whether he wins a race or has a piece of Matt Kenseth’s Dollar General hood lodged in his rear bumper. Can Logano coil in the excitement and have a calm day, because, after Texas, Team Penske sure needs one.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) April 1, 2019
“Picked a fine time to leave me loose wheel.” -Greene
7. Martin Truex Jr – 101 Points
Last week’s ranking: 7th (No Change)
Like last year, Truex found his way to the front. Unlike last year, he had difficulty staying at the front.
— PRN (@PRNlive) March 31, 2019
“Truex seems to still be figuring out the JGR formula.” -Adam Cheek, Frontstretch
Tied 8. Clint Bowyer – 91 Points
Last week’s ranking: 11th (+3)
On this week’s edition of Bowyer’s social media escapades: a young child rides a longhorn, the intensely philosophical definition of clogging and a minuscule unpaid spokesman with a large shadow.
So, why aren’t you following him yet?
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) April 1, 2019
“Just send Blake Shelton to every race and who knows, Bowyer might just win the rest of these races!” -Tiongson
Tied 8. Kurt Busch – 91 Points
Last week’s ranking: 10th (+2)
After the first six events of the season, Busch looked to be the most competitive Chevrolet this season. That was until Texas qualifying. While the fleet at Hendrick Motorsports impressed after starting up front, the elder Busch started deep in the field. While Busch and Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Kyle Larson struggled, the No. 1 team was relentless with adjustments throughout the event and even overcame a loose wheel. Because of perseverance, Busch came home with a top 10.
Good battle today. Tough to find grip with cold tires, then was burning up RF tires as the race wore on. Happy we prevailed over our own adversity. Bummed for @KyleLarsonRacin We will be @BMSupdates with a vengeance! pic.twitter.com/jf8hBwpuR2
— Kurt Busch (@KurtBusch) April 1, 2019
“Did you see the Busch brother argy bargy when Kyle took Kurt three-wide? Me neither. My eyes were closed!” -Lambeth
10. Ryan Blaney – 73 Points
Last week’s ranking: 6th (-4)
Engine woes relegate Blaney to a 37th-place result at Texas, but for some reason, he took his frustration out on Bubba Wallace. Uh???
— Ryan Blaney (@Blaney) April 2, 2019
“One of the most snakebitten drivers currently. Was leading before Penske’s engine problems.” -Gilliam
11. Chase Elliott – 65 Points
Last week’s ranking: 8th (-3)
As NASCAR returns to Bristol Motor Speedway, Elliott might just have stats on his side. He has the third best finishing position among active drivers at BMS, though that may be deceiving. Although Elliott has three top 10s at the Tennessee track, the Georgian had posted two finishes outside the top 10, including a dismal 29th-place effort last spring.
— Kelley Blue Book (@KelleyBlueBook) March 30, 2019
“The trifecta of Johnson, Byron and Elliott gave a shot in the arm to HMS this week.” -Leon Hammack, Workin on my Redneck.
12. Daniel Suarez – 59 Points
Last week’s ranking: Not ranked
So far this season, Suarez joined a new team, fought one of the most mild-mannered drivers in the garage (or so we thought) and finished third at Texas. That’s pretty impressive considering Suarez failed to come anywhere close to the playoffs during two seasons at the powerhouse Joe Gibbs Racing. Suarez sure seems optimistic about the event to come.
Good speed all weekend, we will keep working to have more weekends like this. 🔛 🔝 🔜
Tuvimos buena velocidad todo el fin de semana, seguiremos trabajando para tener mas fines como éste. 💪 💪 pic.twitter.com/N4bwZais74
— Daniel Suárez (@Daniel_SuarezG) April 1, 2019
“A quiet start — on track, anyways – with SHR has steadily build to consistent speed and a spot in the current playoff grid. A few more runs like Sunday’s third-place effort could make Suarez a dark horse playoff contender.” -Bearden
“It’s not so foolish to put Suarez in these power rankings because he’s starting to hit his stride. This time, he nabbed a podium finish and perhaps silenced Reddit nation.” -Tiongson
OTHER DRIVERS WHO RECEIVED VOTES
- Jimmie Johnson: 52 Points
- “Remember me? I won 7 championships.” -Greene
- Erik Jones: 27
- “Probably should have won, but a slow pit stop cost him.” -Zach Gillispie, Frontstretch
- William Byron: 18
- Kyle Larson: 10
- Ryan Newman: 3
- Austin Dillon: 2
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 Redneck|
|Ryan Holman||@realryanholman||Ryan Holman on YouTube|
|Godwin Kelly||@godwinkelly||The Daytona Beach News Journal|
|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.