As NASCAR strolls into a rare off week, Martin Truex Jr. is riding high off of his first short track victory. Is Truex finally starting to turn the corner at Joe Gibbs Racing and reclaim his old dominance?
Clint Bowyer has quietly put together four straight top-10 finishes, including a third-place result at Richmond last weekend. Is Bowyer lurking as the top dog at Stewart-Haas Racing?
As the season has surpassed the one-quarter mark, Daniel Suarez is off to his best start of his young career. Currently sitting 12th in points, can Suarez maintain his increased competitiveness and earn a prized playoff spot?
After six straight top 10s, Aric Almirola has seemingly fallen off a cliff with results outside the top 20 in the last two events, including a last place finish at Bristol. Should the Almirola camp be worried, or is this stretch just bad luck?
Numerous questions remain as NASCAR pulls into the pits this week to celebrate the Easter holiday before climbing back onto the saddle for the annual 200 mph chess game at Talladega in just under two weeks. After an interesting event at Richmond Raceway, our Frontstretch experts were put to the test to determine the 12 best drivers in present day NASCAR. Without further ado, here are Power Rankings after Richmond…
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: Toyota Owners 400 Edition
1. Kyle Busch – 211 Points
First place votes: 16
Last week’s ranking: 1st (No Change)
In Richmond, Busch won stage one and was out front for an additional 101 circuits around the Virginia track. But, mid-race, the No. 18 driver was snookered by a pit road penalty and subsequently never showed the muscle to get to the front and challenge teammate Truex for the race win. Yet, his eighth-place finish was just Busch’s third result outside the top five this season. He’s pretty good.
— Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) April 14, 2019
“Busch is really struggling. It’s been nearly two weeks since he won a race.” – Michael Massie, Frontsretch
2. Joey Logano – 187 Points
Last week’s ranking: 2nd (No Change)
The other stage winner at Richmond was Logano, who captured the green and white checkered flag at the stage two break. But like Busch, Logano was snookered by a problem. However, it was neither a pit road issue nor penalty, but rather a run-in with teammate Brad Keselowski, which left the Connecticut native fuming for a few moments. Despite the issue, Logano caught the leader Truex in the closing laps, but was unsuccessful passing the 2017 champ, ultimately finishing in the runner up spot.
Joey Logano claims Stage 2 Saturday night in VA. pic.twitter.com/PJVETncaKV
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) April 14, 2019
“He roughed up MTJ last fall to win at Martinsville. How come he failed to do the same last Saturday night?” -Kobe Lambeth, Kobelambeth.com
“Was he playing Mr. Nice Guy at Richmond so that he can forget about weekend etiquettes in the playoffs?” -Rob Tiongson, The Podium Finish
3. Denny Hamlin – 158 Points
Last week’s ranking: 3rd (No Change)
They say it is always good to come home. Hamlin hoped to have a good showing in front of the local fans at his home track, but like Busch and Logano before, he too ran into problems, as did just about everyone else.
The No. 11 wheelman was one of nearly a quarter of the field to have their qualifying time voided and were forced to the back of the starting grid due to pre-race inspection failure. Yet, Hamlin was the only competitor out of those who suffered grid penalties who managed to score a finish inside the top five. Surprisingly, Hamlin did not get a speeding penalty this week, which resets our counter.
Consecutive races with a speeding penalty counter: 0
— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) April 14, 2019
“Hamlin might’ve won Richmond had he sped down pit road. Instead, he just got a top five.” -Massie
4. Martin Truex Jr – 155 Points
First place votes: 2
Last week’s ranking: 12th (+8)
After questions were raised last week by our panel about a potential slump, Truex was quick to shut the door of any potential falterings. A winless drought that spanned 25 races ended with a trip to Victory Lane for the first time since he and crew chief Cole Pearn joined Joe Gibbs Racing. Since becoming a full-time driver in 2006, Truex has now scored a victory for four different teams: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Furniture Row Racing and JGR.
— Auto-Owners (@AutoOwnersIns) April 14, 2019
“MTJ was about to pour himself a glass of Orange Vanilla Coke. (Sorry, that commercial was shoved down our throats all race.) One caution and either Bowyer or Logano probably would have won.” -Trey Normile, RawGator
5. Brad Keselowski – 147 Points
Last week’s ranking: 4th (-1)
This week’s lucky number seven driver was Keselowski who finished in, you guessed it, seventh place. While Keselowski is probably enjoying the off week, he sure is anxious to get to Talladega. Once the unbeatable king of Talladega Spuerspeedway, the Michigander hopes to add another win to the column. Despite slipping a bit in recent races at the mammoth Alabama track in the last couple years, Keselowski has the stats on his side next weekend.
That @allianceparts Ford Mustang is looking 😍😍.
— Team Penske (@Team_Penske) April 13, 2019
“At least Keselowski was in the right spot for all of his restarts this week.” -Massie
6. Kevin Harvick – 134 Points
Last week’s ranking: 7th (+1)
Happy has not scored a win yet this season, which is pretty dismal for Harvick’s standards. Yet, the off week give his crew the time to regroup and prepare for the next stretch of races. While the crew reorganizes, Harvick got his off week started out by creating whatever this is…
— Kevin Harvick (@KevinHarvick) April 15, 2019
“He’s got to win sometime, right? Not exactly “The Closer” this year.” -Dan Greene, Frontstretch
7. Clint Bowyer – 121 Points
Last week’s ranking: 8th (+1)
On this week’s edition of Bowyer’s social media chronicles: ole’ Clint supports Darrell Waltrip’s highly scientific vortex theory, tigers and one word answer describing the Richmond finish that the kids probably shouldn’t see.
Would’ve never thought in a million years that I would be in my living room glued to the TV, on the edge of my seat…..watching golf!! 😳
— Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) April 14, 2019
“It was nice to see a night race storyline involving Bowyer and Truex in Richmond end without any controversy.” -Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Beat
8. Kurt Busch – 91 Points
Last week’s ranking: Tied 5th (-3)
That’s a good name
— Kurt Busch (@KurtBusch) April 16, 2019
“Easily the best in class for Chevrolet thus far, which is admittedly like getting the best pair of shoes in an old bowling alley so far.” -Bearden
Tied 9. Daniel Suarez – 30 Points
Last week’s ranking: 11th (+2)
Suarez admittedly struggled figuring Richmond out. Like Hamlin, Suarez was among the drivers that had to start in the back of the field. Although Suarez finished just inside the top 20, the 27-year-old scored stage points at both breaks. Confidence and momentum seems to be multiplying for the No. 41 brigade at the right time.
— Daniel Suárez (@Daniel_SuarezG) April 14, 2019
“He is lurking in the weeds and could pounce at any moment. Look out.” -Zach Gillispie, Fronstretch
Tied 9. Ryan Blaney – 30 Points
Last week’s ranking: Tied 5th (-4)
Once again, Blaney is taking shots at his good friend Bubba Wallace. Seriously dude, calm down well no, please don’t. You’re so entertaining.
On a side note, Richmond was not as entertaining for Blaney. It might as well be summed up best by our panelist Trey Normile…
Atleast that one will finish on the lead lap. https://t.co/rm1DLKJtHT
— Ryan Blaney (@Blaney) April 11, 2019
“Put a corkscrew on the frontstretch of Pocono and Blaney would find it easier than driving Richmond.” -Normile
“A day to forget.” -Lambeth
11. Aric Almirola – 27 Points
Last week’s ranking: 9th (-2)
When Almriola makes our list, there always seems to be something regarding top 10s for the No. 10 machine. We might need to change that after a goose egg in that column across the last two races.
However, the next track on the schedule might just be the perfect place for the Floridian to break the streak. Take a look at Almirola’s stats across the last four Talladega races: best average finishing position, four top 10s (the only driver to hit that mark), four top 20s (a mark shared with only Daniel Suarez), and the defending race winner from last fall. That seems pretty good…
…if he can survive the wrecks.
— Aric Almirola (@Aric_Almirola) April 14, 2019
“The next race for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is at Talladega Superspeedway. Aric Almirola may deliver Stewart-Haas Racing its first win this season there.” -Mark Kristl, Frontstretch
12. Ryan Newman – 25 Points
Last week’s ranking: Not Ranked
Why say anything about Newman when Dale Jr sums it all up?
"@RyanJNewman, man, he's really turned that @Roush6Team program around."@DaleJr gave a shoutout to Ryan Newman, who's put the @RoushFenway No. 6 car in position to make the Playoffs early on in 2019. pic.twitter.com/U0le0fC71Y
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) April 8, 2019
“If nobody can pass Newman, why doesn’t he win every race? That should get you thinking.” -Gillispie
OTHER DRIVERS WHO RECEIVED VOTES
- Austin Dillon: 24 Points
- Chase Elliott: 22
- Jimmie Johnson: 21
- “Paging Chad Knaus… Paging Chad Knaus… you’re needed in the 48 pit.” -Greene
- “JJ ran the Boston Marathon this week. Turns out he’s pretty fast when equipment isn’t involved.” -Normile
- Paul Menard: 16
- “Menard and Ryan Newman are becoming a package deal where both have back-to-back top 10s. Name a more intimidating duo.” -Massie
- Chris Buescher: 2
- Kyle Larson: 2
|Aaron Bearden||@aaronbearden93||Motorsports Beat|
|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.