After 500 grueling miles around the 1.5-mile banked oval at Texas Motor Speedway, Kevin Harvick punched his ticket to the Championship 4 at Homestead Miami Speedway after winning the AAA Texas 500 Sunday (Nov. 3). Harvick’s Texas highlights included 119 laps led and a stage win. With momentum on his side, can the 43-year-old become NASCAR’s third oldest champion ever?
Denny Hamlin encountered a massive points swing after Texas. Hamlin lost 44 points in the Lone Star state after a tricky encounter with Texas Motor’s Speedway’s notorious grass. For the arithmetic experts, Hamlin entered Texas with a 24 point buffer above the elimination cutline but left with a 20 point deficit. With significant work to do at ISM Raceway, is there any hope for Hamlin?
Despite the absence of scuffles, punches or lackluster brawls, the feud of the week likely goes to Kyle Larson and a caution hungry Bubba Wallace. Despite an honorable mention going to NASCAR Xfinity drivers Ryan Sieg and Brandon Brown, this weekend’s most noteworthy altercation left playoff driver Larson in a significant playoff hole because of a Wallace intentional spin. As a highly debated issue, should Larson be pointing at Wallace or NASCAR?
Judging off recent performances, few would have thought that Aric Almirola would have led the second-most laps at Texas. Yet, he, along with teammates Harvick and Daniel Suarez proved to be a potent, nearly unbeatable trio. With two races to go, does Almirola have a shot to replace a goose egg with a tally in the win column?
Mounting questions remain as NASCAR heads to the Arizona desert for the Bluegreen Vacations 400 this Sunday (Nov. 10). With two championship spots left to fill, Sunday’s contest at ISM Raceway looks to be must-see TV. As six drivers vie for the remaining spots, our Frontstretch panel of experts was tasked with determining the 12 best Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers in the meantime.
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: AAA Texas 500 Edition
1. Kevin Harvick – 115 Points
First place votes: 6
Last week’s ranking: 3rd (+2)
Since 2017, only one driver has won the fall playoff race at Texas. Harvick’s closet must be overflowing with cowboy hats and six-shooters. Maybe that’s why he is sharing his hats with Keelan. As NASCAR transitions to ISM Raceway, the winning doesn’t stop for Harvick. Harvick has earned nine trophies at the Arizona track. Now can he just win that championship?
— nascarcasm (@nascarcasm) November 4, 2019
2. Martin Truex Jr. – 104 Points
First place votes: 4
Last week’s ranking: 1st (-1)
While Harvick ran all over the field, Truex struggled at Texas, a week after he ran all over the field at Martinsville Speedway ironically. Despite being off of the leaders’ pace, Truex rallied late to claim a sixth-place finish. However, Truex was not focused on Texas. The New Jerseyan’s focus has shifted to the contest at Homestead Miami Speedway, where Truex has the opportunity to claim his second MENCS championship in a span of just three season.
After struggling much of the day, @MartinTruex_Jr's crew pops the hood.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) November 3, 2019
3. Kyle Busch – 95 Points
Last week’s ranking: 6th (+3)
Next year, Kyle Busch will join an illustrious list of NASCAR drivers including Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson who have competed in the prestigious twice-around-the-clock Rolex 24 sports car race at Daytona International Speedway. While Busch will foray into sports car racing, the Candyman must wrap up the 2019 MENCS season. This weekend, Busch looks to lock up a spot in the Championship 4 once again.
— M&M'S (@mmschocolate) November 3, 2019
4. Joey Logano – 84 Points
Last week’s ranking: 5th (+1)
While Logano in a bite suit might not look very intimidating, the Connecticut native might as well be the most resilient competitor in the NASCAR Playoffs this season. Despite crashes, problems and lame fighting attempts, Logano currently sits in a position to grab the last spot in the Championship 4 and possibly defend his championship. With all the drama surrounding him, Logano might want to give the reality TV show Survivor a shot, because he has somehow survived a tumultuous postseason… so far.
JOEY LOGANO: We’ve all put last week behind us. I don’t expect Denny or any #11 crew members to retaliate.
ALSO JOEY LOGANO: pic.twitter.com/kyZdwYO3dX
— nascarcasm (@nascarcasm) November 3, 2019
5. Denny Hamlin – 71 Points
Last week’s ranking: 2nd (-3)
Hamlin became the latest victim of Texas’ menacing grass, the same culprit which ate up Noah Gragson‘s and David Starr‘s machines in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race before. This grass was also the same provocateur for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s fiery crash in 2014 and Timothy Peters‘ spectacular sidewinding flip in a 2017 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race. Who knew agriculture could do such damage? If you aren’t confused already, here is Hamlin shaking hands with a wheely robot thingy:
— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) November 5, 2019
6. Ryan Blaney – 60 Points
Last week’s ranking: 7th (+1)
While his 2019 championship hopes might be fading, Blaney might just have some celebrating to do after his boss’ monumental purchase of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Hopefully, IMS will hold off on the Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving is OVER.
— nascarcasm (@nascarcasm) November 1, 2019
7. Kyle Larson – 49 Points
Last week’s ranking: 9th (+2)
As Bubba Wallace entered into the spin cycle, Larson had just finished a pit cycle. On the heels of daylight savings time where the clocks were cycled back an hour, Larson might want to take to his bicycle and cycle away some of his frustration.
— Chip Ganassi Racing (@CGRTeams) November 3, 2019
8. Aric Almirola – 31 Points
Last week’s ranking: Not Ranked
Almirola gave the bacon-mobile a heck of a run deep in the heart of Texas. Unfortunately, there is bad news for all the bacon lovers out there. The bacon-mobile will no longer be the bacon-mobile at ISM as a brand of sausage will adorn the No. 10 Stewart -Haas Racing Ford. At least it is not a turkey, or we will all be stricken from the effects of tryptophan. Thanksgiving is not for another three weeks, people. Turkey can wait.
We had a really fast @SmithfieldBrand Ford Mustang all weekend and we were able to execute for the entire race. We had great pit stops, led laps, won a stage and finished second. We can build on that. 💪#SmithfieldRacing pic.twitter.com/uojP8VySGl
— Aric Almirola (@Aric_Almirola) November 4, 2019
9. Chase Elliott – 27 Points
Last week’s ranking: 10th (+1)
There is good news and bad news for the No. 9 bunch.
The bad news: The team is in a must-win situation.
The good news: The team is in a must-win situation.
Because of there points predicament, the No. 9 has one objective Sunday: win. Crew chief Alan Gufstasen’s only agenda is to capture the victory, which might be good because a crew chief with a million agendas and circumstances can be ridiculously taxing on the team leader. Just ask Rodney Childers.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) November 2, 2019
10. Clint Bowyer – 26 Points
Last week’s ranking: 12th (+2)
One this week’s edition of Clint Bowyer’s social media chronicles: A Texas-sized race recap, Greg Biffle’s boat, and the perfect “pretty damn scary” Halloween costume.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) October 31, 2019
11. William Byron – 25 Points
Last week’s ranking: 8th (-3)
On the note of Halloween costumes, William Byron just “wants to go fast.”
If that rings true, Byron finished last a Texas, right Ricky Bobby?
TBT. I just wanna go fast pic.twitter.com/hk2gR9m29o
— William Byron (@WilliamByron) October 31, 2019
12. Daniel Suarez – 24 Points
Last week’s ranking: Not Ranked
Daniel’s Amigos were treated to quite a race in Texas. With a large fan club up in the stands, Suarez put on his best performance in recent memory for the friendly crowd. With two races to go and an unsigned contract looming, is Suarez’s seat burning hot?
— Daniel Suárez (@Daniel_SuarezG) November 5, 2019
OTHER DRIVERS WHO RECEIVED VOTES
THIS WEEK’S VOTING PANEL
|Jake Baskinger||@jbaskinger41||Jake Baskinger on YouTube|
|Bryan Davis Keith||@bryandaviskeith||Frontstretch|
|Rob Dutzar Jr||@rob_dutzar||Rob’s NASCAR Blog|
|Leon Hammack||@captainblowdri||Working on My Redneck|
|Godwin Kelly||@godwinkelly||The Daytona Beach News-Journal|
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.