(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Power Rankings: Fontana Edition

Two races on downforce tracks in a row have given us a better look at which teams have improved for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season. There is no doubt that Hendrick Motorsports is better and that isn’t just because Bowman the Showman ended up in victory lane this past Sunday (March 1) at Auto Club Speedway. Jimmie Johnson has consecutive top-seven finishes, which is something we have not seen since last July. The new and improved Chevy nose grabbed four of the top seven positions in the last two weeks.

Let’s see how we need to adjust the Power Rankings after NASCAR went California dreaming. 

1Kevin Harvick – Happy Harvick is the only driver with three top-10 finishes in the first three races of the new season. While he hasn’t visited victory lane yet,  you know those wins are coming soon. In other news Harvick was ecstatic to hear that in 2021 his pit crew will have 16 fewer ways to lose a race.
2Kyle Busch – Have the Toyotas lost their edge or are they just off to a slow start after getting caught massaging the bodies? Rowdy had a strong race at California and gets a bump ahead of his teammate. 
3Martin Truex Jr. – The 2020 season is showing that switching crew chiefs does matter. It is shocking this team hasn’t put full races together in the first three races, but maybe they miss the Tim Bits and Double Doubles. 
4Joey Logano – Just when you thought it was safe to pick Logano to be in the hunt every week after Vegas, he throws a lackluster performance at California. Will he be the hit or miss driver of 2020? 
5Ryan Blaney – It looked like the Kobe Bryant paint scheme might get it done on Sunday which would have gotten that paint scheme and this race more publicity than it did in sports media.
6Denny Hamlin – Hamlin is proving he is the best NASCAR driver in traffic early in the season. When it is very tough to pass in today’s NASCAR and it’s all about track position, when you can make as many passes as Hamlin has so far that is good news for your potential on downforce tracks the rest of the year. 
7Chase Elliott – The previous week in Las Vegas Chase led a bunch of laps and had an awful finish. Last week in California he led zero laps but had a strong finish. The Chevy Bowties are on straight this season so the best of last year’s Chevy drivers should be on the rise in 2020. 
8Jimmie Johnson – As a famous NASCAR writer once paraphrased, “The demise of seven-time has been greatly exaggerated.” Dale and King Richard fans were breathing easier last year when Johnson couldn’t get out of his own way. But in his final season all of a sudden the possibility of a nickname change is not so crazy after all. 
9Kyle Larson – What the heck do we do with Young Money in the Power Rankings this season? Larson is one of two drivers in the top 10 in points who has yet to lead a lap this season. While he has two top-10 finishes they have been very quiet results so far which drops him two spots this week. 
10Brad Keselowski – Just when it was looking like it was safe to start dropping Bad Brad in the Power Rankings he goes out and has a decent race at California. This week at Phoenix will tell us whether he should be rising or falling in 2020. 
11Matt DiBenedetto – Call me an old-time sentimentalist but it’s so much fun to see the Wood Brothers No. 21 looking so good this season. In this day and age of drivers advancing in Cup because they have loyal sponsors, Guido’s story of advancing on talent is very exciting to see. 
12Aric Almirola – Almirola is 10th in Cup points after three races despite having an average finishing position of 17th. The stage racing formula leads to some of these Common Core math looking results in the standings. 
13Erik Jones – Just when it appeared safe to drop Jones from the Top 16 he goes out and grabs a top 10 at California. Since this was more of a strategy finish than an all around great weekend, we will reserve the right to drop him like a rock next week if he doesn’t post another strong finish. 
14Clint Bowyer – Bad Luck Bowyer is back. Qualifying on the pole and staying up front made it appear that NASCAR’s funny man might return to victory lane for the first time in nearly two years. A flat tire would end that hope but a strong qualifying run shows Bowyer will contend this season. 
15Alex Bowman – Bowman the Showman pulled off the win in convincing style leading 110 of 200 laps at Fontana. It’s very clear after two downforce races that Hendrick Motorsports is back in the top-tier of teams, and Bowman is showing he deserves that No. 88 ride. 
16Kurt Busch – After two lackluster races to start the season we saw the old championship form from Busch at California. The Chevy brand is stronger and it’s clear that the other Busch is back.

Do you agree or disagree with our rankings? Let us know and we might even include your comment on next week’s edition of Power Rankings!

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About Dennis Michelsen

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Dennis a.k.a. DMIC has been covering NASCAR racing since 1998. After spending 23 years as a professional weather forecaster, Dennis still didn't know what he wanted to be when he grew up, so he started covering auto racing full time. He is the moderator of the Race Track Business Conference - an all-day educational seminar covering the business of speed - and is the owner of DMIC Media & Marketing where he spends his time mouthing off about all kinds of sports. He is also the play-by-play voice for the professional Ultimate Disc team the Chicago Wildfire of the American Ultimate Disc League. Dennis can be heard every Saturday on The Final Inspection on 105.7FM The Fan in Milwaukee, Wis. talking NASCAR, and you can listen on the Radio.com app.

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