NASCAR Race Weekend Central
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Power Rankings: 1 Down, 9 to Go Edition

All season, Kevin Harvick has been very good. Heading into the Southern 500, he had won seven times already this year and had more top-five and top-10 finishes than anyone else. But one thing he has not been until Sunday (Sept. 6) was being lucky! In one of the crown jewels of stock car racing, Harvick finally got a lucky win when the top two contenders, who were both much better than Happy on Sunday, tangled, handing him the win. The competition better be scared if Harvick is going to add being lucky to being great this season. 

  1. Kevin Harvick – The undisputed leader of the pack after winning for the eighth time this season. Maybe not having the kid and the ball-and-chain at the track is keeping him focused on the job at hand.  
  2. Denny Hamlin – That might have been the weakest throwback scheme in action on Sunday, but once again Hamlin was solid all day long. It definitely appears to be a two-man race for the championship this season, although the third guy might disagree. 
  3. Martin Truex Jr. –  Truex had an incredible streak of top four finishes going heading into the final laps of the Southern 500. Finishing second would have been the safer thing to do in the championship race, but I was so glad to see a racer NOT do the safe thing. 
  4. Chase Elliott – The son of a champion and one of NASCAR’s top 20 racers of all time wasn’t going to give an inch in the closing laps of the Southern 500. Watching two racers throw caution and the championship to the wind to win was inspiring!  
  5. Joey Logano – A strong run and an even stronger throwback scheme got Sliced Bread a promotion in the Power Rankings this week. Any time you honor one of NASCAR’s greatest drivers, you get style points. 
  6. Brad Keselowski – It appeared that it would be a long day for Bad Brad when his throwback Ford got into the wall early and often. But once again, Keselowski finished better than he had any right to finish based on pure grit and a great pit crew.   
  7. Kyle Busch – Note to the No. 18 team: If you are still running a paint scheme this season that you ran back in 2004, it still can’t be considered a “throwback scheme.” I’m also not sure what Elliot Sadler ever accomplished in the NASCAR Cup Series to deserve a throwback scheme.   
  8. William Byron – Did you know Byron is the highest-rated driver in Power Rankings to get his start in iRacing? Is this joke getting older, or does it just appear that way because Byron looks so young? 
  9. Aric Almirola – Almirola is a classic example of why this format is lousy to determine a NASCAR champion. He has been adequate but not sensational all season, with only five top-five finishes through 27 races. But if he can continue muddling along, the No. 10 team will have a shot to win it all.     
  10. Alex Bowman – Just when I thought it was going to be easy to discount Bowman the Showman in the NASCAR playoffs, he started the first elimination round with a decent finish. While he was never a threat to win the race, the No. 88 car did show he can stay out of trouble.  
  11. Clint Bowyer – Bowyer’s lack of stage — or real — wins all year has him destined to be a “Bubble Boy” in the first few rounds of the playoffs. But the first race of the postseason showed that Bowyer can stick around through at least the Round of 12. 
  12. Ryan Blaney – Blaney has incredible driving talent. He races for one of the best teams in Cup right now. How does he only win one race a year? Of course when your team messes up like the No. 12 crew did before the race at Darlington, that might explain why he doesn’t win more races.   
  13. Cole Custer – Rookies are supposed to struggle in the high pressure of the playoffs. Rookies are supposed to wilt under the pressure of dancing with the Lady in Black. Cold Custard is no ordinary rookie.  
  14. Kurt Busch – How did the other Busch finish in the top 10 in the Southern 500? He had an up-and-down race, but an eighth-place finish at The Track Too Tough to Tame has him ranked 11th in points.
  15. Matt DiBenedetto – Every year there is a driver and team who show up in the first race of the NASCAR playoffs and appears to have just been thankful to be a part of the playoffs. Unless the No. 21 team picks up the pace, they will have a quick exit from the playoffs in 2020.   
  16. Austin Dillon – It took strategy to get Austin into the top 10 in the Southern 500, but he showed that when given a chance he can lay it all on the line to get the win. He almost pulled off the biggest win of his career in one of the coolest throwback schemes of the year.
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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.