NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Grading the 2009 Sprint Cup Pack: Part 2

NASCAR’s longest and most grueling race, the Coca-Cola 600, represents a significant milestone in the 2009 season. It’s not quite the halfway point to the Chase (that comes the following week after Dover), but once the checkers fly late Sunday evening, we’re exactly one-third of the way through the 36-race schedule.

With that in mind, it’s a good time to take a step back and look at how the Sprint Cup contenders (and pretenders) have performed thus far. As you might expect here at Frontstretch, we’re going to conduct a proper two-part analysis of the season to date. Yesterday’s installment gave out some superlative awards; today, Tom Bowles and I team up to grade each team on their overall performance through the first three months of ’09. Feel free to not only read, but comment below and let us know how you feel your favorite teams and drivers have done!

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 Heading Into the 2009 Coca-Cola 600

The All-Star Race is supposed to feature the cream of the crop, a chance for Sprint Cup’s top tier to go head-to-head in a battle royale with nothing but money and pride on the line. And after a tame beginning, this race featuring a Who’s Who of stock car stardom refused to disappoint, with drivers continuing to beat and bang throughout the last 10 laps of the 25th annual shootout. When the Smoke cleared, it was Smoke himself taking his first trophy as an owner/driver in the series, a move which easily solidified his hold atop our weekly list.

But while Tony Stewart leads the pack, how did the rest of your favorite stars fare heading into the Coca-Cola 600? Read on to see if your driver made the most of his All-Star appearance Saturday night to move up our Power Rankings ladder.

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 After the 2009 Aaron’s 499 at Talladega

The wild card that is restrictor-plate racing at Talladega certainly mixed up our rankings as much as it mixed up the standings. The Big Ones led to big changes for our experts, as multiple drivers received first-place votes and just two of 15 stayed in the same position that they occupied last week. The race ended with a first-time winner in victory lane this weekend… and when the dust settled on this week’s poll, there was a first-time member on our list, too. Read on to see if your driver survived Sunday’s roller coaster ride, landing firmly in this week’s edition of the Frontstretch Power Rankings.

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 After the 2009 Subway Fresh 500 at Phoenix

Phoenix’s Saturday night showdown may have been Mark Martin’s time to shine… but it didn’t mean much for the rest of the Sprint Cup competition. Most of the racing behind him was tame at best, with few top drivers encountering problems that left them dropping off our Power Rankings list. Just how far did Martin’s win make him rise? Read on to find out in this week’s edition of our Power Rankings.

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 After the 2009 Samsung 500 at Texas

Things at Texas happen fast these days, leaving the margin of error slim to none on what’s become the sport’s speediest track. From Kyle Busch cutting a tire to Carl Edwards having trouble on pit road, too many of the sport’s biggest superstars discovered that answer too little, too late. The end result was a major shakeup in our poll this week, with our experts dropping no less than three drivers right out of the rankings. Luckily for Jeff Gordon, he already knew the dangers – 0-for-16 for his career in the Lone Star State entering Sunday – and was finally able to put the bad karma behind him in streaking to his first victory of 2009.

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2009 Samsung 500 at Texas Edition

Jeff Gordon’s large winless streak came to an end Sunday in Texas – where everything is big. But while Gordon had a giant weight lifted off his shoulders, other drivers felt huge swings in the points. Greg Biffle gained eight spots in the standings after his third-place Texas run, while Mark Martin’s sixth-place finish gained him nine positions. AJ Allmendinger’s ignition issues relegated him to a 34th-place finish and lost him five spots in the points, while Kevin Harvick and Michael Waltrip each lost four places after lousy runs. Inside the top 12, most drivers changed at least one spot, with Matt Kenseth leading the charge, climbing three spots to ninth after running fifth in Texas. Gordon also is seeing his points lead stretch, as you will find out in this week’s list of HOT, WARM and COLD drivers.

Running Their Mouth: 2009 Samsung 500 at Texas

Each week, we’ll go through media reports, interviews, PR and all of our own stuff to find the best quotes from the Sprint Cup race, capturing the story of how the weekend unfolded. It’s the most original commentary you’ll ever find: the truth, coming straight out of the mouths of the drivers, crew members and car owners themselves. This week, here’s a sneak peek at what a select few were thinking following the Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2009 Texas Spring Race Recap

Jeff Gordon emerged from the final round of pit stops with the lead as Carl Edwards’s No. 99 team fumbled the ball badly, dropping their boy to 11th. Gordon won for the first time in 47 races. You knew it was coming eventually – just not at Texas.

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2009 Samsung 500 at Texas

I never thought it would be this good, this fast. But Tony Stewart has made the turnaround at Stewart-Haas Racing so fast it makes your head spin. While Ryan Newman needs a little more help to get up to speed, Stewart has shown his true mettle as a racer and just how good he really is in taking a backmarker team all the way to the front. Stewart finished fourth at Texas, but he showed he could make his cars run at the front and moved up to fifth in points. He’s looking more like a championship contender every week so far.

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 After the 2009 Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville

With their bumping and banging for the lead on Sunday, Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson were able to make big gains up the Power Rankings ladder. But were they enough to push Jeff Gordon off the top spot? Meanwhile, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton were among those who took it on the chin at this short track. Read on to see how far they slid – and which new drivers drove their way up the list – in this week’s edition of the Frontstretch Power Rankings.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com

Frontstretch