Welcome to Power Rankings. As always, Power Rankings are far from a scientific formula. In fact, it’s the perfect blend of analytics and bias against your favorite driver. Direct all your complaints to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to have some fun.
1. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 1): He may only be up nine points in the standings over Kyle Larson, but with his two wins and eight stage victories, Truex Jr. is setting a blistering pace towards being the top seed in the playoffs. That pace is contingent on maintaining the top spot in the standings, but unless Truex and Larson have a terrible stretch of races in the near future they should be the top two seeds. Third-place Kevin Harvick is 116 points behind Truex.
Coincidentally, Truex finished third on Sunday at Dover.
2. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 6): Now that Johnson has tied Cale Yarborough with 83 career Cup Series wins, he’s going to tie Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip with his next win. Whenever the next victory happens Johnson will be tied for fourth all-time in the Cup Series.
As he’s tied with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt with seven championships, it’s fair to wonder if Johnson will get to No. 2 on the Cup Series win list behind Petty. David Pearson has 105 victories; 22 more than Johnson has right now. If Johnson drives for three more years he may not get there. But if he drives for five more, there’s a shot.
But Johnson has a ways to go to catch Kyle Busch. With 84 NASCAR victories, Johnson is 89 wins behind Busch.
3. Kyle Larson (LW: 5): Larson led over 240 laps but spun his tires on the final restart. That hiccup allowed Johnson to skip away and be ahead at the overtime line when Ty Dillon spun and collected a bunch of cars behind the leaders.
Larson’s become the main Chevrolet competitor to Hendrick Motorsports this season, largely because of his team’s relationship with Hendrick. With Stewart-Haas Racing driving Fords, Ganassi became Hendrick’s top satellite team and it’s showing, even if Ganassi has been coy about the extent of the relationship with Hendrick.
4. Kevin Harvick (LW: 3): Harvick finished ninth on Sunday. Stewart-Haas is still figuring out the keys to go from very good to great with Ford. When you take away Kurt Busch’s win in the Daytona 500 SHR has just six top fives over four drivers in 12 races. That’s a .125 batting average. Not good.
Harvick has four of those top fives. He’s been really good at Pocono and it won’t be surprising if he gets a fifth top five next week.
5. Kyle Busch (LW: 2): Busch’s race went sideways on the first pit stop as the air gun malfunctioned as the left-rear tire was being changed. That malfunction meant the new tire and wheel weren’t fastened to the car when the jack was dropped by the jackman and Busch drove off.
Busch’s crew chief Adam Stevens could face a four-race penalty for the team’s mistake based off the rule as written in the NASCAR rule book. But the rule that suspends crew chiefs for wheels coming off is designed to prevent teams from only fastening two or three lug nuts to a wheel to have a faster pit stop and allegedly not to further penalize teams who make a pit road mistake.
6. Jamie McMurray (LW: 7): McMurray’s having the best season of his career. Yes, really. McMurray hasn’t won a race through the first 13 this season but he’s got eight top-10 finishes and is fifth in the points standings.
McMurray won the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in 2010 (in addition to the fall race at Charlotte) but he finished 13th in the standings that season. He’s never finished inside the top 10 of the standings. This could be the year.
7. Brad Keselowski (LW: 4): If this was the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately series then Keselowski would be one of the most disappointing drivers in the Cup Series. He was slow during the All-Star Race (and had the goofy penalty) and crashed in both the Coca-Cola 600 and in Sunday’s race in Dover.
But those crashes have simply been wrong place, wrong time events. And Keselowski has been at the front of the field in both of them. When Kurt Busch got loose beneath him Sunday, Keselowski moved up the track to give Busch room. But Busch bounced off of him still and sent Keselowski into the wall.
8. Austin Dillon (LW: 12): Dillon finished 12th at Dover … and is still outside the top 20 in points. Dillon would begin the playoffs 46 points behind Truex at this rate. And that’s a setup for success. But if 12th is the new normal for Dillon and crew chief Justin Alexander, then he’ll get into the top 20 with no problem.
9. Denny Hamlin (LW: 10): Hamlin’s eighth-place finish is just the third time he’s strung together consecutive top-10 finishes in 2016. But he’s slowly climbing in the points standings. After he was 16th through six races, Hamlin is now ninth in the standings through 13.
10. Chase Elliott (LW: NR): Elliott’s fifth-place finish was his first top five since the sixth race of the season at Martinsville. Yet it didn’t stop his slide in the points standings. Elliott still dropped a spot to eighth in the standings after being as high as second after Martinsville.
11. Matt Kenseth (LW: NR): The defending champion of the Dover spring race wasn’t much of a threat to win over the second half of the race and finished 13th.
12. Clint Bowyer or Joey Logano or Ricky Stenhouse Jr. You pick: They all had problems on Sunday. Logano and Stenhouse hit the wall because of right-front tire issues while Bowyer had a problem with an oil line that sent his car to the garage.
Lucky Dog: Ty Dillon was on his way to a top five before the crash.
The DNF: After hitting Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch crashed again.
Dropped Out: No one.
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