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. Kyle Busch (LW: 3): Every driver in last week’s top six was involved in a crash during Saturday night’s race at Daytona. Since Busch finished 20th — and was the only driver in the top six to finish in the top 20 — he gets to move to the top spot by default.
If you have any better ideas as to who to put here, feel free to offer them up. But given the way the race unfolded, Busch became our default choice. Busch spun on lap 72, but was able to continue with a damaged car and got his lap back twice.
2. Kyle Larson (LW: 2): It’s a minor miracle that Larson’s car didn’t take off any more than it did when he got airborne with less than 10 laps to go. It appears the hood flaps on his car played a role in keeping the car from lifting up higher, as did the fact that a car didn’t go under Larson’s and catapult him into the air either.
Larson finished 29th, and kept his points lead over Martin Truex Jr.
3. Kevin Harvick (LW: 1): Harvick’s flat tire caused a big crash on lap 107. He lost a tire coming off turn 2 and the accident collected cars driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and others.
“It just blew out right in the middle of the corner,” Harvick said. “I hate to wreck half the field. That’s a part of what we do.”
4. Chase Elliott (LW: 5): Maybe we should put Elliott higher given he somehow finished the race after being in two incidents.
He was involved in a lap 99 crash and went skidding through the backstretch infield. Somewhat incredibly, the splitter wasn’t ripped off the front of his car after digging through the soggy turf.
And then on the overtime finish, Elliott went skidding again as the field headed to turn 1. A caution wasn’t called for that incident — he kept going — and Elliott ended up 22nd, one lap down.
5. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 4): Truex was caught up in a crash that started on lap 72 when Kyle Busch spun.
“I just tried to slow down, but you know you get hit from behind, you hit the guy in front of you – there’s nothing you can do,” Truex said. “When you’re going 190 something and everybody stops in front of you, it’s kind of hard to do anything.”
Because of Larson’s troubles, Truex is down just 18 points in the standings. The battle between the two for the top spot before the end of the regular season should be a riveting one. And worth five playoff points to the winner.
6. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 7): Johnson took the lead on lap 103 and it was easy to wonder if it was going to be a race where he swoops in and takes a win after not leading through the first half of the race.
That didn’t happen. Johnson finished 12th and never led again after leading from laps 103-106.
7. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (LW: NR): Stenhouse’s win at Daytona means it’s the third-straight year that a driver has won the May Talladega race and the July Daytona race. Dale Earnhardt Jr. did it in 2015 while Brad Keselowski did it last year.
Neither driver won the fall Talladega race that season, but Junior came damn close in 2015 in the chaos that was the Talladega finish that season. Stenhouse is going to be the favorite at Talladega, whether he’s still in the playoffs or not.
“You know, not waiting another year and getting [a second career win] in the same year is really important for us,” Stenhouse said. “I think it’s something that after you win the first one, it was awesome for a week, but then somebody else wins the next week, so it makes you want to continue to win and get back up here in the media center, get back in victory lane, and get everybody talking about your team.”
8. Brad Keselowski (LW: 6): Keselowski somehow spun 3.5 times and didn’t hit anything or anyone while he was involved in the wreck with Harvick, Junior and others.
But Keselowski went spinning after contact in the crash. And that contact caused some damage to the rear axle of the car. Keselowski tried to continue on but ended up parking the car after causing a caution of his own (because of the damage) a handful of laps later.
9. Clint Bowyer (LW: 11): Daytona was Bowyer’s second-straight second-place finish. While that’s clearly a sign of optimism for the team, Bowyer still doesn’t have much wiggle room in terms of making the playoffs on points. Joey Logano, the first driver out of the playoffs as of now, is just 27 points behind Bowyer. And if Matt Kenseth or Logano win before Bowyer does, that cut line to get into the playoffs gets perilously closer.
10. Jamie McMurray (LW: 8): McMurray’s was involved in the lap 72 crash but still soldiered on.
“So we had probably the best plate car tonight that we have had in four or five years,” McMurray said after the race. “We got caught up in that wreck and obviously it killed a lot of speed in the car.”
But McMurray still had some pretty good speed even with a damaged car. While he ultimately finished 14th, he was near the front of the field with a beat up machine in the latter stages of the race.
11. Ryan Blaney (LW: 9): Blaney was involved in the accident that included Larson’s car getting some air. He finished 26th.
12. Denny Hamlin (LW: NR): Hamlin gets the tossup for the final spot in Power Rankings despite finishing 24th. He’s still ninth in the points standings and 56 points ahead of the cut line to make the playoffs.
Lucky Dog: Paul Menard finished third and Michael McDowell finished fourth.
The DNF: Pick a driver, any driver. We’ll go with Cole Whitt and Ryan Sieg, who each had to quit the race less than 10 laps in because of engine problems.