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 email@example.com and we’ll try to have some fun.
1. Brad Keselowski (LW: 1): Keselowski had the best car throughout the final 60 percent of Sunday’s race. He just didn’t have the right amount of luck. As his teammate was able to sprint away to the lead on the final restart, Keselowski got bottled up behind traffic.
Once Keselowski was clear of everyone else, he ran down Logano but ran out of time before getting to his bumper. It wasn’t the first time this season he wondered if a longer race could have meant a win.
“By the time I cleared those guys, even though we were a little bit faster than Joey, he already had a straightaway on us, and I felt like if I had five or ten more laps, I could have gotten to him and passed him, but there was only a handful of laps left, so that was the way it went,” Keselowski said. “That’s part of how this racing deal works, and the fastest car doesn’t always win, and it takes some weeks where you’re the fastest and you have to try to make the most of it and try and do all you can. I feel as a team we did that today.”
2. Joey Logano (LW: 7): Had Ryan Blaney not hit the wall to cause the final caution of Sunday’s race there’s no telling where Logano and Keselowski would have ended up. They stayed out on what turned out to be the next-to-last caution while the rest of the field hit pit road. The older tires on their cars likely would have given the win to someone else.
Logano has now won 16 races since joining Team Penske before the 2013 season. That’s second only to Jimmie Johnson, who has 22 wins and two titles in that time frame.
3. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 1): Hey, there’s Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time champion drops two spots in our Power Rankings this week after his 11th-place finish. Given the damage he sustained in the collision with Dale Earnhardt Jr., 11th is a pretty good finish all things considered.
4. Kyle Larson (LW: 2): Larson was one of the cars that stayed out on the final caution flag of the race. And he was the driver Logano passed for the lead after the restart. But once Logano got past Larson, the No. 42 faded to the back. Larson ended up 14th.
5. Kevin Harvick (LW: 5): Harvick stays in fifth this week after finishing … wait for it … wait for it … fifth. To keep the fifth-place theme going, it was his third-straight fifth-place finish at Richmond and his fourth in six races. And it’s also his third-straight top-five of the season after missing out in the first five races of the year.
6. Clint Bowyer (LW: 4): Bowyer finished 15th after he was one of the drivers tagged for violating NASCAR’s commitment line rules. But another pit entry moment was a bit more curious than Bowyer’s penalty. What the heck happened here? Fox’s cameras just caught the aftermath, not what precipitated the incident.
7. Chase Elliott (LW: 6): Elliott had contact with Matt Kenseth that shoved Elliott’s car into the wall. That was the better of the two outcomes initially, as Kenseth ended up with a flat tire. But he came back and finished 23rd, one spot ahead of Elliott.
8. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (LW: 10): Stenhouse finished fourth despite staying out on that final caution flag. He was the rare driver who was able to be competitive with older tires over the race’s final laps. Stenhouse has four top-10 finishes in 2017. With three more he’ll set a career-high.
9. Jamie McMurray (LW: 9): McMurray finished sixth, the highest-finishing Chevrolet driver in the field. It was McMurray’s fifth top-10 of the season and he has more top 10s already this season than he had in either 2011 or 2012.
10. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 8): Truex got a hard-luck penalty when he had to drive to the outside of a safety truck parked in turns 3 and 4 before trying to turn down onto pit road. He clipped the commitment box and was forced to restart at the rear of the field. And while the circumstances that led to Truex’s penalty were certainly avoidable, so was the penalty. The two drivers behind him who had to make the same maneuver made it to pit road safely inside the box.
Truex ended up 10th.
11. Denny Hamlin (LW: NR): Hamlin got his first top-five finish of the season by finishing third on Sunday. Crazily enough, it’s not the latest Hamlin has gotten his first top-five of the season. In 2011, it took him until the 11th race of the year. Sunday’s race was the ninth of the season.
But perhaps 2011 isn’t the greatest comp if you’re a Hamlin fan. He had just one win and finished ninth in the standings.
12. Trevor Bayne (LW: 11): Like his teammate, Bayne’s 2017 is much better than his previous Roush career so far. Bayne finished 13th on Sunday and is 14th in the standings. Or, if you prefer, 24 points ahead of Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch.
Lucky Dog: Aric Almirola finished ninth. It’s his first top 10 at a non-restrictor plate track since he finished 10th at Phoenix in the fall of 2015.
The DNF: Erik Jones was a trendy pick to do well. He crashed because of a flat tire less than five laps into the race.
Dropped Out: Kyle Busch
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