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: 2): The sequel wasn’t as good as the original for Truex at Charlotte. Though in fairness, it was like the Godfather II compared to the original. The bar for success was absurdly high.
A year after leading 392 of 400 laps to win his first Coca-Cola 600, Truex led 233 laps. Though he finished third after he was passed by Kyle Busch on the final lap.
The good news is that coupled with Kyle Larson’s woes, the finish was good enough for Truex to inherit the regular-season points lead for the first time in his career. He’s up four points on Larson and has only finished outside 16th once so far in 12 races.
2. Kyle Busch: (LW 8): Busch’s demeanor in his post-race press conference has been well-documented and criticized. Brad Keselowski had this to say, which was followed up by this response by a Toyota executive.
Maybe I should keep my mouth shut. But I was taught to hate losing by working harder next time, not by being disrespectful to others.
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) May 29, 2017
— Andy Graves (@AndyJGraves) May 30, 2017
Yeah, Keselowski could have directly tagged Busch in his tweet instead of being passive-aggressive. But racing fans knew who he was talking about and there’s merit to his point.
Professionally, Busch’s conduct is slightly annoying though expected. After he wins, Busch can be a candid and thoughtful interview. If you want to know the details about something, Busch is generally happy to provide when he’s in a good mood.
When he’s not, well, things like what you saw Sunday night/Monday morning happen. Most of us will never understand the competitiveness that it takes to become a champion in a major sport. But while we grapple to figure out the fire that burns in a competitor after a close loss, it’s also OK to expect the competitor to understand that he’s got a job and income that 99.99 percent of the world can only dream of having and at least understand the real-life context of the disappointment.
3. Kevin Harvick (LW: 4): Harvick finished eighth after starting on the pole. He was competitive at the beginning of the race, but led for the final time on lap 106. The rest of the way he had a top-10 car, but one that wasn’t capable of challenging for the lead.
Most hilariously, he was the victim of Fox’s bad statistics during the 100-minute rain delay that halted the race. Fox attempted to show the top 20 in the points standings at the time of the delay and ended up forgetting Harvick, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski. Fox’s NASCAR coverage is struggling mightily this year in the stats department.
4. Brad Keselowski (LW: 1): Keselowski drops three spots after he ran into the back of Chase Elliott 21 laps into the race. The wreck wasn’t Keselowski’s fault, of course. Elliott’s engine blew up — literally — after hitting debris from Jeffrey Earnhardt’s car which had something explode inside of it and litter the exit of turn 4 with debris.
“Somebody broke in front of him and then he ran over what they broke and then he broke, so there were two cars broke in front of me and just oil everywhere,” Keselowski said. “You couldn’t stop and turn. You couldn’t do anything.”
5. Kyle Larson (LW: 3): Larson lost the points lead because he hit the wall during Sunday’s race and ended up 33rd after a tire exploded. It’s the first time all season he hasn’t finished on the lead lap. He’s now four points behind Truex.
“I just hate it that I made a mistake there in Turn 3 and got in the wall,” Larson said. “I was not even running hard up there. I just got loose and then I hit it and it ruined our day”
He should be pretty good Sunday at Dover. He finished second to Matt Kenseth a year ago at the concrete oval.
6. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 7): Here’s another guy who’s pretty good at Dover. Johnson was in position for his third win of the season with two laps to go but run out of gas, handing the lead over to Austin Dillon.
It was a good gamble by Johnson. A win would make him the winningest driver in the Cup Series this season and add five points to his tally at the start of the playoffs. Had he pitted, he probably would have finished between 5th and 10th. He ultimately finished 17th. That’s not a huge risk.
7. Jamie McMurray (LW: 6): McMurray had to work his way through the field a couple of times during Sunday’s race. After getting up front the first time McMurray had to make an unscheduled pit stop for a flat tire. He ended up passing more cars and finished 12th.
8. Austin Dillon (LW: NR): Sunday’s winner is 21st in the points standings — it’s not that often you see a winner from outside the top 20 in the standings. He’s also the fourth driver since 2000 to get his first Cup Series win in the 600 joining Matt Kenseth, Casey Mears and David Reutimann. Dillon’s hoping that his career is much more like Kenseth’s than it is like Mears’ or Reutimann’s. Though Reutimann won a race the following season.
9. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (LW: 5): Stenhouse’s consistency continues. He was an unspectacular 15th Sunday but he’s 13th in the points standings, ahead of race-winners Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and Dillon and also ahead of Matt Kenseth and teammate Trevor Bayne.
10. Denny Hamlin (LW: NR): Hamlin is two spots ahead of Stenhouse in 11th. Crazily, he ranks sixth among drivers who haven’t gotten wins in the first 12 races of the season. Nine drivers have already won, so if the pace keeps up — it probably won’t — and Hamlin stays winless, he’s on the edge of making the playoffs.
We’ll be very surprised if he misses out.
11. Clint Bowyer (LW: 9): Bowyer is 11 spots ahead of Hamlin. He continues to be haunted by his lack of stage points. After finishing eighth in the second stage Sunday night he has 31 stage points — 15 less than Erik Jones, a driver who is nine spots behind Bowyer in the standings.
12. Joey Logano (LW: 10): Logano just didn’t have much speed all weekend. He finished 21st and was passed by Bowyer in the standings.
Lucky Dog: Matt Kenseth’s fourth-place finish is just his third top-10 finish of the season.
The DNF: Chase Elliott, for obvious reasons.
Dropped Out: Ryan Blaney, Elliott
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