This is the first installment in what will become a weekly power ranking of the top-15 NASCAR drivers. An updated power ranking will be posted every Tuesday following a Cup Series race.
The first edition of The Game Haus NASCAR power rankings comes after the 2020 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway where Brad Keselowski was able to capture the checkers. The race did not feature many on-track lead changes as clean air allowed the leader to pull away from the pack after most restarts.
With three laps to go, it looked like Chase Elliott would cruise his way into victory lane. Unfortunately, a late-race caution forced the #9 team to make a decision whether they would come down pit road. Crew Chief, Alan Gustafson, made the decision to bring Elliott down pit road which allowed most of the lead lap cars to remain on track to compete for the win.
Brad Keselowski would restart on the inside of the front row where he would take off for the win.
Jimmie Johnson finished the race second but a violation of the NASCAR rulebook was found after the race concluded that relegated him to 40th place.
1. Brad Keselowski
Call it recency bias, but Keselowski currently sits at fifth in the Cup Series standings with seven playoff points to his name. Keselowski surely caught a break when a late-race caution allowed him to hold off Johnson in overtime. When the caution came out with only a few laps to go, the call was simple: whatever Chase Elliott does, do the opposite. This strategy ended up working as Keselowski was able to hold off Jimmie Johnson and Elliott to bring home his first Coca-Cola 600 victory.
— Team Penske (@Team_Penske) May 25, 2020
2. Chase Elliott
Chase Elliott shouldn’t be hitting up the casino any time soon because he has proven himself to be an unlucky man the past two races. Elliott was spun with only a few laps to go during the second race at Darlington. On fresh ties, Elliott certainly had a good chance to get around Denny Hamlin and take the checkers. His bad luck continued on Sunday when his teammate spun with only a few laps to go. At this point, Elliott was essentially a sitting duck as his fellow competitors would do whatever he didn’t in regards to pit road. Reluctantly, they chose to hit pit road which forced him to restart deeper in the field. He managed to charge hard through the field to capture an impressive second place finish, but not the win.
3. Kevin Harvick
Although he struggled much of the race on Sunday, Harvick was able to salvage a fifth-place finish. This is impressive given that Harvick only finished in the top ten in the second stage where he grabbed one point by finishing in the tenth position. Since returning from hiatus, Harvick has finished in the top five of all three races. Despite a less-than-stellar run in the first race at Charlotte, don’t be surprised to see the #4 up there contending for a win on Wednesday night.
4. Joey Logano
Despite a 13th place finish on the night, Logano was a contender for most of the race. He finished in the top ten in all three stages while also taking home the stage 3 win. With that win, he adds another playoff point making his total 11 on the season. Logano managed to grab two wins before NASCAR was forced into a hiatus due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Look for the #22 to be fast again as the Cup Series returns to Charlotte on Wednesday.
5. Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin’s fight for a win was over before it even started. During the pace laps before the drop of the green flag, Hamlin’s car dropped a tungsten weight on the track from the undercarriage of his car. This is a serious violation under the NASCAR rules as it poses a serious safety hazard for the other drivers on track. Before the race began, Hamlin was ordered by NASCAR to return to pit road so that another weight could be added to the vehicle. After his team finished working on the car, Hamlin was already eight laps down and out of contention for the race win. Making matters worse, NASCAR announced that Hamlin’s crew chief, car chief and chief engineer would all be suspended for the next four races due to the incident. This is certainly not how Hamlin would have wanted to follow up on his win at Darlington.
NEWS: NASCAR suspends crew members for No. 11 Cup Series team for four races.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) May 25, 2020
6. Martin Truex Jr.
Although Truex has not managed to grab a win yet this season, he currently sits at sixth in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings. If it weren’t for two DNFs on the season, Truex would certainly find himself closer to the top of the standings. The 19-car was the picture of consistency at Charlotte as he finished in the top ten in all three stages while finishing in sixth place. Truex managed the most points in the first Charlotte race with 56.
7. Alex Bowman
Alex Bowman certainly showed well at the Coca Cola 600 and currently sits at third in the Cup Series standings. After finishing in the lead for the first two stages, Bowman brought his Chevy home in a disappointing 19th after his car appeared so dominant in the early going. With a win already under his belt, Bowman is locked into the playoffs this season. He has nothing to gain from hunting for points at the end of races so expect the #88 team to be aggressive as they contend for wins the remainder of the season. Watch for Greg Ives to make a risky move late to put Bowman in victory lane in the near future.
8. Kyle Busch
After the controversy of the previous week, Kyle Busch looked to get back on track at Charlotte. He did just that with a top-five finish and earned stage points in all three stages. Kyle Busch managed to run his Toyota Camry into fourth place at the conclusion of the grueling 600-mile race. This is Busch’s second top-five in a row. Look for the Candy Man to contend for the win on Wednesday.
9. Ryan Blaney
Despite a poor qualifying effort out of the #12 team at Charlotte, Blaney showed that he had a strong car all afternoon. He was able to slowly race his way into the top 10 where he would grab stage points in both the second and third stages. He even had a chance at the win but settled for third behind Keselowski and Elliott. Blaney currently sits at seventh in the Cup Series standings.
10. Erik Jones
Erik Jones has finally earned his way into the top 16 in points after two strong races at Darlington. Although he wasn’t contending for a top-five at Charlotte, Jones was consistent all evening, gathering stage points in the second and third stages. He managed to bring the #20 home in a respectable 11th place. Hopefully he can carry his momentum from Darlington into the next few races.
11. Kurt Busch
After earning the pole for Sunday night’s event, Kurt Busch was underwhelming for most of the race. Despite leading many of the early laps, he began to fall after losing the benefit of clean air. Busch has been fairly consistent this season with four top-10s to his name. Currently sitting at 12th in the Cup Series standings, Busch will need to put together better races to contend for a championship.
12. Aric Almirola
Aric Almirola posted a disappointing run at Charlotte on Sunday where he did not place in the top 10 at the end of any of the three stages. Despite being one of only 19 cars finishing on the lead lap, Almirola was not a factor at any point. He ended the day with a disappointing 15th place and adds 22 points to his total for the season. Almirola has yet to post a top-five this season but still remains in the top 10 in points. Look for him to try and turn things around in these next few races.
13. Jimmie Johnson
With the way Jimmie has been running lately, some may argue that Johnson has earned a spot higher in the power rankings. However, mistakes continue to plague the #48 and have led him to fall to 15th in the Cup standings. At the conclusion of the race, it seemed Johnson had parked his #48 Chevy in second place on the night. A post-race inspection failure would force him to lose all points for the race, finishing last in the 40 car field. He also surrendered the stage points he earned in the second and third stages. Johnson is a strong bet for Wednesday’s race, but he will have to climb his way from dead last to park it in victory lane.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) May 25, 2020
14. Matt DiBenedetto
In his first year in the #21 Wood Brothers Ford, Matty D has proven that he will contend for wins later in the season. Although he wasn’t all that strong at Charlotte, he managed to finish on the lead lap in 17th place. Some gutsy pit calls allowed DiBenedetto to get to the front, but he quickly fell without the benefit of clean air. Look for DiBenedetto to be a strong contender this weekend at Bristol where he finished in second his last time at the track.
15. Tyler Reddick
Despite his rookie status, Tyler Reddick has been impressive since taking over the Richard Childress #8 car from Daniel Hemric this season. Hemric was underwhelming in the ride in his only season behind the wheel, but Reddick has proven he has potential. At Charlotte, Reddick ran strong much of the way and was able to add a top ten by finishing in eighth place, the best among rookie of the year contenders. Sitting just inside the top 16 in points, Reddick will look to solidify his points position with a strong race Wednesday
Featured Image courtesy of NASCAR Media
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