Following each race, I will rank the top 20 drivers based off of their finish over the weekend, their previous ranking and the momentum they’re carrying into the next race. Below the driver’s name, you can see a ↑ or ↓ that indicates whether they’ve climbed the rankings, fallen down the rankings, or ↔ indicating their ranking did not change. If a driver is new to the top 20 ranking, a “↑NPR” (not previously ranked) will be shown next to the “Change:” indicator.
1. Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch finally broke through at Texas. After a string of four straight top-3 finishes, including three second places, Rowdy finally finished in the top spot. He led the most laps on the day, 116, and grabbed one stage win in the process. He sits atop the standings and is locked into the playoffs already as NASCAR travels to Bristol this week. Busch has six wins at Bristol, including one in August when the series last visited Thunder Valley.
2. Kevin Harvick
Harvick experienced a rollercoaster ride of a day at Texas. He started second but jumped out front on the first lap and won the first stage. He encountered several pit road issues that mired him a lap down late in the second stage. In the final stage, he got his lap back and charged to the front and raced Kyle Busch for the lead. He was never able to get by Busch and settled for second place. Heading to Bristol, he has two career wins and is on a streak of five straight top-10s at the track.
3. Ryan Blaney
Blaney battled hard for his fifth-place finish at Texas. Early on he had a strong car, but he sustained damage to the nose that required a lot of tape and time on pit road. He also had pit road issues that set him further back during the race. These issues kept him from earning any stage points throughout the afternoon, but he was able to fight back in the final stage for the top-5 finish. He climbs to third in the points heading to Bristol, where he had a career-best finish of 10th last summer.
4. Joey Logano
Logano put together another solid afternoon and ended the day with a top-10 in sixth. He finished fourth in stage one and third in stage two, accumulating himself 15 stage points. He ran top-10 all afternoon and was rewarded with a top-10 finish that earns him second in the point standings and fourth in my power rankings. Logano has two career wins in Thunder Valley, with the most recent coming back in the summer of 2015. He has an average finish of 7.8 over his last five Bristol races.
5. Martin Truex Jr.
Truex Jr. looked poised to compete with Harvick and Kyle Busch all afternoon until a flat right front tire ended his day very early. With only five laps to go in the first stage the tire blew and he smacked the wall hard to end his afternoon. He finished the day in 37th, earning only one point for his efforts. He’s got some work to do to prepare for Bristol this week. Truex Jr. only has one top-10 finish, an eighth place, over his last 11 races at the track. He has a brutal average finish of 21.54 over those 11 races.
6. Clint Bowyer
Although Bowyer wasn’t able to follow up his win at Martinsville with a Texas win, he still ran a great race. He started the afternoon in third place, behind two of his teammates, Kurt Busch and Harvick. He placed sixth and fifth in the first two stages, earning him 11 stage points. At the end of the day he brought it home ninth, earning his fourth top-10 of the season. Bowyer has 11 career top-10 finishes at Bristol, and he earned his best finish of second in the spring race last year.
7. Brad Keselowski
Keselowski had a good day going until the start of the final stage. He finished eighth and seventh in the first two stages, but got caught up in the big wreck to start the final stage. Denny Hamlin got loose and spun in front of the field and Keselowski couldn’t avoid him. He finished near the bottom of the leaderboard in 33rd along with several other big names. “Kes” has two career victories at Bristol but has severely struggled of late. He has an average finish of 28.5 over his last four races, with a best finish of 18th during that span.
8. Denny Hamlin
Similar to Keselowski, Hamlin had a rough go on Sunday. He placed ninth in the second stage, earning himself two points. He was the cause of the big wreck at the beginning of the final stage. Hamlin got loose and collected several cars in the process. He finished 34th and slips to ninth in the point standings. He has one win at Thunder Valley back in 2012 and has finished third in three of the last five Bristol races.
9. Erik Jones
Jones picked up his best finish of the season with his fourth at Texas. He led 64 laps, the third-most on the afternoon. He looked strong as the race wound down but couldn’t quite hang with Busch and Harvick. He’s now finished in the top-10 in four of the last five races and seems to be gaining momentum. Jones sits 11th in the points heading to Bristol. He almost grabbed his first career win at the track over the summer when he led a race-high 260 laps. In the end he lost to Kyle Busch by just over a second in a great battle. Look for Jones to fight for his first win again this weekend.
10. Kurt Busch
Kurt Busch started on the pole but wasn’t able to lead the opening lap. He finished third and second in the stages on the day, earning himself 17 stage points. With his eighth place at Texas he continued his solid season with his third top-10 of year. He’s got five career wins at Bristol, but hasn’t won since 2006. Although he does have two top-5s in the last four Bristol races.
11. Kyle Larson
Larson fell victim to a cut right front tire on Sunday. The same thing that got Martin Truex Jr. in the first stage, and Ryan Newman late in the race. He finished fifth in stage one, earning six points for himself. He crashed out before the conclusion of the second stage. He’s experienced a very up and down start to the season so far with three top-10s, but also four finishes outside the top-16. Larson has picked up three top-10s over his eight Bristol starts with an average finish of 18.00.
12. Aric Almirola
Almirola had a great run going at Texas until he was collected in the big crash at the start of the final stage. He finished 10th in the second stage and was making headway towards the front when he got caught up in the crash. He finished 32nd, giving him his first finish outside of the top-14 this season, which is an incredible stat. Almirola has a rough track record at Bristol. He has an average finish of 24.59 with only two top-10s over his 17 starts.
13. Chase Elliott
Elliott had an interesting day at Texas. He placed ninth and sixth in the stages and made his way into the top-3 late in the race. Elliott then got trapped a lap down during a green flag pit cycle that mired him back a bit. He ended the race the first car one lap down in the 11th position. Had he not got stuck down a lap he might have moved into the top-10 and battle for a top-5 finish. Chase has two top-10s and an average finish of 11.00 over his four career starts in Thunder Valley.
14. Alex Bowman
Bowman had a rough day from the drop of the green flag. On the second lap Darrell Wallace Jr. took the air off Bowman’s car and turned him around. Bowman sustained damage from Austin Dillon and Paul Menard making contact with his car as he spun. He was able to continue the race but was in and out of the garage and the pits making repairs throughout the day. He finished 28th, 40 laps down to the leader. Bowman has four career races at Bristol, with three finishes of 32nd and one 20th place. Look for him to try and improve on his average finish of 29.00 in Thunder Valley.
15. Austin Dillon
Dillon got caught up in the lap two crash but avoided significant damage for the most part. He was apart of the big wreck at the start of the final stage as well, but again was able to continue on. He finished the day 26th place and 30 laps down. Dillon has two top-10s at Bristol and an average finish of 18.00. He was wrecked out of the Bristol summer race halfway through and finished 39th. He could use a solid run in order to build some momentum.
16. William Byron
Byron earned his best finish in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series (NMECS) on Sunday with his 10th place finish at Texas. It was his first career top-10 in the series and surely not his last. The rookie has looked better each week and the hard work is starting to pay off. He’s climbed up to 18th in the points and 16th in my power rankings. In his two Xfinity races at Bristol last season he finished 12th and 22nd. He’ll look to improve on his season average finish of 17.90 in Thunder Valley.
17. Paul Menard
Menard was another driver caught up in the lap two crash. He got rear-ended by Daniel Suarez while trying to avoid the spinning car of Alex Bowman. He finished 30th, 119 laps down to Kyle Busch. Heading to Bristol, Menard has six top-10s across his 21 starts at the track. He’s slipped to 16th in the standings, right on the edge of the playoff cut line. He currently owns the longest active winless streak at 238 races and would love to break that this season.
18. Ryan Newman
Newman was another driver who fell victim to a flat right front. His blew with 31 laps to go and he smacked the wall hard to bring out the caution. He had been running top-13 all afternoon and was looking to finish there but the crash landed him a 27th place finish. He finds himself 17th in the points heading to Bristol. Newman has 17 top-10 finishes over his 31 starts in Thunder Valley, and four of them have come over the last six races.
19. Jimmie Johnson
Johnson failed to earn any stage points throughout the afternoon at Texas and couldn’t avoid the wreck at the start of the final stage. He finished the race 35th, good for only two points in the standings. Johnson had a decent car throughout the day but a loose wheel set him behind the eight ball early. He falls to 21st in the standings with this tough race. He has two wins at Bristol and a decent average finish of 13.66 over his 32 starts. His last Bristol win came at the April race last season.
20. AJ Allmendinger
“Dinger” followed up his stellar run at Martinsville with a real dud at Texas. He finished 24th, even with some regular top-10 drivers like Truex Jr., Larson, Johnson, Hamlin and Keselowski wrecked out of the race. Allmendinger has earned only one top-10 over his 19 career races at Bristol. He’ll need to find much more speed this weekend if he wants to be competitive in Thunder Valley. He currently sits 20th in the standings, outside the playoff picture seven races into the season.
Falling out of the rankings: —
“From Our Haus to Yours”