NASCAR power rankings: Post Auto Club
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 an ↑ 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. Martin Truex Jr.
Truex qualified on the pole, won both stages, led the most laps, and won the race. With driving for the cycle he picked up seven playoff points and takes over the point standing lead as well as my power rankings. He returned to his dominating form that we saw all of last season. He has four top-5s in five races this season, and four straight. He’s red-hot heading into Martinsville, where he finished second to Kyle Busch in the fall playoff race.
2. Kyle Busch
Another solid race for Busch, and another “disappointing” top-3 finish. He’s finished second, second, and third over his last three races and he’s not happy about it. He’s had the speed to win but down the stretch things just haven’t gone his way. Busch is STELLAR when it comes to racing at Martinsville. He’s the defending winner from the October race and has an average finish of 2.8 over the last five races at the Paperclip, including two wins.
3. Kevin Harvick
Harvick’s five races this season have absolutely been boom or bust. He opened the season with a 31st place finish at Daytona, then rattled off three straight wins, and then a 35th last week at Auto Club. He fell to eighth in the point standings after wrecking early at Auto Club and riding around in the back all day with a damaged race car. Harvick has one win at Martinsville back in 2011, but three finishes of 17th or worse over his last four races there.
4. Joey Logano
Logano finished Auto Club with a fifth place finish, his second top-5 of the season. He led nine laps and accumulated 13 stage points throughout the race. Logano has an incredible average starting position of 2.5 over the last 10 Martinsville races, including four poles. But, he’s had trouble finishing up front during those races. His average finish over those same 10 races is a paltry 13.4 with zero wins.
5. Kyle Larson
Larson finished in the runner-up position after a very eventful day at Auto Club. He was involved in and incident with Kevin Harvick early in stage one that put Harvick several laps down. Harvick took the blame for the incident, and Larson skated by with next to no damage. He found himself as far back as 18th at one point, but still finished sixth and eighth in the stages and second at the end of the race. Larson could use some improvement at Martinsville; he has an average finish of 23.63 over his eight races there, with only one top-10, a third place finish back in April 2016.
6. Denny Hamlin
Hamlin ran a solid race inside the top-10 for the majority of the afternoon. He was able to secure a sixth place finish at the end of the day. He’s totaled three top-5s already this season, second best in the series, and four top-10s which is tied for the lead in the sport. Hamlin had a very eventful race last time at Martinsville as he wrecked Chase Elliott with under three to go. He should be a favorite at the track as he has five wins, 12 top-5s, and 18 top-10s in 24 career races at the Paperclip.
7. Brad Keselowski
Keselowski was the best finishing Penske driver at Auto Club, but his two teammates were close behind him in fifth and eighth place. For the second time this season all three Penske drivers finished in the top-10. He has five top-5s over the last six Martinsville races, and he is the defending winner of the spring race at the track. Watch for ‘Kes’ to battle for his first win of the season this weekend.
8. Ryan Blaney
Blaney had a rollercoaster ride of a day at Auto Club. He ran around 10th early on but got loose and tagged the wall and fell back a bit. Later in the race he found some extra speed in the car through adjustments and was able to get back inside the top-10 for a great eighth place finish. He sits pretty at fifth in the point standings after five races this season. He doesn’t have great numbers at Martinsville in his young career, but he did score his best finish at the track with an eighth place finish in the playoff race in the fall.
9. Clint Bowyer
Clint Bowyer continues to have a great start to the season. He finished 11th at Auto Club and finds himself ninth in the standings, the second highest Stewart Haas Racing (SHR) driver. Bowyer hasn’t won a race since 2012 but has shown the potential to break that winless-streak this season. He’s really clicking with teammate Kevin Harvick and is consistently running in the top-10. In his two races driving for SHR at Martinsville, he has stellar finishes of seventh and third.
10. Aric Almirola
Similar to all his three teammates, Almirola is in the midst of a hot start to the season. He finished 12th, right behind teammate Clint Bowyer. In his first year with SHR he finds himself 10th in the standings, just seven points behind Bowyer. His only win came back in 2014, but he’s experiencing his best season of his career so far. He only has three top-10s from his 18 visits at the track in his career, but with his SHR equipment he’s bound to run well.
11. Erik Jones
Jones finished seventh at Auto Club, marking his fourth consecutive finish in the top-11. He’s had all solid runs this season outside of his wreck at Daytona where he was running up front. He’s looked comfortable and composed in his first season with Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) and his second overall season. His numbers at Martinsville could use some work, as he has a 12th and a 26th place finish in his only two races. Expect him to improve on those numbers this weekend as he’s been strong all season thus far.
12. Kurt Busch
Busch is the fourth ranked SHR car in these power rankings and also in NASCAR’s point standings. He’s run fairly strong each week but has two DNFs in five races this season. He finished 14th at Auto Club and was able to pick up four stage points after finishing seventh in the first stage. He has two previous wins at Martinsville but none since 2014. Since his 2014 win, he has a rough average finish of 25.42.
13. Austin Dillon
Dillon grabbed his best finish last weekend since his win at Daytona. He finished 10th at Auto Club after starting in the fifth position. He sits 12th in the point standings heading into Martinsville Speedway this weekend. Dillon has two top-5s at the Paperclip across his eight starts at the track but has never started better than 19th. His two top-5s came from the last two spring races at the track; this weekend he’ll look to grab his third straight top-5 at the spring event.
14. Alex Bowman
Bowman has matched his season-best finish last week at Auto Club. He finished 13th at Phoenix and 13th again at Auto Club. He’s the highest Hendrick driver in the point standings so far this season, which is very unexpected considering he’s teammates with 7-time champion Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott.
15. Chase Elliott
Elliott has experienced an unexpected slow start to the 2018 season. He underwhelmed and finished 16th at Auto Club. Heading into the weekend he was expected to be strong and contend for a win after he had finished sixth and 10th in this first two trips to the track. But, he never showed the speed over the weekend to do it. He has an average finish of 20.00 over his five Martinsville races, with a third and 27th place finish over his last two. The 27th should come with a bit of an asterisk because he was leading with under three to go until Denny Hamlin wrecked him, resulting in the bad finish. He should contend for a top-5, if not a win, this weekend.
16. Jimmie Johnson
Johnson earned his best finish of the season at Auto Club when he brought it home in ninth. The last two weeks he’s been trending in the right direction after a very slow start to the season. He’s climbed to 18th in the point standings and is in a great position for another good finish heading into Martinsville. He has nine wins and 20 top-5s at the Paperclip across his 32 starts at the track.
17. Paul Menard
Menard has struggled over the last two weeks, finishing 36th at Phoenix after a crash and 19th at Auto Club. He didn’t wreck at Auto Club but never had to speed to run near the top-10. Overall, he’s been slowly slipping in the point standings and the power rankings ever since his sixth place finish at Daytona to open the season. He only owns one top-10 in his 21 starts at Martinsville.
18. Ryan Newman
Newman started ninth, but finished 21st at Auto Club. Although he started near the front, he wasn’t able to run in the top-10. Once the green flag dropped he was quickly passed by faster cars that were forced to start at the rear due to failing pre-qualifying inspection. After five races he still sits in a respectable 14th position in the points heading to Martinsville. He has one win at the Paperclip back in 2012, but only three top-10s in the 11 races since his victory.
19. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Stenhouse Jr. ran around the high-teens and low-twenties at Auto Club and brought it home 18th. He’s known for being a great restrictor plate driver, but his short-track skills are very underrated. He’s finished 10th in the last two Martinsville races and could be a threat for another top-10 this weekend. He sits 17th in the point standings and has an average finish of 20.00 over the first five races of this season. He could use a good finish at Martinsville to break the slump.
20. William Byron
The rookie cracks my top-20 rankings for the first time this season. He’s finished 12th and 15th over the last two races and has run in the top-10 for a bit in both. He’s also led 16 laps over the last two races, his first laps led in NASCAR’s top series. Plus, he finished 10th in stage two of last Sunday’s race to earn his first stage points of the season. Byron will be an interesting driver to watch at Martinsville this weekend as he’ll be making his first career start at the Paperclip.
Falling out of the rankings: Daniel Suarez (previously 18th)
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