In a season that has seen an uptick in excitement at each event, the expectations for the second restrictor plate race of the season, and first at Talladega Superspeedway, were high. A packed crowd in Alabama, perhaps the track’s most enthusiastic in years drove up the energy, upping the push for a record-setting day on the 2.66-mile superspeedway.
True to form, NASCAR didn’t disappoint. Three-, four- and even five-wide racing was a constant from the drop of the green flag, the winner in doubt until a caution on the white-flag lap froze the field. With a strong car, and a little bit of luck, Denny Hamlin emerged victorious for his first points-paying win of the season. More importantly, he could now potentially become the first driver to earn a Chase berth after sitting out a race (California).
A number of the Power Ranking leaders were not as lucky as Hamlin, though. Three of the top 5 in Power Ranking points from Richmond (Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth) were all involved in accidents while Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished an uncharacteristic 26th after fading to the rear late, citing the desire to keep away from any late-race shenanigans. Of the top 5 in Power Ranking points, Kyle Busch earned the best finish (12th).
Probably the biggest story that came out of Talladega was a second incident involving Brad Keselowski. Although he had a strong car and was racing with the top 10, Keselowski was six laps down, running damaged when he lost control of his car, resulting in a 14-car accident. A number of drivers involved had harsh words for Keselowski, raising the question as to whether drivers who are multiple laps down should be racing at the front of the pack.
As the number of Christmas cards Keselowski will receive this year drops, see if your favorite driver rose in this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings. Next up is the Saturday night debut of the repaved Kansas Speedway.
How The Rankings Are Calculated: Frontstretch does our power rankings similar to how the Associated Press does them for basketball or football. Our expert stable of NASCAR writers, both on staff and from other major publications will vote for the Top 20 on a 20-19-18-17… 3-2-1 basis, giving 20 points to their first-place driver, 19 for second, and so on. In the end, Mike Mehedin calculates the points, adds some funny one-liners, and… here you go!
FRONTSTRETCH TOP 15 POWER RANKINGS: May 7th
Driver (First Place Votes)
|1||Jeff Gordon (6)||210||1|
|In 2007, the Chase prevented what would have been a walk-away championship season for Jeff Gordon. In 2014, it might do just the same again. Vito Pugliese, Frontstretch.com|
|2||Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (4)||186||4|
|NASCAR should have inspired him to race harder by penalizing for violation of the 100% effort rule. Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com|
|3||Joey Logano||185||T – 2|
|I scoff at you, Talladega results. Logano was strong before his wreck, and he’s been the most dangerous (in a good way) driver all year. Jim Noble, ESPN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio/PRN|
|Welcome to Kansas, the state where no matter what happens, Kyle Busch will leave here mad. Tom Bowles, Frontstretch.com|
|5||Matt Kenseth (1)||170||T – 2|
|You know Kenseth was loving the fact that Brad Keselowski was the center of attention and he could let him hear about it.Kelly Crandall, PopularSpeed.com|
|As long as Keelan doesn’t stink up his car at Miami, he is a championship contender. Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com|
|7||Carl Edwards||137||T – 7|
|Another late crash at Talladega for Edwards. Should be considered as a favorite at Kansas but the questions are starting to surface where he will land in 2015. Justin Tucker, Frontstretch.com|
|He’s a very underrated plate racer, but he’s one you never know if he’s going to make the move to win or make the move that starts the big wreck. Kelly Crandall, PopularSpeed.com|
|9||Brad Keselowski||109||T – 7|
|Keselowski managed to nearly crash Patrick and then later crashed Kenseth, Gordon and more leaders. Having a win under your belt these NASCAR days might cause action that prevents others from winning. Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com|
|T – 10||Jimmie Johnson||107||10|
|It’s been a “struggle” so far in 2014 for the six-time Champion. However, he has almost nothing to worry about. Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com|
|T – 10||Brian Vickers||107||11|
|Perhaps the best untold story thus far in 2014. Keeping MWR afloat. Jim Noble, ESPN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio/PRN|
|Finally, a points-paying win on a plate track. Was Talladega the catalyst to turn Hamlin’s 2014 around? Time will tell. Justin Tucker, Frontstretch.com|
|The youngster acquitted himself on this plate track. He stayed patient and also stayed out of trouble. Jeff Wolfe, Frontstretch.com|
|The bean-mobile is cooking up some good runs. Duke the dog is going to be happy with The ‘Dinger. Those beans are going to look great being dumped on his head like Gatorade in Victory Lane. Hank Ballard, Twitter contest winner|
|Loves restrictor plate races about as much as a root canal. No, actually I think he likes the root canal a little more. Tom Bowles, Frontstretch.com|
|Dropped Out: None.|
|Others Receiving Votes: Clint Bowyer (51), Paul Menard (50), Austin Dillon (34), Kasey Kahne (22), Marcos Ambrose (21), Kurt Busch (20), Aric Almirola (17), Casey Mears (8), Landon Cassill (8), Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (7), Tony Stewart (5), Martin Truex, Jr. (4), Jamie McMurray (2), Michael Annett (1).|
|Who Voted: Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com; Hank Ballard, Twitter Contest Winner; Tom Bowles, Frontstretch.com; Kelly Crandall, PopularSpeed.com;Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com; Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com;Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com; Jim Noble, ESPN/Sirius XM NASCAR Radio/PRN; Vito Pugliese, Frontstretch.com; Justin Tucker, Frontstretch.com; Jeff Wolfe, Frontstretch.com.|