Race Weekend Central

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 After the 2010 Bud Shootout at Daytona

As NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers prepare to tackle their 36-race regular season, it’s time to take a look at which ones carry the most momentum into 2010. Certainly, the Bud Shootout helped give some some a little extra push, but it’s hard to unseat a certain four-time champ on top of our list – at least for now.

However, it’s behind the Jimmie Johnson automatic pick where things start to get a little jumbled up, with a multitude of opinions as to where drivers belong in our power rankings. In particular, some of the other Chasers from last season were surprisingly underappreciated by the pollsters, showing one year of success means nothing once you wipe the slate clean. In fact, the typical preseason optimism is in full swing with our panel, as no less than 30 drivers received votes – including one who’s not even running in the Cup Series (yet).

So, read this week’s Power Rankings this week and every Wednesday to see where your favorite driver slots in, watching them move up the ladder – or slide out of the poll altogether – as the season unfolds.

How the Rankings Are Calculated: Frontstretch does our power rankings somewhat similar to how the Associated Press does them for basketball or football – writers on staff will vote for the top 20 on a 20-19-18-17-16-15… 3-2-1 basis, giving 20 points to their first-place driver 19 for their second, and so on. In the end, Mike Neff calculates the points, adds some funny one-liners and… voila! You have one batch of Power Rankings to serve to our fans.

Rank Driver (First-Place Votes) Votes Last Year’s Final Ranking
1 Jimmie Johnson (7) 211 1
24/7 HBO special perhaps intended to show Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus in a more flattering light. First episode, Knaus concedes he is an $%^&*^*. In the second one, Johnson wrecks his 24 Hours of Daytona car. Can’t wait for the next installment.
2 Jeff Gordon 189 3
Better make the best of the Drive for Five slogan this year – ’cause Jimmie is going to make it come true first.
3 Mark Martin 177 2
The way these GoDaddy.com commercials are turning out, this poor guy’s wishing he had Viagra back as an associate sponsor. Yup, that’s definitely a vision too hot for TV… or internet… or anything else.
4 Tony Stewart (3) 155 6
Looked like the only Hendrick car that could handle worth a damn on Saturday night – a disturbance worth watching to see if it extends into the Duels on Thursday.
5 Carl Edwards 154 14
An ancient proverb once said “Beware of the angry duck.”
6 Denny Hamlin 151 5
The way things are going at Toyota these days, we’re surprised Hamlin’s good knee didn’t get recalled for precautionary measures this week.
7 Juan Pablo Montoya 135 7
Picking up in 2010 where 2009 left off. Expect winS (with an “s”) this year.
8 Kyle Busch 130 8
He’s a Nationwide champion, Truck Series team owner, engaged, drives a yellow car, has a receding hairline and is surly. It’s as if Kevin Harvick cloned himself.
9 Kasey Kahne (1) 127 13
The Groundhog might have said six more weeks of winter, but it’s an even-numbered year for Kahne. That means nine months of surprising success.
10 Matt Kenseth 121 12
Trying to think positive; after all, he’s the defending 500 champ. At least this year, if he has another miserable season, he’ll have an unlimited supply of Crown Royal to drown his sorrows.
11 Kevin Harvick 102 NR
As exciting as the Shootout wins are for Harvick fans, they know all too well that bringing home a victory during Speedweeks means nothing for the rest of the year. See: 2007, 2009.
12 Kurt Busch 95 4
How long before Kurt is tired of hearing about the potential of young Brad Keselowski?
13 Greg Biffle 78 9
Now over 40, the Biff will need to do his best and channel his inner Martin – that’s usually been the age things go downhill in the Cup Series these days.
14 Ryan Newman 66 15
From Chase contender to Shootout pretender – all in the course of three months!
15 Clint Bowyer 64 11
What can Richard Childress do to try and derail his season this year?
Dropped Out: Jeff Burton (10)
Also Receiving Votes: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (63), Jeff Burton (47), Jamie McMurray (47), Brian Vickers (35), Joey Logano (28), David Reutimann (25), Brad Keselowski (24), AJ Allmendinger (23), Bill Elliott (18), Marcos Ambrose (16), Martin Truex Jr. (14), David Ragan (9), Sam Hornish Jr. (4), Danica Patrick (1), Joe Nemechek (1)


About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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