Race Weekend Central

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 Up & Coming NASCAR Stars

The second off week of the season gives us a chance to take a step back, get a little creative and play the role of “talent scout” for the power rankings this week. This time, our experts were asked to look into their crystal ball, ranking the top-20 prospects coming up the ranks that could one day land themselves in Sprint Cup.

So who are the best NASCAR drivers gunning for a ride at the sport’s top level (or young enough to still get that second chance?) They come from all walks of the racing world, from Nationwide and Trucks to Formula 1 and even the K&N Pro Series. And believe it or not, there’s even a GoDaddy Girl that worked her way inside the top 20. Just where did Danica Patrick land on our list of future stars? Read this week’s Power Rankings to see exactly how high she climbed, as well as a list of names likely to land on a Sprint Cup roster near you sometime soon.

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) Points Current Series
1 Justin Allgaier (6) 158 Nationwide (3rd in points)
Fun to see him whooping Bad Brad on a regular basis, isn’t it?
2 Timothy Peters (1) 119 Trucks (1st in points)
One of the quietest guys in front of a microphone in the NASCAR garage. But what’s that Teddy Roosevelt said? “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Or, in his case, one giant Truck Series trophy from Daytona.
3 Trevor Bayne 101 Nationwide (13th in points)
Already has his own Nationwide commercial. Not bad for only having one win in the K&N Pro East Series. But that’s what happens when Michael Waltrip’s your car owner; the second you step on the property, you’re automatically turned right into a marketing machine.
4 Steve Wallace 88 Nationwide (11th in points)
He’s finally stopped wrecking by himself and you can understand him in an interview. Now, if he could just stop everyone else from crashing his car, he’d win a few races like his uncles.
5 Kelly Bires 75 Nationwide (1 top 10 for JR Motorsports)
When your name rhymes with tires, you have to have some kind of racing Karma working for you.
6 Colin Braun 69 Nationwide (drives for Jack Roush)
Somewhere down the line, someone gave Braun and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. the wrong information. If you want to be aggressive, the goal should be “Checkers or Wreckers…” not “Leave the track on a wrecker.” Kids nowadays.
7 Parker Kligerman 66 Nationwide (Drives for Roger Penske)
Won nine races in ARCA in 2009 and finished second in the standings in his first full season. So why has he fallen off the face of the planet faster than Phillip Michael Thomas from Miami Vice?
8 Ricky Carmichael 63 Trucks (former motorcycle star)
Probably never going to be the GOAT in stock car racing, but the way he’s progressing, the chances of him being the best in the Truck Series in 2011 are pretty good.
9 Aric Almirola 60 Trucks (2nd in points)
Yeah, he technically “runs” a Cup event every now and then. But driving a beat-up car to the garage after 40 laps doesn’t count. At least he’s making the most of his other opportunities (Trucks) when he has them!
10 Danica Patrick 58 Nationwide (driving limited schedule for JRM)
Apparently, some of the pollsters are part of the media who drank the Danica-aid.
11 James Buescher 53 Nationwide AND Trucks
Pretty good behind the wheel, but potentially not the best off the track.
12 Scott Lagasse Jr. 51 Nationwide (12th in points)
America’s Incredible Pizza may have dumped him, but he’s made a pretty Incredible comeback this year with underrated Baker-Curb and the No. 43.
13 Matt Crafton 49 Trucks (5th in points)
At 33, it’s a good thing he’s best buddies with Kyle Busch and Scott Speed. He might need those connections to move up in the era of the “young gun;” but at this point, he’s more than ready to make the jump.
14 Landon Cassill 46 Nationwide (driving limited schedule for JRM)
He’s been waiting two years to get his second chance. And he better make the most of it, because in this NASCAR world we live in you better believe he won’t get a third.
15 Michael Annett 42 Nationwide (10th in points)
To use a hockey analogy, he’s not exactly a first-shift player yet, but he’s getting a closer look by the big guns each and every week.
Also Receiving Votes: Austin Dillon (39), Brian Ickler (34), Brian Scott (33), Justin Lofton (32), Jeremy Clements (23), Justin Marks (20), Sebastian Vettel (1)(20), Ryan Truex (19), JR Fitzpatrick (18), Nico Rosberg (18), Donny Lia (17), Ryan Villapoto (17), Tayler Malsam (16), Chrissy Wallace (15), Matt DiBenedetto (14), Shelby Howard (14), Steve Arpin (14), Sergio Pena (12), Graham Rahal (12), Matt Kobyluck (12), Robb Brent (12), Danny O’Quinn, Jr. (11), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (11), Brett Moffitt (10), Jason Bowles (10), Brad Sweet (10), Erik Darnell (9), Chad Blount (9), Jason White (8), Mario Gosselin (8), Shane Hmiel (7), Chad McCumbee (7), Coleman Pressley (6), Robert Richardson (6), Tom Hessert (6), Paulie Harraka (6), Johnny Sauter (4), Alli Owens (4), Marc Davis (4), Mikey Kile (4), Jason Leffler (3), Narain Karthikeyan (3), Patrick Sheltra (3), Eric McClure (3), David Starr (2), Stanton Barrett (2), Tim Brown (2), Adrian Sutil (2), Jennifer Jo Cobb (1), Josh Wise (1), Vitantonio Liuzzi (1)
Writer Voting Panel: Phil Allaway, Thomas Bowles, Bryan Davis Keith, Tony Lumbis, Mike Neff, John Potts, Vito Pugliese and Kurt Smith


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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