There are very few people who would have thought about Phoenix if you asked them where to see the Big One in a Sprint Cup race but there it was all over the backstretch on Sunday afternoon (Feb. 27), claiming 13 cars. While many of them were able to return to the track and get some points toward the Chase it certainly ruined the day of several contenders, including Carl Edwards who probably had the strongest car in the field. When the checkered flag finally flew four-time champ Jeff Gordon was the first one across the line, breaking a career-long 66-race winless drought.
After the carnage that happened at Phoenix there are several drivers who are going to be moving around in the standings this week. How badly did Trevor Bayne’s brush with the wall hurt his standing after such a strong showing last week? Was Edwards able to maintain his top spot after his up close interaction with Kyle Busch on the backstretch? Which of the Busch brothers scored more votes and did either of them secure the top spot in the rankings?
Read this week’s Power Rankings to see if your driver avoided the rattlesnakes and heat long enough to move up in the poll or if they were swept away with the freshly removed pavement and discarded at the bottom of the ballot.
|FRONTSTRETCH TOP-15 POWER RANKINGS: MARCH 2, 2011|
|Rank||Driver (First-Place Votes)||Votes||Last Week|
|1||Kyle Busch (3)||115||4|
|Off to his traditional strong early season start with “New Kyle” attitude. Will it last for nine months or will it erode through the summer as it has the past three years?|
|2||Kurt Busch (1)||107||2|
|His firesuit may look like a hotdog with lots of mustard but he’s looking formidable in the new number.|
|3||Jeff Gordon (1)||101||NR|
|Big win at Phoenix for Super G. No, the other one: Gustafson. Hendrick Motorsports’ best-kept secret weapon.|
|Don’t know if four new skins would have given him a better finish but fourth in points this early in the season is a good omen for Smoke.|
|Had the fastest car in Phoenix but, to finish first you must first finish.|
|Five-time last had a finish outside the top five at Phoenix when Bayne was applying for a learner’s permit.|
|7||AJ Allmendinger (1)||82||13|
|Not bad for a driver – and team – that didn’t even know if they were going to be around three months ago.|
|Lobbying for all plate races to be moved to Phoenix.|
|Guess who didn’t benefit from that offseason team swap at Hendrick Motorsports.|
|He really did finish in the top five this past weekend, but that didn’t get him in the top 20 in points after Daytona’s dismal performance.|
|A few more weeks without at least a top 10 and people will think this pretender slump thing is for real.|
|12||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||50||NR|
|A long way from contending again but actually improved his position at the end of the race instead of falling into the 20s.|
|13||Juan Pablo Montoya||46||7|
|New Formula 1-like points system might be just what Montoya needed for a championship run.|
|Who would have thought the No. 27 would be tops among the RCR camp at any point this season?|
|Maybe Marcos Ambrose was holding the No. 47 back.|
|Dropped Out: Trevor Bayne (3), Clint Bowyer (9), David Gilliland (10), Regan Smith (14)|
|Also Receiving Votes: Kasey Kahne (37), Matt Kenseth (34), David Gilliland (18), Clint Bowyer (15), Martin Truex Jr. (12), Regan Smith (11), Greg Biffle (10), Trevor Bayne (7), David Ragan (14), Brian Keselowski (5), Brad Keselowski (5), Marcos Ambrose (4), Jamie McMurray (3), Robby Gordon (2), Casey Mears (2), Bill Elliott (1), Joey Logano (1)|
|Writer Voting Panel: Phil Allaway, Bryan Davis Keith, Tony Lumbis, Mike Neff, Vito Pugliese and Garrett Horton|
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.