Race Weekend Central

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 After the 2011 Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas

Carl Edwards left the Phoenix desert disappointed, feeling like he let a prime chance to win a race slip through his fingers.

He wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. Just one week later, it was Edwards who was able to celebrate after Tony Stewart let victory slip from his grasp in Las Vegas. Cousin Carl has now won three of the last five Sprint Cup events and appears to have regained his form from 2008, when he led the series with nine victories. While it is obviously too early to jump to any conclusions, Edwards so far has made a compelling case to become the number one threat for unseating Jimmie Johnson come Chase time.

But considering Stewart dominated the race, was Edwards’s lucky break enough to serve as his ascension to the top of the Power Rankings? Or did Kyle Busch’s fiery detonation on the backstretch at Vegas do nothing to sway the voters from leaving him solidly ensconced in the number one spot? Further back, has Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s strong runs resulted in him making a move toward the top 10 of the voters’ scorecards? Check this week’s Power Rankings to find out if your driver hit the jackpot in Vegas or if they rolled snake eyes in the desert.

Rank Driver (First-Place Votes) Votes Last Week
1 Carl Edwards (2) 96 5
Phoenix was taken away, Vegas was given. Turns out there is a Yin and Yang to auto racing after all.
2 Tony Stewart (3) 90 4
Once the pit calls start going Smoke’s way the rest of the series is in trouble.
3 Kurt Busch 87 2
Sharing the points lead for the second week in a row with no teammate help and no other teams to draw from is more impressive than most people realize.
4 Ryan Newman 76 8
Tied for second in top fives after three races. We’re just sayin’.
5 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 67 12
Tops out of the Hendrick stable in points but no one is going to talk about him until he wins.
T-6 Jimmie Johnson 64 6
Twelfth in points after a dismal Daytona 500 is hardly a slump.
T-6 Denny Hamlin 64 11
Not bad for a driver – and team – that didn’t even know if they were going to be around three months ago.
8 Jeff Gordon 63 3
Continuing the string of race winners crashing out of the subsequent race in 2011.
9 Juan Pablo Montoya 58 13
Guess who didn’t benefit from that offseason team swap at Hendrick Motorsports.
10 Kyle Busch 57 1
Kyle’s Achilles heel this year might actually be his JGR power plants.
11 Paul Menard 42 14
Don’t look now, but the top driver for RCR after three races is the new kid on the block.
12 Kevin Harvick 40 9
At least he isn’t in Jeff Burton’s shoes.
T-13 Matt Kenseth 34 NR
So maybe winning his fifth career pole wasn’t such a good omen for him.
T-13 Martin Truex Jr. 34 NR
Apparently the NAPA Know How commercials are manifesting themselves into lead-lap finishes.
T-13 AJ Allmendinger 34 7
One of five drivers who have lead-lap finishes in all three races this season.
Dropped Out: Mark Martin (9), Bobby Labonte (15)
Also Receiving Votes: Marcos Ambrose (27), Mark Martin (23), Brian Vickers (22), Kasey Kahne (21), Clint Bowyer (19), Bobby Labonte (9), Greg Biffle (8), David Reutimann (6), Joey Logano (3), Trevor Bayne (2), Jamie McMurray (2), Regan Smith (1), Morgan Shepherd (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.

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