Race Weekend Central

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 After the 2011 Jeff Byrd 500 at Bristol

The World’s Fastest Half-Mile put on another exciting show this past weekend with 500 laps of side-by-side, short-track action with multiple grooves and plenty of passing. Thanks to the track reconfiguration, the bump and run is no longer necessary to get to the front of the pack and, for the fourth time in the last five races Kyle Busch ran high, low and in-between to take the checkered flag first.

Carl Edwards continued his ultra strong run over the last six races by finishing runner up, collecting his fifth first or second place performance during that timeframe. Further back, Jimmie Johnson led the most laps and moved up significantly in the points again to continue his press to the top of the standings while pursuing his sixth straight championship.

Did Edwards’s strong showing enable him to hang onto the top spot in the rankings? Will Busch’s domination at Bristol give him the push he needs to move back up the poll after his Phoenix tumble? Or is Kurt Busch’s perch on top of the Cup standings going to give him enough of a push to overtake Edwards for the number one slot? After the standings were thrown into the mixer that is Bristol, read on to see how this week’s Power Rankings have shaken out for your Frontstretch experts.

Rank Driver (First-Place Votes) Votes Last Week
1 Carl Edwards (4) 115 1
Says he’s saving up his Kyle Busch “I owe ya one” for the right time. Kyle better hope that “right time” comes before they both make the Chase.
T-2 Kyle Busch (1) 110 10
Can the “new and improved” Kyle really go all season without a meltdown? His championship chances may depend on just that.
T-2 Kurt Busch (1) 110 3
Leading the points standings as the only guy to score four top-10 finishes in four races. Killing them with consistency… the type that makes fans nap on a Sunday afternoon (March 20) instead of cheer.
4 Jimmie Johnson 93 T-6
Don’t look now, but “Five-Time” is lurking. Funny, he usually doesn’t do that type of thing until September.
5 Ryan Newman 89 4
Helping engineer an impressive 2011 start for Stewart-Haas Racing and Co. But will he keep it up when the racing turns to intermediates and restrictor plates come spring?
6 Tony Stewart 87 2
You wonder how long that “second sucks” mood is going to linger around both Stewart and his program post-Vegas. Jeff Gordon had the same “snake eyes” Vegas ending happen to him in 2010, and where did he end up? Not in championship contention last we checked.
7 Paul Menard 83 11
Say what you want, but through four races Menard has proven through versatility that he belongs near the top of the points standings.
8 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 77 5
Is that Dale Jr. apologizing to Steve Letarte on the radio… then charging up the running order in the final 50 laps? We don’t know how much acid either one is taking before the race, but we say, “Double the dose!”
9 Kevin Harvick 76 12
How does his pit crew not just beat the crap out of him when he gets out of the car?
10 Matt Kenseth 62 T-13
Ever so quietly building a foundation for success with Jimmy Fennig. Then again, the way he changes crew chiefs Fennig might be getting the pink slip as you read this.
11 Jeff Gordon 50 8
For the love of God, will people stop calling the guy “Big Daddy.” The “Original Four-Time” fits oh, about 100 times better.
12 Kasey Kahne 47 NR
Since Brian Vickers is suffering through the worst luck of his career, someone has to be on the good side to make Red Bull Racing out to be what it is: about average.
13 Mark Martin 46 NR
You gotta wonder whether old age is causing slower reaction time for Martin. He’s helped cause more wrecks in a year than we usually see in a decade out of him.
14 Martin Truex Jr. 40 T-13
To finish first, your setup must first finish… throw that in the NAPA Karaoke machine around the Michael Waltrip Racing shops this week.
15 Juan Pablo Montoya 32 9
If even Juan Pablo isn’t bumping people out of the way at Bristol anymore, you know Thunder Valley has officially lost its mojo.
Dropped Out: Denny Hamlin (T-6), AJ Allmendinger (T-13)
Also Receiving Votes: Bobby Labonte (28), Greg Biffle (27), Marcos Ambrose (26), Denny Hamlin (23), A. Allmendinger (15), Clint Bowyer (14), David Ragan (5), Brad Keselowski (3), David Gilliland (1), Dennis Setzer (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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