Race Weekend Central

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 After the 2011 Southern 500 at Darlington

Cinderella was dressed as the Lady in Black Saturday night (May 7) as Regan Smith scored the first win of his Sprint Cup career for the Furniture Row racing team. As Smith was celebrating his victory with burnouts on the front straight Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick were exchanging pleasantries on pit road concerning their opinions of each others driving skills. At the end of the night Carl Edwards was still the points leader, Smith was the latest entrant into the All-Star Race and Brad Keselowski had his first top five since winning at Talladega in 2009.

Did Edwards solidify his hold on the top spot of the poll by chasing Smith to the finish line for second place? Will Tony Stewart’s near victory with pit strategy push him closer to the top of the rankings? Are Busch and Harvick going to pay the price in the voting like they’re going to pay NASCAR for their pit road transgressions? Read this week’s Power Rankings and find out if your driver made it through the race with nothing more than a Darlington stripe or if they got taken out while someone was going for the gusto at the end.

Rank Driver (First-Place Votes) Votes Last Week
1 Carl Edwards (6) 120 1
A new baby and a second place at Darlington is a pretty good week by anyone’s standards.
2 Kyle Busch 109 3
Led the second most laps but was first in two categories Saturday night: cars wrecked on pit road after the race and fights averted.
3 Jimmie Johnson 99 2
Spins out twice, loses a lug nut on pit road and still finishes 15th. Really? Ladies and gentlemen, your five-time Sprint Cup champion. Does even kryptonite not kill him?
4 Kevin Harvick 88 5
The first rule of Fight Club: don’t get out of your car until the majority of your pit crew shows up.
5 Tony Stewart 87 7
Two top-10 finishes in a row? Looks like someone whispered in Smoke’s ear and reminded him summertime is just a few short weeks away.
6 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 85 6
Called a meeting Tuesday to apologize to the crew for his pit-road mistake. In other words, crew chief Steve Letarte officially has this boy whipped.
7 Kasey Kahne 83 12
Someone’s wired off Red Bull this month. Turns out Mr. Kahne was finally told he can’t be a “lame duck” for a year if Rick Hendrick needs a sponsor for that No. 5 car for 2012.
8 Denny Hamlin 75 11
Don’t look now, but last year’s runner-up is finally starting to get his act together. But after so many early bumbles is this rally a case of too little, too late to be a factor in ’11?
9 Greg Biffle 74 9
A very Matt Kenseth-like top 10 Saturday night has Biffle on the verge of breaking back into Chase contention.
10 Clint Bowyer 66 4
Bowyer might have had as much to do with the excitement Saturday night as Harvick and Busch but all he’s remembered for is throwing a HANS device.
11 Ryan Newman 65 NR
Threw a punch Juan Pablo Montoya‘s way in the NASCAR hauler, but perhaps the best revenge was served on the racetrack: fifth while the Colombian couldn’t get out of his own way.
12 Regan Smith 54 NR
Pete Rondeau is no longer Earnhardt Jr.’s crew chief that failed. Barney Visser is no longer the single-car team owner who refused to start-and-park. Smith is no longer “that guy” who lost a race at Talladega by breaking the rules. Together, that trio of underdogs are now known by one thing and one thing only: Sprint Cup winners.
13 Jeff Gordon 43 T-13
Gordon’s Drive to End Hunger seems to have ended his hunger for a win as of late.
T-14 AJ Allmendinger 40 8
Poor outing at Darlington, certainly, but based on his last Monster Mile performance could be a darkhorse candidate for a Dover victory.
T-14 Martin Truex Jr. 32 NR
Well who’d a thunk it? I guess the old Donald Trump firing techniques pay off after all.
Dropped Out: Matt Kenseth (10), Mark Martin (T-13), David Ragan (15)
Also Receiving Votes: Mark Martin (25), Jamie McMurray (23), Brad Keselowski (18), Matt Kenseth (17), Kurt Busch (15), Marcos Ambrose (13), David Ragan (13), Juan Pablo Montoya (7), Paul Menard (6), Bobby Labonte (5), Jeff Burton (4), Joey Logano (2), Dave Blaney (2)
Writer Voters Include: Phil Allaway, Bryan Davis Keith, Tom Bowles, Tony Lumbis, Mike Neff and Garrett Horton

“Contact Mike Neff”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/14354/

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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