Race Weekend Central

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 After the 2011 Heluva Good 400 at Michigan

The wide-open racing surface of Michigan International Speedway gave the drivers plenty of options this past weekend but at the end it came down to who got their car off of pit road the fastest during the last pit stop of the day that won the race. Denny Hamlin’s crew was the best on the “money stop,” which put him in the number one spot for the final restart of the race.

After the rag flew, Hamlin used the clean air to hold off the assault of Matt Kenseth to take his first win of the season. Jimmie Johnson had an unfortunate spin at the beginning of the race, which resulted in damage to his sway bar that ultimately put him two laps down and ruined his entire day, dropping him from second in the points standings. While Johnson was having a bad day, Carl Edwards rebounded from a bad day at Pocono the week before to a fifth-place finish to reassert his hold on the top spot in the points standings.

Was Hamlin’s first win of the season enough to vault him into the top spot in the Power Rankings? Did Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s brush with the wall brush him off of the top spot in the poll? How far up the ranks did Kyle Busch climb after posting another top-five finish? Read this week’s Power Rankings to find out if your favorite driver used all four lanes to pass the pack on his way to the top spot in the poll or if they lost the handle and slid to the bottom of the stack.

Rank Driver (First-Place Votes) Votes Last Week
1 Carl Edwards (4) 118 2
Will the rumors of bolting Roush Fenway Racing for Joe Gibbs Racing hurt his late-season performance?
2 Kyle Busch 107 6
He don’t need no stinking heavy oil pan.
3 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 98 1
Wonder if Junior made a call to GoDaddy headquarters after their driver ran him into the wall?
4 Matt Kenseth 94 8
The “Silent Assassin” continues his quiet march toward the top of the standings.
5 Kevin Harvick 90 4
Mr. “Where Did He Come From?” was “Mr. Where Did He Go?” this weekend.
6 Jimmie Johnson 86 3
Even with a forgettable day at Michigan, the consistency has been strong; he “only” has four wins in the past 45 races.
7 Kurt Busch 79 7
Somebody still needs to give Kurt a hug.
8 Denny Hamlin 78 9
While he broke the ice for 2011, don’t you get the feeling Hamlin’s still not really ready to compete for the title this season?
9 Jeff Gordon 71 5
Two wins + wildcard = summer of coasting for the No. 24.
10 Ryan Newman 67 11
You’ve got to wonder if all of the talk of Danica, Zipadelli and the Army sponsorship status isn’t wearing on Newman.
11 Clint Bowyer 61 13
So much for that Red Bull leverage to get extra money in the contract for next year.
T-12 Greg Biffle 60 10
Another Biffle-esque performance this week: lead a ton of laps and finish 15th.
T-12 Tony Stewart 60 12
All of this Zipadelli talk means distractions galore Smoke this summer.
14 Paul Menard 39 NR
A win at Infineon would not be as big of a surprise as some people might think.
15 Mark Martin 27 NR
Might want to send a little note to the other garage this week and let the driver of the No. 88 know he didn’t do it on purpose.
Dropped Out: Kasey Kahne (14), Juan Pablo Montoya (15)
Others Receiving Votes: AJ Allmendinger (23), Kasey Kahne (21), Brian Vickers (20), Joey Logano (13), Trevor Bayne (12), David Ragan (11), Martin Truex Jr. (7), Juan Pablo Montoya (6), Landon Cassill (6), Brad Keselowski (4), Marcos Ambrose (1), Regan Smith (1)
Writer Voters Include: Phil Allaway, Bryan Davis Keith, Tom Bowles, Tony Lumbis, Vito Pugliese, Mike Neff 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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