Race Weekend Central

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 After the 2011 Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma

The twists and turns of Infineon Raceway saw drivers coming, going, in the dirt and on top of tires while Kurt Busch ran away and hid from the entire field. While Jeff Gordon finished one spot short of adding to his road-course victory record Joey Logano surprised everyone by not only winning the pole but also coming home in sixth place.

Denny Hamlin tried to follow up his first win of the season with another at Sonoma but after leading early he was forced behind the wall for an extensive period and limped home in 37th place. Carl Edwards decided not to fly across country to run in the Nationwide race at Road America in order to make his Cup car better, which resulted in a third-place finish and an increase in his points standings lead.

Is Edwards’s lead in the poll growing like his lead in the points standings after another strong run while his closest pursuers had bad days? Has Busch’s latest surge moved him up in the Power Rankings? How much did the hole in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s engine cost him when the votes were counted this week? Check out the Power Rankings this week to find out if your favorite driver was able to navigate the turns and elevation changes of Sonoma like a road-course ringer or ended up on top of the tire barrier when the checkered flag flew.

Rank Driver (First-Place Votes) Votes Last Week
1 Carl Edwards (5) 119 1
The decision to stay in Sonoma, skipping the Nationwide Series led to a career-best finish on that road course. Coincidence? We think not.
2 Kyle Busch 102 2
Called up and thanked Tony Stewart Sunday night (June 26) for finally deflecting attention off his antics.
3 Kurt Busch (1) 98 7
In hindsight the monkey comment at Richmond was just what this team needed to turn things around.
4 Jimmie Johnson 93 6
Still 10 races of experimentation left before the No. 48 team turns it on for another title.
5 Kevin Harvick 92 5
Ready to gear up for another run at a plate race. But will the RCR engines hold up this time around?
6 Jeff Gordon 91 9
Finished second without wrecking anyone on a road course – go figure.
7 Matt Kenseth 87 4
When the No. 17 team discovered Crown Royal wasn’t sponsoring them next year, the liquor company immediately lost out on business. Why? The team switched over to Jack Daniel’s instead when drinking their sorrows away at the bar.
8 Clint Bowyer 77 11
Can we get an elementary school rhyme up in here? Bowyer and Childress, sitting in a tree, PRET-E-N-D-I-N-G. First comes Red Bull, then comes their closure, now both sides tryin’ to smooth things over.
9 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 74 3
Quote of the weekend: “A hole in the side of the engine is never good.”
10 Denny Hamlin 61 8
Took care of his wildcard status last weekend… which means the No. 11 team can promptly fall back asleep until the Chase.
11 Ryan Newman 42 10
The way things are heading, it won’t be long before he has to win to make the Chase.
12 Tony Stewart 40 T-12
He needed puntin’.
13 Joey Logano 37 NR
After a sixth-place finish at Infineon that pole position doesn’t look like such a surprise after all.
T-14 Marcos Ambrose 35 NR
Finished in the top five but never really felt like he was going to threaten to win. Missed opportunity here.
T-14 Brad Keselowski 35 NR
The Penske revival might be enough to save Keselowski’s career… because it wasn’t looking so good before.
Dropped Out: Greg Biffle (T-12), Paul Menard (14), Mark Martin (15)
Others Receiving Votes: Martin Truex Jr. (31), Paul Menard (28), Greg Biffle (23), AJ Allmendinger (23), Regan Smith (17), Kasey Kahne (14), Mark Martin (13), Brian Vickers (7), Robby Gordon (6), David Gilliland (5), Landon Cassill (3), David Ragan (3), Trevor Bayne (2), Juan Pablo Montoya (2)
Writer Voters Include: Phil Allaway, Bryan Davis Keith, 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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