Race Weekend Central

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 After the 2011 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona

Daytona International Speedway provided another round of two-by-two racing on Saturday night (July 2), a jaunt which also included several big wrecks and a second surprise first-time winner in as many races. David Ragan scored his first Cup Series win Saturday night, breaking through in his fifth full-time season and third for major sponsor UPS.

It was sweet redemption for the 25-year-old, black-flagged from the lead of the Daytona 500 for changing lanes before passing the start/finish line in a penalty killer that handed the race to pseudo-teammate Trevor Bayne. But while one Roush driver (Ragan) was able to come out on top, another was losing the points lead as Carl Edwards wrecked early and ended the night in 37th place. It was a rollercoaster night for almost everybody else, typical of restrictor-plate fare while some ugly late-race wrecks involving two-thirds of the field jumbled up the points standings more than expected.

Edwards lost the points lead on Saturday night – did he also lose the top spot in the Power Rankings this week to new top dog Kevin Harvick? Further back, Kyle Busch finished the race in the top five, which has been a rarity at Daytona over the past few races; was that finish enough to leapfrog everyone into first place? And will Ragan’s first win give him the impetus to climb into the Top 15? Read this week’s poll to see if your favorite driver was pushed to the front when the money was on the line or ended up in a smoking heap in the infield after the final Big One.

Rank Driver (First-Place Votes) Votes Last Week
1 Kevin Harvick (4) 114 5
New number one in the points: it makes sense to have him number one in the Power Rankings.
2 Kyle Busch 106 2
Love him or hate him, you can say this much about Kyle Busch: the man drives a wrecked race car to more top-five finishes than anyone we’ve ever seen.
3 Jeff Gordon 103 6
We don’t know what they’ve put in the water over in the Gordon household these days, but Wonder Boy is suddenly looking half his age nearing 40.
4 Matt Kenseth (1) 96 7
Crown Royal’s shocking departure last week didn’t exactly give Kenseth incentive to jump out of line and win for them Saturday night. Talk about giving one away.
5 Carl Edwards (1) 88 1
Someone better get Carl’s signature on the dotted line, stat, at Roush Fenway before there’s another engine failure, carbon monoxide poisoning or sponsor departure. Not exactly the best sales job going on here.
6 Kurt Busch 80 3
Who knew a divorce could spark so much controversy amongst fans, drivers and between the media themselves.
7 Jimmie Johnson 75 4
Didn’t exactly return the favor to Junior for helping him win at Talladega earlier this year.
8 Joey Logano 74 13
Two straight top 10s and now a trip to Kentucky, where he is undefeated. Is he finally turning things around and is it too little, too late to save his job?
9 Denny Hamlin 63 10
The disappointing follow-up season to Hamlin’s near-championship run continues.
10 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 55 9
The sky is falling! It’s all Johnson’s fault! Plate racing sucks! Boy, does Steve Letarte have one heck of a crucial week on his hands.
11 David Ragan 54 NR
Proving once again that anyone can win a restrictor-plate race.
12 Kasey Kahne 47 NR
Worried about Red Bull not paying attention… guess that’s not going to happen until they miss the Chase in September.
13 AJ Allmendinger 43 NR
At least he didn’t get into another argument with the King after all of the replays of the 200th win on SPEED this past week.
14 Clint Bowyer 42 8
Can’t ever buy a break at Daytona, but can he buy a sponsor for 2012?
15 Paul Menard 40 NR
Shocking but true: now arguably the next driver in line to grab his first Cup win, possibly as soon as Kentucky this weekend. Come back next week, when our topic will be: “The end of the world is at hand.”
Dropped Out: Ryan Newman (11), Tony Stewart (12), Marcos Ambrose (T-14), Brad Keselowski (T-14)
Others Receiving Votes: Tony Stewart (38), Brad Keselowski (33), Ryan Newman (33), Greg Biffle (20), Marcos Ambrose (16), Martin Truex Jr. (15), David Gilliland (13), Juan Pablo Montoya (13), Mark Martin (4), Brian Vickers (3), Landon Cassill (2)
Writer Voters Include: Phil Allaway, Tom Bowles, 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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