Race Weekend Central

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 Up & Coming Drivers

NASCAR’s Cup Series has the week off, so the Power Rankings turns its focus this Wednesday (July 27) towards a different subset of drivers: the ones trying desperately to make it there. There are rising stars from the Nationwide Series, Camping World Truck Series, K&N and ARCA all trying hard to climb the ladder and reach the pinnacle of their chosen profession, battling for the best future opportunity while simply trying to survive through a trying 2011 for developing talent.

Some of them have been competing at their current level for some time while others are gradually making their way up the ranks after proving themselves in each series along the way.

So which one of them, underdogs and favorites alike, has made the biggest impression so far this season? Check out the Power Rankings this week to see if your driver made the list or if they still have some work to do to get their name out there.

How the Rankings Are Calculated: Frontstretch does our power rankings somewhat similar to how the Associated Press does them for basketball or football – writers on staff will vote for the top 20 on a 20-19-18-17-16-15… 3-2-1 basis, giving 20 points to their first-place driver, 19 for their second and so on. In the end, Mike Neff calculates the points, adds some funny one-liners and… voila! You have one batch of Power Rankings to serve to our fans.

Rank Driver (First-Place Votes) Points Previous Rank (April)
1 Austin Dillon (3) 70 2
Needs some training from Carl Edwards on how to handle basic gymnastics moves. But the racing? He’s got that one down pat.
2 Justin Allgaier 67 3
Wonder if Verizon will look back in five years and think A) They should have brokered a deal for the iPhone sooner; B) They probably should have kept their sponsorship with Allgaier or C) All of the above.
3 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 64 4
What a difference a year makes… from nearly unemployed to someone who could easily be the 2011 Nationwide Series champion.
4 Cole Whitt 51 1
Gotta wonder if he’s the only reason Red Bull is considering staying around as a sponsor after they get out of the team ownership role.
5 Parker Kligerman 50 9
Working to create the “Penske Abandoned Me in My Prime” club this offseason. Possible founding members include Brendan Gaughan, Allgaier and Travis Kvapil.
6 Timothy Peters 49 5
Quiet, mannerly and keeps his car in one piece. It’s the anti-Kyle Busch!
7 Ty Dillon 46 7
Better get this wrecking people to win races stuff out of his system now because the big boys won’t put up with that junk.
8 Johnny Sauter 36 NR
Making the most of an opportunity to rebuild his career in the Truck Series; but to make it all the way back to Cup, he needs to follow through and capture this year’s title.
9 Aric Almirola 32 8
Kelly Bires didn’t win and he got fired. Almirola doesn’t win in JR Motorsports equipment and he’s universally praised? Someone explain.
10 Elliott Sadler 29 NR
Would like to shake the label of “that guy who lost the Daytona 500 before the rains came” with “that guy who went back to Nationwide and won a championship.”
11 Trevor Bayne 27 6
If he really did have Lyme Disease, what he is doing in the car at this point is nothing short of amazing.
12 Reed Sorenson 26 T-14
One of just three Nationwide-only drivers to win this season. Hey, that’s more than he ever did at the Cup level.
13 James Buescher 20 NR
Most people hate their in-laws. Buescher? He just drives for them.
14 Matt Crafton 18 13
Good at collecting points, but needs to get better at winning races if there’s ever a hope and a prayer he can move up.
T-15 Kelly Bires 17 NR
$139,830 isn’t a bad bit of coin for working seven days out of the year.
T-15 Darrell Wallace Jr. 17 NR
Bringing planking to a victory lane near you.
Dropped Out: Brian Scott (10), Josh Wise (T-11), Clay Rogers (T-11), Ricky Carmichael (T-14)
Also Receiving Votes: Ron Hornaday Jr. 16, Ricky Carmichael 15, Jason Leffler 14, Landon Cassill 14, Max Gresham 14, Jeremy Clements 12, Greg Pursley 11, Danica Patrick 11, Chad Hackenbracht 9, Brian Scott 8, Ryan Truex 8, Nelson Piquet Jr. 8, Keith Rocco 8, Brett Moffitt 7, JR Fitzpatrick 7, Philip Morris 7, Andrew Ranger 6, Michael Annett 5, Coleman Pressley 5, Moses Smith 5, Joey Coulter 5, Brandon McReynolds 4, Brennan Poole 4, Justin Lofton 3, Sergio Pena 3, George Brunnhoelzl III 3, Patrick Sheltra 2, Scott Steckly 2, Johanna Long 2, Danny O’Quinn 1, CE Falk 1, Travis Pastrana 1
Writer Voting Panel: Tony Lumbis, Mike Neff, Bryan Davis Keith, Phil Allaway, Tom Bowles 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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