Race Weekend Central

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 After the 2011 Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol

Bristol Motor Speedway has long been compared to flying fighter jets in a gymnasium; now, we guess with the new surface it’s more like a single-file version, with those jets spread out over every inch of the gym. Brad Keselowski served as the squadron leader on Saturday night (Aug. 27), leading the last 80 laps en route to the third victory of the season for him and virtually assuring the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge will be in the postseason.

Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick joined Kyle Busch as locked-in drivers for the Chase after Saturday night. Meanwhile, Martin Truex Jr. turned in his best performance of the season, coming home in second place over a hard-charging Jeff Gordon who saw the new Bristol foil his attempt at victory despite a race-high 206 laps led.

With Keselowski’s win, that gave him a 1.75 average finish for August; is that good enough for him to barrel from outside the top 15 in the Power Rankings at the start of the month to our top spot? Or did Kyle Busch hang on after having a subpar performance, by his standards (14th, just four laps led at Bristol)?

Or, are Gordon and Johnson, becoming the models of consistency in their own right about to overtake Busch as they gear themselves up for the Chase? Check out this week’s Power Rankings to find out if your favorite driver was able to ride Bristol’s high groove up the standings or if they spent the night slipping and sliding down the ranks.

Rank Driver (First-Place Votes) Votes Last Week
1 Kyle Busch (1) 113 1
Biggest accomplishment last week: becoming the Nationwide Series all-time leader in victories. But isn’t that like winning the lifetime achievement award for Bully Who Steals the Most Lunch Money From Innocent Little Kids?
2 Jeff Gordon 110 T-2
Amazing there is no talk about his potential to win the title considering he hasn’t finished outside the top 20 since Richmond.
3 Jimmie Johnson 106 T-2
Whoops! Well that didn’t take long to figure out why Jeff isn’t getting more than a passing mention. Talk all you want about how close the Chase is going to be; the No. 48 is right where they want to be, getting ready to ruin it.
4 Brad Keselowski (2) 104 4
The No. 2 Miller Lite car pulling into victory lane at Bristol? That means something is right with the world these days.
5 Matt Kenseth 96 5
One of the prime suspects in the Bristol Pit-Road Speeding Fiasco. Last seen pulling a 75 in a 35 before slowing down just before the electronic cop could get out his radar gun. And people thought Kyle Busch should lose his license.
6 Ryan Newman 90 6
Four laps led after starting on pole at Bristol has to be a little disappointing, until Newman looked over his shoulder to see the train wreck that is his owner/teammate.
7 Carl Edwards 86 7
Playing the research and development card for oh, about the last six weeks. But someone needs to tell him AFLAC’s insurance policy doesn’t translate into a free Chase mulligan; this team needs to cut the testing and get back to reality by Richmond.
8 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 57 10
Coasting into the Chase, mediocrity-style courtesy Steve Letarte’s stay-out-of-trouble gameplan. Sure, it isn’t flashy but at this point? Whatever works to get NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver back into the postseason.
9 Kasey Kahne 53 12
Some people like Sugar Free Red Bull; Kahne? He just wants to be Free of Red Bull, period.
T-10 Kevin Harvick 51 8
He may try and put on a good face but there has to be concern when Happy is not finishing on the lead lap at Bristol.
T-10 AJ Allmendinger 51 11
Want to know how much difference a crew chief makes? Just check out the No. 43 team’s results – and this driver’s attitude – since Greg Erwin came on board. It’s like upping your grade point average one full letter grade with the snap of a finger.
12 Marcos Ambrose 46 NR
Win Atlanta, collect $3 Million through the Sprint Summer Showdown, qualify for the Chase and have a national holiday declared in your name in Australia. Do they write better scripts than that?
13 Kurt Busch 44 15
This week’s NASCAR Puppet Show: “When Kurt Loses His Head.” See the hilarity ensue when NASCAR Puppet No. 1 radios to Puppet No. 2 on pit road… “Let’s give Kurt a penalty this week for a missing right-front lug nut.” Steve Addington guest stars as a verbally-abused crew chief atop the pit box.
14 Denny Hamlin 39 NR
A seventh-place finish might seem like a good thing, but in the grand scheme of things it is a minor blip of good in a season of bad. Hamlin’s honestly better off missing the Chase at this point so this team could get a head start on 2012.
15 Martin Truex Jr. 38 NR
NASCAR’s latest love connection, the only regret for the NAPA Toyota team is that crew chief Chad Johnston and Mr. Truex weren’t paired up sooner.
Dropped Out: Tony Stewart (9), Mark Martin (13), Clint Bowyer (14)
Others Receiving Votes: Tony Stewart (34), Joey Logano (29), Clint Bowyer (22), Mark Martin (21), Jamie McMurray (19), Greg Biffle (16), Jeff Burton (10), Regan Smith (9), David Ragan (8), Bobby Labonte (3), Paul Menard (3), Juan Pablo Montoya (3), David Starr (1)
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.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share via