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NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Preseason Top 15


1952It seems like only yesterday Jimmie Johnson was dubbed “Six-Pack” but yes, another racing season is upon us. NASCAR has already made national headlines after rookie Austin Dillon, just 23 years old put the famed No. 3 on the pole for Sunday’s Daytona 500. It’s the first time that particular number has been entered in a Sprint Cup event since Dale Earnhardt lost his life in the 2001 edition of The Great American Race.
The offseason proved a busy time for NASCAR as a number of changes were made to the Chase format and a more transparent penalty process was unveiled. The 2014 Chase will now host 16 total drivers, including anyone that wins a race during the regular season. Once the field is selected, the bottom four in points will be eliminated after the third, sixth and ninth Chase races. In Homestead, the points will reset for the remaining four drivers, leaving one option to win the Championship: finish ahead of the other three.
A lot of conversation swirls around the 2014 Sprint Cup Rookie class, the deepest and most talented lineup in more than a decade. This year’s crop of drivers includes Austin Dillon, Michael Annett, Kyle Larson, Justin Allgaier, Alex Bowman, Parker Kligerman, Ryan Truex and Cole Whitt. Already, with Dillon making headlines the pressure’s on the other seven to perform.
On paper, the 2014 NASCAR season is shaping up to be one of the best in a number of years. Many veteran drivers have new rides. They, paired with a number of rookies, are all looking to prove themselves to their owners, sponsors, and fans. This Championship will surely come down to the final race. And thanks to NASCAR and its new Chase format, it will… literally.
Before the field is set and the green flag flies in Daytona, here are who we think you should look out for in 2014.

How The Rankings Are Calculated: Frontstretch does our power rankings somewhat similar to how the Associated Press does them for basketball or football — our expert stable of NASCAR writers, both on staff and from other major publications 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, Michael Mehedin calculates the points, adds some funny one-liners, and … here you go!

Rank Driver (First Place Votes) Votes Last Week
1 Jimmie Johnson (10) 257 NA
It doesn’t matter what Chase format you throw at them, they’re going to be a contender. And with that seventh championship hanging out there, he and Chad Knaus want it sooner rather than later. Kelly Crandall, SpeedwayMedia.com
2 Kyle Busch 211 NA
Back-to-back “Most Awesome Saves Ever” in the last two Sprint Unlimiteds. If only he could learn how to do that at Kansas, he’d be all set. Vito Pugliese, Frontstretch.com
3 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 201 NA
If this format doesn’t get him the championship, maybe he can lobby NASCAR for bonus points based on T-Shirt sales. Dennis Michelsen; RaceTalkRadio.com
4 Matt Kenseth 196 NA
He will prove the whole “second-place in the standings” jinx doesn’t mean anything. Jeff Wolfe, Frontstretch.com
5 Brad Keselowski 180 NA
Surely, 2014 has to be better… right? Justin Tucker, Frontstretch.com
6 Denny Hamlin 176 NA
Sprint Unlimited win – check! Not a bad way to end last season in Miami and to pick up right where you left off. Hamlin can win it all this year. Andrew Stallings, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio
7 Kevin Harvick 171 NA
After all the drama last season with Richard Childress Racing, Kevin Harvick was ready to start fresh with SHR. Now, as 2014 dawns he is extremely determined to show he made the right choice. Harvick will be strong all season and is my top pick for the 2014 championship. Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com
8 Jeff Gordon 148 NA
Father time is not on his side. Turning 43 this season, 2014 will tell us a lot about the four-time champion’s future. Justin Tucker, Frontstretch.com
9 Carl Edwards 127 NA
This isn’t the Carl Edwards of 2008, but the team has great potential. Roush Fenway, however, needs to pick their program up as they struggled last year and never got a handle on it. Kelly Crandall, SpeedwayMedia.com
T – 10 Joey Logano 125 NA
Seems to have found a happy home and right fit at Penske. With Ford’s new nose for this year, look for Logano to settle in and start racking up some wins. Vito Pugliese, Frontstretch.com
T – 10 Kurt Busch 125 NA
“GO KURT!” yell fans as the familiar black with red and white Chevrolet grabs the lead, stirring memories of Dale Sr. (and Larry Hedrick). Andrew Maness, NASCARnomics.com
12 Clint Bowyer 120 NA
Ready to get back on track after last year’s Richmond/Chase disaster. Jeff Wolfe, Frontstretch.com
13 Tony Stewart 109 NA
Lobbying NASCAR for one-race showdown format to include Eldora. Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com
14 Greg Biffle (2) 104 NA
The Biff was a bit stiff in the Chase. With contract negotiations underway, look for the 16 to come out swinging early. Vito Pugliese, Frontstretch.com
15 Kasey Kahne 99 NA
One thing that has slowly come to fruition over the last year is the lack of success from the No. 5 team. In an organization where winning seems to be something you shower in every morning, you would think that some sort of spark would be ignited this season for Kasey and crew chief Kenny Francis. Personalities speak wonders to me in any form of sports competition, and that is one thing that Kasey does not really have working in his favor at this point in time. We need to see more out of this team and my eyes will be on this group. They will be on the bubble to make the Chase in my book. Andrew Stallings, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio
Dropped Out: NA
Others Receiving Votes: Ryan Newman (93), Martin Truex Jr. (69), Austin Dillon (58), Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (33), Brian Vickers (30), Kyle Larson (23), Danica Patrick (19), Jamie McMurray (18), Marcos Ambrose (18), Paul Menard (12), Aric Almirola (5), AJ Allmendinger (2), Parker Kligerman (1).
Who VotedPhil Allaway, Frontstretch.com; Thomas Bowles, Frontstretch.com; Kelly Crandall, SpeedwayMedia.com; Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com; Andrew Maness, NASCARnomics.com; Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com; Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com; Vito Pugliese, Frontstretch.com; Kevin Rutherford, Frontstretch.com; Andrew Stallings, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio; Matt Taliaferro, Athlon Sports; Justin Tucker, Frontstretch.com; Jeff Wolfe, Frontstretch.com

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