Race Weekend Central

The 10: Phoenix Pandemonium

With two laps to go, Matt Kenseth appeared due for the top spot in our power rankings. Amid a quiet but strong Chase, the 2003 champion had positioned himself to take an impressive victory at Phoenix International Raceway and surge into the Championship 4.

Then, suddenly, the caution flag flew and everything changed.

Minutes later, Kenseth found himself in the outside wall, while Joey Logano rose from fourth to earn an unexpected victory and stamp his ticket to Homestead-Miami Speedway.

With such swings and turmoil in the final seconds, ranking the Chasers this week proved to be a challenge. Throw in a dominant race from Alex Bowman, a late comeback for Kyle Larson and a solid top 10 for Ryan Blaney, and picking the 10 best drivers heading into Homestead was near-impossible.

A few contributors were busy traveling from Arizona to Florida – one of the longest one-week trips on the tour. The rest of us gave it our best shot. Here are the 10 that shined the brightest in the Arizona desert.

POWER RANKINGS: Can-Am 500 Edition


(Photo: NASCAR)
(Photo: NASCAR)

“Remember a few months ago when everyone was questioning his lack of wins? Logano once again proves that it’s all about the Chase.” – Bryan Gable, Frontstretch

2.  KYLE BUSCH (53 POINTS, No Change)

(Photo: NASCAR)
(Photo: NASCAR)

“For so long, the knock against Kyle Busch was that he hadn’t won a Cup championship. Now he’s on the verge of two in a row.” – Jim Utter, Motorsport


(Photo: NASCAR)
(Photo: NASCAR)

“This season marks Johnson’s first appearance in the Championship 4. Could six-time become seven-time at Homestead?” – Pete McCole, AutoRacing1


(Photo: NASCAR)
(Photo: NASCAR)
“One win away from 2011 redemption, backflips and all of the sponsor shoutouts you can fit into 140 characters.” – Aaron Bearden, Frontstretch

5.  MATT KENSETH (37 POINTS, No Change)

(Photo: NASCAR)
(Photo: NASCAR)

“Went from securing a spot in the Championship 4 to being out of title contention all in the span in one lap. Such is the nature of the Chase.” – McCole

6.   DENNY HAMLIN (32 POINTS, No Change)

(Photo: NASCAR)
(Photo: NASCAR)

“Another chance at his first series championship slips away at Phoenix.” – Utter


(Photo: NASCAR)
(Photo: NASCAR)

“A huge missed opportunity for a driver and team that usually make the most of the opportunities they get.” – Gable


(Photo: Jason Hanna/Getty Images)
(Photo: Jason Hanna/Getty Images)

“Led more laps than teammates Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., managed in the entire season in a lone race. Excellent stuff from a driver that needed to attract attention, though the incident with Kenseth may be the moment remembered most from the day.” – Bearden

9.   KURT BUSCH (14 POINTS, -1)

(Photo: NASCAR)
(Photo: NASCAR)

“Credit where it’s due – Busch’s team showed all of the grit and determination of a champion as they rallied to earn a good result. Unfortunately for Busch, the run came two weeks too late.” – Bearden


(Photo: NASCAR)
(Photo: NASCAR)

“Seems as though all the air has been let out of this team since they were eliminated.” – McCole


These two drivers engaged in one of the better duels of the season back at Michigan International Speedway in August. Now they fight once again as they try to claw their way into victory lane, and potentially the season-ending top 10.

Kyle Larson (8 points) – “Rallied from two spins to finish third, and now heads to arguably his best track with a chance to sweep the weekend. Can you say momentum?” – Bearden

Chase Elliott (7 Points) – “A ninth-place finish at Phoenix keeps him in sight of a possible top-10 points finish – a great first season for the young rookie.” – McCole

Others receiving votes: Martin Truex, Jr. (6), Ryan Blaney (4), Paul Menard (2), The End of the Season (1)


Dustin Albino@DustinAlbino
Phil Allaway@Critic84
Aaron Bearden@AaronBearden93
Summer Bedgood@SummerBedgood
Tom Bowles@NASCARBowles
Greg Davis@GregMDavis
Sean Fesko@TheWriterSean
Michael Finley@FinleyFactor
Bryan GableN/A
Tony Lumbis@TonyLumbis
Toni Montgomery@ToniLMontgomery
Kevin Rutherford@surfwax83
Jason Schultz@NASCARJason
Joseph Wolkin@JosephNASCAR
AnnoyingRaceFan @AnnoyingRaceFan I’M @annoyingracefan ON TWITTER (AND INSTAGRAM). PEOPLE CALL ME ARF. I’M A RELATIVE NOBODY.
Brian Eberly@beberly18Writer, Rubbings Racing, Motor Racing Digest
Mike Hembree@MikeHembreeWriter, USA Today
Ben Hinc@lemonlovrOwner, The Apex
Jerry Jordan@kicknthetiresOwner, Kicknthetires.Net
Pete McCole@PeteMcColeNASCAR Writer, AutoRacing1.com
The Orange Cone@TheOrangeConeI am an orange traffic cone.
Kyle Pokrefky@KPokrefkyWriter, The Fourth Turn
Reid Spencer@Reid_SpencerLead Writer, NASCAR Wire Service
Doug Turnbull@DougTurnbullAnnouncer, PRN Live, Atlanta Motor Speedway
Jim Utter@jim_utterNASCAR Editor, Motorsport.com

How they’re made: Following the conclusion of each NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, members of a voting panel, including Frontstretch writers, members of accredited media including Motorsport, NASCAR and USA Today, as well as writers from other sites and social media favorites, submit their top 10 drivers for the Power Rankings. The drivers are then given points based off their position, with first place getting 10 points, and each subsequent driver getting one fewer point until the 10th-place driver, who gets a lone point. Points are then tallied, and the rankings are created.

Do you agree with our rankings? Think someone got snubbed, or that one of the top drivers is overrated? Let us know in the comments, and tell others what your top 10 would be.

About the author

A graduate of Ball State, Aaron rejoins Frontstretch for his second season in 2016 following a successful year that included covering seven races and starting the popular "Two-Headed Monster" column in 2015. Now in his third year of covering motorsports, Aaron serves as an Assistant Editor for Frontstretch while also contributing to other popular sites including Speed51 and The Apex. He encourages you to come say hi when you see him at the track.

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