In a throwback to the 1985 Indianapolis 500, Martin Truex Jr. did his best impression of Danny Sullivan’s “spin and win” as the New Jersian took the top step of the podium at Richmond Raceway for his second consecutive victory. Can Truex make it three-for-three in the first round of the playoffs this weekend at the Charlotte ROVAL?
Ryan Newman came out of nowhere to score a much-needed top five at Richmond. With this surprising display of competitiveness and a 14 -point cushion in front of the Round of 16 elimination cutline, can the Purdue Boilermaker feel comfortable about advancing to the next round despite the anticipated chaos of the ROVAL?
Ryan Blaney left his worst statistical track with his best statistical finish. Unfortunately, that finish was 17th. Although he is the defending winner at the ROVAL, with recent results like the one at Richmond, is Blaney slipping out of contention?
After crashing out of Las Vegas, Erik Jones managed to right the ship at Richmond … that was before he was disqualified. With a near-insurmountable gap to the playoff cutline, Jones will likely have to win in Charlotte, which according to Jeff Burton, is the hardest race track in America. Can he pull off the stunner, or is this a lost cause for “that Jones boy”?
Questions are multiplying as 40 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series stars prepare to tackle the series’ newest racetrack: the ROVAL. With just one race under its belt, this year’s event at the ROVAL is anticipated to be just as wild, pressure-packed, and carnage-filled as last year’s inaugural race? With storylines mounting, our Frontstretch gurus were challenged in determining the top 12 competitors currently in the MENCS.
Power Rankings: Federated Auto Parts 400 Edition
1. Martin Truex Jr. – 140 Points
First place votes: 9
Last week’s ranking: 1st (No change)
Despite struggling with forward bite issues, celebration and elation were seen written all of the faces of Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 19 crew as Truex crossed the finish line first for the second consecutive weeks. The celebration was capped off by Truex’s two victory burnouts (credit Ricky Stenhouse Jr.‘s embarrassment) despite Kyle Larson‘s claim that he should be flagged for premature celebration.
Lost my forward bite ? https://t.co/uHDBOlZLUl
— Martin Truex Jr. (@MartinTruex_Jr) September 23, 2019
“Even an unscheduled trip through the spin cycle couldn’t stop him.” Rob Tiongson, The Podium Finish
2. Kyle Busch – 116 Points
Last week’s ranking: 2nd (+1)
Despite winning stage two, Busch could not find the keys that opened the gate to victory lane. We would assume that the Nevadan was preoccupied with late-model racing, but we could be wrong. Yet, Busch was able to walk away from Richmond with 54 points, including 19 stage points and another cushy playoff point. Well done.
— Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) September 22, 2019
“Truex vs Busch, Roadrunner vs Coyote.” -Dan Greene, Frontstretch
3. Denny Hamlin – 107 Points
Last week’s ranking: 6th (+3)
The next drier out of the Joe Gibbs Racing stable is Hamlin. Ironically enough, Truex, Busch and Hamlin sit first, second and third in our power rankings this week, which directly emulates to their result at Richmond. However, Jones in the fourth JGR Toyota was disqualified. Yet, in another twist (*spoiler alert*), Jones is the last driver featured this week. Did someone say irony?
— Joe Gibbs Racing (@JoeGibbsRacing) September 21, 2019
“The guy filming Roadrunner vs Coyote.” -Greene
4. Brad Keselowski – 90 Points
Last week’s ranking: 5th (+1)
For the first time since Darlington, Richmond pole-sitter Keselowski managed to work his way up to the lead position, a title which he held for 89 laps. Like Busch and Hamlin, Keselowski has a considerable cushion over the cutoff line. However, the ROVAl awaits. The No. 2 driver hopes to not end up in the turn 1 tire barriers like last year.
Brad @Keselowski TAKES THE POLE in qualifying!
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) September 20, 2019
“Needs to grow a playoff beard.” -Godwin Kelly, The Daytona Beach News-Journal
5. Kevin Harvick – 84 Points
Last week’s ranking: 2nd (-3)
Just another day at the office…
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 17, 2019
“He will get his share in the playoffs.” -Kelly
6. Joey Logano – 66 Points
Last week’s ranking: 4th (-2)
Although a 12th-place finish would be celebrated by many drivers in the MENCS garage area, Logano’s night was “not what we wanted at Richmond.” However, Logano later said we our “keeping our eyes on the prize and doing what we have to do to get to Homestead Miami Speedway.” Does this sound like 2018?
— Joey Logano (@joeylogano) September 22, 2019
“You know Logano is dangerous when he has an extremely off race and he finishes just outside the top 10.” -Tiongson
7. Kyle Larson – 58 Points
Last week’s ranking: 8th (+1)
While Larson seems to be distracted by Truex’s burnout, it might just be as applicable to celebrate the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 team. Remember when the No. 42 bunch couldn’t finish a race earlier this year? They have certainly turned that around. With a comfortable sixth at Richmond and memories of the late-race heroics out of their driver at last year’s ROVAL race, the CGR group should feel pretty comfortable this weekend.
— Kyle Larson (@KyleLarsonRacin) September 20, 2019
“Currently reading “How to Succeed in the Playoffs” by Ryan Newman.” -Greene
8. Chase Elliott – 51 Points
Last week’s ranking: 7th (-1)
Despite scoring stage points in both stages, the son of Awesome Bill from Dawsonville slipped back to 13th on the finishing grid, the first driver one lap down. With Elliott’s lackluster playoffs so far, can anything be done to light a spark underneath the No. 9 team?
— Hendrick Motorsports (@TeamHendrick) September 21, 2019
“NASCAR’s version of Wakko from the Animaniacs needs a pick me up in these next few races.” -Tiongson
9. Ryan Newman – 50 Points
Last week’s ranking: 12th (+3)
You know you’ve made it when you have a corn maze of your car.
This guy will point race you to death. Bring it on.
— Roush Fenway (@roushfenway) September 24, 2019
“So I’m not sure who invited Newman into the top 10. I wonder if he’ll follow his 2014 guidebook.” -Trey Normile, Gator Games
10. Clint Bowyer – 25 Points
Last week’s ranking: Not Ranked
After a way-too-long absence, the much-awaited return of Bowyer’s social media chronicles is BACK!!!
So, without further ado, on this week’s edition of Clint Bowyer’s social media chronicles: mamas and Lincoln Navigators, the picturesque beauty of bales of hay, and an intoxicated interview in camping lot J.
Headed home from Rich. Solid night for us. Going to be exciting next week at the Roval. Can’t wait to get home and root on the @Chiefs. ?
— Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) September 22, 2019
“This may be just wishful thinking.” -Kelly
11. Ryan Blaney – 14 Points
Last week’s ranking: 9th (-2)
Apparently Blaney is a home improvement expert who takes showers in his firesuit. Okay.
— Menards Racing (@MenardsRacing) September 23, 2019
“Did someone say ROVAL?” -Zach Gillispie, Frontstretch
12. Erik Jones – 13 Points
Last week’s ranking: Not Ranked
Apparently, tech is harder to pass than Ryan Newman.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 22, 2019
“NASCAR’s first ‘winner’ Glenn Dunnaway was disqualified because his car was a moonshine runner. What’s Jones’ excuse?” -Gillispie
OTHER DRIVERS WHO RECEIVED VOTES
- Jimmie Johnson: 11 Points
- “A solid 2019 run to bring home a top 15. Still a weird thing to say.” -Rob Dutzar Jr, Rob’s NASCAR Blog
- William Byron: 8
- Alex Bowman: 7
- “Dillon should stay away from Alex Bowman for a while. Alex has spoons and he’s not afraid to use them.” -Greene
- Bubba Wallace: 7
- Aric Almirola: 6
- Matt DiBenedetto: 6
- Daniel Suarez: 4
- Kurt Busch: 2
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr: 1
- “Powerful enough to make other drivers spin. Not really a good idea though.” -Greene
THIS WEEK’S VOTING PANEL
|Rob Dutzar Jr||@rob_dutzar||Rob’s NASCAR Blog|
|Darian Gilliam||@blackflagmatter||Black Flags Matter|
|Godwin Kelly||@godwinkelly||The Daytona Beach News Journal|
|Rob Tiongson||@robtiongson||The Podium Finish|
Do you agree with our rankings? Think someone was left out, or that one of the top drivers is overrated? Let us know in the comments, and tell others what your top 12 would be.
About the author
He may be a full-time college student and only a part-time journalist, but Zach Gillispie’s passion for fast cars is undeniable. Since joining Frontstretch in 2018, the 21-year-old has served in a variety of roles. Currently, he pens the weekly NASCAR 101 column, which can be seen every Friday. Additionally, Zach is one of the site's news writers and helps with Fronstretch's social media pages on race day. In the rare moments when he is not studying or writing, you can find him traveling, making double bogeys on the golf course, or cheering on his beloved Atlanta Braves.