For the first time in 75 events, Kyle Larson took home a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series checkered flag last weekend at Dover International Raceway. As the only MENCS competitor locked into the next round of the playoffs, Larson won’t have to worry about the impending chaos of Talladega Superspeedway. However, he did end up barrel rolling down the back straightaway on the last lap of the spring race at Talladega earlier this season. Will he keep all four wheels on the ground this time?
In a shocking sequence of events, Alex Bowman avoided any sort of visible conflict with any other competitors, something that had not been done in three weeks. Reaping the benefits, Bowman increased his playoff stock as the No. 88 Chevrolet crossed the finish line. With this result being his 10th top 10 of the season, can Bowman better the competition this weekend?
While Bowman avoided conflict at Dover, Joey Logano found it. After a bizarre parts failure sidelined the No. 22 for the first 22 laps of the Drydene 400, Logano was criticized by many of the frontrunners after racing them hard in the waning laps. With all the finger-pointing after Dover, will this carry over for Logano at Talladega?
Although he failed to make the playoffs, the ever-popular Matt DiBenedetto impressed his fans with a hard-fought seventh-place finish. Arguably one of the best superspeedway racers statistically this season, DiBenedetto will look for another good finish for Leavine Family Racing at Talladega. With Dibenedetto changing teams this upcoming offseason, is it feasible to say that he has a legitimate shot at getting LFR their first win this weekend?
Power Rankings: Drydene 400 Edition
1. Martin Truex Jr. – 130 Points
First-place votes: 9
Last week’s ranking: 1st (No change)
Despite having a disastrous pit stop after a big fall by his rear tire changer, Truex bobbed and weaved through lapped traffic to rally back up to second. Unfortunately, it was lapped traffic that also proved to be a hindrance for Truex as he tried to capture the most important position: the lead. As the slower cars got in his way, Truex couldn’t muster up first place in the race, but the No. 19 driver still sits first in our Power Rankings this week.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) October 6, 2019
2. Denny Hamlin – 109 Points
Last week’s ranking: 7th (+5)
Hamlin celebrated his 500th start at Dover with the team that gave him his first start and all 498 starts in between. While he hoped to top the celebrations and join Richard Petty and Matt Kenseth as the only MENCS drivers to win in their 500th, the celebrations were halted as Hamlin became irked at the lapped car of Logano for refusing to yield to the fast No. 11 machine, which may have cost him a better finish. Despite the issues, Hamlin brought home his FedEx Toyota home in fifth.
3. Kevin Harvick – 103 Points
Last week’s ranking: Tied 2nd (-1)
You know you have made it when you have a beer named after you. Enough said.
— Stewart-Haas Racing (@StewartHaasRcng) October 4, 2019
4. Kyle Larson – 100 Points
First-place votes: 2
Last week’s ranking: 9th (+5)
Think about this for a second. On pole day, Larson was absolutely crushed when Hamlin won the pole after he declared to Hamlin that he would win the pole. To make matters worse, Hamlin’s pole-winning effort forced Larson to postpone his tee time down at the links, a disaster for any avid golfer.
But then… on race day, in the ultimate act of redemption, Larson stormed passed Hamlin to claim a much-needed victory. With a no-steering wheel burnout and his wife shotgunning beers, what a difference a week makes.
— Drydene Performance Products (@TeamDrydene) October 6, 2019
5. Kyle Busch – 90 Points
Last week’s ranking: Tied 2nd (-3)
While Dover has not been the best of tracks for Kyle Busch, the Candyman did slot his Toyota into the sixth position after a mediocre day. Although Rowdy did not make much noise at Dover, it is a guaranteed fact that he will this weekend at Talladega, even though that could just be contributed to the higher speeds. Despite the increased volume, time will tell if that noise will come in the form of front-running performance this weekend too.
That’s about all I could get out of our @interstatebatts Camry. It doesn’t help when u speed on pit road, we were able to recover n drive our butts off to get back to where we did. Adam n the guys did a great job getting it ready 2 race, made some good adjustments n executed well pic.twitter.com/iV07yuENfv
— Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) October 7, 2019
6. Alex Bowman – 80 Points
Last week’s ranking: 8th (+2)
Although he did actually stay away from conflict this race weekend, Bowman still had water splashed on him. But, this act was all in the name of fun and games as the ever-sneaky Corey Lajoie pulled a fast one on the showman in the media center. Remember when Hendrick Motorsports cars carried primary sponsorships from Aquafina? Perhaps Bowman is making a case that it should come back.
— Nationwide Sports (@NW_Sports) October 6, 2019
7. Brad Keselowski – 57 Points
Last week’s ranking: 5th (-2)
According to the man himself, Keselowski is actually excited to go to Talladega for a playoff race. He might be alone on a desert island because he is possibly the only playoff driver to possess such excitement. However, this excitement is perhaps viably justified. After all, Keselowski has five wins at the Alabama track, the most of any active driver. He deserves to have confidence.
Held serve today in the first round of the nascar playoffs with an 11th place finish.
Now on to a track I’ve been looking forward to for awhile now @TalladegaSuperS ?????? pic.twitter.com/eDA29ineH3
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) October 7, 2019
8. Joey Logano – 42 Points
Last week’s ranking: 6th (-2)
According to a “credible” expert, Logano was in a position to get the 24 free passes. Unfortunately for Logano, 24 other drivers finished off the lead lap ahead of him. But, he deserves an A+ for driving the wheels of his No. 22 Ford.
You can't blame Logano for fighting to stay in the lucky-lucky-lucky-lucky-lucky-lucky-lucky-lucky-lucky-lucky-lucky-lucky-lucky-lucky-lucky-lucky-lucky-lucky-lucky-lucky-lucky-lucky-lucky-lucky-dog position, people. #NASCAR #Dover
— nascarcasm (@nascarcasm) October 6, 2019
9. Chase Elliott – 36 Points
Last week’s ranking: 4th (-5)
Elliott got eight laps out of his ill Chevrolet before his powerplant let go. With a seven-point deficit to the playoff cutline, Elliott heads back to Talladega as the defending winner. Can Georgia’s favorite son traverse back into Alabama and sweep the season at Dega?
COME HERE I NEED YOU IN DELAWARE pic.twitter.com/dFF8tUtiAs
— nascarcasm (@nascarcasm) October 6, 2019
10. William Byron – 30 Points
Last week’s ranking: 10th (No Change)
Like Elliott, Byron hopes to capitalize on the treacherous Talladega circuit. While he does not share the same deficit in points as his teammate does, he does face a significant age deficit to Elliott, thus it might be a good idea to keep young Byron out of the Talladega infield. Just saying.
— No. 24 Team (@Hendrick24Team) October 6, 2019
11. Clint Bowyer – 28 Points
Last week’s ranking: 11th (No Change)
On this week’s edition of Bowyer’s social media chronicles: Brett Griffin’s hatred of fantasy football, a school bus, and Harry Hyde’s bullet hole in the side of the Dover garage.
Plus, Cash rides a motorcycle, Cash signs some autographs and Clint gets hypnotized.
That’s pretty damn cool. I’d love to meet ya some time. Appreciate your support over the years. Cool pics! 13 years!!!! ? https://t.co/BfN9fSKM3F
— Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) October 8, 2019
12. Matt DiBenedetto – 22 Points
Last week’s ranking: Not Ranked
So, DiBenedetto finished ahead of big names such as Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Byron, Jimmie Johnson and Aric Almirola. As a reward, DiBenedetto earned a modest $20 for a hard day’s work. Matt, you need a raise.
Wheels is a man of his word https://t.co/sOcx6UgDSg
— Matt DiBenedetto (@mattdracing) October 7, 2019
OTHER DRIVERS WHO RECEIVED VOTES
THIS WEEK’S VOTING PANEL
|Rob Dutzar Jr||@rob_dutzar||Rob’s NASCAR Blog|
|Darian Gilliam||@blackflagmatter||Working on My Rednck|
|Godwin Kelly||@godwinkelly||The Daytona Beach News Journal|
|Tommy McCoart||@nascarman_rr||Racing Reference|
|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
Never at a loss for words, Zach Gillispie is a young, talented marketing professional from North Carolina who talks and writes on the side about his first love: racing! Since joining Frontstretch in 2018, Zach has served in numerous roles where he currently pens the NASCAR 101 column, a weekly piece delving into the basic nuts and bolts of the sport. Additionally, his unabashedly bold takes meshed with that trademarked dry wit of his have made Zach a fan favorite on the weekly Friday Faceoff panel. In his free time, he can be found in the great outdoors, actively involved in his church, cheering on his beloved Atlanta Braves or ruthlessly pestering his colleagues with completely useless statistics about Delma Cowart.
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