Race Weekend Central

Power Rankings: Darlington I Edition

Everyone at NASCAR had to be nervous about how all of the new procedures would work out for the first race without fans due to COVID-19 at Darlington Speedway on Sunday (May 17). However, all went well, and it was a monster of a day for NASCAR, earning the highest television rating outside the Daytona 500 in nearly three years. NASCAR is back! 

While there were some of the usual crop of drivers running toward the front, there were surprises along the way. Let’s look at who the top 16 drivers are this week.

  1. Kevin Harvick – Happy Harvick proved he was no Busch leaguer with a dominating win. He showed how Freaky Fast his car has been all year, as the only racer with top-10 finishes in all five races. His pit crew stumbled once while he was in the Hunt (Brothers Pizza) for the win, but he had the fastest auto-Mobil(e) and was able to Ford ahead to the victory. 
  2. Kyle Busch – Rowdy’s finish melted over the final laps due to a loose wheel, but he showed the speed to race from the back of the pack after failing pre-race inspection. The Interstate (Batteries), one-day trip from Charlotte was a format that should appeal to Busch’s style. 
  3. Martin Truex Jr. – Each week after another poor finish, the temptation was there to drop Truex in Power Rankings. It looked to be bad early on, but the No. 19 team fished its way to its first top-10 result of the year as if he were shopping at Bass Pro Shops. 
  4. Joey Logano – Sliced Bread drops a couple of positions this week after a rough outing at Darlington (finished 18th). Some might complain about dropping a driver two spots when his poor finish was due to a loose lug nut, but his team was unable to gain many spots after being Shelled in the back.
  5. Chase Elliott – While we didn’t get to hear the si-reen on Sunday, the son of Million Dollar Bill did show he has the (NAPA) Know How to get a strong finish out of his Chevy every week. I don’t give a Hoot(ers) if you can’t get curbside pickup of the free fried pickles, I am sure once restrictions are listed, you can (Mountain) Dew that later this season. 
  6. Denny Hamlin – After showing his iRacing skills in the virtual world during the racing hiatus, Hamlin had a very strong showing at Darlington. He (FedEx) Delivered a solid top-five finish for the first time since he won at Daytona International Speedway to start the season. 
  7. Brad Keselowski – If you Discount (Tire) the end of the Real Heroes 400, it’s easy to make a case for having the No. 2 team rise two spots in the Power Rankings this week while finishing 13th. If you don’t agree, it will Dent (Wizard) my feelings a bit, but I am sure a few Miller Lites will have me feeling like the king of the (Money) Lions again. 
  8. Alex Bowman – Bowman the Showman had a very impressive race at the Lady in Black on Sunday. He does need a larger face mask because he kept touching his face, violating CDC guidelines. He just needs help with his (Chevy) Accesories going forward. 
  9. Ryan Blaney – It was a rough race on Sunday for Blaney. Every time it looked like he would make some kind of a run and Advance (Auto Parts), it was like his Duracell Batteries would expire and he would slow down like he was stuck in the checkout lane at the local Menards. 
  10. Jimmie Johnson – How can a seven-time Cup Series champion make such a rookie mistake like he did at Darlington on Sunday while leading the race? It wouldn’t have even been that close of a race to win the stage if he had backed off and finished behind Chris Buecher. Doesn’t Jimmie have a single Ally (Financial) on his team to tell him to back off? 
  11. Matt Kenseth – You have to give the old retired guy Credit (One) for having such a strong debut on his return to NASCAR. No practice at all and he was able to pass guys like he chose the faster drive-thru lane at McDonalds! 
  12. Clint Bowyer – It looked like Bowyer was on his way to a great finish, but then his decision to make a pass on the bottom during a restart was made in a Rush (Truck Center), and he quickly fell back. He almost was able to PEAK in the top five, but then he fell back. The No. 14 (Blue) Def is going to be a contender in the races ahead. 
  13. William Byron – If the announcers told us one more time how Byron started out in iRacing before rising all the way up to  the highest ranks in NASCAR, it was going to make my headache worse. I was already ready to scream, “I refuse to take this from your Axalta leader in the booth. Give me Liberty (University) from these stories or give me death.” It doesn’t Hertz any more after getting that off my back. Thank you. 
  14.  Matt DiBenedetto – Despite his 14th-place finish, I was impressed by his (Motor) Craft at handling a racecar. If he had only gotten in the Quick Lane (Tire & Auto Center) a little sooner, he might have salvaged a top-10 finish on Sunday. 
  15. Aric Almirola – This might have been the least impressive top-12 finish of the weekend, but it showed that Almirola was up to the (Good Food) Challenge to race without any practice laps on a very tough track. His post-race comments showed that he isn’t much of a word Smith(field) at all. 
  16. Tyler Reddick – The fact that youngsters Tyler Reddick and John Hunter Nemechek could race from the back to the front at the Track Too Tough to Tame with no practice laps was incredible to see. Reddick showed he is one cool CAT with another strong finish. 

Don’t agree with the Power Rankings? Add your comments. and I might use that comment next week after Charlotte.

About the author

Dennis a.k.a. DMIC has been covering NASCAR racing since 1998. After spending 23 years as a professional weather forecaster, Dennis still didn't know what he wanted to be when he grew up, so he started covering auto racing full time. He is the moderator of the Race Track Business Conference - an all-day educational seminar covering the business of speed - and is the owner of DMIC Media & Marketing where he spends his time mouthing off about all kinds of sports. He is also the play-by-play voice for the professional Ultimate Disc team the Chicago Wildfire of the American Ultimate Disc League. Dennis can be heard every Saturday on The Final Inspection on 105.7FM The Fan in Milwaukee, Wis. talking NASCAR, and you can listen on the Radio.com app.

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