Race Weekend Central

Power Rankings: Bristol is Back Edition

It was great to have the old Bristol Motor Speedway back on Sunday (May 31)! This reminded me so much of the altercation between Dale Earnhardt and Terry Labonte so many years ago. Only this time, instead of one guy going to Victory Lane and the other guy complaining, both guys got taken out, and we had one of the most memorable face-mask-to-face-mask confrontations since that crazy day at Daytona International Speedway back in 1979. Okay, except rather than having a crazed look on his face swinging a helmet, the offended party was wearing his PhD student eyeglasses. But otherwise, it was almost identical. Bristol is back baby! 

With that, let’s look at this week’s Power Rankings. 

  1. Kevin Harvick – It took a wreck with 66 laps to go to stop Happy’s streak of top-10 finishes to start the year, but he came so close to keeping it alive. There is no doubt who the top driver and team is in 2020 thus far, no matter which track NASCAR attends. 
  2. Kyle Busch – Rowdy is solidifying his spot as the second best driver and team in the Cup Series right now. An early penalty put him in the back and it only took 220 laps to get back to the front. Look for the top two to have plenty of great races in 2020. 
  3. Chase Elliott – Every Cup race since NASCAR came back the COVID-19 shutdown, we have seen the No.  9 car in contention for the win. The fact he tried to stuff it in there for the win instead of just settling for a top-two finish shows his DNA is pure Million Dollar Bill!
  4. Brad Keselowski – As the old saying goes, you have to be good to be lucky! When the top-two contenders for the win got tangled up, the No. 2 car was just good enough to take advantage to grab another win. 
  5. Denny Hamlin – Hamlin was involved in some very memorable battles for the lead on Sunday. Even a bad finish earned a one spot move up in the standings because bad luck happens at Bristol. 
  6. Joey Logano – Note to Sliced Bread… please get tougher looking eyeglasses. Tax season has been extended to July, but isn’t this guy too busy to be moonlighting for H&R Block? That was some serious hard racing for the lead on more than one occasion, though. 
  7. Alex Bowman – Bowman the Showman got attention in all of the wrong ways on Sunday, but it was a spectacular end to a somewhat solid race. It’s impossible to lower his rating based on being a victim of the SAFER barrier slinging a car back out into his path. 
  8. Martin Truex Jr. – It might be time to start blaming the ho-hum performances of the No. 19 car this season on Cole Pearn not returning. The New Jersey native is usually a threat at any kind of track, but the lack of practice which leads to a lack of adjustments seems to be hurting this team and driver more than most. 
  9. Jimmie Johnson – There has been no question that Seven-Time has a much better car and seems to have a better handle on this rule package than the last few seasons. His winless drought continues, but without the rookie-like mistakes, he had a strong race on Sunday. 
  10. Ryan Blaney – This is one of those drivers who gets harder to rate each and every week. The team and driver are strong, but when you continue to have issues, it’s hard not to point the finger at the driver. Of course I know when I point a finger, three more are pointing back at me, but I haven’t been in the driver seat so you can’t blame me!
  11. Clint Bowyer – NASCAR’s funny man had another strong race, but this time he finished it strong also. If he had another 10-15 laps, he might have caught Bad Brad for the win. The often outspoken Bowyer also had to worry NASCAR with his comment that it’s time to bring back the fans, but it certainly seems like time to get back to something closer to normal. 
  12. Matt Kenseth – While a 16th place doesn’t go into the books as a strong race for him, this was a classic Kenseth race. On those rare days he doesn’t have a great ride or has issues and gets down, he always finds a way to claw his way back to the lead lap and a respectable finish. 
  13. William Byron – Did you know that Byron got his start in iRacing? Really? If you didn’t know that you must be watching these races with the sound down or tuned into MRN or PRN on any given week. 
  14. Kurt Busch – The strong runs by the 2004 Cup champ and other Busch brother have not been flukes. Kurt was never on the right side of track position or strategy moves, yet he managed to stay in the hunt to the finish. A win is not far away. Only Harvick has more top-10 finishes than Busch, who is tied for second with Bad Brad. 
  15. Tyler Reddick – Maybe I got my ticket for the Ty Reddick Band Wagon a little too soon. Racing from the back of the pack made a tough day for the rookie until a crash ended his day. Will he only be a force at intermediate tracks? 
  16. Aric Almirola – It was not an impressive day for a driver narrowly hanging on to his ride for the future. Almirola has had three top-10 finishes but four finishes of 20th or worse in the first nine races. That is not the kind of consistency that leads to a championship run. 

Do you have any complaints about the Power Rankings? Do you think another driver is more worthy of making the cut? Include your ranking in the comments section and your comment might make the article next week! 

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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What is it with Frontstretch and Erik Jones? He struggled at the start of the year, just like his Toyota teammates, but since NASCAR’s return he’s run strong. His only bad finish was Charlotte 2, when he pitted outside the box. Yes, he didn’t get the car in the box, but it’s on the crew chief, spotter and crew, if they service the car outside the box. Jones is 14th in the points, and ahead three drivers you have ranked, Johnson, Reddick and Kenseth. He also has more top 10’s than Blaney, Bowyer and Amirola (and Bowman who has a win).

Since the return, he’s had two 5th’s, an 8th, an 11th and the 26th at Charlotte 2 (average finish 11). Johnson’s had a 3rd, 8th, 11th 38th & 40th (average 20th), Reddick was 7th, 8th, 13th, 14th & 36th (average 15.6). Amirola has had a 7th, 12th, 15th, 20th & 29th (average 16.6), and how does Kenseth get ranked with finishes of 10th, 16th, 23rd, 26th & 30th?

Frontstetch has called Jones inconsistent in the past, but it’s his crew that is often inconsistent. The stop outside the box, cost him a lap and a top 10 run at Charlotte. He was fifth and moving forward at Darlington, when he was slowed by a vibration, caused by two loose lug nuts (and he still finished eighth). Last year he had two or three good runs ruined by wheels left loose, and was eliminated from the Chase, when a top 5 was turned into a last place, when his car failed post race tech.


What does JH Nemechek gotta do to get in the rankings? He’s outperformed Reddick in much lesser equipment. I understand the narrative was the Big 3 rookies, but this kid is outrunning them at some of the most difficult tracks on the circuit.

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