Race Weekend Central

Power Rankings: Chase Went to Chase Edition

Oftentimes, NASCAR gets the short end of the deal — faces a lot of criticism, but they deserve a tip of the old Frontstretch hat for managing to get a full season in during trying times. No other major American sport was able to accomplish this feat.

There is no hiding the fact that I’m not a fan of this current rules package or this playoff concept. In my opinion, having playoffs in auto racing would be like having the New York Jets having a scrimmage on the field during the Super Bowl!

During Championship Weekend at Phoenix Raceway, we saw how also-rans can affect the outcome of a race when it’s all or nothing for one race. Thankfully, the NASCAR Cup Series champion was decided on the track and the champion was the hottest driver in the closing weeks. The Chase, I mean the playoffs, went to Chase.

Let’s check the final Power Rankings for 2020. 

  1. Chase Elliott – Last to first to win the championship on a track where people said all week it was hard to finish a pass shows that the best driver on Sunday was Elliott, by far. This might be one of the most impressive drives since his Dad unlapped himself during green flag racing at Talladega Superspeedway to win. Hail to the Champion!  
  2. Kevin Harvick – Happy Harvick won a championship when he wasn’t the best driver all year back in 2014, so you won’t hear him complain this year. This season, Harvick’s average finish was two positions better than his nearest competitor. He was the only driver with nine wins, 20 top-five and 27 top-10 finishes. 
  3. Denny Hamlin – Once again the season ended in a “frustrating” way for Hamlin. Earlier this year he took over from Mark Martin as the best driver in NASCAR history never to have won a championship. Only 17 drivers in the history of the sport have won more often than Hamlin. and all but one (Junior Johnson) won a title. 
  4. Brad Keselowski – Note to Bad Brad… never dare the Racing Karma Gods by posting a picture of your Victory Beer Glass before the race weekend. The final standings will show the No. 2 car finished runner-up, but there was a big gap between the top three in the Power Rankings and Brad this season, despite winning four races.  
  5. Joey Logano – If there were bonus points available for ticking off his fellow competitors, there is no doubt Logano would never lose a championship ever again. Going into 2021 Sliced Bread has to be considered one of the favorites… to be taken out of a race by a fellow competitor he has irritated.     
  6. Martin Truex Jr. – This is the leading driver to benefit when NASCAR goes back to a normal race weekend in 2021. Nobody missed qualifying more than Truex this season because he always qualifies up front for most races.  Instead, he settled for seventh in points, tied with his team Kyle Busch. Speaking of…
  7. Kyle Busch – The man who has won 4000 NASCAR races (sarcasm font engaged) in his career could only win one race in 2020, and it took 34 races to win his first one. Nothing explains how weird 2020 better than that fact. 
  8. Kyle Larson – How can I justify ranking someone who has been sitting on the sidelines since March this high? Name me eight racers in Cup right now you would rather have in your ride if you were an owner than Yung Money. Can’t do it, can ya? Expect big numbers from the No. 5 car in 2021.     
  9. Alex Bowman – It was a career year for Bowman the Showman, leading twice as many laps this year than any previous year of his career. In fact, he almost led more laps in 2020 than he did in his entire career before.  
  10. William Byron – Did you know that Byron is the first driver to make the top 10 in Power Rankings that got his start in iRacing? It’s true! Did you know that Byron has also won more career races in Cup than anyone else who got his start in iRacing? 
  11. Clint Bowyer – I will miss seeing Bowyer racing in NASCAR. This is the last guy who made it from obscure racing roots to have his ultimate racing dream come true before the sport changed into what it is today. Thankfully, we will still get to enjoy his humor on race days for half of the season.   
  12. Ryan Blaney – Every week it seems like Blaney is in contention to win a race. But every year for the last four years, he only manages to win one race each year. There is no doubt he has incredible talent, but he needs to reach that next level.   
  13. Cole Custer – The rookie made a huge impact with his amazing four-wide dash on a restart to grab his first win, but that was just one moment in an incredible rookie season. Heading into 2021, there are high expectations for Cold Custard.   
  14. Aric Almirola – Consistency was the specialty for Almirola in 2020. An incredible nine-race streak of top-10 finishes and 14 top 10s in the regular season elevated Almirola into the playoffs. But it’s been a full two seasons without a win for him.  
  15. Kurt Busch – Do you ever wonder what Busch might have been able to do this year in top equipment? His Chip Ganassi Racing ride is clearly below the quality of Hendrick Motorsport, Team Penske, Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing.  
  16. Jimmie Johnson – The seven-time champion finished his Cup career at Phoenix Raceway with one final strong race. There is no doubt the lower horsepower world of NASCAR speedway racing didn’t fit with Johnson’s racing style. One of the very best ever to race in NASCAR, it’s sad to see him go. Farewell, champ!  

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.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I imagine Larson pictured himself coming into next year’s first team meeting at HMS with swagger and the attitude that he was there to save HMS. Guess things didn’t quite work out that way for him. I’m sure he sat at home on Sunday cheering for the 2, 22, and 11.

Why can’t Michelsen resist pushing Larson on us as the “next big thing” when he hasn’t done anything in NASCAR to deserve it? I still believe it’s the Todd Behling effect at work.

WJW Motorsports

I don’t know – is Larson really the brash type A center of attention guy? I really haven’t followed him all that closely over the years, but he seems more like the quiet type (off the track anyway) and he has certainly been humbled by the ridiculous cancel culture. I’d guess he is pleased there won’t be as much pressure or spotlight on him.

Share via