Power Rankings: Michigan – 1

  1. Kevin Harvick (NC)

As with last week at Pocono, Harvick led the most laps, at 49, again at Michigan. He and his Stewart-Haas Racing teammates had absolutely unmatched speed, which resulted in a 1-2-3 finish for the team, with Harvick finishing second.

  1. Kyle Busch (NC)

Busch was solid all day, but wasn’t able to get up front all race. However, a fourth-place run is good enough to keep his spot in the rankings.

  1. Martin Truex Jr. (NC)

After a win at Pocono, Truex was riding high. His momentum entering Sunday was stopped far short, though, as he ran outside the top ten all day, finishing 18th, without scoring a single stage point. We’ll see where the team goes from here, but the total lack of speed Truex showed is certainly worrying. We’ll see what he does in the second Michigan race later this summer.

  1. Brad Keselowski (+2)

Another solid run is just what the doctor ordered for Keselowski, who ended his day in sixth. He scored points in both stage and was just plain quick all day. If he can keep this up, the wins will be coming.

  1. Kyle Larson (-1)

Like Truex, Larson was also riding high after last weekend, but had his run at Michigan thwarted by a spin in stage two. The rain killed any comeback he might have had and Larson ended his day in 28th spot.

  1. Joey Logano (-1)

Logano had a similar finish to Keselowski, but failed to get more than a couple stage points. He just hasn’t had the outright speed of his teammates Keselowski or, at times, Blaney, but he’s been consistent, which has helped him big time.

  1. Kurt Busch (+1)

Kurt Busch finished third on Sunday, and had a very impressive run, showing off Stewart-Haas Racing’s astonishing speed. At times, it seemed that only his teammate Kevin Harvick was faster than Busch. He’s been strong in recent weeks, with top ten finishes in five of his last six races.

  1. Ryan Blaney (+1)

Blaney came out of Sunday’s race with a stage win and a solid eighth-place finish. Only the SHR trio at the top scored more points than Blaney on Sunday. 15 laps up front is certainly solid for Blaney, especially when neither of his Penske teammates led a single lap. He’s had the speed to lead at times, but hasn’t been able to put a whole race together yet. That should come with time.

  1. Clint Bowyer (NR)

Bowyer’s crew chief, Mike Bugarewicz, took a gamble that nobody else was willing to, taking two tires at the end of stage two. Bowyer held off teammate Kevin Harvick and grabbed the win after the rain began to come down. Some might say it’s not a “legitimate” win, but when it comes from a guy who finished in the top three in both stages, it’s hard to say he didn’t deserve it.

  1. Denny Hamlin (-3)

Hamlin had a decent race, scored a few stage points, and finished 12th. However, the drivers that passed him all scored more points and finished better than Hamlin. He just hasn’t quite been in the right form to contend this season.

Power Rankings: Pocono – 1

  1. Kevin Harvick (+1)

Harvick led the most laps by far at Pocono and earned the most points other than winner Martin Truex Jr. His performance serves as a bounceback run after his last-place finish due a blown tire at Charlotte last weekend. His stellar run at Pocono, as well as his series-best five wins this season put him back on top of the rankings this week.

  1. Kyle Busch (-1)

Busch led a few laps at Pocono, but didn’t spend much time in front of Kevin Harvick. While he had a very strong run, it wasn’t quite enough to keep him at the top of the rankings.

  1. Martin Truex Jr. (NC)

Truex led quite a few laps, including the most important, on Sunday, to win his second race of the season. The win solidifies his status in the top three, but he’ll likely need another win, preferably in dominating fashion, to mix it up with the top two. A win’s a win, though, so Truex is in no danger of falling below third.

  1. Kyle Larson (+3)

Larson has been the strongest Chevy driver this season, and is putting himself in the conversation as a possible fourth musketeer, in addition to Truex, Busch, and Harvick. He’ll have to win a race or two, but he’s not far off. It’s worth noting that Larson has top ten finishes in six of his last seven races. This stretch includes 301 laps led, between Bristol and Kansas.

  1. Joey Logano (-1)

Logano had a ninth place run, but failed to score any stage points. This sends him down one spot in the rankings. An exceptionally consistent season with no DNFs keeps Logano in the top five.

  1. Brad Keselowski (+2)

A second consecutive top five finish helps Keselowski climb back up in the rankings. He scored points in both stages and led twice for a total of ten laps.

  1. Denny Hamlin (-2)

Hamlin was having a decent run, but a late wreck with Alex Bowman sent him into the inside wall and out of the race. He ended up 35th with a torn up race car. This ends Hamlin’s three-race top ten streak and sends him down in the rankings.

  1. Kurt Busch (-2)

Busch hit all kinds of problems on Sunday, including a radio issue which forced a long pit stop. He finished 19th without scoring a single stage point. Busch was on a four-race top ten streak.

  1. Ryan Blaney (NR)

Blaney had a solid sixth-place run at Pocono after winning the pole. While he fell back a bit after losing the lead, he never fell too far back, and seemed to, at times, have some serious speed. He’s been a very hard read, with his best runs being ruined by wrecks. However, look for him to run up front at Michigan next weekend.

  1. Aric Almirola (NC)

Almirola had a very respectable seventh-place finish on Sunday. He didn’t run super well all day, but had good speed late in the race, allowing him to grab a solid finish.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly of XFINITY at Pocono

Kyle Busch grabbed the victory in the Pocono Green 250, but it was the new race package that stole headlines. Was it good, bad, or ugly?

The Good: Kyle Busch

While I still don’t agree that Cup drivers should be in the XFINITY Series, it’s hard to deny how talented Kyle Busch is. He’s now won 189 times total in the top three NASCAR touring series, including 92 times in the XFINITY series. His win on Saturday also means he’s won at all 15 tracks where all three national series run, in Cup, XFINITY, and Trucks. That’s a mind-boggling feat. Busch is clearly in the absolute prime of his career, and probably won’t slow down for a while now. While it’s a prickly topic, Busch should be in the conversation right up there with Petty, Earnhardt, and Johnson, by the time his career is finished. It’s hard to dispute that Busch is the best driver racing right now.

The Bad: The Rules Package

The new rules package was something, but it wasn’t all that great. The highlight was the couple of times when there were several cars under a blanket for one position, be it the lead, or a little farther back. Other than that, though, it wasn’t a great race. A few laps after each restart, the field would string out, and the leader would stretch out a significant lead. While the package did allow some gaps to close, the gaps up front didn’t seem so susceptible. It truly didn’t look much different from any old Pocono race. It only had seven lead changes, and only a couple under green. It’s going to take some more experimenting to find the right balance at Pocono.

The Ugly: Lap Cars

While lap cars are always a bit of a pain for the leaders, at the end of stage two they caused a real ruckus. Mike Harmon, running well off the pace in his No. 74 Chevy Camaro, broke up a four-car battle for the stage win between Paul Menard, Cole Custer, Austin Cindric, and Justin Allgaier. Harmon was running the preferred bottom as the field entered turn three. The four battling for the lead (who had been two-by-two) were forced to the outside to avoid contact with Harmon, who almost ran himself into the grass. It’s worth noting that this put Harmon a second lap down. It’s absolutely pathetic that someone who was running 38th at the time ruined what could have been a close stage finish. The only thing I can say is Harmon should be glad that race wasn’t on lap 100.

Power Rankings: Charlotte – 1

  1. Kyle Busch (+2)

Busch has now won a points race at every track on the Cup Series circuit. That’s a pretty impressive feat. Equally as impressive is the fact that he led a shocking 377 of Sunday night’s 400 laps. Busch now trails Harvick by only one win so far this season, and that puts Busch on top of this week’s power rankings.

  1. Kevin Harvick (-1)

Harvick made some history of his own this weekend, but not the good kind. For the first time in 1,089 NASCAR national series starts, Harvick finished last. Despite his series-leading five wins on the season, Harvick has been feast or famine this season. All of his finishes better than 30th have been seventh or better. Unfortunately, Harvick has three finishes worse than 30th so far this season. That puts him third in the points, 88 points behind leader Kyle Busch. His last-place finish at Charlotte drops him from the lead to second in the power rankings.

  1. Martin Truex Jr. (+1)

Truex had a very strong race on Sunday night, finishing each stage in the top ten, and second in the race. He even seemed to close a bit on Kyle Busch in the closing laps of Sunday night’s race. However, Truex was never fast enough to challenge Busch. Truex has recovered well from a rough period where he failed to finish three of four races, following up with three top five finishes. If there’s going to be a third musketeer to compliment Busch and Harvick, Truex looks to be the top contender.

  1. Joey Logano (-2)

Logano had a 22nd-place finish Sunday night, his first finish outside the top 20 all season. Logano blamed damage he received from a spin with Jimmie Johnson for the lack of speed, but there seems to be something a bit more there, given he failed to finish inside the top ten in any of the three stages.

  1. Denny Hamlin (+3)

Hamlin was very strong all race, scoring points in all three stages and finishing third in the race. He has also been quietly strong as of recently, with top ten finishes in seven of the last eight races. His remarkably consistent run in the 600 (as well as his competitors’ relative struggles) have vaulted him to fourth in the rankings.

  1. Kurt Busch (NC)

Like Hamlin, Busch has been remarkably consistent lately. Busch now rides a streak of four top ten finishes after a strong eighth-place showing at Charlotte. There’s no doubt that Busch will keep his place in the rankings if he keeps this up.

  1. Kyle Larson (NC)

Larson comes off an decent seventh-place run, but, like Keselowski, he’s struggled with consistency,

  1. Brad Keselowski (-3)

Keselowski has struggled with inconsistency all season, so, despite a top five run at Charlotte, he drops a few positions in the rankings. Keselowski has three top five finishes this season, but as many DNFs. A win would help him a ton.

  1. Clint Bowyer (+1)

Bowyer finished 12th, scoring points in two of the three stages. He stayed out of trouble all night and continues an impressive season with the best team in the sport.

  1. Aric Almirola (-1)

Almirola had a very similar race to Bowyer, running near him all night and ending up in 13th place after scoring points in two of the three stages. He has only a single DNF, which also happens to be his only finish outside the top 20 all season. He falls behind Bowyer only because of his slightly worse average finish.

Power Rankings: Kansas 1

  1. Kevin Harvick

It seems pretty obvious. Five wins in twelve races in 2018 is all but guaranteed to put you up at the top of the rankings.

  1. Joey Logano

A strong third-place run and top fives in both stages allowed Logano to keep his second-place points standings despite Harvick’s win. Logano has been a quiet contender all year, not dominating races, but staying near the front. He is locked in the playoffs through his win at Talladega.

  1. Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch is leading the points, but a drivetrain failure at Dover and a tenth-place run at Kansas mean he’s down in third. Of course, it’s all relative. Busch is still having a very impressive season, with three wins.

  1. Martin Truex Jr.

Truex is mired back in eighth in points due to some bad luck earlier in the season. A fourth-place in Dover and a near-win in Kansas have helped him up to fourth in the rankings, though.

  1. Brad Keselowski

Keselowski didn’t have a great showing in Kansas, finishing fourteenth, but he’s been strong all year, which is reflected in a fourth-place points standings.

  1. Kurt Busch

Busch is coming off top ten finishes at both Dover and Kansas, and sits fifth in the points. Like Logano, he hasn’t been dominant, but has stayed up front consistently, which has earned him this spot.

  1. Kyle Larson

Much like Truex, Larson hit a rough patch a few races back, but has recovered with top ten runs in the last pair of races. Larson dominated much of Saturday night’s race before a run-in with Ryan Blaney set him back. He recovered for a fourth-place finish.

  1. Denny Hamlin

Hamlin hasn’t had the speed that those above him have had, but he’s sitting seventh in points, and has an average finish just worse than tenth. Hamlin has finished 10 of the 12 races this season on the lead lap. It looks like consistency may be Hamlin’s strength this season.

  1. Aric Almirola

Almirola has been one of the pleasant surprises this season. His new ride with Stewart-Haas Racing has paid big dividends. With an average finish of 12.4, Almirola sits 11th in the points, and has improved even during the season. Almirola only has two finishes worse than 14th, and has been following his Stewart-Haas Racing teammates in their strong performances.

  1. Clint Bowyer

Speaking of Stewart-Haas Racing, Clint Bowyer was hot heading into Kansas after finishing second at Dover. A win was far from the agenda Saturday night, though, as Bowyer was taken out in William Byron’s huge wreck.

Harvick Grabs Fifth Win in Wild Kansas Finish

Kevin Harvick won the KC Masterpiece 400 after leading 79 laps. This is Harvick’s second race win in a row, and series-high fifth of the season. Kyle Larson led a race-high 101 laps before a run-in with Ryan Blaney derailed his night.

Kyle Larson started hot, entering the top ten on lap 20 after starting 34th. On the competition caution, Ryan Blaney was first off pit road, followed by Harvick. Jimmie Johnson, running just outside the top 20, had to pit for a loose wheel with just under 20 to go in stage one. That would be the start of a difficult night for Johnson, which ended with a 19th-place finish two laps down. Darrell Wallace Jr. had a right rear tire go down with about five to go in stage one, meaning he had to pit under green, taking him out of contention. Wallace had an even worse day, ending up 23rd, five laps down. Ryan Blaney was able to grab the stage win after holding off a challenge from Kevin Harvick.

Harvick, though, passed up Blaney on pit road and drove away on the restart. During stage two, both Daniel Suarez and Brad Keselowski had to pit for loose wheels. Right after pit stops, which took place about halfway through the stage, Kyle Larson made a huge power move to get by Kevin Harvick for the lead. That pass sealed the deal for Larson to win stage two.

The final stage started as a Larson-fest. Harvick and Blaney worked hard trying to track him down throughout the final stage, but he was gone. That is, until the caution came out with 30 laps to go when Daniel Suarez and Alex Bowman got together in front of Larson. While it was a scare for Larson, he was able to make it through.

On the restart, though, Kevin Harvick grabbed the lead away from Larson, and Logano took second. Blaney got loose and fell back several positions. Larson and Blaney soon got into a battle for third. It turned sour when Blaney bounced off the side of Larson, causing a nasty tire rub for Larson and cutting the right front tire of Blaney. This brought out the caution once again.

Pit strategy threw things for a loop, as the top six stayed out, led by Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. Erik Jones, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, and Chase Elliott also stayed out, while William Byron took two tires. Kevin Harvick was the first driver with four tires, in eighth. The restart was going smoothly as Martin Truex Jr. grabbed the lead, but a huge wreck erupted after William Byron got loose under Clint Bowyer, turning Bowyer around and sending Byron into the wall violently. Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Chris Buescher, and Ty Dillon were all collected. Every car but Bowyer could not continue and the red flag was thrown. Everyone involved was okay.

The race restarted with Truex still the leader, but Kevin Harvick clawed through the field with unreal speed, tracked down Truex, and got by him with only a couple laps to go. Harvick made it through the final laps and grabbed the hard-fought victory.