NASCAR Power Rankings: The New Hampshire Shake Up

  1. Kevin Harvick (+1)

Harvick took the win on Sunday, his sixth of the season, the most of anyone. The final run brought him closer and closer to leader Kyle Busch, until Harvick was able to knock Busch out of the way to claim the win. Look for Harvick to win more races and lead more laps. While the Toyotas of Busch and Martin Truex Jr. have matched Harvick’s speed at times, the Stewart-Haas Fords are fast more consistently. Harvick now has an incredible 15 top five finishes this season, or 75% of the races, also the most of anyone so far.

  1. Martin Truex Jr. (-1)

Truex didn’t take home the win, but he did lead 83 laps and take home a fourth-place finish. This extends his streak of top-four finishes to five races. Add to that the fact that he has won three of the last seven races and Truex is certainly still a force to be reckoned with.

  1. Kyle Busch (NC)

Busch got knocked out of the way by Harvick, but still took home second place, his seventh top-five in his last eight races. While he’s placed third in these rankings currently, significant volatility still exists, especially among the “big three.”

  1. Kyle Larson (+1)

Larson floundered much of the day, unable to find much speed. However, he recovered to take home a respectable 12th-place finish. Thanks to issues for those around him, Larson moves up to fourth in the rankings.

  1. Kurt Busch (+2)

Like Larson, Busch benefits from others’ issues and moves up to fifth in the rankings after an eighth-place finish. Busch has eight top-10 finishes in his last 11 races, a very impressive streak. He still hasn’t taken home a win, but that’s not surprising considering how dominant the “big three” have been.

  1. Brad Keselowski (-2)

Keselowski fought issues all day and eventually lost his brakes. Fortunately the issue didn’t happen all at once, allowing him to keep the car in one piece. Even so, he ended the race 32nd, eight laps down.

  1. Aric Almirola (+2)

Almirola led 42 laps on Sunday, and looked to be on the way to his first win of the season. Unfortunately, the caution came out after his teammate Clint Bowyer hit the wall, and Almirola’s crew had a slow pit stop, setting him back to third, where he finished. It’s his first top five finish of the season and his ninth top ten finish.

  1. Clint Bowyer (-2)

Bowyer ran top-ten all day, but a penalty set him back, followed by a mechanical failure, which ended his day. This marks the third race in a row outside of the top ten for Bowyer, who had been on a streak of three top-fives in a row before this latest trio of races.

  1. Joey Logano (+1)

Logano ended up ninth, and ran right around there all day. It was a solid day for the Team Penske driver, who has had a solid but quiet season.

  1. Erik Jones (-2)

Jones ended the day in the 16th position after his car’s handling went away early on. This ends a four-race top-ten streak for Jones.

Power Rankings – Kentucky

  1. Martin Truex Jr. (+2)

Suddenly Martin Truex Jr. has appeared to dwarf the other two of the big three in terms of speed. Neither Kyle Busch nor Kevin Harvick led a single lap, due in part to Truex leading 174 of them. Truex also swept the stages and grabbed the race win as well.

  1. Kevin Harvick (-1)

Harvick had another solid race on Saturday night at Kentucky. While he didn’t lead any laps, he stayed in the top five all night and ended up fifth. This marks his 14th top five finish in 19 races so far this season, including five of his last six.

  1. Kyle Busch (-1)

Like Harvick, Busch had a solid night, but didn’t lead any laps. Busch ended the race in fourth, his 13th top five this season, and, like Harvick, his fifth top five in his last six races.

  1. Brad Keselowski (+2)

Keselowski ended the night third after a gutsy pit call by crew chief Paul Wolfe put him up front on old tires after the end of stage two. He was able to lead for about 35 laps before losing the lead to eventual winner Martin Truex Jr. Fortunately for Keselowski, the caution came out shortly after, and he was able to keep his track position.

  1. Kyle Larson (NC)

Larson was running down the leaders late in Saturday night’s race, but a faulty track bar adjuster foiled any hope of a victory as his car rapidly became a handful. However, his crew was able to adjust the car on pit road during the final pit stop of the night, and Larson charged through the pack to grab a hard-earned ninth-place finish. That wasn’t the first charge through the pack, either. Larson was late to driver introductions and had to start from the rear of the field Saturday. That didn’t stop him from scoring points in both stages, though.

  1. Clint Bowyer (-2)

Bowyer had a very “meh” race on Saturday night. He ran much of the race inside the top ten, ending both stages in sixth place. In the final stage, he fell back to his finishing position of 12th.

  1. Kurt Busch (NC)

Busch found himself up front for a total of 45 laps through alternative pit strategy, and it worked out for him. He managed to finish sixth, but didn’t quite have the speed to contend with the top five.

  1. Erik Jones (+2)

Coming off his big win at Daytona, Jones was looking for more at Kentucky. It wasn’t another win, but it wasn’t a failure by any stretch. Jones fought an ill-handling car all night, falling outside the top ten, before working his way back up to finish seventh. This marks his fourth consecutive top ten finish, and his ninth this season.

  1. Aric Almirola (-1)

Almirola finished eighth, a solid day for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver. He ran decent all day, and ended up with his eighth top ten of the season. Of those eight top tens, though, none are top fives. Yet.

  1. Joey Logano (-1)

Logano didn’t have a great night, but managed a 10th place finish on the day, his 14th of the season. His year hasn’t been flashy, but it’s been solid. He doesn’t have too many top fives to show for it, though.

Power Rankings: Daytona – 2

  1. Kevin Harvick (NC)

While Harvick was caught up in a late-race wreck at Daytona, he had a solid run, staying near the front much of the race and leading a handful of laps. That means Harvick has led laps in 13 of the 18 races so far in 2018, the most of anybody. He’s still at the top, and Kyle Busch looks like the only fast enough to take him down.

  1. Kyle Busch (NC)

Speaking of Busch, he was taken out in an incident late in stage two after contact with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Like Harvick, Busch showed a decent amount of speed, so he maintains his second-place position.

  1. Martin Truex Jr. (NC)

Truex was strong at Daytona, leading laps and ending up second behind winner Erik Jones. Overall, though, Clint Bowyer may threaten his third-place position in the near future.

  1. Clint Bowyer (+1)

After being involved in the first large wreck in stage one, Bowyer bounced back and was running up front until contact with Darrell Wallace Jr. sent him into the wall. He had a strong car, but was never able to show it.

  1. Kyle Larson (-1)

Larson was involved in the massive wreck in stage two, and his car was never the same after that. In the final stage, he blew a tire, sending him spinning. He collected Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and wouldn’t continue, ending up 29th.

  1. Brad Keselowski (NC)

Keselowski’s day ended early as he was turned by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., tipping off the massive wreck that also ended the days of his two Penske teammates. Keselowski ended his day in 36th spot.

  1. Kurt Busch (NC)

For Busch, it’s pretty much the same story as Brad Keselowski. He was caught up in the first big wreck, and that ended his day. Busch ended up 37th.

  1. Aric Almirola (NC)

Like the two above him, Almirola was caught up in the big wreck early on, but he would continue. After the damage, his car wasn’t the same, but he was able to survive until a four-car wreck ended his day late in the race.

  1. Joey Logano (NC)

Like his Penske teammate Brad Keselowski, Logano’s day was ended by the big wreck in stage two. Logano finished 39th.

  1. Erik Jones (NR)

Jones pulled out the win in Saturday night’s race, beating a very strong Martin Truex Jr. Jones now rides a three-race top ten streak. It seems to be coming together for Jones a bit. Keeping this up could cement his place as the second-best Joe Gibbs Racing driver behind Kyle Busch.

The Humans of NASCAR: Brett Moffitt

I’m very excited to announce my new series: The Humans of NASCAR. I’ll be asking drivers the same 13 questions (or variations of them). The goal of this series is to take a look at the drivers behind the race cars you see on track in order to better appreciate the personalities of our sport.

My first victim was Brett Moffitt. Moffitt, who won the Truck Series race at Chicagoland Speedway last weekend, has faced more than his share of adversity throughout his career. He has overcome it with flying colors, though, and looks to make his way up in the sport.

This interview took place on Thursday, June 28, 2018 at Chicagoland Speedway.

How was your trip to Chicagoland?

It was good. Obviously our race team had a heck of a battle to get here this weekend, sponsorship wise, but once we got that all figured out earlier this week, it was a short flight up here this morning, and I’m ready to get on track.

How did you get into NASCAR?

I started racing go karts when I was a kid, actually as a hobby, because my mom told my dad we needed a hobby together, and I started racing go karts with him. My dad was never really into stick-and-ball sports, so that’s what we started doing, and it just slowly developed, and I had success at all the rankings coming up, and one day we finally figured out a plan that we might be able to make this into a career and into a job. Thankfully it all worked out, and we’re still here.

What are you most looking forward to this weekend?

It’s always fun coming to these mile-and-a-halfs, we’ve been really strong on them. I think we’ve everywhere, but it seems like our mile-and-a-half program’s really good. I’m really just looking forward to getting back to a mile-and-a-half, and we’ve got a new sponsor on board this week, Fr8 Auctions, so it’ll be fun to have them here, and hopefully take them to victory lane for their first time.

Who’s your favorite driver?

Jimmie Johnson, for sure.

Yeah, I’d imagine you grew up in that seven-time era.

I did, I did. When I was really young, I was a big Jeff Gordon fan. I’ve got signed clocks, a letterman-style Jeff Gordon jacket, [one of] the big puffy ones. Then as I got older and matured, I kind of transformed into a Jimmie fan, because of his work ethic, and his dominance. Most people hate when somebody wins all the time, but, as a competitor, even if you don’t like it, I think you have to respect it.

If you could have anybody as your teammate, who would they be? They don’t have to be a driver.

Probably Selena Gomez [laughs]. She’s my celebrity crush. As a driver, though, probably Jimmie, just because I look up to him, and every time I’ve asked for information from him, he’s been very generous and given it to me, even though we’re not teammates. As a teammate, I can only imagine how much he could help.

Tell me something unique about yourself that’s not related to NASCAR.

I love golfing. That’s about it. I like lake surfing, I just like being outdoors.

What’s the most emotional you’ve been while watching/competing in a race?

[In terms of] Watching, I would say watching greatness happen. Whether it be watching Jimmie winning seven championships, or at the end of the year, I’m happy for whoever the champion is in each series, because I know how much work goes into it, and to see a season-long effort pay off is huge, especially with the new format, where you’ve gotta go to Homestead and perform. You can’t just go and start the race and be the champion. I think watching the final races at Homestead is always pretty emotional. As far as driving, winning at Iowa a couple weeks ago, being my home state, and on father’s day weekend was huge. My eighth place finish in Atlanta in the Cup car was right up there with it, just as a breakthrough race.

If you could change one thing in NASCAR, what would you change?

The race lengths. I think the Truck Series has really good racing because it [has] short races, and you’ve gotta go. Some of the Cup races are a little too long. I think you keep the staple races, like the Daytona 500, or Indianapolis, or the Coke 600, but some of the others they could shorten up. I think it would make a little better racing, because you’re not just biding your time, you’ve actually gotta go.

What do you want your signature “thing” to be as you grow your racing career?

I don’t really know if I have a signature thing, [but] I like when people appreciate my work ethic.

What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome thus far in your racing career?

Oh, there’s been a lot of them. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs for sure, with MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) shutting down. I was under a multiyear contract with them, so that was pretty heartbreaking and left me with no direction to go. It was really tough to find a team after that. I’d made my bed with them, and I was planning on being there a while, so I wasn’t looking for anything else, so that was tough. Red Horse [Racing] shutting down last year was another hard one to get by, because I was finally in a great opportunity in the Truck Series, and thankfully everything has worked out to come here.

What’s your pre-race jam?

I don’t really listen to music pre-race. I do listen to rap, though, if I’m trying to get pumped up. I would say anything rap.

What’s the most awkward conversation you’ve had with another driver?

[Laughs] It’s always awkward when you wreck each other, but in fairness, some of my better friends at the racetrack are those that [I initially got into it with], which is how we even started talking. I wouldn’t say drivers talk a lot, and after you yell at each other, you gain respect for each other.

Is there anything else you want to tell fans who read this?

Keep watching. The Truck Series has great racing, and make sure, whether we’re racing Thursday night or Friday night, to tune in and cheer for the 16 truck.

Power Rankings – Chicagoland

  1. Kevin Harvick (NC)

Harvick maintains supremacy, despite Kyle Busch matching his win total of five this weekend. Harvick won stage two with a late pass of Kurt Busch and led 39 laps, third-most of anyone. While Harvick ended up third, he was, again, clearly one of the top dogs, and shows no signs of slowing down.

  1. Kyle Busch (+1)

Busch fell to third after failing to keep up with Truex at Sonoma, but his winning performance at Chicagoland puts him right back to second. Busch now has five wins in 2018, tying him with Harvick. Like Harvick, Busch shows no signs of slowing down, and may even be distancing himself from Truex a little.

  1. Martin Truex Jr. (-1)

Truex had a solid run at Chicagoland, finishing top four in both stages and fourth in the race. The stat that sticks out to me is that he didn’t lead all day, and was the only driver in the top five to never find the front. He just couldn’t find the speed of the SHR cars, Kyle Busch, or Larson.

  1. Kyle Larson (+3)

After less-than-impressive runs at both Michigan and Sonoma, Larson rebounded in spectacular fashion on Sunday, bumping and spinning his way to a second-place finish to Kyle Busch.  While Larson’s season has been hit-and-miss, this weekend was a huge hit, both for Larson and for the fans. As for being a fourth championship contender, Larson will have to show more consistent speed and minimize mistakes to solidify himself as a contender.

  1. Clint Bowyer (+1)

Bowyer had one heck of a day, recovering from three penalties in stage one to finish the race sixth. Bowyer also led 21 laps before the series of penalties.

  1. Brad Keselowski (-1)

Keselowski finished top ten, led laps, and finished both stages in sixth. However, he was plain outmatched by the frontrunners. Unless he starts winning or leading way more laps, it will be hard to justify moving Keselowski above sixth. Odds are he will only fall.

  1. Kurt Busch (-2)

Busch had a solid run going, finishing both stages in the top four and leading 20 laps. However, his race fell apart as the handling on his race car became erratic in the final stage, starting out loose before turning tight. This caused Busch to fall all the way back to 17th.

  1. Aric Almirola (+2)

Almirola showed true SHR speed on Sunday, leading a race-high 70 laps and winning stage one. He looked to be in position to grab the second stage as well, before a loose wheel caused him to pit from the lead. He recovered and re-entered the top 10 during the final stage, but another loose wheel set him back to his finishing position of 25th.

  1. Joey Logano (-1)

Similar to teammate Keselowski, Logano had a decent run at Chicagoland, scoring points in both stages and ending up eighth. He just couldn’t find the speed of the frontrunners. If Stewart-Haas teammates Almirola and Kurt Busch can keep their speed up, it’s likely Logano will stay down here.

  1. Denny Hamlin (-1)

After a spin early in the final stage, Hamlin was able to recover to a seventh-place finish. Look for Hamlin to move up a bit if he can keep these top tens up, especially if the Penske gang or the bottom two Stewart-Haas cars struggle.

Power Rankings – Sonoma

1. Kevin Harvick (NC)

Harvick, as ever, had a stellar run once again at Sonoma. He led 35 laps, second only to the victor, Martin Truex Jr.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (+1)

Truex has begun to show the speed that he had last year once again, leading the most laps and grabbing a decisive victory. Cole Pearn, Truex’s crew chief, faked pitting during the final stage, causing Rodney Childers to bring Kevin Harvick in to the pits. Truex then stayed out for another bunch of laps, pitted, and used new tires to pass second-place Clint Bowyer and then-leader Harvick. Truex would win by over ten seconds as Harvick and much of the rest of the field pitted again.

3. Kyle Busch (-1)

A championship-form Truex is the last thing Kyle Busch wants to see right now. After all, Truex was the only thing between Busch and that sweet Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series trophy last season. While Busch finished fifth at Sonoma, he didn’t quite have the handling to compete with the top few.

4. Brad Keselowski (NC)

Keselowski had a decent day at Sonoma, scoring quite a few stage points and finishing 13th. In fact, he tied for the second-most points of anyone with Truex, earning 40 points. He’s still waiting on that win, though.

5. Kurt Busch (+2)

Kurt Busch, like his brother Kyle, was very solid all day, ending up sixth. He continues to run very competitively, like his Stewart-Haas Racing teammates, and a win may be in the cards if he can pull a little strategy to beat the top three.

6. Clint Bowyer (+3)

Bowyer had an extremely solid run on Sunday, and seemed to only be slower than Harvick and Truex. The win a couple weeks ago at Michigan combined with this has Bowyer being talked about as a championship contender.

7. Kyle Larson (-2)

While Larson started on pole, he struggled all day with a loose race car and faded back later in runs. He ended up 14th, which isn’t spectacular, especially after his 28th-place finish at Michigan.

8. Joey Logano (-2)

Like Larson, Logano struggled all day with an ill-handling race car and ended up 19th for his efforts. Logano also failed to score any stage points in the strategic mess of stage racing at Sonoma, which hurts when combined with finishing as far back as he did.

9. Denny Hamlin (+1)

Hamlin finished tenth and won stage two, a solid day for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. He’s been solid all season, but he and his team are still not quite where they need to be to win.

10. Aric Almirola (NR)

Almirola ran well all race, ending the day eighth. While it’s not spectacular, consistency has been getting him places. An average finish of 11.8 (seventh best in the series) doesn’t lie.