2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series Power Rankings: Top 15 Drivers Ratings and Poll(UPDATED 6/9/2011): The Nationwide Series is starting to get interesting. Two of the last three races have been won by non-Cup regulars, including the first career series win for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. As the younger drivers in the series start to gain confidence, the action should only get better the rest of the way. Unfortunately for fans, the series is taking a week off just as things were getting good. However, the break does provide the perfect opportunity for another batch of Power Rankings.
1. Carl Edwards (4.02): Edwards has been Mr. Reliable this season. He is second in the series with three wins, tied for first in top-10 finishes with 10, and tied for first in top-five finishes with eight. Edwards leads all drivers in laps led and fastest laps run, and he has finished either first or second eight times in 2011.
2. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (5.10): He was the first non-Cup regular to get to Victory Lane this season, and he has emerged as one of the top contenders for the series crown. Stenhouse Jr. has proven himself more than capable of competing over the long haul as well, sitting tied for the series lead in top-10 finishes through 14 races.
3. Kyle Busch (6.84): Despite missing three races in 2011, Busch has compiled a series-best five victories. He is also tied for the series lead with eight top-five finishes. Bettors should know by now that when Busch is in the field, he is a threat to win regardless of the track.
4. Brad Keselowski (7.41): Keselowski has been enjoying a successful season, but there is no question he has taken a step back from his championship-winning season a year ago. After winning six times and compiling a 5.2 average finish in 2010, he remains winless in 2011 with a 12.7 average finish.
5. Elliott Sadler (8.53): After a slow start, Sadler has become the title contender he was expected to be. He has nine top-10 finishes this year, and his seven top-five finishes are the most of any non-Cup regular. Sadler hasn’t won a race yet, but it could happen at any point.
6. Reed Sorenson (8.80): Sorenson heads into the off week as the series points leader and he has been getting it done with consistency. He has 10 top-10 finishes this season, and he is averaging a top-10 finish for the year. Sorenson only has five top-five finishes, but he doesn’t need many if he is going to run in the top 10 almost every week.
7. Joey Logano (9.09): In limited action, Logano has been very effective this season. He has four top-five finishes and six top-10 finishes, and he has compiled an impressive 7.1 average finish. Logano hasn’t won this year, but he hasn’t finished worse than 13th either.
8. Aric Almirola (10.40): Almriola is probably the best of the series regulars without a shot at the title. He sits fifth in the standings, but he is well behind the front four drivers. Almirola has managed a respectable seven top-10s in 14 starts, but he has just a single top-five run. He can provide solid finishes, but he doesn’t look capable of winning races yet.
9. Justin Allgaier (10.83): He has clawed his way back into the title fight, and his win at Chicagoland cemented his status as a contender. Allgaier is one of only two non-Cup drivers to win this year, and he has eight top-10 finishes. Allgaier has finished outside the top 15 only twice, and he is capable of producing elite finishes and wins against the big names.
10. Denny Hamlin (11.18): No driver has been more effective in limited starts than Hamlin. He has made just three starts in 2011, but he has three top-10 finishes and a victory. More impressively, Hamlin ranks third in the series in laps led despite running 11 fewer races than a majority of the competition.
11. Trevor Bayne (12.10): An insect bite led to a hospital stay and caused Bayne to miss significant time behind the wheel. The strange circumstances have cost him a shot at the title this year, but he showed in his return that he can still get it done. Bayne finished third in his first start since April, and he now has six top-10 finishes in nine starts this season.
12. Kevin Harvick (12.17): It has been a down year by Harvick’s standards in the Nationwide Series. In seven starts, he has managed just three top-10 finishes and only two top-five runs. Harvick has failed to crack the top 10 in his last three starts, and his focus appears to be shifting mainly to the Cup Series at this stage of his career.
13. Jason Leffler (12.88): Leffler has been just a notch below where he needs to be to contend for the title this year. He has six top-10 finishes, but he has finished in the top five only once. Leffler is going to finish in the top 10 in the standings this year, but a title run seems unlikely unless he starts improving soon.
14. Kasey Kahne (13.04): He has finished as high as second in five Nationwide starts in 2011, but he has just two top-10s in those events. Kahne has actually performed well in many of the loop data categories, but a variety of issues late in races have cost him valuable positions. He has a few more starts scheduled this year, and he makes a nice wildcard when he does race.
15. Clint Bowyer (13.37): Since coming up just inches short of winning the season opener, Bowyer has managed just one more top-10 finish in three starts. He has been splitting time with Kevin Harvick in the No. 33 machine this season, and neither driver has been spectacular. It could just be a case of the race team being a bit behind the competition.
Check out the latest 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Power Rankings Poll from NSAwins.com.
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