2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Drivers Power Rankings – Top 20 Drivers Poll and Ratings(Updated June 4th): One third of the 2011 Sprint Cup season is in the books, and with the halfway point of the regular season on tap this weekend, it is time for another set of Power Rankings.
1. Carl Edwards (5.36): Edwards has been the picture of consistency this season, and he continues to sit atop the standings. He has notched a series-best nine top-10 finishes and is tied for the series lead in top-five finishes with six. Edwards’ 8.0 average finish is by far the best in the series, making him a smart bet almost every week.
2. Kyle Busch (7.15): He is always going to make mistakes that will have bettors wanting to strangle him, but there is no denying Busch’s dominance at times. He currently leads the series in laps led and fastest laps run, and he already has a pair of wins in 2011. Busch could make a serious run at the series lead in wins this year.
3. Jimmie Johnson (7.35): The five-time defending champ hasn’t quite put it all together yet, but he still ranks in the top three in most major categories despite some bumps in the road. Come playoff time, Johnson always seems to hit his stride, and bettors will get their money’s worth in the second half of the year.
4. Clint Bowyer (8.54): Bowyer has always been one of the more reliable drivers in the series, but he is starting to add some elite finishes to the mix. He has a pair of second-place finishes already in 2011, and he has the look of a driver that can win multiple races this season.
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (9.82): A few more drops of gas at Charlotte, and Junior wouldn’t have to hear about his prolonged losing streak anymore. Despite the goose egg in the win column, Junior is enjoying an excellent season. His 11.0 average finish is third best in the series, and no driver has completed more laps. Consistency has him fourth in the standings.
6. Matt Kenseth (10.36): Bettors looking for an under the radar title contender should look no further. He already has a pair of wins, and he has been very strong at the intermediate tracks. Kenseth is leading a ton of laps this year, and his always-stout pit crew makes him a threat whenever he has a decent car.
7. Kurt Busch (10.53): Busch has managed to keep himself inside the top 10 despite struggling with the handling of his cars throughout most of the season. Pit gambles and fuel mileage have worked in his favor, allowing him to use smoke and mirrors to salvage decent finishes. That being said, Busch doesn’t have the look of a guy that is going to win many races this year.
8. Tony Stewart (11.26): It has been an odd year for Stewart. He was dominant in the early races but was never able to pick up a win. Stewart has been mediocre since the hot start, and bettors might want to wait until mid-summer before investing heavily in him. “Smoke” is always one of the best when the tracks get slick.
9. Ryan Newman (11.48): Like his teammate and car owner Tony Stewart, Newman was at his best early in the year. He has remained solid and is still enjoying an excellent season, but he no longer looks like a threat to win races at the moment. Newman may experience a second half surge, but bettors can afford to wait until he heats up before putting any money on him.
10. Denny Hamlin (11.81): It was only a matter of time before last year’s leader in wins heated up. Hamlin has been steadily improving over the past month, and bettors can expect the wins to start coming soon.
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11. Kevin Harvick (12.17): I’m not sure that a driver has ever won three races while leading fewer laps than Harvick this year. His ability to close out races is incredible, and even though he qualifies poorly and runs outside the top five most of the race, bettors can count on him being in the mix when the money is on the line.
12. Jeff Gordon (14.12): His win at Phoenix early in the year seems like a distant memory as his hot start has given way to mediocre performances. It is the same old story for Gordon and company. He just can’t seem to find that extra gear to compete in the late stages of races.
13. Greg Biffle (14.13): Biffle is one driver that is trending in the right direction. He could have won at Charlotte if not for poor fuel mileage, and he is clearly finding his rhythm at the intermediate tracks. After a slow start, bettors should expect Biffle to once again make the Chase and win a race or two along the way.
14. Kasey Kahne (14.94): Kahne’s one-year tenure with Red Bull Racing could turn out to be more productive than expected. He keeps getting better, and he has had a real chance to win three races in the last month and a half. Kahne could provide bettors with multiple wins before all is said and done.
15. Martin Truex Jr. (16.14): He has three top 10s in 12 starts this year, but Truex Jr. has been largely quiet yet again in 2011. Michael Waltrip Racing is struggling as a whole this season, and bettors can pretty much write off Truex Jr. as a potential winner for the foreseeable future.
16. A.J. Allmendinger (16.24): Allmendinger has been a consistent top-20 driver this season with flashes of his top-five talent. There have already been a pair of first-time winners in 2011, and Allmendinger has an excellent chance to be No. 3 at some point.
17. Juan Pablo Montoya (16.36): Montoya is a nightmare for bettors because of his boom or bust performances. He will run in the top five one week and never be a factor the next. Until he can harness his potential, the risk usually outweighs the reward from a bettor’s standpoint.
18. Paul Menard (16.89): He has cooled off since his hot start, and he has slid all the way to 20th in the standings. Menard is still going to grab some top-10 finishes before the year is over, but he may have reached his ceiling. He probably isn’t going to become a consistent threat to win races.
19. David Ragan (18.50): Fresh off a second-place run at Charlotte, bettors should have Ragan on their radar going forward. He appears to finally have the maturity to match his talent, and the Ford teams have been strong all year. At 1.5-mile and 2.0-mile tracks, Ragan makes an excellent bi payout option.
20. Jeff Burton (18.92): I can’t really think about anything notable Burton has done in 2011, and that is the problem. Bad luck and bad runs have him 23rd in the standings, and he has yet to finish in the top 10. It is safe to say he is declining.