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Tag Archive | "Sprint Cup Series Drivers Power Ratings"

NASCAR Power Rankings Week 10: Top 10 Drivers to Win the Sprint Cup Series Championship

NASCAR Power Rankings Week 10 – Top 10 Drivers to Win the Sprint Cup Series Championship: The All-Star Race is fast approaching, and the pecking order is starting to establish itself. Drivers have had the chance to visit a variety of tracks, and the ones that have been running well week in and week out have established themselves as the early frontrunners. After all, nine of the drivers in the top 10 in points after the ninth race last season went on to make the Chase.

2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Power Rankings – Week 10

1.      Jimmie Johnson: The five-time champ is still searching for a win, but it is becoming painfully obvious that he is once again the best driver in the series. Since his wreck in the opening laps of the Daytona 500, Johnson has reeled off eight straight top-12 finishes, including a series-leading seven top-10s. More importantly, Johnson has led more laps than any other driver this season. It is only a matter of time before the wins start piling up.

2.      Greg Biffle: Biffle finished 18th at Richmond last weekend, marking the first time in 2012 that he failed to crack the top 15. However, he is still sitting atop the standings and is tied for the series lead with five top-five finishes. More importantly, his 7.2 average finish is currently tops among drivers. Biffle has always been able to win races and finish in the top five, but his consistency this season has been the difference. If he keeps it up, there is no reason he can’t add a Cup Series title to a trophy case that already features a Truck Series and Nationwide Series championship.

3.      Tony Stewart: A phantom debris caution in the closing laps at Richmond and the poor pit stop that followed robbed Stewart of what would have been his third win of the year. Still, the defending champ is off to one of his best starts, and thanks to his dirt racing background, he has always been a better driver in the second half of the year when the temperatures rise and the tracks get slick. Assuming the trend continues in 2012, Stewart is going to be very tough to dethrone as champ.

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4.      Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Yes, his winless drought is approaching four years, but for the first time in a long time, Junior looks like a driver capable of winning a championship. His seven top-10 finishes are tied for the most in the series, and his 7.3 average finish is second among drivers. Junior has been the picture of consistency, and no driver has spent more time running in the top 15. He already has as many top-five finishes this year as he did all of last season, and once he finally wins and gets the monkey off his back, there is no telling what kind of roll Junior will go on.

5.      Matt Kenseth: There have never been any worries about his consistency, and since Kenseth is currently tied for the series lead with five top-five finishes, he seems primed for another strong season. He has enjoyed the best two-year stretch of his career the last two seasons, and he isn’t slowing down in 2012. Kenseth’s lone Cup Series title came in 2003, but he looks closer than ever to returning to championship form.

6.      Denny Hamlin: After last year’s debacle, it is nice to see Hamlin sitting third in points and looking like a championship-caliber driver once again. Yes, he has had some unexpected mediocre runs, but with two wins under his belt, Hamlin has already surpassed his total from a year ago. More importantly, both wins came at tracks where he had never won in the past. He and new crew chief Darian Grubb have clearly gelled.

7.      Carl Edwards: Although Edwards hasn’t won yet in 2012, he hasn’t really had a bad run either with the exception of an early wreck at Bristol. He also had his first dominating performance of the year last weekend at Richmond before a questionable penalty dropped him a lap down. The top-five finishes haven’t been there yet, but as long as the top-10s continue to pile up, Edwards will be fine in the long run.

8.      Martin Truex Jr.: His streak of five straight finishes of eighth or better was snapped at Richmond, but he is still sitting in the top five in points. The career year has been a surprise for a driver that has been a disappointment from the time he entered the Cup Series. The only question is whether or not he can shed his bust image and sustain the success for the entire season.

9.      Kevin Harvick: Harvick has been plugging along this season, and despite being winless, he is averaging a top-10 finish. He is also leading the series in average starting position and has yet to finish outside the top 20. The only area of concern for Harvick is that Richard Childress Racing as a whole hasn’t looked great in 2012. Harvick has been able to hold his own, but it is going to be tough for him to win the title if the RCR equipment is a notch below the competition.

10.  Kasey Kahne: His horribly slow start has him digging out of a big hole, but three straight top-10s has Kahne headed in the right direction. The bad luck and mechanical issues that plagued him early in the year are finally over, and he has shown the last three weeks what he is capable of at Hendrick Motorsports.

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NASCAR Power Rankings Week 6: Top 10 Drivers to Win 2012 Sprint Cup Series Championship

2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Power Rankings Week 6: Top 10 Drivers:cWith just five races in the books for the 2012 Sprint Cup season, drivers have already faced a variety of tracks. From the pack racing at Daytona to the flat corners in Phoenix and high speeds at Las Vegas, engines, aerodynamics and ability have all been put to the test. While a lot can change during the course of the year, the wide range of challenges that the schedule brings early in the season allows the best-prepared drivers and team to rise quickly to the top.

NASCAR Power Rankings – Top 10 Playoff Drivers

1.      Tony Stewart: The defending champ has picked up right where he left off last year, winning two of the first five races. Dating back to the playoffs last season, “Smoke” has now won seven of the past 15 races. The scary thing more the competition is that Stewart is normally a slow starter. In fact, he had just a single victory in his career before the month of April, prior to winning twice in March in 2012. The three-time series champ could be heading for one of the best years of his impressive career.

2.      Greg Biffle: It is safe to say that Biffle has bounced back from his disappointing 2011 campaign. He opened the year with three straight third-place finishes and has four top-10s in the first five races. Biffle currently leads the series in both categories and has a series-leading 5.6 average finish and 4.6 average starting position. The bottom line is that he is starting up front and finishing, and he is looking like a surprise title contender in 2012.

3.      Kevin Harvick: Harvick isn’t the flashiest driver in the series, but no driver has been more consistent during the past two seasons. He is continuing the trend in 2012, finishing 11th or better in all five races this season. His 7.0 average finish is the second best in the series, and Harvick never seems to have a bad week. More importantly, he currently owns a 9.0 average starting position after being one of the worst qualifiers in the series throughout his career.

4.      Jimmie Johnson: Since wrecking early in the Daytona 500, Johnson has looked every bit the driver that won five straight championships from 2006 to 2010. He has four straight top-10 finishes, including a pair of top-five efforts. He has put up the strong numbers despite dealing with the distraction of the potential suspension of his crew chief Chad Knaus. Now that the penalty has been overturned, the No. 48 team should be even more focused going forward.

5.      Matt Kenseth: He won the season opener at Daytona and nearly won a few weeks later at Bristol before settling for second. Kenseth is sixth in the standing and is averaging a top 10 finish in 2012. He would be even higher in points had a cut tire in the closing laps at Las Vegas not cost him another top-five finish. After finishing fourth in the standings last season, Kenseth looks more than capable of contending for the title once again this year.

6.      Denny Hamlin: With his win at Phoenix, Hamlin has already equaled his win total from a year ago. He has also led the most laps in two of the first five races. Hamlin has two top-five finishes in 2012, and he would have had three had rain not shortened the race at Auto Club Speedway. After struggling all of last season in the wake of his runner-up finish in the standings in 2010, Hamlin looks refreshed, refocused and dangerous this year.

7.      Carl Edwards: Although he hasn’t had a car capable of winning yet, Edwards has been quietly plodding along. He has three top-10 finishes in the first five races, including fifth-place finishes in two of his last three starts. Edwards is managing the expectations of being the preseason favorite to win the title, and while he hasn’t been dominant, he hasn’t exactly been struggling either.

8.      Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Yes, the winless drought continues to grow, but Junior has been rock solid out of the gate in 2012. He has top-15 finishes in all five races this season, including three top-10 efforts. Junior’s 8.8 average finish is the third best in the series, and with two top-five finishes to his credit, he is already halfway to his total from all of 2011. He looks as strong as he has since joining Hendrick Motorsports.

9.      Martin Truex Jr.: He has been a source of frustration since joining the Cup Series, running hot and cold and never stringing together consistent finishes. However, it appears Truex may have turned a corner. After finishing the 2011 season with four top-10s in the final five races, he has opened 2012 with three top-10s in the first five races. Truex has yet to finish worse than 17th this season, and he is sitting in the top five in points thanks to a 9.4 average finish.

10.  Kyle Busch: Busch is used to being at or near the top of the rankings, but a slow start to the season has him 14th in points after five races. That being said, he did lead the most laps at finish second in last weekend’s race at Auto Club Speedway. A cut tire at Las Vegas and a wreck at Bristol were out of his control, and Busch does have two finishes of sixth or better in the races where he hasn’t had something go wrong. The bottom line is that Busch has been fast, and it is only a matter of time before he goes on a tear.

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NASCAR Power Rankings: Sizing Up the 12 Playoff Drivers

2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Drivers Power Rankings – Sizing Up the Top 12 Playoff Drivers: After last weekend’s race at Richmond, the Chase field is finally set, and 12 drivers will begin their quest for the 2011 Sprint Cup this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. From five-time reigning champ Jimmie Johnson to former champions Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart and first-time Chaser Brad Keselowski, this year’s playoff field offers a wide array of challengers. In order to celebrate as champion at the end of the 10-race playoff, drivers and their teams are going to have to be as close to perfect as possible. In the end, some teams are just better equipped to make a title run.

NASCAR Power Rankings – Top 12 Playoff Drivers

  1. Jimmie Johnson

The guy has won five straight championships, with all five coming under the Chase format. Plain and simple, Johnson and his No. 48 team have the system figured out, and they know how to peak at the right time. Johnson’s 19 Chase wins are the most all-time, and he has 11 more victories in the postseason than his next closest competitor. Until somebody knocks him off, he has to be considered the favorite.

  1. Kyle Busch

Busch will open the playoffs with the top spot after piling up a series-leading four victories. He also led more laps than any other driver. Nobody can deny Busch’s talent behind the wheel, and when he stays calm and focused, he is the best driver in the Cup Series. If this is the year he can go 10 pressure-packed races without making a crucial mistake, the title will be his to lose.

  1. Jeff Gordon

He enjoyed a resurgent season in 2011, snapping a long winless drought and going on to win three races in the regular season. More importantly, Gordon has posted a 6.1 average finish in the 10 races leading up to the Chase. He is in championship form at the right time, and he could end up ending his teammates reign as champ and tying him with five career titles in the process.

  1. Carl Edwards

After sitting atop the standings for a good portion of the year, Edwards slipped a bit down the stretch. However, he seemed to catch fire in the final few races before the playoffs and did manage to finish the regular season with a series-leading 17 top-10 finishes. Edwards’ eight Chase wins are the second most in the series, and he could be finding his top form just in time to win a title.

  1. Kevin Harvick

Although Harvick wasn’t nearly as consistent as he was last year, he will start tied for the top spot when the playoffs begin because of his four victories. He showed last year just how close he can come to winning it all, and that experience could prove valuable this year. His ability to stay out of trouble and close out races are a major advantage with the Chase format.

  1. Matt Kenseth

With the Chase schedule making several stops at intermediate tracks, Kenseth instantly becomes a contender. Among the tracks in the Chase are Dover and Texas, where he has already won in 2011. The main thing for Kenseth is that he and his crew need to sure up their late race pit strategy which has cost them several spots in the last month. He can’t finish in the top 10 with a top five car and expect to win the title.

  1. Tony Stewart

After a lackluster regular season, Stewart could turn out to be quite dangerous in the playoffs. He has at least one win at every track on the Chase schedule, and he has multiple wins at six of the 10 tracks. Stewart is also the only driver to win a title under the old point system and the Chase format, and he isn’t going to b intimidated in the least be the big stage.

  1. Denny Hamlin

He should have won the title last year, and Hamlin could end up regretting what might have been for the rest of his career. He simply couldn’t find the same magic he had last year when he won a series-high eight races, and Hamlin seems more like a longshot to win it all this time around. He is more than capable of catching fire and pulling off an upset, but the mechanical issues and other issue at Joe Gibbs Racing will make it tough.

  1. Kurt Busch

Despite solid numbers across the board, Busch has struggled in the Chase since winning the title under the format back in 2004. He always seems to miss the setup at one or two tracks, and even if he can salvage a decent day, Busch simply can’t string enough dominant runs together to make up the ground.

  1. Ryan Newman

He has been rock solid all year, but Newman needs to be spectacular in order to win the title. The problem is that he has basically become a steady source of top-15 finishes, capable of the occasional top-five effort. That strategy is perfect for making the Chase but not for winning it.

  1. Brad Keselowski

Keselowski certainly has momentum on his side heading into the playoffs, but the Chase hasn’t always been kind to first-year participants. Juan Pablo Montoya was a perfect example of hot driver flaming out halfway through the postseason, and even Jimmie Johnson struggled in his first couple of appearances. Keselowski might make some early noise, but history says he will fade down the stretch.

  1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Making the Chase was a step in the right direction for Junior, but he doesn’t appear capable of making any sort of a title run. He has the fewest number of top-five finishes and top-10s of any driver in the playoffs. The fact that he struggled down the stretch doesn’t help either.

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2011 NASCAR Power Rankings – Top 15 Drivers in Sprint Cup Series Thru 7-20-11

2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Drivers Power Rankings – Top 15 Drivers Poll and Ratings Thru July 20, 2011: The 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup is fast approaching, and the action is heating up as drivers jockey for the final playoff positions. The newly-added wildcard spots are only intensifying tempers behind the wheel as one win could mean the difference between racing for the championship and building for next season. The final two months of the regular season are shaping up to be some of the most exciting in recent memory. With the numbers crunched, let’s take a look at the Power Rankings.

  1. Kurt Busch (6.59): Things got so bad for Kurt Busch that he ripped his Penske Racing team publicly for building ineffective racecars. Apparently, Busch’s harsh words were the kick in the pants the team needed because he has been on a tear the last two months. Busch has finished in the top 15 in his last nine starts, including a win at Infineon. He has a ton of momentum on his side.
  2. Kyle Busch (7.05): He still has his lapses in judgment, but Busch has been the most dominant driver in 2011. He is tied for the series lead with three victories as well as top-five finishes with 10. Not to mention the fact that Busch has led by far the most laps in the series this season. If he can stay calm, the title is his to lose.
  3. Jimmie Johnson (7.32): With just one win this season, the five-time champ is being criticized for having a down year. If that’s true, then the competition needs to worry because Johnson is just seven points out of the top spot despite this supposed down year. The No. 48 bunch always gets better the closer the playoffs get, and the best is yet to come for Johnson and company.
  4. Carl Edwards (7.51): He still has just one win that came early in the year, but Edwards remains atop the standings thanks to his consistency. He continues to lead the series in top-five finishes and top-10s. Edwards is going to a major player come playoff time, and he will likely be back in Victory Lane a few times before the year ends.
  5. Matt Kenseth (9.08): Kenseth has established himself as a one-trick pony in 2011, but it is one really good trick. He has been dominant at the intermediate tracks, and since two thirds of the races each season are held at similar tracks, Kenseth is in pretty good shape. With more than half the playoff races being held at intermediate tracks, Kenseth has a shot at winning it all and some more races despite not being the best all-around performer.
  6. Denny Hamlin (9.64): Last year’s series leader in wins is finally rounding into form. Three of his four top-five finishes have come in the last month and a half, including a win at Michigan. Hamlin isn’t going to match his eight-win season from a year ago, but he is peaking at the right time and could still be a factor for the title.
  7. Ryan Newman (9.98): Fresh off a win at New Hampshire, Newman may be ready to recapture his early season form. He has finished in the top five in the last two races after not recording a top-five finish since early May. Newman has been up and down in 2011, but he has been delivering more elite finishes than usual and could grab another win or two before the end of the year.
  8. Tony Stewart (10.82): Stewart the driver is still winless, but Stewart the team owner has to be smiling. He and teammate Ryan Newman have been running well lately, and both drivers would make the playoffs if the season ended today. Stewart is a classic slow starter, and he has never gone winless since joining the Cup Series. “Smoke” will be in Victory Lane in the near future.
  9. Kevin Harvick (11.24): Harvick has looked a bit off in his two most recent starts, but he is still having a championship-caliber season. He is tied for the series lead with three wins, and he already has double-digit top-10s. Harvick has been one of the top drivers in the series the last two years, and that isn’t likely to change come playoff time.
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  11. Clint Bowyer (11.47): Bowyer has had plenty of solid runs in 2011, but his four DNFs have put him on the bubble of making the playoffs. He was in a similar situation last season before rallying to make the Chase, and he could easily do the same this year. Bowyer’s team is capable of winning races, but he never seems to bring his A game on a weekly basis.
  12. Jeff Gordon (11.76): When he is good, he has been great in 2011. However, Gordon has also had a few races when he has missed the setup. His two victories should be more than enough to grab him a wildcard spot in the playoffs, but he hasn’t shown the consistency of a potential champion. Gordon could deliver another win or two, but the big prize will likely elude him.
  13. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (12.79): All the momentum Junior had built is starting to slip away. He has finished 15th or worse in five straight starts, including three finishes outside the top 20. Junior’s confidence can come and go, which makes this recent slide a potential issue. The playoffs seemed a sure thing a month ago, but his Chase chances could be fading.
  14. Kasey Kahne (13.50): Kahne is making his patented summer run, and he has climbed to 14th in points. He has finished in the top 15 in his last three starts, including finishes of sixth and fourth. However, there is still a big gap between Kahne and the guys in the top 10. He may need to win a few races to secure a playoff spot.
  15. Greg Biffle (14.33): Biffle is having one of the worst seasons of his career, and he has just one top-five finish thus far. He has to win a few races in order to make the playoffs, but the good news is that he is a proven winner at the Cup level. A win probably isn’t out of the question, but his three-year run of Chase appearances could be coming to an end.
  16. Juan Pablo Montoya (15.30): The rollercoaster ride that is Montoya is continuing in 2011. One week he will look like a title contender, and the next week he will be bouncing off the wall and every other car on the track. Montoya has all the potential in the world, but it won’t translate into a playoff appearance until he adds some consistency.

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2011 NASCAR Power Rankings – Top 20 Drivers in Sprint Cup Series thru 6-4-11

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.

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2011 NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 20 Drivers Ratings in Sprint Cup Series

2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Drivers Power Rankings – Top 20 Drivers Poll and Ratings(Updated May 10th): After an upset win by Regan Smith at Darlington in the historic Southern 500, surprise winners and feuding drivers appear to be the theme of the 2011 Sprint Cup Series season. With the All-Star Race just a few weeks away and the action on the track getting more intense by the week, it’s time to roll out another batch of Power Rankings.

1 Carl Edwards (6.64): Plain and simple, Edwards has been the by far the most consistent driver in 2011. He leads all drivers with eight top-10s, six top-five finishes, and a 7.3 average finish. There is a reason he continues to open up a big lead in the standings.

2. Kyle Busch (6.77): If Edwards has been the most consistent driver, Busch has been the most dominant. He is tied for the series lead in wins with two, and he continues to own the top driver rating. Busch has led more than 700 laps this season, and no other driver has yet to crack the 300 mark. He could easily end up leading the series in win this season.

3. Jimmie Johnson (8.03): He hasn’t found his stride quite yet, but Johnson’s six top-10s and 9.4 average finish are both second in the series. The five-time champ is only going to get better as the season progresses, and the fact that he has remained a top-three driver while struggling a bit should scare everyone else in the series.

4. Ryan Newman (8.24): It is time to recognize that Newman is having an outstanding season. Not only has he been consistently running in the top-10, but he is finally starting to produce top-five finishes on a regular basis. His four top-five efforts this season already tie his total from all of last season. Expect a win or two before the year ends.

5. Clint Bowyer (8.46): Bowyer is a star in the making, and he is realizing his full potential through the first 10 races of the 2011 season. He has been one of the most consistent and clutch drivers since joining the Cup Series, and it is only a matter of time before he takes the next step. Bowyer is a title contender this year.

6. Tony Stewart (9.65): “Smoke” has settled into a good but not great mode for the time being, but for a notoriously slow starter, he is actually ahead of the game. When the temperatures rise and the tracks get slippery, Stewart always seems to jump to that elite level. When June rolls around, bettors need to jump on the Stewart bandwagon.

7. Kurt Busch (10.70): After nearly winning the season opener at Daytona, it has been all downhill for the No. 22 bunch. Busch continues to struggle with the handling of his cars, and the team chemistry has started to suffer. He is done a solid job of damage control this far, but his value is headed in the wrong direction as far as bettors are concerned.

8. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (10.88): Consistency has been the key to Junior’s revival in 2011, and his 11.3 average finish ranks third in the series. He still needs to find a way to record more top-five finishes before he can be declared all the way back, but bettors no longer have to view Junior as a complete waste of money each week.

9. Denny Hamlin (12.32): No one can argue that Hamlin is anywhere close to his 2010 form right now, but he is starting to hit his stride. Hamlin’s last two starts have yielded a second-place run at Richmond and a sixth-place effort at Darlington. He has been a disappointment thus far, but Hamlin has plenty of chances left to endear himself to bettors.

10.Matt Kenseth (12.98): It has been a typical year for Kenseth. He is averaging a top-15 finish, and he has been strong at 1.5-mile and 2.0-mile tracks. Kenseth’s win at Texas was an added bonus, and there are several similar tracks on the schedule where he could return to Victory Lane.

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11. Kevin Harvick (13.06): His 12.5 average finish ranks fifth in the series, and he is tied for the series lead with two wins. However, Harvick is a rare statistical outlier when it comes to quantifying driver production. He qualifies in the back, doesn’t run up front all that often, and he rarely leads laps, but he always seems to be in the mix when it counts.

12. Jeff Gordon (13.68): Consistency has been the biggest issue for the No. 24 team in 2011. Gordon won at Phoenix and has three total top-five finishes, but he doesn’t have a single additional top-10 effort. He could easily provide bettors with another win or two this year, but Gordon is going to have trouble contending for the title with these hit or miss performances.

13. Kasey Kahne (14.29): It is safe to say that Kahne is getting comfortable at Red Bull Racing. He has five top-10 finishes through 10 races in 2011, and he has qualified and finished in the top-five in each of his last two starts. If Kahne continues to improve at this rate, his one-and-done year in the No. 4 car could end with a playoff appearance and a couple of wins.

14. Juan Pablo Montoya (15.00): The hot-headed Montoya that drives bettors crazy has resurfaced recently. Despite having fast cars seemingly every week, Montoya has decided to spend his time wrecking the likes of Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson. If he can get his emotions under control, he can be a star. However, his maturation process has stagnated a bit.

15. Greg Biffle (15.13): His slow start is in the past, and Biffle is looking more and more like a driver bettors will want to start backing. He has finished in the top-15 in six of his last seven starts this year, and he has three top-10 finishes in his last four starts. There are plenty of intermediate ovals left on the schedule, and Biffle should finish with his typical two or three wins.

16. Paul Menard (15.56): After firing on all cylinders to open the year, Menard has begun to come back to earth. He has just one top-10 finish in his last six starts and just two top-15 finishes during the stretch. Menard will have some good runs throughout the year, but he just isn’t a consistent threat yet.

17. A.J. Allmendinger (15.58): Although he has just two top-10 finishes and not a single top-five finish, Allmendinger has reason to be optimistic. He is averaging a top-15 finish in 2011, and he has just one finish outside the top-20. The consistency will eventually lead to some breakout performances, and Allmendinger is going to make bettors some money down the road.

18. Martin Truex Jr. (16.40): He grabbed his second top-10 finish of the season at Darlington, but Truex Jr. has struggled to make a consistent impact. His 20.2 average finish tells the tale, and he is still looking for his first top-five finish of 2011.

19. Mark Martin (18.23): It is sad to see Martin struggling at this point in his career. He teased bettors with a five-win campaign in 2009, but he went winless last year and has yet to record a top-five finish this season. Martin is still good for a top-15 run more often than not, but bettors shouldn’t expect to see him in Victory Lane.

20. Jamie McMurray (19.44): He is having trouble living up to the expectations that come from a breakout season. McMurray won three times in 2010, but he has yet to finish in the top-five in 2011. History says that he will have a handful of elite runs during the course of the year, but he doesn’t appear to have what it takes to become a star.

Posted in NASCARComments Off on 2011 NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 20 Drivers Ratings in Sprint Cup Series

2011 NASCAR Drivers Power Rankings – Sprint Cup Series Drivers Ratings Poll(Updated 4/19/11)

2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Drivers Power Rankings – Top 25 Drivers Poll and Ratings(Updated April 19th): On the heels of the closest finish in NASCAR history and a record 88 lead changes at Talladega, the Cup Series drivers could use a breather. Fortunately, the scheduling gods were kind, and the teams get to enjoy a rare off weekend. With a break in the action, it is the perfect time to roll out a new batch of Power Rankings.

1. Kyle Busch (7.30): He owns the top driver rating in the series, and he leads all drivers in laps led and fastest laps run. He has just one win, but if it weren’t for giving away races at Fontana and Martinsville in the closings laps, he would have three. Busch is tied for the series lead with four top-five finishes, and he has looked like the dominant driver in the series for most of the year.

2. Kurt Busch (7.38): Busch has taken advantage of the new point system in 2011, using consistency to keep himself in the top-five in points. Granted, five top-10s in eight starts is pretty darn solid, but he has just a single top-five finish. Busch will easily make the playoffs at his current pace, but he probably won’t be overly useful for bettors in terms of winning races.

3. Jimmie Johnson (7.44): He got his first win of the season at Talladega, and it is amazing how a slow start can be erased in an instant. Despite underachieving by his typical standards, Johnson is still among the leaders in every statistical category. He has won five straight titles for a reason, and imagine how much damage he will do when he starts running his best.

4. Carl Edwards (7.67): He has cooled off a bit since his hot start, but Edwards has been arguably the best driver in the series thus far. He currently sits atop the standings, and he leads the series with six top-10s and is tied for the lead with four top-five finishes. Bettors can bank on a few more wins for Edwards during a year when he could contend for the series title.

5. Ryan Newman (8.92): He has been one of the pleasant surprises of the 2011 season, securing a spot in the top-10 in points thanks to three top-five finishes and four top-10s through the first eight races. Consistency has been the key, and Newman’s 13.2 average finish is sixth-best in the series. He has the look of a guy that could win a race or two this season.

6. Clint Bowyer (9.27): Although it’s not fun to become the driver on the losing end of the closest finish in NACSAR history, Bowyer’s second-place run at Talladega put him inside the top-10 in points for the first time this year. He has overcome a horrible start, and Bowyer is starting to look at lot more like the guy that won a pair of races during the Chase in 2010.

7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (9.84): After two miserable seasons, it appears Junior has finally recaptured some of his magic. He has emerged as a consistent top-10 driver, and top-five finishes at Martinsville and Talladega could spell an end to his 101-race winless drought in the near future. Junior has the third-best average finish of any driver in 2011, and bettors no longer have to consider him a waste of money.

8. Tony Stewart (10.67): The 2011 season has been one of missed opportunities for Stewart. He could easily have four or five wins if not for some bad breaks and stupid penalties. Stewart is lurking under the radar, but once he gets one win, many more could follow. Bettors will make some money on Stewart before this year ends.

9. Matt Kenseth (11.30): His dominating win at Texas was proof that Kenseth is approaching championship form. The Ford teams are running in general, and bettors shouldn’t be surprised to see Kenseth win another race or two at the remaining 1.5-mile tracks.

10. Paul Menard (12.27): He has slid to 11th in the standings after a hot start, and Menard’s bid to make the playoffs is rapidly losing steam. He is still having the best year of his career by far, but his early results were probably a bit misleading. Menard just isn’t ready to take the next step, and bettors should consider him a wildcard option and not a favorite.

11. Juan Pablo Montoya (13.50): It’s the same old story from Montoya. He flashes the talent of a title contender at times, but wrecks always seem to derail him whenever he starts gaining some momentum. Montoya has more than enough talent to win races at the Cup level, but bettors will get headaches trying to predict when he will run well and when he will struggle.

12. Jeff Gordon (13.55): His bad luck at Talladega came to an end, and it almost ended with a trip to Victory Lane. The top-five effort could jumpstart a mediocre season for the four-time champ, who has been relatively quiet since his win at Phoenix.

13. Kevin Harvick (14.44): He doesn’t wow in the Power Rankings because of his terrible performances in qualifying and his tendency to hang back until late in races. That being said, Harvick knows how to get to the front when it counts, and he was able to pick up two wins despite leading a combined seven laps in those races. He may never dominate, but the end result is all that bettors should care about.

14. Denny Hamlin (14.66): Maybe he is suffering the dreaded Jimmie Johnson hangover. Engine failures and poor performances have last year’s championship runner-up reeling. Through eight races, he has just a single top-10 finish and has yet to finish in the top-five. After leading the series with eight wins in 2010, Hamlin has been letting bettors down throughout the 2011 campaign.

15. Greg Biffle (15.15): After being plagued by bad luck early in the year, Biffle is starting to find his stride. He has finished fourth and seventh in his last two starts and is creeping closer to a spot in the top-10. Biffle will still likely finish the year with a couple of wins, and bettors that wrote him after the slow start should get back on the bandwagon.

16. A.J. Allmendinger (15.37): He continues to progress as a driver, and Allmendinger is still on track to become a future star of the sport. He has notched three top-10 finishes thus far and has seven top-20 finishes in eight starts. Allmendinger is still a wildcard to win a race, but he is a guy that bettors will come to know very well one day.

17. Martin Truex Jr. (16.55): The solid start is once again a thing of the past, and Truex Jr. has returned to his normal unreliable self. He has just one top-10 finish in 2011 compared to two DNFs. Bettors haven’t gotten much out of him throughout his career, and it doesn’t look like that will change.

18. David Ragan (19.12): He was caught up in a wreck at Talladega, but Ragan had top-10 finishes in the two races prior. Ragan isn’t quite back to his 2008 form yet, but he is definitely on the right track. Bettors should keep in mind that he has never won a Cup race, but he could be worth keeping an eye on if his recent performances start to become the norm.

19. Mark Martin (19.19): Although he briefly flirted with a win at Talladega, it is time to admit that Martin’s incredible 2009 season was his last shot at a title. He has yet to finish in the top-five this season, and winning a race seems unlikely unless he experiences a major boost in performance. The veteran is still good for a top-10 from time to time, but he isn’t all that useful for bettors.

20. Joey Logano (19.69): Bad luck has followed Logano throughout the 2011 season, but he finally got a little momentum with a top-10 finish at Talladega. There is no doubt Logano is a talented driver, and he could go on a run at anytime. He isn’t nearly as bad as his early results suggest.

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