Our Power Rankings are far from a scientific formula. In fact, it’s the perfect blend of analytics and bias against your favorite driver. And you think we dislike your favorite driver, so it makes sense, right? Direct all your complaints to us at [email protected]
1. Kyle Busch (LW: 1): It’s hard to dislodge a driver from the top spot because of a second-place finish. And we’re also not going to blame Busch and crew chief Adam Stevens for the fuel strategy they employed at Watkins Glen. Stevens wanted Busch to save gas because he figured there would be a caution for cars who pitted before the No. 18 running out of fuel. There wasn’t, and Busch ended up backing off the pace of the leaders. But by playing it conservatively, Busch still got a top-two finish and he’s now inside the top 30. Barring a catastrophe, he’ll be in the Chase.
2. Joey Logano (LW: 3): Quite a nice weekend for Logano. Not only did he win a fuel-mileage race the week after losing a race because he was short on fuel, he recorded a weekend sweep of the two races at the Glen after he won the Xfinity Series race on Saturday. We’re just surprised that Logano didn’t force the drivers ahead of him to run out of fuel. While he was pushing as hard as he could, others who had pitted earlier were trying to save all they could. And they still made it, even …
3. Kevin Harvick (LW: 2): Harvick, and yes, we’re counting Harvick as making it to the end. He was still moving when he crossed the finish line, right? It feels cruel to bump Harvick down a spot after the incredible job he did saving gas. He should have been a lot shorter on fuel than he was, but not only did he save nearly enough gas, he ran fast enough laps to keep all of his challengers at bay. Until his car sputtered, anyway. He might have had the drive of the day.
4. Matt Kenseth (LW: 5): Kenseth finished fourth, so he gets moved up a spot. He was a gas-saver too and it worked out. Did you know it was Kenseth’s first top-five finish at Watkins Glen too? It was his sixth top-10 at the road course but he had never finished higher than eighth in upstate New York. Not only did Kenseth do a good job of saving gas, he had a fast enough car to get him a damn good finish.
6. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 4): The six-time champ finished 10th and had quite the eventful day too. He missed the bus stop early in the race as Junior went to pass him; a move that dropped him more than 10 spots. It was the smart manuever though; had Johnson tried to dive into the corner, he could have taken out both cars. He then was in a little kerfuffle with Justin Allgaier and found himself spun in the carousel while Tony Stewart broke. After all that, a top 10 sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 7): Here’s another guy who hasn’t had the best track record at Watkins Glen. Junior just missed out on his fourth top 10 with an 11th-place finish. And the finish doesn’t show the speed the No. 88 had all day. He was a consistent fixture in the top 10 and had speed to stay in sight of the leaders. He too was forced to save gas and got pushed out of the top 10 by guys who had pitted later and could run hard.
7. Brad Keselowski (LW: 8): Keselowski finished second on Saturday and seventh on Sunday. He led for a bit after fortuitously pitting before an early-race caution flag flew and inheriting the lead. But then pit strategy didn’t work out in his favor late in the race and he restarted outside of the top 20 on the race’s final restart. Fresh tires and a full load of fuel helped him make up 15 spots over that run.
8. Kurt Busch (LW: 9): Busch got a pit road penalty early in the race that put him at the back of the field. He pitted right before the first caution of the day but his team had too many crew members over the wall. After he spent a decent portion of the race back in traffic, he too pitted on the final caution and ended up with his second-straight top-five finish at Watkins Glen.
9. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 6): Truex had one of the day’s strongest cars but contact led to a tire rub which led to a late pit stop which led to a 25th-place finish. But hey, let’s look on the bright side. Truex is locked into the Chase. Well, we knew he was going to make it anyway, but he can now sit out the rest of the races before the Chase and still make it in. Given that missing races has worked for Kyle Busch, should other teams try this strategy? Please, don’t think that’s a serious question.
10. Clint Bowyer (LW: 12): Correlation is not causation, so we’re not going to say the rumors of a merger/partnership/split/whatever it ends up being between Michael Waltrip Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing have lit a fire under Bowyer and the No. 15 team. But as the news has swirled, Bowyer has shone. He finished sixth at Watkins Glen for his third-straight top-10 finish and sixth in the last eight races.
11. Carl Edwards (LW: 11): Is Edwards an underrated road racer? He finished eighth on Sunday and has finished in the top 10 in five of the last six road course races. The only finish outside the top 40 was the crash he had with David Ragan at Sonoma. And he was running in the top 10 when that happened. Edwards will likely never be considered a big favorite at a road course, but he’s in the top tier.
12. There’s no one else: Got any suggestions? Jeff Gordon, who was 10th last week, had brake issues. Kasey Kahne’s race ended badly. Ryan Newman for finishing 15th? Kyle larson for finishing 12th? Aric Almirola? Greg Biffle? You can see how there’s really not a standout option here.
Lucky Dog: Sam Hornish Jr. got a top 10 after finishing ninth. He was a fuel-stretcher.
The DNF: Ouch, Kahne. Sunday marked the first time Kahne has had back-to-back finishes of 40th or worse since 2008.
Dropped Out: Jeff Gordon
– – – – – – –