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1. Kurt Busch (LW: 3): Busch has been stating a solid case for No. 1 all season. The win on Monday puts it over the top. Like we said Monday, Busch’s season needed a signature moment for his excellence to be fully recognized. Monday should be more than enough.
2. Kevin Harvick (LW: 2): Harvick was a victim of caution circumstance more than once on Sunday. At Pocono, teams can pit under green and not lose a lap, meaning crew chiefs can work a race “backwards” from the point of the final pit stop. Harvick and team were doing that, though their strategy got waylaid by cautions that came while he was still on the track. He ended up ninth after driving through the field multiple times. With better timing, Harvick could have been in victory lane.
3. Chase Elliott (LW: 7): Elliott finished fourth and led a race-high 51 laps. Elliott jumping out to lead a bunch of laps in a race isn’t surprising; he’s been fast all season and is piling up the top-10 finishes. The surprising part might have been that it was at Pocono, a track he’s not too terribly familiar with. But crew chief Alan Gustafson always gave Jeff Gordon competitive cars at Pocono, and the top 10 was dominated by Penske, Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick equipped cars all day.
4. Brad Keselowski (LW: 6): Keselowski’s team got slammed (pun!) with a pit road penalty after NASCAR officials saw a crew member hip check the car for some added side force. Keselowski’s car passed inspection after the race and wasn’t taken back to the NASCAR research and development center for further inspection, so you can consider this a closed issue. Well, maybe not. There’s a chance NASCAR could be watching the No. 2 team a bit more closely.
5. Matt Kenseth (LW: 5): Kenseth was a mainstay in the top 10 all day and ended up seventh. As the race went perilously close to having a bunch of cars run out of gas, memories of Kenseth’s Pocono win in August emerged. He came from fourth to first in the final three laps because the three cars ahead of him ran out of gas.
6. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 1): Monday was not Truex’s day. A race after leading all but 12 miles, Truex’s car got smashed into the inside pit wall. Then he got more front end damage later in the race. He ended up 19th, and take a look at what happened to Truex on pit road. It’s a minor miracle no crew members got hit.
7. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 4): Johnson was also a mainstay in the top 10 but his day ended abruptly when he went spinning off a restart. Thankfully, Johnson hit SAFER barrier on the inside of the track after he spun down off the banking. The DNF means he’s now 75 points behind Harvick, the driver who leads the points standings.
8. Dale Earnahrdt Jr. (LW: 12): The guy who swept the 2014 races at Pocono almost won another. Junior took the lead from Elliott, but Elliott’s aggressive move to take back the lead meant Kurt Busch was able to sail on by. Junior did what he could to pressure Busch over the final laps, but Busch did an incredible job saving fuel to keep ahead of Junior.
9. Carl Edwards (LW: 9): Edwards finished eighth and was one of those JGR drivers who was on the periphery of the top 10 all day. He called it a “long, tough” day and then added that “We had the fastest modems on the car, but not maybe the fastest car. ” You cannot doubt Edwards’ sponsor plug credentials.
10. Denny Hamlin (LW: 10): Hamlin ended up 14th, sandwiched between the Roush cars of Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. He wasn’t the lowest-finishing JGR car, however, as that honor goes to the guy below him.
11. Kyle Busch (LW: 8): As Busch hit the wall for the second-straight week. Contact forced him into the wall at Pocono and a caution soon followed. It was unlike his crash at Charlotte, when no caution came out, perhaps because Busch hit the wall with less than 10 laps to go. Busch ended up 31st.
12. Joey Logano (LW: NR): Logano is back in Power Rankings this week and survived a few bumps from Ryan Newman along the way. After Logano hit his rear bumper immediately after a restart, Newman bumped him multiple times in turn 1. The contact rumpled the rear fender of Logano’s car, but he recovered to finish fifth.
Lucky Dog: Kasey Kahne, who finished sixth. He’s tied with Stenhouse for 18th in the points standings.
The DNF: Tony Stewart, who finished 34th. Stewart was in the top 10 for nearly the entire race before he crashed on lap 93.
Dropped Out: Kyle Larson
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