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1. Kurt Busch (LW: 1): Busch did not have a top-10 car throughout much of the day on Sunday. Yet he finished 10th. We’ve said this numerous times before and we’ll say it again. The mark of a title-contending team is one that can make a struggling day a decent one, and that’s exactly what the No. 41 team did. And it meant Busch now has 13 top-10 finishes in the first 15 races of the year.
2. Chase Elliott (LW: 3): If you had no idea that Elliott had finished second after climbing from his car after the race, you’d have thought he finished 22nd. Dude, lighten up! We get that there’s pressure succeeding Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 car and we understand that Elliott doesn’t want to be a guy who comes off as being cocky and/or hasn’t earned the ride in the No. 24 … despite already being a NASCAR title-winner. Hopefully Elliott’s future victory lane interview is a bit happier.
3. Kevin Harvick (LW: 2): Harvick started at the back of the pack but he made the biggest jump of anyone throughout the race on Sunday. Harvick finished 5th, a gain of 24 spots from where he started. No other driver had a 20+ spot gain throughout the race; the closest was Paul Menard with a 14-spot increase from start to finish.
4. Joey Logano (LW: 12): Logano is the biggest mover in Power Rankings as he makes an eight-spot jump. That’s what winning does for you. Logano wasn’t in any realistic danger of missing the Chase, though he’s now virtually guaranteed to be in because of the win. With 10 winners in 15 races, there’s a slight chance there could be more than 16 winners, meaning someone will get left out of the Chase. We don’t think that slight chance will happen, but it’d be fascinating if it did.
5. Brad Keselowski (LW: 4): Keselowski led 10 laps and finished fourth, though seven of those laps came during a strategy play that almost backfired in the early stages of the race. Keselowski stayed out on the track longer than anyone else did on the first set of pit stops and almost ran out of fuel. His car sputtered and may not have made it back to pit road if it wasn’t for a timely caution.
6. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 6): Here’s the guy who was the cause of that timely cautin. Truex spun and his car looked like it had a fair bit of damange. Well, a fair enough bit of damage to make it uncompetitive at an aerodynamically sensitive track like Michigan. But Truex’s team got the car fixed up and he ended up finishing 12th.
7. Matt Kenseth (LW: 5): Truex was two spots ahead of Kenseth, who finished 13th. Kenseth won the last race at Michigan, which featured a set of aerodynamic rules about the antithesis of what we saw on Sunday. We were going to add a comment from Kenseth about the contrast between the two sets of rules here but he didn’t have any post-race quotes published.
8. Carl Edwards (LW: 9): Like Harvick, Edwards’ car also got faster as the day went on and he finished a spot behind Harvick in sixth. Edwards even said at one point during the race he felt that he wasn’t going to be able to get a top-15 finish. Unsurprisingly, Edwards also praised the lower-downforce changes.
9. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 7): Johnson ended up finishing 16th on Sunday, but it was a race that showed his true driving ability. Johnson’s car was crazy loose numerous times (especially after restarts) and each time he saved it and carried on. Yeah, he did hit the wall, but that was only because he was contacted by another car.
10. Kyle Larson (LW: NR): It’s safe to say things are trending upwards for Larson. After three finishes inside the top 13 in the first 11 races, Larson has finishes of second, 13th, 11th and third. If you’re ranking non-winners’ chances of winning a race before the Chase, is Larson in the top 3?
11. Austin Dillon (LW: NR): Is Dillon ahead of Larson? Dillon finished eighth and he’s now ahead of Denny Hamlin in the points standings. We think we’d have Larson ahead of Dillon, because Larson’s showed more speed. Dillon has seven top-10 finishes this season, but he’s led three laps total.
12. Got any suggestions?: We knocked out Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch from the rankings because they all had finishes worse than 30th. Tony Stewart finished seventh and Jamie McMurray was ninth. Ryan Newman after finishing 11th?
Lucky Dog: Stewart. We’ll see if this carries over towards the other summer races.
The DNF: We’ll go with AJ Allmendinger, who finished 38th and dropped from 17th to 20th in the standings.
Dropped Out: Hamlin, Junior, Kyle Busch.
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