It's time for Power Rankings! After every race, we'll opine about who we think is at the top of the Sprint Cup heap and how and why they got there... wait, they were off this week. Let's change it up!
We're going to rank the Nationwide Series -- Cup drivers excluded, of course. Because that'd really be no fun if we did include them, especially after Joey Logano's party-pooping performance on Sunday. As always, remember, this isn't scientific, as our formula is the perfect blend of analytics and bias against your favorite Nationwide Series driver too.
1. Sam Hornish Jr.:
The man affectionately known as Dances With Walls in our Sprint Cup live chats has a deserved seven point advantage in the points standings. While he doesn't lead regulars in wins, he does in top 10s and laps led. On Sunday, he started on the pole and might have had the race's strongest car; Hornish had to pick his way through the field after receiving a pit road speeding penalty leading the field onto pit road. It's just that he got beat over the last segment by his teammate.
2. Austin Dillon:
Despite being winless, Dillon has six poles this season, including a stretch of four in a row from Charlotte to Michigan. Those poles are probably a more accurate reflection of his performance than the lack of wins are. At Iowa, he led 207 of 250 laps but lost the lead late to Trevor Bayne and at Michigan, Dillon led half of the race and with rain incoming, he and crew chief Danny Stockman played the rain strategy. But the rain never came during the race.
3. Regan Smith:
Smith is the only Nationwide driver with multiple wins and ascended to the points lead after his first one at Talladega. But he lost it on Sunday after finishing 13th. Smith and team struggled with the handling of the car in the early stages of Sunday's race and made a pit stop during a lap 115 caution flag to make an adjustment. And then as he was making his way to the front, Smith spun on lap 130 and had to start the march forward all over again.
4. Elliott Sadler:
"Oh-so-close" has been a familiar refrain for Sadler in his first two seasons back in the Nationwide Series full time and it's repeating itself again in his first season with Joe Gibbs Racing. That's absolutely not a knock against his performance -- if it wasn't for the blown engine at Bristol, he could be in the points lead. It's just that he's going to need a win or two to make that leap to the championship.
5. Justin Allgaier:
Does anyone else miss the commercials with Allgaier and IndyCar Series driver Will Power where Power called Allgaier by his "Lil' Gator" nickname in his Australian accent? Can we bring them back? Do we need Brandt to start sponsoring Power? (Yes, I know, logistics would get in the way.) Lil' Gator is in the thick of the championship hunt, just two points back of Sadler.
6. Brian Vickers:
Did you know that Vickers leads regulars in top fives with 8, yet he's 45 points back of the points lead? That's what having three finishes of 29th or worse will get you. Two of those finishes were back-to-back Craziest Moment appearances at Iowa and Michigan when Vickers was involved in consecutive wrecks with Travis Pastrana and Alex Bowman. Will those be the difference for Vickers' title hopes?
7. Kyle Larson:
The kid who everyone expects to be in the Cup Series in the next couple seasons is on a nice little streak. Since getting caught up in a crash and finishing 38th at Talladega, Larson has finished in the top 14 10 straight times. And before Loudon, that streak was eight consecutive top 10s. The key for Larson breaking through for his first win? It might be qualifying better. He's started in the top 10 just twice all season.
8. Trevor Bayne:
The man with the pink Pillow Pets car at Indianapolis gets this spot on account of his win at Iowa where he pulled away from Austin Dillon in the closing laps. However, all things considered, this is a bit of a letdown season for Bayne, who's in the same car that Ricky Stenhouse won consecutive Nationwide titles in. Though that's not exactly Bayne's fault. He's been crashed twice at restrictor plate races and ran out of gas on the last lap at Road America.
9. Brian Scott:
The man who seemed to always find trouble at Joe Gibbs Racing has stayed out of it in his first season at Richard Childress Racing after arriving there after what essentially turned out to be a driver swap with Elliott Sadler. Scott's finished outside the top 20 just once, and that was when he was in a crash at Talladega.
10. Parker Kligerman:
It's been a rough last third of the season for Kligerman. In the last six races, he's finished outside the top 15 four times, though the other two finishes were third (Road America) and sixth (Chicago). In that span, he's fallen from sixth to ninth in the standings.
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