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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
But since the Sprint Cup Series was off over Easter, we're going to change things up a little bit this week. Instead of ordering drivers, we're going to rank the first eight races of the Sprint Cup Series season. Let's get after it, shall we?
1. Daytona: Restrictor plate races are always going to have an edge in watchability simply because of the nature of them. And rain delays aside, it was an intense Daytona 500. The first laps after the racing resumed under the lights Sunday night was incredibly intense and unlike the 2013 Daytona 500, it didn't feel like drivers were unable to make a pass. Oh, and that guy Junior won the race, though any "Junior effect" hasn't culminated in a springboard effect for NASCAR popularity like some theorized.
2. Bristol: Another rain-delayed race? Yep. We're taking rain out of the equation in these rankings and focusing squarely on the racing. And when it comes to Bristol, we're also taking mistakes from the flagstand out of it too. (Side note: Does anyone else want NASCAR to use the F1 mistake as a marketing angle? "See, someone else did it!") Bristol, much like the race directly below it, had quality side-by-side racing, twists and turns involving multiple leaders of the race and tire strategy which gave Carl Edwards the win. It's not the racing that's keeping people away from Bristol Motor Speedway. It's something else.
3. California: Far and away the best intermediate track race of the season, the California race would have been fascinating if it wasn't for the tire failures that plagued many throughout the race. But the presence of those failures added an edge to the race. Who was next? Was it going to be Jimmie Johnson? (Yes.) Was Jeff Gordon going to win the race and not blow a tire? (No and yes.) And yes, this race is here without the final restart.
4. Martinsville: Not too often does a driver come back from a deficit like Kurt Busch faced at Martinsville to win. His performance alone is worthy of placement in the top-five even if he originally thought his race was ruined after contact with Brad Keselowski. But Keselowski's middle finger added intrigue and racing near the front of the pack was plentiful. The drum is well-worn at this point, but we need to keep beating it about more short tracks on the Cup schedule.
5. Las Vegas: Six drivers led over 20 laps throughout the race and Keselowski led the most at just 53. It's not too often that you see that type of laps-led parity at an intermediate track. Was it an incredibly exciting race? No, not really. But the parity and fuel strategy that played out over the final stages of the race made it a memorable one. Just remember that Junior didn't make a monstrous fuel gamble and all will be OK.
6. Texas: With the way the first 40 laps of the race played out, you'd think this race would be near the top of the list. But after Junior's crash, Kevin Harvick's engine failure and Jimmie Johnson's tire issues, Texas turned into a bit of a parade. The only drama came via Kurt Busch's multiple tire failures, the last of which caused a green-white-checker finish. Joey Logano reclaimed the lead and won, but remember what we brought up three spots above. A race isn't made by a final restart.
7. Darlington: Kevin Harvick was good and there's really not much else to say about it. If it wasn't for the cluster of late-race restarts that added drama to the race, we could make a convincing case that Darlington would be below Phoenix on this list. Don't mistake this for an anti-Darlington point by any means. Tire wear is coming back and it's a shame NASCAR doesn't venture there twice a year. Sometimes you get a relative stinker.
8. Phoenix: Kevin Harvick was good and there's not really much else to say about it. Wait, we just said that, right? Yes, we did. We can only hope that tire wear starts to happen at Phoenix sooner rather than later. It'll help immensely.
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