NASCAR Power Rankings: Kyle Busch leads us into the Easter off weekend

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Welcome back to Power Rankings for the 2019 Cup Series season. We’re never going to cut horsepower here.

1. Kyle Busch (LW: 1)

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It was an awful night for Busch as he had his second-worst finish of the 2019 season. OK, that sentence was very hard to type with a straight face. Busch was eighth after he got penalized for speeding on pit road and never got back to the front of the field. Before that, he led 101 consecutive laps from lap 31 to lap 131 and had a car that probably would have taken off in clean air again had he gotten back there.

Busch’s average finish through the first nine races of the season stands at a ridiculous 3.9.

2. Denny Hamlin (LW: 2)

Hamlin was fifth and, unlike his teammate above, did not speed on pit road. That’s noteworthy because of Hamlin’s propensity to speed on pit road.

He did have to start at the back because of a pre-race inspection failure. Though “the back” in this case actually means 30th because eight of the 37 drivers in the field sped on pit road.

Hamlin noted on Twitter after the race that the dirty air from the large spoilers on the car made passing through the field difficult.

NASCAR Vice President Steve O’Donnell then tried to clap back and say that Busch had no problem getting through the field.

And while Busch found himself ahead of Hamlin at some points after the speeding penalty, he still finished behind Hamlin.

3. Joey Logano (LW: 3)

Logano did appear to have a faster car than Truex over the race’s final few laps but he simple couldn’t get into a position to make a pass.

“I was watching them race and thought that if I was just patient and saved my tires, I saw them coming off the corner sideways every time,” Logano said of Truex and Clint Bowyer. “They were a little faster than me but I knew they were going to kill their stuff and they did. I got there, I was just a couple laps late getting there. I was able to get to [Truex] but it just wasn’t enough. It is kind of a double-edge sword. You go to the bottom and you can’t get the drive to clear ‘em and getting to the outside is pretty tough.”

While Logano certainly made things dramatic at the end of the race when he was hogging Truex’s rear-view mirror, he never really got in a position to make a pass. Or, if he wanted to, a bump. A bump would have made for two weeks of conversation over the Easter weekend given what happened between the two drivers at Martinsville last fall.

4. Kevin Harvick (LW: 4)

Harvick cut a six-second gap by five seconds as Truex, Logano and Bowyer were all close together while racing for the top three positions. Alas, he never was able to get anywhere close to making a pass for second, let alone third.

“I like nights like this when we can take a car that is a seventh- to ninth-place car and adjust on it and make it so it is capable of contending at the end,” Harvick said. “We ran those guys down but we just ran out of time.”

Martin Truex Jr. crosses the finish line in front of Joey Logano Saturday night. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Martin Truex Jr. crosses the finish line in front of Joey Logano Saturday night. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

5. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 9)

We wanted to move Truex up more than four spots after his Richmond win but there was simply no place to put him inside the top four as Hamlin, Logano, and Harvick each finished inside the top five. It’s hard to penalize a driver for that.

So we settle for fifth for Truex, who was in the midst of a season of slightly underwhelming results until the Richmond win. He was always going to be a part of the 2019 playoffs and now we know for sure that he will be after he led the final 79 laps.

“I think there's a lot of other races that we've been way better than we were tonight and had something happen and go wrong,” Truex said. “But at the end of the day, tonight we just executed well. We didn't really have the best car, but we had good restarts and good pit stops and managed traffic well and kept our nose up there all day, and ultimately that was enough. I know a lot of other times we've had a lot better cars and didn't have it work out.”

6. Clint Bowyer (LW: 5)

Bowyer was the guy who had to make way for Truex through no fault of his own. Well, maybe just a little bit. He could have passed Truex near the end of the race. However, like Logano, he could not.

“I was faster on a long run than him but by the time you get to him your stuff is pretty wore out and with this aero package you are so aero dependent behind those cars that you get terrible tight,” Bowyer said. “When I got behind him I knew that wasn’t the place to be so I changed that. I lost. It sucks.”

You know what also sucks? The fact that Cup cars are so ridiculously aero dependent on short tracks.

7. Brad Keselowski (LW: 7)

Keselowski ended up being the guy who Truex passed for the lead. Keselowski held the lead for three laps before Truex took over the lead on lap 322. Keselowski then faded to seventh over the final 79 laps.

“We had a lot of short run speed and unfortunately it came down to long runs at the end,” Keselowski said. “Overall, it wasn’t a bad day. It was good. We needed the race to come to us with short runs at the end and it didn’t.”

RICHMOND, VA - APRIL 13: Kurt Busch, driver of the #1 Global Poker Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway on April 13, 2019 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - APRIL 13: Kurt Busch, driver of the #1 Global Poker Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway on April 13, 2019 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

8. Kurt Busch (LW: 8)

Another week where Busch continues to be the top Chevy driver in the points standings. He’s seventh heading into the off week and 20 points ahead of the nearest Chevy driver. Busch was 11th on Saturday night, second among the Chevy contingent.

9. Ryan Blaney (LW: 6)

It would have been fun to put the four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers and the three Team Penske drivers in the top seven of this week’s rankings but Blaney was 25th at Richmond and finished two laps down.

10. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 12)

Johnson was 12th on Saturday, hydrated on Sunday and then ran the Boston Marathon on Monday. Go do something half as productive in your life and you’ll feel insanely accomplished.

11. Chase Elliott (LW: 11)

Elliott finished 15th and was a non-factor throughout the whole race. He’s the guy who is the closest Chevy pursuer to Busch.

12. Daniel Suarez (LW: 10)

Suarez was 18th. He’s still 12th in the points standings.

Lucky Dog: Austin Dillon is 14th in the points standings and tied with former teammate Ryan Newman after finishing sixth on Saturday night.

The DNF: Kyle Larson. Again.

Dropped out: None

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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