Welcome to Power Rankings. As always, Power Rankings are far from a scientific formula. In fact, it’s the perfect blend of analytics and bias against your favorite driver. Direct all your complaints to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to have some fun.
1. Kyle Busch (LW: 1): Busch had one of the fastest cars throughout the entire race and had a shot at the race win before his little off-corner excursion with Brad Keselowski in turn 1 with nine laps to go. Busch finished behind the next four drivers behind him in this week’s rankings, but it’s hard to bump him from the top spot given how he spent the majority of the day near the front of the field.
2. Brad Keselowski (LW: 3): Hey, we used the word bump in Busch’s paragraph. What a transition. It’s both possible to think that Keselowski screwed up bumping Martin Truex Jr. in the race’s final corner – he admitted as much – and that any visceral reaction (outside of the No. 78 camp) to the bump is overblown. Given how many NASCAR fans feel about Team Penske’s drivers, we’d love to know how opinions would change if it was Truex bumping Keselowski.
3. Joey Logano (LW: 4): Hell, Keselowski didn’t even finish second after the bump. Logano did. Logano also won the Xfinity race the day before and last year’s Cup race at Watkins Glen. Is Logano the newest road-course ringer? Or perhaps it’s time for the term to be retired officially. Entering 2017, Kyle Busch is the only Cup driver with multiple road course wins (four).
4. Denny Hamlin (LW: 8): Hamlin joins a monstrous tie for second on the road course win list with Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Truex, Logano, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, AJ Allmendinger and Kurt Busch. The list of one-time winners speaks to the depth of the Sprint Cup field and how road racing excellence isn’t the niche it used to be. But that depth doesn’t undermine what Hamlin did on Sunday at all. Remember, he was a turn away from sweeping the road course races this season.
5. Tony Stewart (LW: 9): The guy who ultimately denied Hamlin his road course sweep finished fifth on Sunday and moves up to fifth in Power Rankings. Who’d have thought that Stewart would be challenging Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick for the title of fastest (and most consistent) driver at Stewart-Haas through August? Stewart’s still probably the No. 3 choice at the team if we’re ranking title probability, but that’s more about the excellence of the team in a lame-duck manufacturer season.
6. Kevin Harvick (LW: 2): Harvick tumbles four spots because of the crash that led to a 32nd-place finish. But it’s important to remember Harvick wasn’t near the front of the field when the wreck took place. He was mired in the middle of the pack. He could have gotten a top-15 finish or so, but a top-1o would have taken some luck.
7. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 10): Well, Truex had bad luck and still finished seventh, so… progress? Truex crossed the line eighth, behind Jamie McMurray, but was credited with finishing ahead of McMurray. The caution flag came out for Kyle Larson’s crash after Truex’s spin and the field was frozen at that point as Truex was still ahead of McMurray.
8. Kurt Busch (LW: 6:): Oh no, Busch finished 11th, sound the alarms. Wait, there’s no road course in the Chase and Watkins Glen was a weird race anyway with the pavement and the tire. Nevermind. We’re still bullish on Busch’s Chase chances.
9. Matt Kenseth (LW: 7): Did you know that box score officially lists Kenseth’s sponsor as “Dollar General/Matt Kenseth 600th start?” Congratulations on sponsoring yourself, Matt! You probably shouldn’t have done that this year when you have sponsorship. Save that for next year when you may need it after Dollar General leaves the team. Oh, Kenseth finished 10th.
10. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 5): Jimmie Johnson finished last. That’s a sentence we’ve never written before. Crazy, isn’t it? It’s also crazy to think that Johnson is closer to 20th in the points standings than he is to first. We’re not sure what to write now because we’re still comprehending that statistic.
11. Kyle Larson (LW: 11): Larson keeps his position because he was cruising towards a top-five finish and it wasn’t his fault he got knocked all the way down to 29th in the final corner. Larson’s Chase chances are pretty steep now, but the speed he’s showing on a regular basis is also pretty real.
12. Jamie McMurray (LW: NR): Larson’s teammate was the main beneficiary of Allmendinger’s bump. Perhaps he should send AJ a fruit basket if he makes the Chase over Larson. As on now, McMurray is 30 points ahead of Larson for the final Chase spot.
Lucky Dog: Trevor Bayne finished ninth and keeps his faint Chase hopes alive. He’s eight points back of Larson.
The DNF: This ain’t Greg Biffle’s year, y’all.
Dropped Out: Chris Buescher
– – – – – – –