Power Ranking After: Kansas 1

Dan Beaver
Rotoworld

In a season disrupted by a pandemic, there is nothing standard. NASCAR attempts to avoid the clumping of track types such as we’ve seen in the past five weeks with three consecutive events run on 2.5-mile flat tracks (Pocono and Indy) and three straight on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks (Kentucky, Texas, and Kansas).

What that repetition has done, however, is allow certain drivers to build incredible momentum. Kevin Harvick earned two wins and swept the top five during that span. Brad Keselowski has not finished worse than 11th. Aric Almirola has an eight-race streak of top-10s to his credit.

Rookies Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer have taken the opportunity to score outstanding finishes.

But this is something we say a lot because it bears repeating over and again: racing is a zero sum game. In order for one driver to improve, someone else has to fall back through the pack – and the past 45 days have been particularly unkind to a few of our top-10 drivers.

Ryan Blaney has been outside the top 20 in half of the last six races. Joey Logano has struggled even more, while the strong start for Hendrick Motorsports is a distant memory with consistently mediocre runs for their superstars Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson.

Top 10

1. Kevin Harvick (last week: 1)
Weeks in the top 10: 17
Weeks as #1: 9
Power Average: 7.57

Harvick remains the hottest driver on the circuit. The last time he finished outside the top five was when he pulled 10th out of the hat during the Talladega lottery. At that time, bettors might have been a little leery because he had only one top-10 in the previous four events. With his current six-race streak of top-fives, he’s going to remain the bookmakers’ favorite for quite some time and it will be difficult to make a decision to fade him regardless of his odds.

2. Ryan Blaney (last week: 2)
Weeks in the top 10: 13
Weeks as #1: 2
FPR#: 8.03

There was a lot of excitement surrounding Blaney for the past three weeks on the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks. He ran well, but experienced trouble in almost every race and failed to capitalize. NASCAR is made up of a lot of intangibles – factors that don’t fit into categories that can be assigned numerical values. Until Blaney can earn another top-three finish, he is best left out of the gambling plan. The positive news is that from Charlotte through Homestead, he had five of these in a span of seven races.

3. Brad Keselowski (last week: 3)
Weeks in the top 10: 17
Power Average: 8.67

Keselowski entered Kansas last week with only one top-five in seven previous races. His average finish in that span was 10.1, and when he managed to crack the top 10 it was often by a narrow margin. His odds began at +900 and moved positively by 100 points to end at +1000, which indicated that enough money exchanged hands at 9/1 to encourage odds makers to hedge their bet. It turned out they were right to do so.

4. Aric Almirola (last week: 8) +4
Weeks in the top 10: 5
Power Average: 9.59

Almirola was ranked 12th two weeks ago. His rise through the ranks is partly because poor runs at Bristol, Atlanta, and Homestead have aged out of the 45-day formula we use to track recent momentum. Mostly, it is due to his current eight-race streak of top-10 finishes. Despite his climb up the chart, he might not be the best value to bettors because his streak is so well established that his odds to finish in the top 10 are rarely in your favor. In his last three starts, he has not come close to cracking the top three with a best of sixth at Kansas.

5. Denny Hamlin (last week: 5)
Weeks in the top 10: 13
Weeks as #1: 1
Power Average: 10.89

Hamlin finally stopped his downward spiral with last week’s win. In the three races previous, his best result was a 12th and his average was 20th. Two of those poor results came as the result of crash damage; one was simply a missed setup that kept him from being competitive. Hamlin has the most wins during the season now at five. That suggests he may be experimenting with bold setups that had a high risk versus reward element.

6. Chase Elliott (last week: 4) -2
Weeks in the top 10: 18
Weeks as #1: 5
Power Average: 11.57

Elliott continues to lose momentum. Earlier this year he was one of the favorites to win the championship with odds of +550 until Indy. He fell 50 after the Brickyard 400 and maintained +600 for a time. After last week’s mediocre run in Kansas, he slipped again to +700. He is still the third-most favored driver behind Harvick and Hamlin, but he’s headed in the wrong direction. We’d like to say he is capable of turning things around, but until he improves his ability to restart, placing a bet on him is a crapshoot.

7. Kurt Busch (last week: 6) -1
Weeks in the top 10: 14
Power Average: 12.24

With seven races remaining and six playoff spots, no one is safe – but at least Busch is not in immediate danger of falling outside of contention. He currently has a 119-point margin to the bubble and is ranked 13th in he standings. If there are three more unique winners from below his points’ total, his position becomes much more tenuous. This week’s venue at New Hampshire has seen some surprise winners. And don’t forget that Daytona’s road course and superspeedway both have the potential to upset the apple cart. Busch needs to challenge for wins and not just top-10s. That pressure could cause this team to make mistakes and be a poor value.

8. Martin Truex Jr. (last week: 7) -1
Weeks in the top 10: 14
Power Average: 12.46

Truex is beginning to look more like his old self. Last week’s third-place finish on the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway is what we expect from him each time the series goes to that track type. The good news is that the No. 19 has earned top-three finishes at Atlanta and Kentucky to go along with his strong Super Start Batteries 400 run. The bad news is that he’s missed the top 10 in three attempts on the same configuration. This week the series heads to a short, flat track and the last time they visited one of those, Truex won Martinsville.

9. Kyle Busch (last week: 10) +1
Weeks in the top 10: 12
Power Average: 12.67

Bettors are unaccustomed to seeing Busch constantly at risk of falling out of the Power Rankings top 10. Worse still, he has been inconsistent. Over the past nine races he has alternated a top-10 finish with one outside that mark. Only two of these were top-fives and none were among the top three. That has made it incredibly difficult to wager on any success. And with no practice or qualification scheduled for the remainder of the year, that is unlikely to change.

10. Joey Logano (last week: 9) -1
Weeks in the top 10: 18
Power Average: 12.86

Logano’s strong start to the season has been wasted. Since winning his second of two races at Phoenix before the pandemic struck, he has managed to score only two more top-fives. One of these was a third-place finish at Texas, but it is doubtful very many bettors took a risk on him since that was preceded by five results of 15th or worse in the six previous races. Last week, Logano was swept into an accident and finished 35th at Kansas.

Big Movers outside the Top 10

12. William Byron (last week: 16) +4
Weeks in the top 10: 0
Power Average: 14.04

A top-10 last week at Kansas was the third such finish in the last 11 races for Byron. He is slowly moving up the chart with mostly top-15s in that span of time. When the odds are high enough to warrant the risk, he will be a good value for a prop bet to finish in the top 10.

17. Jimmie Johnson (last week: 12) -5
Weeks in the top 10: 10
Power Average: 16.84

After missing a race due to a positive COVID-19 test, Johnson can ill afford any bad luck. But that is just what has occurred in the past two weeks. He was involved in back-to-back accidents at Texas and Kansas with sub-25th-place results to show for it.

19. Cole Custer (last week: 23) +4
Weeks in the top 10: 0
Power Average: 18.74

Drivers want to peak at the right time. With the playoffs in sight and Custer currently securing one of the 16 slots, he has turned up the heat. His Kentucky win was impressive, but more so is the fact that he’s finished among the top 10 in three of the last four races.

28. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (last week: 22) -6
Weeks in the top 10: 2
Power Average: 23.10

The disgust was palpable last week when Stenhouse walked away from the No. 47 on Lap 58 after the car experienced electrical problems. That was his third DNF in the last four races.

Winners, Last 45 Days (Outright Odds to win)
Super Start Batteries 400, Kansas: Denny Hamlin (+800)
O'Reilly 500, Texas: Austin Dillon (+12500)
Quaker State 400, Kentucky: Cole Custer (+10000)
Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400, Indy: Kevin Harvick (+400)
Pocono 350, Pocono: Denny Hamlin (+800)
Pocono Organics 325, Pocono: Kevin Harvick (+650)
Geico 500, Talladega: Ryan Blaney (+1200)
Dixie Vodka 400, Homestead: Denny Hamlin (+1000)

 

Power Average, Last 45 Days

This
Week

Driver

Power
Avg.

Avg. Odds
Rank

Last
Week

Difference

1.

Kevin Harvick

7.57

1.96

1

0

2.

Ryan Blaney

8.03

6.26

2

0

3.

Brad Keselowski

8.67

5.09

3

0

4.

Aric Almirola

9.59

12.83

8

4

5.

Denny Hamlin

10.89

3.09

5

0

6.

Chase Elliott

11.57

4.22

4

-2

7.

Kurt Busch

12.24

10.26

6

-1

8.

Martin Truex Jr.

12.46

4.52

7

-1

9.

Kyle Busch

12.67

2.78

10

1

10.

Joey Logano

12.86

5.48

9

-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

11.

Matt DiBenedetto

12.89

16.33

11

0

12.

William Byron

14.04

12.91

16

4

13.

Tyler Reddick

14.54

15.50

15

2

14.

Alex Bowman

15.11

10.35

13

-1

15.

Clint Bowyer

15.62

13.48

14

-1

16.

Erik Jones

15.90

12.26

17

1

17.

Jimmie Johnson

16.84

11.61

12

-5

18.

Chris Buescher

17.94

23.13

19

1

19.

Cole Custer

18.74

23.22

23

4

20.

Bubba Wallace

18.81

22.04

18

-2

21.

Christopher Bell

19.24

19.61

20

-1

22.

Austin Dillon

19.36

19.25

21

-1

23.

Matt Kenseth

19.90

17.30

24

1

24.

Michael McDowell

20.20

27.82

26

2

25.

Ross Chastain

20.43

27.50

25

0

26.

Ryan Newman

21.66

20.35

27

1

27.

Brendan Gaughan

22.14

26.00

28

1

28.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

23.10

20.04

22

-6

29.

JH Nemechek

23.36

25.65

29

0

30.

Ty Dillon

24.15

26.79

30

0

31.

Corey LaJoie

24.82

30.00

32

1

32.

Ryan Preece

26.52

26.74

31

-1

33.

Daniel Suarez

27.67

29.09

33

0

34.

JJ Yeley

29.89

31.13

34

0

35.

Gray Gaulding

31.33

32.60

36

1

36.

Brennan Poole

32.46

31.04

35

-1

37.

Josh Bilicki

32.64

30.36

39

2

38.

BJ McLeod

32.70

31.00

37

-1

39.

Quin Houff

32.91

31.04

38

-1

40.

Garrett Smithley

33.35

30.50

41

1

41.

Timmy Hill

33.67

30.48

40

-1

42.

Joey Gase

34.48

31.00

42

0

43.

Reed Sorenson

34.56

30.00

43

0

 

What to Read Next