Trying to keep up with the Joneses has led to a lot of heartache throughout the years. Last week Chevrolet just wanted to compete and once they saw how well the tandem draft worked for Ford, it was only a matter of time before tragedy struck.
The problem was Chevrolet and Ford are not equal in regard to the front bumper. Ford’s nose is flat and lines up well with the back bumper; Chevrolet’s nose is pointed;. But Chevrolet drivers still wanted to employ the same tactic they saw work with so much success for Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, and the other Blue Oval brigade in the first two stages of the 1000Bulbs.com 500.
The final two 'Big One' crashes were at least partially the result of a Chevrolet driver trying to bump draft in heavy traffic. Two incidents in the final 25 laps of the race spelled disaster for a number of drivers in terms of their ultimate finish, but the fortunate circumstance was that they occurred late enough in the race that it did not significantly affect the Fantasy Power Rankings since nearly all of the marquee drivers had an opportunity to score solid Average Running Positions and Driver Ratings.
1. Kevin Harvick (last week: 1)
Playoff Rank: 6
Weeks in the top 10: 31
Harvick was running with the leaders on Lap 185 of the 1000Bulbs.com 500. As it turned out, it was the wrong place to be and he was involved in the 10-car wreck that was the third 'Big One' of the afternoon. He limped his damaged car home 17th, snapping a six-race streak of results seventh or better, but he survived and that’s what it takes to advance in today’s playoff structure.
2. Ryan Blaney (last week: 8) +6
Playoff Rank: 2
Weeks in the top 10: 23
Blaney was practically in a must-win situation last week at Talladega. He watched as all of the drivers with him on the bubble experienced trouble in the race and with three laps remaining, he nailed the accelerator and edged Ryan Newman for the sixth-closest finish in NASCAR history. He was one of a handful of drivers without a mark on his car until the final straightaway – and by staying out of trouble all afternoon, he was able to surge in the Power Rankings.
3. Brad Keselowski (last week: 5) +2
Playoff Rank: 7
Weeks in the top 10: 25
Like Blaney, Keselowski stayed out of trouble for most of the race. He was one of the 10 drivers swept into the final 'Big One' crash and that gave him solid strength-based numbers until the very end of the race. Talladega is not predictive of any of the tracks the racers will face from here until Homestead-Miami Speedway, but they had to survive this race in order to concentrate on the next five.
4. Kyle Larson (last week: 2) -2
Playoff Rank: 1
Weeks in the top 10: 17
Larson had an inkling he would not survive Talladega, and that is why he was so relieved with his Dover International Speedway victory. That win helped propel him up the chart, but he has to be cognizant of the fact that he has only one top-five during the playoffs. Kansas Speedway will be critical for him this week as he attempts to regain enough momentum to get him through Round 3.
5. Clint Bowyer (last week: 4) -1
Playoff Rank: 11
Weeks in the top 10: 8
At the end of Stage 2 everything seemed to be going Bowyer’s way. Ten drivers wrecked within sight of the checkers can attest to the fact that one is never safe on an aero-restricted superspeedway until the checkers wave, however, and not long before that a cut tire spun Bowyer to the bottom on the track and high-sided him on the transition to the apron. Still, he finally earned a playoff bonus point with his stage win, although it may not help much next week on his home town track.
6. Denny Hamlin (last week: 6)
Playoff Rank: 3
Weeks in the top 10: 24
Late in the race, Hamlin knew the field wasn’t done wrecking. He laid back and watched 10-car accidents occur on Lap 162 and 185. His precognition came as the result of his first being involved in the Lap 108 'Big One'. With a three-lap shootout in the offing, Hamlin took his damaged car and pushed Newman to the lead, ultimately settling for third himself in what was to become his third top-five in the last four weeks.
7. Joey Logano (last week: 11) +4
Playoff Rank: 8
Weeks in the top 10: 29
It seemed Logano was at the center of every incident last week. Ultimately, he sustained enough damage to put him out of running for the win, but he lasted long enough that the other playoff contenders all had bigger problems. Now his fate is in his control once more. Statistically Kansas is Logano’s worst track, but that comes from a terrible start there. He’s been much better lately with a sweep of the top 10 last year.
8. Chase Elliott (last week: 10) +2
Playoff Rank: 10
Weeks in the top 10: 21
How one views Elliott’s performance last week depends on whether one is a glass half full or empty person. He took a hard enough hit in his right rear tire that the driver who made the contact could barely continue, but his team was able to repair the No. 9 Chevrolet well enough to actually challenge for a top-five. Ultimately he fell to eighth, but without any stage points, he lost ground in the playoffs. His Average Running Position and Driver Rating were solid, however, and he climbed in the Fantasy Power Rankings.
9. Martin Truex Jr. (last week: 3) -6
Playoff Rank: 4
Weeks in the top 10: 28
In today’s NASCAR it doesn’t take a lot to lose momentum. Truex was trying to take it easy last week at Talladega, but when a massive accident occurs at the front of the field, it can be impossible to stay safe no matter where one is located on the track. It could have been worse; Truex’s 19th-place finish was aided by two more accidents after his incident. Still, it snapped a four-race streak of top-fives.
10. William Byron (last week: 7) -3
Playoff Rank: 12
Weeks in the top 10: 16
When a driver is bumped into a spin in the lead draft, there isn’t a lot that can be done. Byron’s car took heavy damage after he was tipped into Logano on Lap 162 by a Kurt Busch bump draft that went awry. Byron may be in jeopardy of falling out of the playoffs after last week’s DNF, but he remains one of the most pleasant surprises in the field.
Dropped from the Top 10
13. Jimmie Johnson (last week: 9) -4
Playoff Rank: NA
Weeks in the top 10: 2
When Johnson glanced to his left and saw teammate Alex Bowman spinning on the apron, he knew it would not turn out well. Johnson’s early elimination from the race dropped him out of the top 10 in these standings, but to his credit his immediate concern was for Elliott, who he tipped into a spin in the rapid slowdown. Johnson and the No. 48 team are progressively improving and they should recover to challenge for top-10s before the end of the season.