A few weeks ago, the question NASCAR fans were asking was: Can Kyle Busch make the Chase? After Sunday at New Hampshire, the new question is: Can Kyle Busch be stopped?
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver took home a second straight checkered flag on Sunday and third in the last four races. He’s also quickly climbing up in the points standings toward the Chase Grid with just 58 points separating him from making NASCAR’s postseason.
But just how far did the No. 18 driver climb in our rankings this week? Here’s a look at the updated power rankings following the 5-Hour Energy 301.
1. Jimmie Johnson
Last Week: 1
2015 Statistics: Four wins, 10 top fives, 13 top 10s
Recent Result: 22nd
Why He’s Here: He still has the most wins in the Sprint Cup, but Jimmie Johnson showed a slight chink in the armor over the weekend. Ending a streak of three straight races with a top 10, JJ might start another run with a win at Indianapolis—a track where he’s won four times.
2. Kyle Busch
Last Week: 6
2015 Statistics: Three wins, three top fives, four top 10s
Recent Result: Win
Why He’s Here: Three wins in the last four races. Throughout the entire season—19 races—only one other driver has more victories. Busch is on a torrid pace and looking for Six-Time’s No. 1 spot in Indy. Oh, and he also has two top-two finishes at the track in the last three years.
Could a third straight be on the horizon? After all, Brexton Busch has to be getting sick of Victory Lane at this point.
3. Kevin Harvick
Last Week: 2
2015 Statistics: Two wins, 13 top fives, 17 top 10s
Recent Result: Third
Why He’s Here: It’s not that Kevin Harvick is slipping, because a third-place result is still noteworthy. But with the recent surge of Busch, there’s no questioning who deserves to be at the No. 2 slot. Still contending for wins late in the season, Harvick is still a favorite to repeat.
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Last Week: 3
2015 Statistics: Two wins, 10 top fives, 12 top 10s
Recent Result: Fifth
Why He’s Here: Close, but no cigar again for Dale Earnhardt Jr. The No. 88 machine was fast all day, but still couldn’t quite lift his first lobster—nay, lobstah—at New Hampshire. After missing out on a top 20 at Kentucky, Junior will take it and remain in the top five in this week’s power rankings.
Was told in media center we now have the most top 5s @NHMS without a win. 😕
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) July 19, 2015
5. Kurt Busch
Last Week: 4
2015 Statistics: Two wins, seven top fives, 11 top 10s
Recent Result: 10th
Why He’s Here: Kurt Busch hasn’t been as hot as younger brother Kyle, but he’s still on a roll of his own. Since his win at Richmond, Kurt has finished outside of the top 10 just twice at Talladega and Dover. Holding an average finish of 5.5 over the last six races, Kurt clearly isn’t just resting up for the Chase.
6. Joey Logano
Last Week: 5
2015 Statistics: One win, 11 top fives, 14 top 10s
Recent Result: Fourth
Why He’s Here: Eyeing a third straight win at New Hampshire, the Team Penske drivers fell just short. In the process, Logano still led 12 laps and nailed down another top-five finish—his fifth in the last six races. He might need a win to move up in the power rankings, but don’t be surprised if Logano is still in contention at Homestead-Miami.
7. Brad Keselowski
Last Week: 10
2015 Statistics: One win, four top fives, 11 top 10s
Recent Result: Second
Why He’s Here: Speaking of Penske, Keselowski fell just short of getting the job done at New Hampshire as well. He might have been “ready to go home” after Sunday, but Kes has nothing to be ashamed of. With 162 laps led over the last two weeks, another win is coming soon for the Blue Deuce.
Believe me. We know. A stat to fix this weekend… https://t.co/b3ACGOeC0j
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) July 20, 2015
8. Martin Truex Jr.
Last Week: 7
2015 Statistics: One win, five top fives, 14 top 10s
Recent Result: 12th
Why He’s Here: Still slipping since his blistering start to the season, Martin Truex Jr. narrowly missed out on a top 10 on Sunday. But with a Chase berth already locked in and rumors of a switch to Toyota for Furniture Row Racing, focusing on a week-to-week basis might be a little difficult for the No. 78 driver.
9. Matt Kenseth
Last Week: 9
2015 Statistics: One win, six top fives, 11 top 10s
Recent Result: Sixth
Why He’s Here: Another week, another top-10 finish for Matt Kenseth. He only has one win this season, but remains one of the most consistent drivers at the Cup level. With two straight top fives at Indianapolis since making the switch to Joe Gibbs Racing, expect another strong outing from the No. 20 driver.
10. Denny Hamlin
Last Week: 8
2015 Statistics: One win, five top fives, eight top 10s
Recent Result: 14th
Why He’s Here: It’s not exactly a plummet for Denny Hamlin, but the JGR driver drops two spots after missing out on a top 10. Most of that is due to Keselowski rising and teammate Kenseth being slightly hotter recently. After claiming a third-place finish at IMS last year, Hamlin could rise in the power rankings again next week.
Follow Chicken Bone Alley on Twitter.