Leading up to Talladega, one driver narrowly missed out on the top 10 in the power rankings. That driver was Dale Earnhardt Jr., and he made a statement on Sunday by capturing his sixth victory at the 2.66-mile track.
Let’s just say he won’t be missing this week. But with woes for two other racers in the Hendrick stable, where will Earnhardt’s teammates fall in the power rankings? Before the SpongeBob Squarepants 400, here’s a look at the latest top 10 drivers at the Sprint Cup level.
1. Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing
Last Week: 1
2015 Statistics: Two wins, seven top fives, nine top 10s
Recent Result: Eighth
Why He’s Here: A bloomin’ onion on Monday for free? Guess Kevin Harvick collected yet another top-10 finish this weekend. Simply put, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver never takes a weekend off and continues to befuddle drivers with his control and speed. With two wins at intermediate tracks already in tow, Harvick will be looking to earn his second checkered flag from Kansas in the last four starts.
2. Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports
Last Week: 2
2015 Statistics: Two wins, six top fives, seven top 10s
Recent Result: Second
Why He’s Here: Had he pulled out from behind Earnhardt rather than blocking behind him, Johnson might have been burning out after his series-leading third victory. Instead, Johnson joined his teammate in Victory Lane for a hug. With 11 top-10 finishes in his last 12 races—including two wins—Johnson might set himself apart at Kansas.
.@JimmieJohnson be like, “Remember in 2011 when Jr. pushed me to a win at ‘Dega and y’all reminded me of that for four years? WE GOOD NOW?”
— nascarcasm (@nascarcasm) May 3, 2015
3. Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing
Last Week: 4
2015 Statistics: Two top fives, nine top 10s
Recent Result: Fifth
Why He’s Here: No matter what track he’s at, Martin Truex Jr. has made an impact in some way. On Sunday at Talladega, the Furniture Row Racing driver notched his second top-five finish. He’s also ranked second in traditional points, the highest for a Furniture Row racer. The resurgence for Truex is becoming more than just an uplifting story as he proves he’ll be a driver to watch in the fall.
4. Joey Logano, Team Penske
Last Week: 3
2015 Statistics: One win, five top fives, eight top 10s
Recent Result: 33rd
Why He’s Here: It was a down week for multiple drivers in the power rankings, which we’ll get to later. But with Joey Logano involved in an early wreck and still returning to the track to finish ahead of every other lapped car, the Team Penske racer didn’t fall far.
5. Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing
Last Week: 5
2015 Statistics: One win, three top fives, three top 10s
Recent Result: 12th
Why He’s Here: The drop for Kurt Busch was less about his performance and more about Truex’s finish. Busch and his SHR teammate Harvick are still top-five drivers every week they hit the track. They’ll look to prove that again on Saturday night when Busch eyes his first win at Kansas.
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports
Last Week: N/A
2015 Statistics: One win, five top fives, six top 10s
Recent Result: Win
Why He’s Here: It could simply be stated by saying Junior won and skyrocketed up the rankings, but I’ll give a little more detail. The only reason he was outside of the top 10 last week was his lack of wins and an average finish of 15th in the previous two races. Following an emotional trip to Victory Lane at Talladega, Earnhardt proved he’s a true title contender in 2015.
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) May 3, 2015
7. Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing
Last Week: 6
2015 Statistics: One win, three top fives, five top 10s
Recent Result: 25th
Why He’s Here: He was leapfrogged by Earnhardt after Talladega, but Matt Kenseth has still been one of the most consistent drivers in 2015. Averaging a 30th-place finish at restrictor plate tracks this season, Kenseth will look to rebound at another intermediate track. He already has a top 10 in Atlanta and Las Vegas already, so Kenseth should be on every driver’s radar this Saturday.
8. Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports
Last Week: 8
2015 Statistics: One top five, six top 10s
Recent Result: 31st
Why He’s Here: He may have plummeted three spots in the points standings due to a late-race wreck, but Jeff Gordon still deserves to retain his spot in the top 10. After winning the pole, leading 47 laps and, well, doing just about everything he did at the Daytona 500, Gordon finished 31st at Dega. But with Kansas coming up—a track where he won at last spring—Gordon has a chance to move up after this Saturday.
9. Brad Keselowski, Team Penske
Last Week: 7
2015 Statistics: One win, three top fives, six top 10s
Recent Result: 22nd
Why He’s Here: It was a down week for Brad Keselowski, which dropped him two spots in this week’s power rankings. In danger of falling out of the top 10, Keselowski will need to muster some of the magic from 2011 that earned the Penske driver his lone win at Kansas.
10. Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing
Last Week: 10
2015 Statistics: One win, three top fives, four top 10s
Recent Result: Ninth
Why He’s Here: Let’s give Denny Hamlin some credit. Even when the entire conveyor belt of cars remained behind Junior, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver dipped down to make a move for the lead. He was quickly blocked by Johnson, but at least he made the effort. For that alone, he has to at least remain on the power rankings for another week.
Me for sure “@Blaney: I would have liked to jump out of line but was 90% certain no one would go with me. Believe me, I wanted to go
— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) May 4, 2015
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