Congratulations to Jimmie and Chandra Johnson on the birth of their daughter…..
If you’re into lists and power rankings, see what happens when a cadre of NASCAR writers, reporters and other media come up with when they pool their votes together. Visit racetalkradio.com for their Top 20 power poll.
Trying to determine the best of the best in NASCAR at this moment is a bit like picking a winner at Talladega. There’s a lot of movement out there on seemingly a lap-by-lap basis, and the guy who’s best today, may not be tomorrow.
It does make things interesting. We’ve got about four or five drivers jockeying for position up front, and there’s a battle of about 10 more behind them.
Like Daytona, it’s sometimes as much about survival as it is speed.
THE BIG TEN
10. Kyle Busch- (down from 7th)- Ah, don’t get your jockeys in a twist. I don’t expect Kyle to be down long. Just two short summers ago, Kyle Busch was winning every race in sight. Once Shrub gets on a roll, he’s scary good. As it stands right now, Busch is solidly inside the chase picture, and let’s face it, the guy just knows how to win.
9. Kasey Kahne- (re-entry into the top 10)- He has three top fives in his last five races. It could be higher if not for a disastrous day at New Hampshire that was not of his doing. Lord knows Kasey’s got a lot of catching up to do, but an improvement of four places in the standings is a nice, big step in the right direction. the skill’s there, the speed’s there, he just needs to keep it off the walls and hope that the inconsistency plaguing the drivers surrounding him continues.
8. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.- (up from 10th)- The Shrub Club will pitch a fit over this, but you know what, Junior is better than Busch over the last five races. Granted, this is as much a tribute to surviving the mayhem than it is great speed, but Earnhardt reminded us last weekend with his performances that he still knows how to get it done. Even if you think the loyalty “The Nation” show Dale, Jr is unwarranted, even if you think he’s not worthy to hold his father’s steering wheel, at least acknowledge that he’s smart enough to know there is considerable room for improvement and he’s working on it. I’ll take that attitude over being content with mediocrity any day.
7. Denny Hamlin- (down from 6th last week)- What goes up, must come down….but I think this was more than he bargained for. After back-to-back wins, Hamlin has finished 34th, 14th and 24th. I’ll give him credit for this: whereas a lot of drivers would have throttled Hamlin’s teammate for the practice mishap at Daytona, he handled Kyle Busch with a little more grace than I think Busch would have him. It’s just an opinion, but it’s mine.
6. Jeff Burton- (up from 8th last week)- Don’t laugh, his overall body of work compares favorably with Stewart and Kenseth, and by golly, he’s even looked like a possible race winner at times. Consistency is J.B.’s game, but his talk and his driving are more like a guy getting aggressive.
5. Tony Stewart- (staying put at 5th)- Like Kyle Busch, like Denny Hamlin, Stewart got off to a bad start by getting collected in a practice wreck, and a truly serious run for the front never materialized. On the other hand, Smoke looks a lot racier than the competition around him, and the schedule ahead looks quite tasty. He’s won twice at Chicago, Indy’s a favorite, Stewart’s a winner at Pocono, and Watkins Glen? No problema! Nothing wrong here, nothing a win or two won’t fix.
4. Jeff Gordon- (down from 3rd last week)- Sure, Gordon finished ahead of Kurt and Jimmie last week, but they have something he doesn’t….A WIN! The consistency is nice, it tells you you’re doing a lot right, but to be truly relevant in a drive for five, he needs wins. That’s something he has done at Chicago, and like Tony Stewart, Gordon can win anywhere, so don’t be surprised if it happens soon.
3. Kurt Busch- (up from 4th last week)- He may have two fewer top fives than Gordon, but Busch has one more top 10, and two wins the “original four time” doesn’t have. Another thing the winner of the first chase (2004) has on Gordon and Johnson is that the Blue Deuce hasn’t DNFed all year. Just a tick off in terms of consistency, Busch is doing a nice job of running with the big dogs.
2. Jimmie Johnson- (down from 1st last week)- the anti-Jimmie crowd got some temporary relief with Johnson re-visiting humanity at Daytona. The competition is still searching for his Kryptonite, so I don’t necessarily look for “The Shark” to go away yet.
1. Kevin Harvick- (up from 2nd last week)- With his victory at Daytona, Harvick slingshots past Johnson for the lead. While the champion has the advantage in wins, Happy- without question- has been the more consistent. After a mechanical issue left Harvick 35th at Martinsville, he’s finished outside the top 10 three times, and in two of those (Charlotte, Phoenix), he was in the top 15. Now Harvick has Chicagoland in his sights, where he owns two career wins.
FALLING OFF THE PACE
He coulda been a contender. Clint Bowyer sure looked like he had that race won, as part of an RCR contingent right on top if its game. Then….doesn’t always go down this way? A stinking caution! He’s still in the running, so Bowyer fans, I wouldn’t go panicking yet.
READY TO STRIKE
You know, there’s really no one outside this group that really excites me much at the moment, so I’m giving a call to a group of lesser knowns for their good finishes at Daytona. Props to Reed Sorenson, Mike Bliss, Scott Speed, David Reutimann, Robby Gordon, Kevin Conway and last, but not least, Steve Park for finishing inside the top 15.