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Power Rankings

Power Ranking After: Michigan Doubleheader

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: August 13, 2020, 2:24 pm ET

The next three weeks will be anything but boring.

This Sunday the Cup series heads to a track on which they’ve never run before. And without practice or qualification, the drivers will have to master a world-class road course that was not designed for stock cars. In fact, stock cars have never run on the Daytona Road Course at this level.

After that, they head to a short track on steroids for a doubleheader at Dover. This one-mile high-banked oval is brutal on drivers and equipment. It won’t matter that the races will be 25 percent shorter than normal to accommodate the twin bill when a host of drivers without regular season wins start throwing haymakers in a late desperate attempt to make the big show.

Then it’s off to the aero-restricted superspeedway and a second visit to Daytona. Only this time, it’s a lottery race on the big track. To say that anything can happen is a huge understatement. There are only 10 winning drivers among the 40-ish field that will be relatively calm. Most of them are included in this week’s Power Ranking.

Top 10

1. Kevin Harvick (last week: 1)
Weeks in the top 10: 19
Weeks as #1: 11
Power Average: 4.76

Drivers sometimes worry about peaking too early, but when they are experiencing a roll like Harvick is on right now they aren’t thinking about anything except winning the next race. In the last 45 days, that includes a span of nine races, Harvick has been perfect in regard to top-fives. He’s won four of them and is amassing an insurmountable lead in regard to playoff points. As a result, his odds of finishing in the top three at the end of the year is a staggering -162.

2. Brad Keselowski (last week: 2)
Weeks in the top 10: 19
Power Average: 7.37

When Keselowski finished last in the second Michigan race, it was the first time in his career that happened to him. The consolation is that it came after a second-place finish on Saturday and on the heels of an eight-race streak in which he finished 11th or better. Two weeks ago, he signed only a one-year contract extension with Team Penske because he thinks he will be just as marketable in 2021 as he is now and believes the economy will improve. That confidence is hard to argue with.

3. Denny Hamlin (last week: 4) +1
Weeks in the top 10: 15
Weeks as #1: 1
Power Average: 7.37

Hamlin is finally heading in the wrong direction. The three races at Indy, Kentucky, and Texas were a huge disappointment. He crashed while leading at the Brickyard, but was not overly impressive in the other two events. Otherwise, he has finished sixth or better in every race during the last 45 days. All but one of those efforts netted a top-two finish. Currently Hamlin is ranked second in regard to his championship odds with a +400 to Harvick’s +250.

4. Aric Almirola (last week: 3) -1
Weeks in the top 10: 7
Power Average: 8.30

We went all-in on Almirola last week at Michigan – and if we had it to do over, we’d feel the same way. He entered the weekend with nine consecutive top-10s and an average finish of 5.6. What we didn’t know is that his team would experiment with a setup that did not work. He finished 16th in the Saturday race and was never competitive. The team went back to basics on Sunday and immediately returned to the top 10 in sixth.

5. Martin Truex Jr. (last week: 6) +1
Weeks in the top 10: 16
Power Average: 10.79

If not for crash damage at Indy and Texas, Truex would be challenging Hamlin for the second spot in the Power Rankings. His problems at the Brickyard happened early enough that we never got to see his capability, but he finished second the next week at Kentucky and ran well at Texas before crashing. Since then, he has rattled off three consecutive third-place finishes, which is the first time he’s had four consecutive top-fives with Joe Gibbs Racing.

6. Chase Elliott (last week: 10) +4
Weeks in the top 10: 20
Weeks as #1: 5
Power Average: 11.03

You have to learn to walk before you can run. That is true at the beginning of your life as a toddler, but also when rehabbing from an injury. Metaphorically, that is what is happening with Elliott. After struggling through several weeks, Elliott has now earned three consecutive top-10s. He hasn’t won yet, but he had a chance to snatch the victory from Harvick on Saturday. If you’ve been reading these rankings regularly, it should come as no surprise that he lost his advantage on a restart. Few are worse at the drop of the green than the driver of the No. 9.

7. Ryan Blaney (last week: 5) -2
Weeks in the top 10: 15
Weeks as #1: 2
FPR#: 11.62

Conventional wisdom likes to assume that running well takes the sting out of bad finishes. That is true to a point, but it can also be demoralizing. Blaney has suffered through that scenario on a few occasions. Last week was just another bummer in a series of disappointments when he was crashed out of the lead of the Consumers Energy 312 by his teammate Keselowski. Can he rebound? Yes. Will he? It’s hard to tell, but he is strong on road tracks and Daytona’s infield course is next on the schedule.  

8. Joey Logano (last week: 7) -1
Weeks in the top 10: 20
Power Average: 11.91

Logano seems to have arrested his downward spiral. In the last five races he scored four results of eighth or better; three of those were top-fives. And while he is still not challenging for the outright win, he is covering those top-five spreads often enough to make him relevant.

9. Matt DiBenedetto (last week: 9)
Weeks in the top 10: 3
Power Average: 12.01

DiBenedetto is hanging in there. And even though he remains ranked ninth this week, he actually improved his Power Average from 13.15 to 12.01 and created a little more separation between himself and 11th. No one expects DiBurrito to become a weekly challenger for the win, but as long as he stays consistent and rattles off top-10s with some frequency, he can easily fit into your betting strategy.

10. Kyle Busch (last week: 11) +1
Weeks in the top 10: 13
Power Average: 12.47

Busch’s winless streak is now 22 races long, but if he continues to run like he did last weekend at Michigan, it is bound to be snapped before the end of the regular season. His best opportunity to do so will come at Dover, where one’s fate is in their control to a greater degree than on a road course of a superspeedway. But that is not to say that a little strategy won’t go a long way this week because he has recent rod course victories at the Glen in 2013 and Sonoma in 2015.

Dropped from the Top 10

11. Kurt Busch (last week: 8) -3
Weeks in the top 10: 15
Power Average: 12.54

Busch did not fall out of the top 10 so much as he was passed by his brother Kyle. In terms of his raw Power Average number, he improved from slightly 12.85 to 12.54. He has not been bulletproof, but in the last 20 races he has not finished worse than 18th; all but three of those efforts landed in the top 15. Equally important, he finished on the lead lap in all but one race and that has put him in a position to move up when others have trouble.

Big Movers outside the Top 10

17. Austin Dillon (last week: 20) +3
Weeks in the top 10: 2
Power Average: 17.34

Even though Dillon is locked into the playoffs, it is important for him to run well. He does not want to be irrelevant once they start and the best way to do that is to contend for top-10s right now. In the three events following his dramatic win at Texas, he struggled to finish in the top 15. That made his eighth-place finish on Sunday so important. He won’t worry too much about the two Daytona races, but he really wants to excel at Dover in two weeks.

14. William Byron (last week: 12) -2
Weeks in the top 10: 0
Power Average: 15.22

Byron is in a tenuous position. He is on the bubble with a 26-point advantage over Erik Jones and Jimmie Johnson; he trails DiBenedetto by 31. Both drivers below him want to unseat him from the playoffs; DiBenedetto is currently running better than the No. 24. But that is not the entirety of the problem. If any driver below Byron wins a race and gets an invitation to the finals, Byron will have to find a gear that might not exist.

Winners, Last 45 Days (Outright Odds to win)
Consumers Energy 312, Michigan: Kevin Harvick (+250)
FireKeepers Casino 312, Michigan: Kevin Harvick (+400)
Foxwoods Casino 301, New Hampshire: Brad Keselowski (+900)
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)

 

Power Average, Last 45 Days

This
Week

Driver

Power
Avg.

Avg. Odds
Rank

Last
Week

Difference

1.

Kevin Harvick

4.76

1.16

1

0

2.

Brad Keselowski

7.03

5.32

2

0

3.

Denny Hamlin

7.37

2.63

4

1

4.

Aric Almirola

8.30

12.00

3

-1

5.

Martin Truex Jr.

10.79

5.80

6

1

6.

Chase Elliott

11.03

4.79

10

4

7.

Ryan Blaney

11.62

6.11

5

-2

8.

Joey Logano

11.91

6.21

7

-1

9.

Matt DiBenedetto

12.01

15.33

9

0

10.

Kyle Busch

12.47

3.00

11

1

 

11.

Kurt Busch

12.54

10.53

8

-3

12.

Clint Bowyer

14.51

13.74

14

2

13.

Erik Jones

14.69

10.79

13

0

14.

William Byron

15.22

12.50

12

-2

15.

Tyler Reddick

16.19

16.44

15

0

16.

Cole Custer

16.68

22.00

16

0

17.

Austin Dillon

17.34

19.35

20

3

18.

Alex Bowman

17.66

10.89

17

-1

19.

Christopher Bell

17.69

18.68

18

-1

20.

Jimmie Johnson

17.88

12.05

19

-1

21.

Matt Kenseth

18.56

17.00

21

0

22.

Ross Chastain

20.43

27.50

23

1

23.

Ryan Newman

22.35

20.95

27

4

24.

Chris Buescher

22.53

23.50

22

-2

25.

Bubba Wallace

22.90

23.00

26

1

26.

Michael McDowell

23.63

28.53

24

-2

27.

Ty Dillon

23.73

26.89

28

1

28.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

24.72

22.63

30

2

29.

JH Nemechek

25.16

25.95

29

0

30.

Corey LaJoie

26.56

30.05

31

1

31.

Daniel Suarez

27.11

28.50

32

1

32.

Ryan Preece

27.65

26.65

33

1

33.

JJ Yeley

27.98

30.58

34

1

34.

Gray Gaulding

31.44

 

35

1

35.

Brennan Poole

31.89

31.00

37

2

36.

Josh Bilicki

31.94

30.70

36

0

37.

BJ McLeod

32.56

30.31

40

3

38.

Garrett Smithley

32.87

31.00

38

0

39.

Quin Houff

32.95

30.74

41

2

40.

Reed Sorenson

33.33

31.71

42

2

41.

Timmy Hill

33.52

30.47

43

2

42.

James Davison

33.97

30.86

39

-3

43.

Joey Gase

34.28

30.67

 

NA

 

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 20 years with a little help from his >650,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.