Once again, it’s time for our weekly NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Power Rankings. Who is at the top of our list following the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway as the series returns to New Hampshire?
Just like in the past, the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway showed us that it’s OK to stumble a bit in the early rounds, but that stumbling early in a race is preferred to stumbling late. Truex, Jr. was able to overcome early-race issues on Sunday, while Johnson, Harvick and Larson had their issues too late to mount a comeback.
The series and the Chase now make their return trip to New Hampshire Motor Speedway next Sunday. Matt Kenseth won there in July, so if I was a JGR or JGR-affiliated team next weekend, I’d take my chances.
Be sure to leave comments here or reach us via social media to discuss where your favorite driver is on the list, or to tell us who should be on/off the list in your opinion!
(Last Week: NR) – Seemed to always catch a break, and used the lucky dog pass to stay on the lead lap. If Round 1 ended now, Smoke would move on, but there’s still plenty of work to be done at New Hampshire and Dover.
No. 21,Wood Brothers Racing
(Last Week:NR) – Why not take a chance and stay out at the end? He needed to something different to give himself a chance, and he did that. He needed more people to try the same strategy, though, to put more cars with old tires between him and the field.
(Last Week: 15) – Never really a factor on Sunday, which is consistent with the expectations for him entering the Chase. Something still not quite right at RCR.
No. 1,Chip Ganassi Racing
(Last Week: 14) – Jamie needs to adopt a different attitude, and he could start by watching Kevin Harvick’s Twitter feed to see what might work. There’s no reason a guy with his amount of experience and previous Chase experience should be second-fiddle to his CGR teammate, unless he’s just not that good. Hmmm….
No. 19,Joe Gibbs Racing
(Last Week: 9) – Again, I won’t ever fault a driver for trying a different strategy than conventional wisdom suggests to try and make something from their day, especially as laps are winding down at the end of an event. Carl did so on Sunday, but is in a similar role as McMurray in that he’s JGR’s red-headed step child in this Chase. You just don’t know which Carl is going to show up.
No. 5,Hendrick Motorsports
(Last Week: 12) – As long as we’re on red-headed step children, along comes the third stooge in the McMurray – Edwards – Kahne trio! Even though the 48 was cheated-up, he has to wonder what he’s getting for support as all three of his HMS teammates were clearly faster all weekend. Again, unless he’s just not that good…..
No. 41,Stewart-Haas Racing
(Last Week: 8) – Fair day. At this point, he’s doing a nice job with Round 1 strategy, and that is to have solid finishes to make sure you advance to the next round. Wins are not necessary – yet. He still needs to regain some of the early-season Top 5 consistency to be considered a real threat, otherwise there won’t be a chair for him when the music stops.
(Last Week: 10) – Lap 124 speeding while exiting the pits penalty put him down a bit, and he never really recovered from the hit to track position. Kenseth knows how to leverage the Chase format to his advantage, though, and 9th place finishes at this point are probably OK.
No. 48,Hendrick Motorsports
(Last Week: 13) – I’m tired of hearing how strong the No. 48 was on Sunday. The car was illegal. That voids any on-track dominance.
No. 24,Hendrick Motorsports
(Last Week: 11) – Amazing attitude and outlook from someone who was about 4 miles short of his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory, had it not been for the late yellow-flag. It would be so easy for a 20-year old to get consumed in the disappointment and lose confidence in himself. Not here. Chase is going to get his due yet this season if Sunday’s strength was any indication of what that team is capable.
No. 42,Chip Ganassi Racing
(Last Week: 3) – You and your girlfriend, Katelyn went swimming with Danica and Ricky while in Chicago. You were about as swollen as your right front after seeing Danica in her bikini. Lucky guy.
No. 4,Stewart-Haas Racing
(Last Week: 5) – NBCSN showed your Twitter post characterizing your attitude for the next 10 weeks (raging bull.) Had you actually executed that attitude while exiting the pits, you might not have lost the lap that you never recovered.
(Last Week: 6) – Cracked under pressure in the big race after dominating both of the kiddie races earlier in the weekend. Boy, that must feel good.
No. 2,Penske Racing
(Last Week: 4) – Both Penske cars in the Top 5 at Chicago on Sunday and a Penske sweep of the Championship podium in the IndyCar series on the same day. I still think this Championship is a battle between the Nos. 2-11-18-19-20-22-78.
No. 11,Joe Gibbs Racing
(Last Week: 1) – The tracks get easier for him the deeper we go into the Chase. Top-5, Top-10 works for now.
No. 22,Penske Racing
(Last Week: 7) – So how do you feel about voiding someone’s win now that you finished second to a tricked-up car?
(Last Week: 2) – I want to be on the emotional No. 78 bandwagon, because I’ve picked you to win this year’s Championship and I think everything about you and your team deserves it, but I also can’t be hypocritical and look pass the LIS issue. If the car was illegal, that’s no way to win. The fact that it’s two weeks in a row doesn’t help. Gotta clean that up, please.