Power Rankings: Win puts Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the top five

Welcome to Power Rankings. As always, Power Rankings are far from a scientific formula. In fact, it’s the perfect blend of analytics and bias against your favorite driver. Direct all your complaints to us at nickbromberg@yahoo.com and we’ll try to have some fun.

1. Brad Keselowski (LW: 1): There always seems to be a driver or three who is involved in a big crash at Talladega and fights back for a top-10 finish. Keselowski and Kurt Busch were those two drivers.

Busch sustained right front damage — similar to the damage he had on his car when he won the Daytona 500 — while Keselowski got a flat tire and some front end damage as he attempted to slow down enough to avoid the wreck.

Before getting shuffled back in the field and caught in the 18-car pileup, Keselowski was a mainstay at the front of the field and led 31 laps.

2. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 3): Johnson finished a spot behind Keselowski in 8th. Since he won the spring race at Talladega in 2011, Johnson has just three top-10 finishes and has finished outside the top 20 on six different occasions. Yeah, Talladega isn’t Johnson’s best track.

Johnson could’ve had a better finish too. he was in position for a potential top five off turn 2 on the final lap but ended up getting shuffled back a bit after Jamie McMurray’s banzai three-wide pass.

“You just don’t know where they are going to go and you are busy looking in mirrors and out the windshield and I’m trying to see where the leader is and all that kind of stuff,” Johnson said. “Just a brave, but good move to thread the needle by [McMurray] there.”

3. Kyle Larson (LW: 4): Larson had an eventful race. He hit the wall early and subsequently had a flat tire that NASCAR threw a caution for. He ended up finishing 12th and extended his points lead to a whopping 54 points over Martin Truex Jr.

Larson now has twice as many points (428) as Kasey Kahne, the driver in 18th place in the standings. It’s a gap far larger in number and ratio than what 2016 points leader Kevin Harvick had after Talladega. Harvick, who had 351 points through 10 races, was up 133 points on 20th place.

4. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (LW: 8): A Talladega win means a four-spot jump for Stenhouse, who’s suddenly getting a lot more praise and acclaim since visiting victory lane on Sunday.

And that makes sense; in a sport searching for new stars, Stenhouse winning for the first time for a team that’s struggled over the past few seasons is a big deal. But Stenhouse was being praised for his driving skill by people in NASCAR for a while. After Johnson’s 2014 win at Texas, his crew chief had this to say about Stenhouse, who finished 23rd:

“I’ll tell you what, Ricky Stenhouse can really drive a race car,” Knaus said. “That car was sideways coming off [turn 4]”

5. Joey Logano (LW: 2): Logano led six laps and finished 25th after getting caught up in the 18-car pileup.

““I saw [Chase Elliott] tank-slapping it down the backstretch,” Logano said. “I was hoping he’d turn to the left when he started spinning, but he went up the race track and I was just sitting there in the outside lane saying, ‘Oh, I’m gonna be the first one there and I can’t get away from him.’ So we got into the crash, unfortunately.”

6. Jamie McMurray (LW: 9): Let’s just all marvel at that move McMurray made.

That could have epically backfired — and given the win to Kyle Busch — but McMurray’s aggressiveness paid off and he finished second.

7. Kevin Harvick (LW: 5): Harvick finished 15th, which was pretty remarkable given that he sustained some pretty significant damage in the melee. He’s now finished both restrictor plate races in 2017 with cars that were pretty wounded.

“To have a car that can lead laps and run up front, this time we just happened to wreck up front,” Harvick said. “Solid performance from the team, just bad luck.”

8. Clint Bowyer (LW: 6): Bowyer had a strong car but dropped to the back in the second half of the race. He couldn’t get back to the front and ended up finishing 14th.

9. Chase Elliott (LW: 7): If you’ve been on social media since Sunday or watched any NASCAR programming, you’ve probably seen Elliott’s car riding along the top of the backstretch wall multiple times. He had a car capable of winning the race in the right circumstances. Instead, he was the victim of bump drafting gone bad at Talladega.

10. Kyle Busch (LW: NR): Busch was understandably unhappy after the race and made a reference to Saturday’s upcoming race at Kansas as one on a “real” track. Talladega had a good response to him.


We also imagine Busch would have considered Talladega a “real” track had he not been passed by Stenhouse Jr. either.

11. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 10): Busch’s day could have been like Truex’s, which was ruined in the big accident.

“We got shuffled to the outside one time there and got in a bad spot and then they started wrecking,” Truex said. “It’s a shame, it’s the way it goes here. Unfortunately for us, it’s been a tough one to finish, but we did get stage points today so that’s a bonus and at least it’s better than running all day and crashing out and not getting anything.”

12. Denny Hamlin (LW: 11): Hamlin finished 11th in the No. 11 car. It’s the 12th time he’s finished 11th while driving the No. 11. If you’re wondering when the 11th time was, it was in the first 2015 race at Michigan. And Hamlin was 11th in Power Rankings last week. You are welcome for all this information.

Lucky Dog: Aric Almirola, though his fourth-place finish will come with a penalty later this week after the car failed inspection.

The DNF: Ryan Blaney, who got wrecked before the big pileup.

Dropped Out: Trevor Bayne

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of Dr. Saturday and From the Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!