Lionel Racing’s Power 10 (August 2, 2016)

Mother Nature has a mind of her own and sometimes she doesn’t like to cooperate with NASCAR.

On Sunday, July 31, the scheduled date for Pocono Raceway’s Pennsylvania 400, Mother Nature flexed her mighty muscle, forcing NASCAR to postpone the race to Monday morning.

When the morning of August 1 arrived in the Poconos located in northeast Pennsylvania, the rain hadn’t decided to move out quite yet. After a short delay, the green flag finally fell to start the 160-lap race.

However, 22 laps before the final lap, Mother Nature, in the form of fog, decided to rear her ugly head. The fog was so thick at points that the broadcasters in the booth or the spotters couldn’t see the cars on the track.

The visibility on the track wasn’t much better.

Things could have gotten out of hand real quick. So, NASCAR did what it had to do … they red-flagged the race. After more than 80 minutes of watching the skies and studying weather patterns, NASCAR decided to call the race.

Chris Buescher, who was leading when the red flag came out, was crowned victorious for his first win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, coming in only his 27th start.

As the red flag period drew on, NASCAR allowed the drivers to exit their race cars and return to their haulers and motor homes. There was one driver, however, who didn’t immediately get out of his car.

The reigning NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Buescher was hesitant to climb out, perhaps for fear he would jinx his possible race win.

There was no need to fear, as Mother Nature had his back.

On Lap 127, Buescher took the lead after passing A.J. Allmendinger. He led the final 12 trips around the triangular track before the race was yellow-flagged due to visibility concerns and the subsequent red flag.

The 12 laps led were the first laps the 23-year-old Texas native led in his relatively short NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career.

Once the race was called, Buescher and the crew of Front Row Motorsports No. 34 Dockside Logistics Ford Fusion participated in a makeshift Victory Lane set up in an empty garage stall.

Despite the wet conditions, nothing could dampen Buescher’s or his crew’s spirits on Monday afternoon.

Although Brad Keselowski probably had the most to lose from the race being called early, in post-race interviews he was genuinely excited and proud to see Buescher pick up the win.

Otherwise, if the cars had returned to racing, it’s very possible that Keselowksi would have slipped by Buescher.

Not too far behind Buescher and Keselowski, Regan Smith, Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart rounded out the top five. Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch filled out the rest of the top 10.

How did the inclement weather affect Buescher and all his colleagues in the latest edition of Lionel Racing’s Power 10? Did Buescher make his first appearance on the list? If so, where? With another top-five finish under his belt, did Harvick return to the top? Did Stewart finally receive the respect he’s due and find a spot in the rankings, something that has eluded him even after winning at Sonoma?

Find out the answer to these questions and many more in the current edition of Lionel Racing’s Power 10.

(Note: Only the 10 drivers receiving the highest average rankings are shown. The number of spots they’ve moved since the previous Power 10 are shown in the parentheses.)

1. Chris Buescher (NR): At the risk of making a mockery of our rankings, methinks I’ve uncovered a closet Buescher fan among our voting ranks. I’m solely basing this on the fact that said person voted for Buescher in all 10 top-10 spots. Regardless, congrats Chris!

2. Kevin Harvick (–): Week in and week out Kevin proves he doesn’t have to visit Victory Lane to prove he’s one of the best drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. His consistent high finishes speak volumes.

3. Kyle Busch (-2): Kyle led one lap under caution and ran most of Monday’s race in the top 10 after starting 16. Another top-10 finish coupled with four wins on the season obviously impress a lot of people, including our voters.

4. Brad Keselowski (-1): Want to know which driver was probably the most upset about the Pocono race ending early? Brad. If the race had continued, it’s a good bet he would have taken the lead. However, he was a good sport about it and seemed honestly excited for Chris.

5. Carl Edwards (+4): Having already officially clinched his spot in the Chase, you can’t but help think that Edwards is enjoying the heck out of racing without anything to lose … and it’s showing in the results. Another top-10 finish proves that.

6. Kurt Busch (-2): Kurt is quietly putting together a strong season and will probably surprise many when he’s still standing far into the Chase. He’s currently second in top fives with 16 and third in the points standings. Although, he didn’t snare another top five, a top-10 finish is not too shabby.

7. Tony Stewart (NR): After missing the first eight races of 2016 and then starting off a little shaky, Tony has finally returned to Tony of old. Despite a slight hiccough in the July Daytona race, he’s been on a tear since Michigan.

8. Matt Kenseth (-2): Despite finishing near the middle of the pack with a 17th-place finish at Pocono, Matt was coming off a stretch of three top-10 performances, which included a win at New Hampshire. If the race had run its full length, I’m betting he would have finished higher.

9. Martin Truex Jr. (-5): I’ll admit it, after finding out that Martin was driving the same car that dominated the Coca-Cola 600 a couple months ago, I was sure this race would be his to lose. Well, he did, and it was basically the car’s fault. I guess you have to take the good with the bad.

10. Joey Logano (-4): Heading into the race, Joey was in the midst of a stretch of eight races where he had seven top-10 finishes, including a win at Michigan. A two-car accident on Lap 106 effectively took away his chance of claiming another top-10 finish.

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