After finishing eight and 20th for Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards, respectively, in Sunday’s New Hampshire 301, both drivers joined Brad Keselowski as the only three drivers to officially lock up a spot in this season’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
After the 19th race of 2016, Keselowski has four wins, while Busch has three and Edwards has two. Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth, who won his second this weekend, are the only other drivers with multiple wins so far this weekend.
Kenseth’s win was his third at the 1.058-mile track his 38th in his career. He started 18th and didn’t see the front until Lap 258 of the 301-lap affair. He led 38 laps in all.
Busch led the event’s most laps (133) followed closely by Martin Truex Jr. (123). For a majority of the race, it looked as though it would be one of them in Victory Lane as they swapped the lead back and forth. Truex fell back to the middle of the pack and finished 16th.
Tony Stewart,who won several weeks ago at Sonoma, put together another nice performance, finishing second.
Jimmie Johnson started on the pole and led only the first lap before giving away the lead to Busch on the second lap. Johnson finished a respectable 12th place.
Chase Elliott, who leads the Sunoco Rookie of the Year race by 48 points over Ryan Blaney, finished 34th, while Blaney was the highest finishing rookie in 11th.
It was announced late last week that Dale Earnhardt Jr. wouldn’t be at the helm of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet for this race due to concussion-like symptoms. Alex Bowman did an admirable job filling in for the sport’s most popular driver. After spinning out in Turn 1 on Lap 274, he fought back to finish as the last car on the lead lap in 26th.
Did Earnhardt’s absence affect his standing in the Power 10? Did Kevin Harvick return to the top spot? How did Busch and Truex fare in the standings after battling it out for most of the afternoon? Are there any newcomers to the Power 10 this week? What about this week’s race winner, Kenseth?
These questions and more will be answered in today’s 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. Kevin Harvick (+1): After a week dropping back to the No. 2 spot, Kevin returned to the top spot of our Power 10 after finishing fourth in the New Hampshire 301.
2. Kyle Busch (+1): After leading the most laps, it’s only fair that Kyle moves up in the rankings. However, he’d probably taken over the top spot if he finished a little higher than eighth.
3. Kurt Busch (+2): Even after finishing 22nd in Loudon, Kurt rose two spots. He must be cashing in all those points he received for good credit after running consistently in the top 10.
4t. Brad Keselowski (-3): Brad’s officially locked into the Chase and that’s all that matters right now. Of course, another win or two before the postseason starts wouldn’t hurt.
4t. Martin Truex Jr. (+3): It looked like Martin might pull out the win for a good portion of the race. Unfortunately, he didn’t, but on the bright side, he gained three spots here.
6. Matt Kenseth (NR): What’s the best medicine to get back into the Power 10. As Matt discovered, it’s to win the most recent race. If he finishes in the top five next week, he could climb.
7t. Carl Edwards (-3): Two wins and an official spot in the Chase despite finishing 20th. I’m sure Carl will take it, as would most any other driver.
7t. Joey Logano (+1): Joey bounced back from a 39th-place finish at Kentucky in a big way. Not only did he move up a spot here, but he finished third at New Hampshire.
9. Chase Elliott (–): Sure Chase is the midst of a three-race streak where he’s finished 30th or worse. But, if there’s anything we’ve learned from his first-half performance, it’s that he can overcome this.
10. Jimmie Johnson (-4): His last win is now 14 races in the past. I think it’s about time ol’ six-time remind the voters how great a racer he is and return to Victory Lane.