NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 11 Restarters in the Sprint Cup Series

Ben MontedonicoContributor IIIMarch 12, 2012

NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 11 Restarters in the Sprint Cup Series

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    In today's era of late cautions and green-white-checkered finishes, the ability to perform well on restarts is crucial in winning, not just NASCAR races, but Sprint Cup championships.

    In Sunday's Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, we witnessed the most remarkable display of restarting in quite some time. The manner in which eventual race winner Tony Stewart handled three late restarts was key in helping him take home the checkered flag.

    This list of the "Top 11 Restarters in the Sprint Cup Series" is based off of loop data gathered thus far in the 2012 Sprint Cup Season.

    The "fastest on restart" statistic, which is what this list is based off of, is determined by the average speed of each driver on the first two laps of a restart.

    Therefore, the drivers who run up front have the advantage in this category, just as they do on an actual race restart.

    Some of the top restarters in the series are drivers you might expect while others are actually quite surprising.

    There are even some notable exclusions from the list including Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson.

    Who are the top restarters in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series? You're about to find out.

11. Kasey Kahne

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    Kasey Kahne may have been a surprise on this list a few years ago when it seemed as though restarts were his Achilles' heel.

    But over the last couple of seasons, Kahne's restarts have gotten notably better.

    Kahne earned two wins in the 2009 season after inheriting or holding on to the lead after a late restart.

    At Infineon Raceway, Kahne led the field to a green-white-checkered finish and held on to earn his first road course win. At Atlanta on Labor Day weekend, Kahne stole the lead on a late restart en route to his second victory at AMS.

    Kahne ranks 11th in the "fastest on restart" stat so far in 2012.

10. Brad Keselowski

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    It's no surprise the Brad Keselowski makes the list.

    Keselowski is known as one of the more aggressive drivers in the Sprint Cup Series; a trait that pays dividends when positions are there for the taking on restarts.

    Keselowski earned his first win at Talladega in 2009 on a green-white-checkered finish after pushing Carl Edwards to the lead on the final lap and and sending him into the catchfence coming to the finish line.

    Keselowski ranks 10th in the "fastest on restart" stat so far in 2012.

9. Aric Almirola

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    It's a bit of a surprise that Aric Almirola is one of the best restarters in the sport so far this season.

    But perhaps it shouldn't be. The '"Cuban Missile" spent several years honing his craft in NASCAR's Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series before moving up to the Sprint Cup Series full-time in 2012.

    Almirola spent two seasons racing head-to-head with Ron Hornaday in the Truck Series, who is often referred to as the "King of Restarts."

    Almirola is also known as an aggressive driver in his own right; one who isn't afraid to take positions when he can get them.

    Perhaps his restart skills will translate into some solid finishes later this season.

    Almirola ranks ninth in the "fastest on restart" stat so far in 2012.

8. Bobby Labonte

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    Perhaps the biggest surprise on this list comes in the form of Bobby Labonte.

    Not known as being an aggressive driver, Labonte has a reputation of being smooth and hitting his marks.

    Perhaps that consistency is what has translated to good restarts for the man who quietly sits 16th in the standings.

    Labonte's best restart move came late in his prime in 2003, when he made a late move around the outside of Jeff Gordon at Atlanta en route to his first of two victories that season.

    The wily veteran still knows how to get it done on restarts.

    Labonte ranks eighth in the "fastest on restart" stat so far in 2012.

7. Kevin Harvick

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    The only surprise here is that Kevin Harvick isn't higher on the list.

    Harvick is known for closing the deal late in races, particularly on green-white-checkered finishes. His Daytona 500 win, Coke Zero 400 win and both Budweiser Shootout wins have come after two-lap shootouts.

    Harvick is another driver who is famous for being aggressive; a trait that clearly shows through for those who are good at restarting races.

    Harvick ranks seventh in the "fastest on restart" stat so far in 2012.

6. Denny Hamlin

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    All three race winners in 2012 are among the Top Six restarters in the sport, including Denny Hamlin.

    Hamlin's stout restarts late in the race at Phoenix two races ago helped the 2010 Sprint Cup Series runner-up capture his first win since June 2011.

    Hamlin is another driver who has been known to earn and hold the lead after good restarts late in the race, including during his Pocono and Martinsville victories in 2010.

    Hamlin ranks sixth in the "fastest on restart" stat so far in 2012. 

5. Joey Logano

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    Joey Logano's driving ability has taken a few knocks, but the kid knows how to restart races.

    During the green-white-checkered finish in the Daytona 500, Logano made a mad charge through the field after restarting at the back due to fuel pressure problems which resulted in a ninth-place finish.

    Logano also made a charge after a late restart at Las Vegas which moved him from a sub-Top 20 finish all the way up to a 16th-place effort.

    Logano ranks fifth in the "fastest on restart" stat so far in 2012.

4. Carl Edwards

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    After his late move Sunday at Las Vegas, it's no surprise that Carl Edwards is one of the Top Five restarters in NASCAR.

    Edwards made a three-wide move late in the race on teammates Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle which resulted in Kenseth's car getting hard into the wall.

    But Edwards' aggression on restarts isn't all bad. His fantastic restarting abilities helped earn him a runner-up finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings in 2011.

    Edwards ranks fourth in the "fastest on restart" stat so far in 2012.

3. Greg Biffle

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    Greg Biffle is the points leader for a reason.

    Biffle has not had the fastest car in any race this season, but his ability to restart well has earned him a third-place finish in each of the first three races to start the season.

    Biffle has been known to win races after late restarts including at Darlington in 2005 and Dover in 2008.

    Biffle ranks -- I kid you not -- third in the "fastest on restart" stat so far in 2012.

2. Tony Stewart

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    This just in: Tony Stewart is good on restarts.

    It has already been well-documented how Stewart's three strong restarts on Sunday -- including a three-wide move he made to take the lead for good -- helped the defending champion earn his first Las Vegas win on Sunday.

    Stewart's strong restarting abilities helped him to capture wins that were critical in helping him win the 2011 Sprint Cup championship, including the Fall race at Martinsville and the finale at Homestead.

    Stewart ranks second in the "fastest on restart" stat so far in 2012.

1. Matt Kenseth

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    Toss out Sunday's late mishap at Las Vegas and Matt Kenseth has had some pretty stout restarts in 2012.

    His most notable restart of the year was undoubtedly the green-white-checkered at Daytona, where Kenseth held the lead when the green flag dropped, moved up the track to pick up teammate Greg Biffle, and never looked back.

    The 2012 Daytona 500 champ earned three wins in 2011, two of which came courtesy of strong restarts late in the race; at Dover in June and at Charlotte in October.

    Kenseth currently ranks first in the "fastest on restart" stat in 2012.