NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 20 Sprint Cup Drivers Coming out of Martinsville

Christopher Leone@ChristopherlionSenior Analyst IApril 4, 2011

NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 20 Sprint Cup Drivers Coming out of Martinsville

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    MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 03:  Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, poses in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2011 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo by Je
    Jerry Markland/Getty Images

    Happy Harvick's fans have to be pretty happy themselves, as their driver became the first multiple-race winner in Sprint Cup this season with a late-race pass of Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Martinsville. Harvick is proving himself NASCAR's equivalent of Mariano Rivera—an all-world closer who can assert his team's victory when all is said and done.

    But if you're a fan of any of the 42 other drivers on the track, don't fret—19 more are still going to get mentioned in this week's power rankings. It's just, you know, the guy who's won the past two races is going to go first. Let's go.

1. Kevin Harvick

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    MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 03:  Kevin Harvick (R), driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, poses with his wife Delana (L)in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2011 in Martinsvi
    Jason Smith/Getty Images

    If you originally thought that, of last season's three top championship contenders, the No. 29 team would have been more likely to drop off at the start of this season than Denny Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racing, I would have agreed with you. But now we both look stupid, don't we? The 2010 points champion—that is, if you're looking at the pre-Chase system—didn't let Daytona get him down, and now, here we are.

2. Kyle Busch

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    MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 03:  Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Pedigree Toyota, leads Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2011 in Martinsville, V
    John Harrelson/Getty Images

    Martinsville remains the only Sprint Cup track at which Rowdy hasn't taken a victory in one of NASCAR's touring series. But by finishing third and leading the most laps, he now has the points lead and five top-10s, more than any other driver (and four more than his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates combined). I think he can deal with waiting a little longer.

3. Carl Edwards

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    MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 02:  Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Aflac Ford, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 2, 2011 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo by Jason S
    Jason Smith/Getty Images

    Even on a bad day, about a dozen drivers would kill to have his finishing position. Sunday saw Edwards come home a lap down in 18th and lose the points lead, but the difference is five points—meaning a win while leading the most laps would take him back the lead no matter what.

4. Jimmie Johnson

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    MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 03: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, holds his daughter Genevieve Marie on the grid during prerace for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2011 in Martinsvil
    Jerry Markland/Getty Images

    An 11 is just two No. 1s, right? No? Oh well.

5. Kurt Busch

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    MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 03: Kurt Busch, driver of the #22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge, stands on the grid prior tor the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2011 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo by Jerry Markla
    Jerry Markland/Getty Images

    Consistency is nice, but I'm still seeing this team dropping down the standings just like they did after a hot start last year. Kurt Busch was leading the standings not too long ago, right?

6. Juan Montoya

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    MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 02:  Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 2, 2011 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Phot
    Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

    Wait, Montoya finished fourth at Martinsville? That just strikes me as weird. Wait, is only one of Chip Ganassi's cars allowed to have good luck in any given year? Jamie Mac started the season struggling pretty badly, if I recall correctly...and yet, they won three races last year.

7. Ryan Newman

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    MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 03:  Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 Haas Automation Chevrolet, stands with wife Krissie and their daughter Brooklyn Sage Newman on the grid prior to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville
    Jason Smith/Getty Images

    Rough end to the weekend for this guy. He seemed like a solid pick at the start...problems won't stay by the wayside forever, though.

8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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    MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 03:  Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, race side by side Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Amp Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Sp
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    A double dose of agony for Junior Nation. Their driver's career-worst 99-race winless streak stands after a pass late in the race by a guy with Junior's old sponsor on his hood. Nevermind how well the No. 88 team did this weekend—fans are going to want more, and quick. They've proven they can perform again. Now it's time to do one better at Texas, where Junior scored his first Cup win way back in 2000.

9. Paul Menard

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    MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 03:  Paul Menard, driver of the #27 NIBCO/Menards Chevrolet, spins out after cutting a tire during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2011 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo b
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Hey, Paul: Menarch is over. Menapril doesn't have quite the same ring to it. I don't know if I see the No. 27 staying hot, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt on this single bad race. Anything prolonged after that—watch him plummet.

10. Mark Martin

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    MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 03:  Mark Martin, driver of the #5 Quaker State/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, stands next to his car on the grid prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2011 in Martinsville, Vir
    Jason Smith/Getty Images

    Martin made his 800th career Sprint Cup start, fittingly at Martinsville, on Sunday. By coming home 10th, he catapulted himself to 10th in points. Future No. 5 driver Kasey Kahne would have killed for that run. (And before you ask, no, I have no idea what he's doing next year. Probably Turner Motorsports. Probably with Dollar General. Maybe in Cup. Sorry, Reed Sorenson.)

11. Matt Kenseth

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    MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 01:  Matt Kenseth, driver of the #17 Crown Royal Ford, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 1, 2011 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo by Jason
    Jason Smith/Getty Images

    Am I criminally underrating the guy who's ninth in points and finished sixth on Sunday? Maybe. Is it because the guy's led five laps all season? Abso-friggin-lutely. All the second places in a world won't win you a—oh, right, we're talking about Kenseth, aren't we? Yep, criminally underrated him. My bad.

12. Tony Stewart

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    MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 01:  Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 1, 2011 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (P
    John Harrelson/Getty Images

    Buck up, Tony. You're still in the Chase. (Barely. As a wild card.)

13. Jeff Gordon

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    MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 03:  Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive to End Hunger/ AARP Chevrolet, makes a pit stop during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2011 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo by
    Jerry Markland/Getty Images

    What a bipolar season for Gordon thus far. He's either up in front or he's involved in an accident that has him way back. On the bright side, if he doesn't make his way back into Chase position (where he hasn't been since Phoenix, the race he won), another win or two should get him a Wild Card spot.

14. Kasey Kahne

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    MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 03:  The #56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota, driven by Martin Truex Jr., catches fire after an incident with Kasey Kahne, driver of the #4 Red Bull Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedw
    John Harrelson/Getty Images

    Just call him the moving SAFER barrier.

15. Martin Truex Jr.

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    MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 03:  Track Safty workers throw down Speedy Dry around the #56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota, driven by Martin Truex Jr., after it caught fire because of an incident with Kasey Kahne, driver of the #4 Red Bull Toyota, during the NASCAR Sp
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Quoth the great @nascarcasm on Twitter: "Is it bad for a car sponsored by a car-parts dealer to have a parts failure? That's like Kasey parking his car because he's really tired."

16. A.J. Allmendinger

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    MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 03:  A.J. Allmendinger, driver of the #43 Best Buy Ford, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2011 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
    Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

    The 'Dinger has been pretty consistent this season, with five top-20s and only eight laps missed. But none of that matters, because when you drive the No. 43 at Martinsville, you're supposed to beat team owner Richard Petty's 15 career wins at the track. In that single weekend. Therefore, A.J.'s weekend was a failure.

17. David Ragan

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    MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 01:  David Ragan drives the #6 UPS Ford during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 1, 2011 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images for NASCA
    Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

    "I don't care if that was our best finish of the season, I'm still pissed about Daytona."

18. Clint Bowyer

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    MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 03:  Clint Bowyer (R) leans against the #33 BB&T Chevrolet as crew chief Shane Wilson (L) looks on while on the grid during pre-race activities for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on A
    Jason Smith/Getty Images

    Is Clint going to change sponsors like this every week for the rest of the season? God, it's like Days of Thunder, minus the glaring difference that Clint's life isn't just Top Gun in race cars. Also, I'm not sure who would play Nicole Kidman. (No idea on Clint's love life—I actually turned down a piece on NASCAR's 25 hottest wives and girlfriends in the offseason. Not my thing.)

19. Denny Hamlin

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    MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 02:  Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, stands next to his car on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 2, 2011 in Martinsville, Vir
    Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

    Darrell Waltrip's terribly-executed analysis of Hamlin's psyche aside (I don't think you can determine a person's happiness by how frequently they tweet or not... yet), he's absolutely right. Hamlin needs to relax a bit more; that team has been uptight since Phoenix last year. The good runs and top finishes will come. Work out the kinks in the engine department and you'll be fine, Denny.

20. Bobby Labonte

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    MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 03:   Bobby Labonte, driver of the #47 Lance Snacks Toyota, spins out after a multi-car incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2011 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Ph
    John Harrelson/Getty Images

    Somebody mistagged this particular Getty Images photo with the No. 47's former driver, Marcos Ambrose, but we know better. And I'm not quite ready to give up on the Bobby Labonte bandwagon just yet. Top 20 at the end of the season or bust!

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