NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 20 Sprint Cup Drivers After Infineon

Christopher Leone@ChristopherlionSenior Analyst IJune 27, 2011

NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 20 Sprint Cup Drivers After Infineon

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    Sorry about the week off last week, folks. Seems the power rankings have been slipping in readership since I landed a full-time job that takes up most of my Monday mornings. In response, I decided to take a week off from them and come up with a slightly altered feel for them.

    This is the way we're going to do things from now on: We're just going to rank drivers by their points positions, instead of arbitrarily based on recent performance. Then we're going to have two factoids on each of them: What's New, where we recap the driver's past weekend, and What's Next, where we look ahead to the coming race weekend.

    Seems straightforward enough, right? Let's get to it.

1. Carl Edwards

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    What's New

    Edwards elected to skip the Nationwide race at Road America to focus on his Cup run, and the move paid off as he finished third.

    What's Next

    Edwards has top-10s in five of his past six Daytona starts, including a closely fought runner-up finish in this year's Daytona 500.

2. Kevin Harvick

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    What's New

    Out of almost nowhere, Harvick led five laps and came home ninth on Sunday.

    What's Next

    Most people cite Harvick's 2007 Daytona 500 win as proof of his prowess at the track, but they forget that he is also the defending champion of this weekend's Coke Zero 400 and boasts an average finish of 15.8.

3. Jimmie Johnson

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    What's New

    Johnson failed to lead any laps but came home with a respectable seventh-place finish.

    What's Next

    Since winning the 2006 Daytona 500, the speedway seems to have Johnson's number; he's only got two top-10s in his previous 10 Daytona starts.

4. Kurt Busch

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    What's New

    The picture above says it all—Busch dominated Infineon for his first win of the season.

    What's Next

    Never a points-paying race winner at Daytona but a previous Budweiser Shootout champion, Busch has a remarkable string of eight top-10s in his past 10 Daytona starts.

5. Kyle Busch

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    What's New

    Kyle rebounded from a late-race spin to come home a respectable 11th.

    What's Next

    The younger Busch brother's finishes at Daytona suffer from incredible bipolarity. Four top-fives, including a win in the July 2008 race, offset two finishes of 40th or worse.

6. Matt Kenseth

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    What's New

    Not a particularly prominent name in NASCAR road racing, Kenseth rebounded from a 33rd-place starting spot and momentum-killing hairpin spin from 13th place to finish a respectable 14th.

    What's Next

    Kenseth won the 2009 Daytona 500 and usually runs well at the track, having accumulated a respectable 18.0 average finish at a speedway where most drivers see that statistic suffer due to accidents.

7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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    What's New

    Little E parked the car after 45 laps, listed in 41st with overheating troubles that killed him in the points.

    What's Next

    Even though he hasn't won at the track since 2004, Earnhardt Jr. is still known as the king of the track that took the life of his father, boasting a well-earned 14.8 average finish.

8. Clint Bowyer

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    What's New

    Bowyer's fourth-place finish included a bonus point for leading a single lap.

    What's Next

    With discussions to join Team Red Bull breaking down with the sponsor's likely withdrawal from the sport, Bowyer has stated the need to attract sponsorship to stay at Richard Childress Racing for 2011 and beyond; lucky for him, he comes up on a track this weekend where he has the best average finish (13.2) of all active drivers with more than one start.

9. Jeff Gordon

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    What's New

    Gordon's runner-up finish at Infineon put him ninth in points, meaning he does not need to rely on the strength of his two season wins to make the Chase at this moment.

    What's Next

    In just over a full season's worth of career starts at Daytona (37), Gordon has six wins and 18 top-10s, one of the most accomplished records at the track of any active driver.

10. Ryan Newman

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    What's New

    Newman's fifth-place starting position was not a sign of things to come, as he finished a subpar 25th.

    What's Next

    Don't let his 2008 Daytona 500 win fool you; Newman hasn't finished better than 20th at Daytona since, making his lone win at the track somewhat of an aberration of luck.

11. Denny Hamlin

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    What's New

    A fourth-place starting spot and significant time at the head of the pack were ruined when Hamlin needed to spend 10 laps behind the wall for repairs, leaving him 37th at the end of the race.

    What's Next

    It's hard to believe, but a third place in the 2009 Daytona 500 is Hamlin's lone top-10 at the track; otherwise, he's accrued a disappointing 22.9 average finish over his career there.

12. Tony Stewart

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    What's New

    Stewart and Brian Vickers spent Sunday trading wrecks, and Smoke got the worst of it as he finished a disappointing 39th. 


    What's Next

    In 25 career Daytona starts, Stewart counts three wins (the July 2005, 2006 and 2009 events) on his resume, and boasts an average finish of 16.9.

13. Greg Biffle

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    What's New

    Infineon provided little to write home about for Biffle, as the 22nd starting spot turned into a 23rd-place finish. 


    What's Next

    Biffle has only scored two top-10s at Daytona since winning the 2003 Pepsi 400 in his second track start.

14. Mark Martin

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    What's New

    Martin finished 19th after starting 16th. 


    What's Next

    Perhaps the greatest driver to never win at Daytona, Martin counts 18 top-10s in 52 track starts, none closer to glory than a photo-finish loss to Kevin Harvick in the 2007 Daytona 500.

15. A.J. Allmendinger

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    What's New

    The former Champ Car star started seventh and finished 13th on Sunday. 


    What's Next

    Allmendinger usually brings his A-game to the Daytona 500, finishing third in 2009 and leading laps in each of the past two seasons, but has come home limping in the track's July race with career finishes of 42nd, 17th and 36th.

16. Juan Pablo Montoya

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    What's New

    Montoya (shockingly) made no friends on Sunday, spinning Kasey Kahne and racing David Gilliland exceptionally hard before finally getting a taste of his own medicine and finishing 22nd with a top-five car. 


    What's Next

    Montoya has conquered tracks like Indianapolis and Monaco, but Daytona continues to defy him; he only has three top-10s in nine starts for an average finish of 20.8.

17. Paul Menard

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    What's New

    The former ice racing star could only muster a 17th-place finish despite starting third on Sunday. 


    What's Next

    The July 2008 polesitter, Menard's 19.9 average finish isn't so much the result of great runs (he has only one top-10) but of staying out of trouble (only an accident in the 2009 Daytona 500 hurts the statistic).

18. Martin Truex Jr.

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    What's New

    This year proved much better than the last for Truex at Infineon, as he took a dialed-in car to a solid eighth-place finish. 


    What's Next

    Since transitioning to the Sprint Cup level, Truex has only finished in the top 10 at Daytona once—a sixth place in his debut for Michael Waltrip Racing in the 2010 Daytona 500.

19. Kasey Kahne

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    What's New

    Kahne started sixth and looked to have a car in contention for the win, only to see his day ruined by an impatient Juan Pablo Montoya; he wound up 20th. 


    What's Next

    Never a Daytona winner, Kahne saw his best career finish come in last year's Coke Zero 400, when he ran second to Kevin Harvick.

20. David Ragan

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    What's New

    The UPS driver had little to deliver on Sunday, finishing 29th after starting 34th. 


    What's Next

    Don't talk to Ragan about this year's Daytona 500; he still thinks he could have won it if not for being called for a blocking penalty on a late-race restart. But his track record remains solid, with a 16.8 average finish bolstered by only one career finish worse than 16th.