Welcome to the 2018 edition of our weekly NASCAR Power Rankings. Our continuing feature will attempt to rank and assess the moment’s top 12 drivers in the Cup Series. You’ll probably disagree with our rankings. And that’s fine. Give us your feedback either in the comments below or on Twitter.
1. Kevin Harvick (LW: 3): The first driver to four wins in 2018 is deserving of the No. 1 spot. Harvick’s been as consistent as Kyle Busch and Joey Logano and now has more wins than any of them. He’s also had more speed too. With 201 laps led on Sunday, Harvick has led 741 laps in 2018. Busch has led the second-most with 498.
“I felt like we had a really good car from the time we unloaded, and I think you could tell that from when we qualified,” Harvick said. “That’s usually not my strong point, qualifying up here, and to be able to qualify on the front row, we had three great practices and everything just kind of fell into place, and when they dropped the green flag, it was definitely still good.”
2. Joey Logano (LW: 2): Logano was one of three drivers who pitted during the caution that happened when Kyle Busch’s driveshaft when kablooie. He never regained the track position he lost. Logano ended up 13th.
3. Kyle Busch (LW: 1): Busch’s 35th-place finish at Dover is his worst finish since he was 35th in the spring race at Bristol a year ago. Busch knew his car had a problem in the early stages of the race and sure enough, it only made it to lap 271.
4. Clint Bowyer (LW: 9): Bowyer is suddenly turning in his best season since 2012. He’s fourth in the points standings after finishing second to teammate Kevin Harvick and would have won the race if NASCAR called it after 320 laps because of rain.
“Clearly Kevin was up front was the car to beat most of the day,” Bowyer said. “It was our first shot at tires and taking off in clean air. It makes a big difference. When you’re back in dirty air mired in traffic like we were most of the day it’s tough.”
5. Kurt Busch (LW: 7): Busch continues to help make Stewart-Haas the best team in the Cup Series. He finished fifth on Sunday and is sixth in the points standings, meaning half of the top six positions in the points are occupied by SHR drivers.
6. Denny Hamlin (LW: 5): Guess what? Hamlin got another pit road penalty on Sunday! It wasn’t really his fault, however. He was one of many drivers trying to make it to the end of the first stage without making a late pit stop and he ran out of gas right as the stage ended. He then had to pit before the pits were open to make sure his car didn’t come to a stop on the track.
The end of the first stage was intriguing as hell, and it’s a shame that NASCAR broke its own rules to help teams who needed gas get that fuel sooner. NASCAR opened the pits earlier than normal at the end of the first stage because of the fuel situation that had developed during the stage.
Why? Because according to NASCAR vice president Scott Miller, the sport is in the “entertainment” business.
It’s a lame excuse and one that shouldn’t be tolerated by fans, even if there’s no rule on when NASCAR actually opens the pits in the middle of a stage. Cars running out of gas trying to make a strategy play is entertaining too. And the sport shouldn’t be changing its protocol on the fly because some teams tried something. It’s unfair to the teams who weren’t out of gas.
7. Chase Elliott (LW: 4): Elliott was 12th and third among Chevrolets. That second statistic shows just how poor the new Camaro has performed. While Ford may have rebounded from 2017, how much of that is because Chevrolet has taken a step back with its new car?
We have no doubts Chevy teams will get faster as the season goes on, but it’s remarkable that the learning curve is as steep as it seems.
8. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 6): Johnson was best in class once again, finishing ninth and best of all the Chevys. It feels mean to demote him two spots after a top-10 finish, but it also feels mean to demote Elliott four spots after finishing 12th. So it goes.
9. Ryan Blaney (LW: 8): Blaney was eighth and there’s no post-race quote from him in Ford’s notebook. So this will once again be a short entry for Blaney. Kind of weird for a guy being touted as one of the sport’s future stars, but there’s a lot of weird things in this sport.
10. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 11): Truex finished fourth at the one track that’s legitimately his home track. His post-race comments reflect the quality of racing at Dover on Sunday. Yeah, there were multiple grooves, but passing didn’t seem all that prevalent.
“Just really hard to pass here today,” Truex said. “Our car was fast in clean air, but I couldn’t pass anybody – especially those last 200 laps once we got somewhere up towards the front, so it was all about where we come off pit road and how we restarted and it’s frustrating, but we just couldn’t seem to make the car turn off the corner all day long. It was tight from the get go and that really hindered me in traffic.”
11. Kyle Larson (LW: 10): Larson bounced back after starting at the back of the field and getting a pit road penalty on lap 98. He got a lap back on Busch’s caution and then worked his way back through the field to 10th by the end of the race.
12. Brad Keselowski (LW: 12): Keselowski was far better at the beginning of the race than he was at the end. He was third in the first stage, second in the second and then finished sixth.
“We kind of fell apart on the last two runs,” Keselowski said.
The Lucky Dog: Daniel Suarez tied a career high with a third-place finish.
The DNF: Corey LaJoie’s engine made it a whopping 20 laps.
Dropped Out: N/A
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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