Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Power Rankings: Live From Phoenix

By: Farrah Kaye

Since I had the pleasure of being at the track this weekend, I decided to make a special Power Rankings for you! With a quadruple header (Truck, Nationwide, K&N West and Cup) this list will include drivers in all series. Since there are so many to choose from, the list will be expanded from 15 to 25. Hope you enjoy!

(Also, I was told I need to clarify my Power Rankings. While most sites keep a running tab of who stays, who goes, who moves up, who moves down … these rankings are only based on the current week’s events. I don’t care who did what last week. Like the driver’s say, I leave it at the track.)

Rank Driver Comment
1 A victory in Nationwide. Led all Cup practices. Took the Cup pole. Won the Cup race. This was his best weekend in a long time. No doubt about it, he deserved the number one spot. (*Note: This is the first “perfect” Cup weekend since Jimmie Johnson did it at Charlotte last year.*)
2 Hamlin immediately went to the front of the pack during the Cup race after starting 17th. He also held a rare off-track appearance for fans on Friday night, despite being exhausted and having nearly no voice. However, he failed to win the race when fuel mileage came into play. Hamlin still leads Jimmie Johnson heading into Homestead by 15 points.
3 Since this is the super list, I can finally put the superstar on here. Allgaier has stood out all season in the Nationwide Series and finished eighth in this weekend’s race. With only one race left at Penske (he’ll be with Turner Motorsports starting in 2011), Allgaier has a lock on fourth place heading into Homestead.
4 While most of the “heavy hitters” are used to triple headers, it’s rare to see the lesser known drivers do it. But Almirola made the list for driving in all three main races this weekend. In the Truck race he finished fifth (battling for the Championship with Todd Bodine), sixth in the Nationwide race and 27th in the Cup race. Next year he’ll be driving for JRM full-time in Nationwide and hasn’t announced his Cup plans as of yet (if there are any).
5 The 2010 Camping World Truck Series Champion had to do more than just show up to win his trophy. He qualified 15th and finished 12th, while his competition – Aric Almirola – qualified ninth and finished fifth. But Almirola had to win the race and lead all the laps in order to hold off Bodine (who still would have needed to finish fourth or better to win in that situation). He still has a battle for the Owner Championship with Kyle Busch that will wrap up next week.
6 After taking the pole in Nationwide, he finished third. Meanwhile, on the Cup side, he’s been steadily improving all season. After qualifying 10th, he finished third in the Cup race as well. That “real” win he’s looking for isn’t far off.
7 Bowyer was double duty driver in Phoenix. In the Truck Series, he got behind the wheel of Kevin Harvick’s No. 2 Kroger Chevrolet. He led 97 laps and took the win. On the Cup side, he qualified 14th and finished 21st. While he normally runs in the Nationwide Series, he traded the Truck ride and let Morgan Shepherd take the wheel of the No. 21 Chevrolet. Although he vows he will walk across the stage in Vegas, he is currently 11th in points.
8 Can someone say making lemonade out of lemons? After dropping like a rock after missing a lugnut on pit road, and runs staying green, Harvick became one of the “lucky ones” who didn’t need to stop for fuel. He finished sixth after going as low as 18th. He’s still third in points and will most likely end the year there.
9 He was asked to do media availability despite not being in the Chase and said the Jeff/Jeff fight was like a “bad reality show meeting a soap opera” which made everyone laugh. And although he may not have had much to do with it, his paint scheme is the reason he’s in the Power Rankings. His car carried the pictures of soldiers, past and present. Newman may not be fan-friendly at the moment (he didn’t sign a single autograph on the way to driver introductions, upsetting many fans), but he sure made a lot of people happy with that paint scheme. Oh, and he finished second in the race. Not too shabby.
10 Having already wrapped up the 2010 Nationwide title, Keselowski still is trying to get Roger Penske an Owner’s Championship. The battle heading into Phoenix was 81 points behind Joe Gibbs Racing. Thanks to Keselowski, the point difference has been lessened to 41 heading into the final race. On the Cup side, Keselowski didn’t fare so well, blowing a tire only 58 laps in to the race and ending his day early.
11 The rookie that is often in and out of his car started 20th and finished seventh in the Nationwide race, making him the best-finishing rookie of the race. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come for the RFR driver.
12 The owner/driver/broadcaster drove in the K&N West race. He started seventh and finished third. As for his drivers, on the Nationwide side they finished 23rd and 34th and in the Cup race they finished 15th and 26th.
13 The younger Dillon brother competed in the K&N West race while his older brother was busy driving in the Truck race. Dillon stayed out of the 11 cautions and finished the race in fourth place after starting 10th. Look for big things to come next year from him.
14 The elder Dillon brother earned his sixth pole of the year in the Truck Series and fans thought he would earn another win. But he didn’t, losing to his grandfather’s driver (Clint Bowyer). He led 24 laps and finished seventh, earning the Rookie of the Race Award. Look for him next year in some more Nationwide races and to be on the Power Rankings more often.
15 Junior Nation must be saying their prayers because Junior was second in practice, qualified 31st (only two spots behind Chase-racer Kevin Harvick) and finished 14th. He’s steadily proving again why there’s an entire nation of fans behind him.
16 The K&N West driver not only finished top 15 (11th place) but ended the year fourth in points. The Tempe, AZ native was popular amongst fans.
17 Last week, Biffle was headed towards a victory when his transmission went. This week, he redeemed himself with a solid fourth-place finish after starting in the same position. He leaves Phoenix eighth in points and should walk across the stage in Vegas as long as Homestead treats him well.
18 Although Smith started eighth, he finished 23rd and leaves Phoenix 29th in points. However, he has shown steady improvement all year and doesn’t let much get in his way. Plus, gotta give a guy who sneaks into driver introductions with Jack Roush some kudos.
19 The Red Bull driver made his Nationwide debut this weekend in the No. 84 Toyota. Unlike other debuts, this was low key but people still watched (including Red Bull Cup driver Scott Speed, who stayed on top of the pit box). Although he started 23rd, he made his way through the field and finished 15th, one position ahead of Kyle Busch (who was the last car on the lead lap). A bright future is ahead for this driver.
20 The Truck and Nationwide driver led four laps in the Lucas Oil 150 in Phoenix. After starting 18th, he finished 11th. On the Nationwide side, he started 24th and finished 22nd.
21 After the debacle that was last weekend, Gordon rebounded and qualified 22nd, used his “new” pit crew and finished 11th (all HMS cars finished in the top 15). He also earns brownie points for stopping to sign autographs for fans, which is something the four-time champ usually avoids.
22 The other four-time champion started 21st and finished fifth. A caution was brought out after Jamie McMurray through a water bottle out his window that hit Johnson’s windshield. In his post-race comments, there was definitely some tension between Johnson and Hamlin, who are now separated by a mere 15 points.
23 He’s in his hometown and since the other hometowm boy (Michael McDowell) failed to make the field, it was nice of Yeley to give the fans something to cheer about. He finished 31st, running the entire race in front of a full crowd.
24 The 2010 K&N West Series Champion just had to literally start his car to win the Championship. In a race that had 11 cautions and 3 red flags, I’m sure he’s glad to have locked that thing up in the previous race.
The start-and-parker ran for over 100 laps and locked himself into the top 35 in owner points for next week.

Honorable mention: TJ Majors (Dale Jr’s spotter came to meet fans at a Tweet Up and answered every question, took pictures and really exceeded many’s expectations; he epitomizes what this sport is about), pace car driver and flag man for the 3 Amigos Tequila K&N West race (there were 11 cautions for 49 laps and three red flags during the race!)

Dishonorable mention: Handicap Accessibility of Phoenix International Raceway

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