Each week during the season, Popular Speed Executive Editor Matt Weaver will provide a power rankings list for the top-15 drivers in NASCAR.
The Fast 15 is a list of intangible qualities, based on momentum, attention and overall success in NASCAR over the past several weeks, meaning that it’s entirely possible that an XFINITY Series or Camping World Truck Series driver appears over one of his Sprint Cup counterparts.
Don’t agree with the list? That’s okay! Just let Weaver know in the comments section at the bottom on this page. Here are the updated rankings following a wild Camping World 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
- Joey Logano (LW: 1)
One driver winning the first two races of the Contender Round at Charlotte and Kansas is plausible, given the similar characteristics of both tracks. But sweeping the entire round, with a victory at Talladega, given everything that can happen there was downright unlikely. Beyond his feud with Matt Kenseth coming back to bite him, Logano has to be considered the favorite to win this championship.
- Kevin Harvick (LW: 3)
Like Logano, Harvick is considered a championship favorite, but it will be interesting to see if the perception of a Talladega wrongdoing will come back to write the defending champions as well. At least three drivers, one crew chief and one owner feel maligned by what happened on Sunday so there may be consequences.
- Jeff Gordon (LW: 5)
For the first time all season, Jeff Gordon looks like a legitimate championship favorite. Despite suspect runs at Kansas and Charlotte and a restrictor plate fueled podium at Talladega, Gordon now has a favorable schedule ahead of him in the Eliminator Round with races at Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix. The Drive for Five is alive, indeed.
- Kurt Busch (LW: 4)
Another week and another top-10. The 2004 champion is moving along to the Eliminator Round.
- Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 8)
The Little Engine that Could fell a lap down early but rebounded to finish seventh when all the shenanigans took place.
- Carl Edwards (LW: 6)
Despite not having the sheer statistics of Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin, Edwards is one of the two remaining Joe Gibbs Racing teammates (alongside Kyle Busch) remaining in the Chase. He’s done it on the sheer consistency that he was lacking in the first half of the season and has the moxie to win any of the next four races.
- Brad Keselowski (LW: 7)
While happy for his teammates’ success, Keselowski is likely thrilled that the points have reset and he’s on equal footing with the other seven remaining Chase drivers. These next three races line up well for the 2012 champion too.
- Kyle Busch (LW: 10)
This is the latest in the season that Busch has remained in championship contention. That, combined with his overall comfort and success with this momentum-based package, makes him a serious threat to win his first career Sprint Cup Series championship.
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 11)
There’s not much more Dale Earnhardt Jr. could have done in order to have advanced at Talladega. He dominated that race and placed himself in position to win and get in, but fell victim to all the shenanigans that took place at the end of the race.
- Denny Hamlin (LW: 2)
For the second straight season, the top-ranked driver in points without a win failed to advance at Talladega.
- Ryan Newman (LW: 9)
There will not be a repeat runner-up finish from Newman, who was eliminated at Talladega, and not pleased that he never had the chance to race his way in on the final Green-White-Checkered.
- Matt Kenseth (LW: 14)
The 2003 Sprint Cup Series champion is still mad at Joey Logano, and it will be interesting to see if he retaliates after getting eliminated on Sunday at Talladega.
- Jimmie Johnson (LW: 13)
Like his Hendrick Motorsport teammates, Johnson had a race-winning car. But he wrecked late and was unable to post anything better than an 18th.
- Paul Menard (LW: NR)
Restrictor plate finish or not, a sixth place at Talladega always welcomed.
- Ricky Stenhouse (LW: NR)
Stenhouse posted his third top-10 of the season on Sunday.
EMAIL MATT AT firstname.lastname@example.org
FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattWeaverSBN
The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, it’s owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.