Each Tuesday, I’ll rank the top-16 positions for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Feel free to comment on the story at the POPULAR SPEED Facebook page.
1. Brad Keselowski
Keselowski was victorious in Atlanta and nearly won in Las Vegas again had it not been for a late mechanical failure. The Team Penske driver has the best average starting position in the series (4.3) and sits atop the points standings.
2. Martin Truex Jr.
Fresh off a win in Sin City, only Kevin Harvick has led more laps than the Furniture Row Racing veteran. Truex finished 13th at Daytona after nearly winning the 500 and eighth in Atlanta. It looks like the No. 78 team hasn’t missed a beat.
3. Kevin Harvick
Although he suffered a blown right front tire early in the Kobalt 400, the 2014 champion still shows up to the track as a threat to win every week. He’s led the most laps after three races (342), 190 more than second-place Truex.
4. Joey Logano
Logano is the only driver to have finished in the top 10 in each of the first three races. He’s also tied with Kyle Larson for the best average finish at 5.3.
5. Kyle Larson
After earning his first win at Michigan last summer, 2017 could finally be Larson’s breakout year. He’s finished runner-up in the last two races and sits one point behind Keselowski in the points standings.
6. Chase Elliott
Like Larson, it looks like the son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott will have a strong season. The Daytona 500 pole sitter nearly won the race and followed it up with consecutive top fives in Atlanta and Vegas.
7. Ryan Blaney
The ‘Young Guns’ are trending in NASCAR. The Wood Brothers Racing sophomore finished second at Daytona, and put together another great effort on Sunday, qualifying third and finishing seventh. Like Elliott, Blaney is knocking on Victory Lane’s door.
8. Kyle Busch
It’s been a strange start to the season for Busch. He had a blown tire and wrecked while leading the Daytona 500. Then never showed much speed at Atlanta. And most recently, swung fists with Logano after the Vegas race and finished 22nd when he could have finished in the top five had the two not made contact.
9. Kurt Busch
His Daytona 500 win was arguably the greatest victory of his career. He followed it up with a seventh-place finish in Atlanta but finished 30th after suffering a battery issue in Vegas.
10. Kasey Kahne
The Hendrick Motorsports driver has one top five and two top 10s after three races. He’s also led seven laps this season — seven more than he led in all of 2016. It looks like things are going in the right direction for the No. 5 group.
11. Matt Kenseth
After finishing 40th in the Daytona 500, Kenseth has finishes of third and ninth. He turned 45 last Friday and is the oldest Cup regular, but age hasn’t slowed the Joe Gibbs Racing driver one bit — he has 14 wins since joining the organization in 2013.
12. Jamie McMurray
McMurray led 13 laps in the Daytona 500, but his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Kyle Larson, has been stealing the spotlight with consecutive runner-ups. The driver of the No. 1 has been consistent, though, finishing eighth and 10th the last two weeks.
13. Jimmie Johnson
The seven-time champion is off to a sluggish start in 2017. He’s led only 28 laps this season and is yet to start or finish in the top 10.
14. Trevor Bayne
Bayne’s NASCAR career has been a work in progress, despite being the 2011 Daytona 500 champion. But he’s slowly and steadily improving and has three top 15s to open the season, including a 10th-place finish at Daytona.
15. Clint Bowyer
Bowyer is beginning to find his groove with his new Stewart-Haas Racing team. The No. 14 driver earned his first top 10 of the season at Vegas.
16. Denny Hamlin
Hamlin has been under the radar to start 2017 but got his best finish of the season on Sunday (sixth). The JGR racer is 15th in the standings.
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