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Formula One Open Wheel Power Rankings

POWER RANKINGS: Azerbaijan

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Throughout the season, POPULAR SPEED will rank the top-10 drivers in Formula 1 following each event. Feel free to comment on the story at the POPULAR SPEED Facebook page.

Team Rankings

2017 Constructor’s Championship After Azerbaijan

  1. Mercedes (NC)
  2. Ferrari (NC)
  3. Red Bull (NC)
  4. Force India (NC)
  5. Williams (+1)
  6. Toro Rosso (-1)
  7. Haas (+1)
  8. Renault (-1)
  9. Sauber (NC)
  10. McLaren (NC)

The Rankings reflect no movement in the top four. Lance Stoll’s first podium moves Williams up one spot to number five, while Daniil Kvyat’s failure to score points leaves Toro Rosso one space down in sixth. Haas’ Kevin Magnussen had a spectacular drive earning seventh, so his team is now also in seventh. Renault lost seventh place due to Nico Hulkenberg’s unexpected DNF.

Driver Rankings After Azerbaijan

  1. Sebastian Vettel continues to occupy the first spot, and his lead over Lewis Hamilton has increased by two points.
  2. Lewis Hamilton is still in second and remains behind Vettel as he’s been all season.
  3. Valtteri Bottas remains third.
  4. Daniel Ricciardo’s win in Baku pushes him up one position to fourth in the championship.
  5. Kimi Raikkonen’s DNF drops him one place to fifth
  6. Max Verstappen remains sixth.
  7. Sergio Perez is still seventh.
  8. Esteban Ocon remains in the number eight position.
  9. Carlos Sainz no movement this race, still ninth.
  10. Felipe Massa cannot buy a break so stays tenth.

Our rankings resume in two weeks, after the Austrian Grand Prix.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel Power Rankings

POWER RANKINGS: Monaco

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Throughout the season, POPULAR SPEED will rank the top-10 drivers in Formula 1 following each event. Feel free to comment on the story at the POPULAR SPEED Facebook page.

Team Rankings

2017 Constructor’s Championship After Monaco

  1. Ferrari (+1)
  2. Mercedes (-1)
  3. Red Bull (NC)
  4. Force India (NC)
  5. Toro Rosso (NC)
  6. Williams (NC)
  7. Renault (NC)
  8. Haas (NC)
  9. Sauber (NC)
  10. McLaren (NC)

The Rankings reflect only  a single change after Monaco. Because of their one–two finishes, Scuderia Ferrari jumps up  a spot to first. Conversely, because of Lewis Hamilton’s and Valtteri Bottas  placing seventh and fourth respectively, Mercedes drops down a position to number two, 17 points behind Ferrari.

 

Driver Rankings After Monaco

1. Sebastian Vettel continues to occupy the first spot with his win in Monaco.

2. Lewis Hamilton still in second due to his seventh at Monaco, but is now twenty-five points behind Vettel.

3. Valtteri Bottas remains third.

4. Kimi Raikkonen is still in fourth.

5. Daniel Ricciardo’s podium in Monaco keeps him in fifth-place.

6. Max Verstappen climbs from seventhranked to sixth due to a respectable fifth place in Monaco.

7. Sergio Perez drops one spot from sixth to seventh because of earning no points last race.

8. Carlos Sainz jumps from tenth to eighth after finishing an impressive sixth in the Principality.

9. Felipe Massa remains ranked ninth, equal to his Monaco results.

10. Esteban Ocon is down to tenth from eighth due to a 12th place in Monaco.

Our rankings resume in two weeks, after the Canadian Grand Prix.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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NASCAR Cup Series Power Rankings

POWER RANKINGS: O’Reilly Auto Parts 500

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1. Brad Keselowski (—)

Keselowski remains at the top after scoring points in both stages and finishing sixth on Sunday.

2. Kyle Larson (+1)

Larson, back at it again with the second-place finishes. After coming home 17th at Martinsville, he rebounded at Texas and earned his fourth runner-up of the season.

3. Chase Elliott (-1)

The No. 24 driver did not have a stellar day, but he made up a lot of ground in the 500-mile event. He finished fifth in Stage 2 and ended up ninth on the day after starting 33rd.

4. Joey Logano (+1)

Logano started and finished in the top-five leading 38 laps. It feels like I write this every week about him — he’s consistent but has not visited Victory Lane in 2017, yet.

5. Martin Truex Jr. (+1)

Truex continues to shine on the 1.5-mile tracks. He led 49 laps and finished eighth.

6. Kyle Busch (-2)

It was an uncharacteristically quiet day for Busch. He started 34th and ran top-15 most of the race. He earned one point in Stage 1 and ended up 15th-place.

7. Kevin Harvick (+2)

After a mediocre STP 500, Harvick bounced back at Texas by qualifying on the pole, leading 77 laps, and finishing fourth.

8. Ryan Blaney (+2)

Sunday’s race was a career best for Blaney the fastest the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford has looked since returning to full-time competition. Blaney won Stages 1 and 2, but a pit stop miscue cost him the potential victory and he ended up 12th.

9. Clint Bowyer (-2)

Bowyer had his best qualifying effort of the year. He started third and earned his sixth consecutive top-15 by finishing 11th.

10. Jimmie Johnson (+5)

The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion is also now a seven-time Texas winner. After rumblings about the No. 48 team not running up to par, he quieted the naysayers with his first win of 2017.

11. Jamie McMurray (+1)

McMurray has started every race from inside the top-10. He finished fourth in both stages and seventh when the checkered flag waved.

12. Erik Jones (-4)

Jones started deep in the field and wasn’t particularly strong on Sunday. The No. 77 Toyota finished 22nd — his worst result since the Daytona 500, where he crashed out at halfway.

13. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Not ranked last week)

Jr. Nation and its driver were happy to finish with a top-five for the first time since Pocono in June 2016. It signaled the No. 88 team’s progress since getting Earnhardt back in the car after his concussion, and probably served as a confidence boost.

14. Ryan Newman (-3)

Since winning at Phoenix International Raceway last month, it’s been easy to forget Newman is even in the field. He’s earned zero stage points the last three races and has one top-10 — eighth at Martinsville.

15. Matt Kenseth (-2)

After seven races, Kenseth is 22nd in the standings. Come again? Since running full-time, he has never finished outside the top-15 in points. There’s no concern yet with the playoffs still 19 races away, but this hasn’t been the Matt Kenseth we’re used to seeing.

16. Trevor Bayne (Not ranked last week)

Bayne has finished in the top-20 in all but one race (Auto Club 400, finished 23rd) and is currently 12th in points. It’s still early, but that is a major improvement from his first two years in the Cup Series.

Dropping out of the top-16 rankings this week: Denny Hamlin (was 14th) and Austin Dillon (was 16th).

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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NASCAR Cup Series Power Rankings

POWER RANKINGS: STP 500

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1. Brad Keselowski (+1)

Keselowski became the first multiple-race winner of 2017 with Sunday’s victory at Martinsville giving him a coveted grandfather clock.

2. Chase Elliott (+2)

The paperclip is notorious for being tough on young drivers, but Elliott led 20 laps and finished third.

3. Kyle Larson (-2)

Larson’s four-race second-or-better streak ended as he finished 17th. He also failed to receive Stage points for the first time in the second segment.

4. Kyle Busch (+2)

Busch led 274 laps but ended up second to Keselowski, who made the winning pass with 43 to go. The 2015 champion’s runner-up result is his best of the season, thus far.

5. Joey Logano (—)

Logano finished fourth, giving him his third top-five of the season. The No. 22 driver is fifth in the standings after six races.

6. Martin Truex Jr. (-3)

Truex’s three-position drop isn’t because he did bad on Sunday; the drivers he was ahead of last week (Busch, Elliott, Logano) finished better than him. The No. 78 driver got his first finish outside the top-15 of the year after spinning with 69 laps to go.

7. Clint Bowyer (+3)

Bowyer’s transition to Stewart-Haas Racing is going seamlessly as he posted his third top-10 of the season by finishing seventh.

8. Erik Jones (+3)

The Furniture Row Racing rookie was 12th on Sunday and earned three points in Stage 2. Not too shabby for his first career Martinsville start.

9. Kevin Harvick (-1)

“Happy” wasn’t feeling it after finishing 20th. He’s been outside the top-10 in three of the last four races.

10. Ryan Blaney (-3)

The Wood Brothers Racing sophomore earned points in both stages but was relegated to 25th when the checkered flag waved. Blaney is seventh in the standings.

11. Ryan Newman (+2)

Newman had a top-10 car most of the race and finished eighth. He’s 11th in the standings with one win.

12. Jamie McMurray (-3)

Had McMurray not suffered a flat left rear tire on Lap 106, his No. 1 Chevrolet might have finished in the top-five. Chip Ganassi Racing’s hot streak came to an abrupt halt as McMurray finished 38th.

13. Matt Kenseth (Not ranked last week)

In 35 career Martinsville starts, Kenseth has no wins and 14 top-10s. But he had a much-needed rebound with a ninth-place finish.

14. Denny Hamlin (-2)

Thirtieth is not what the five-time Martinsville winner had in mind. Hamlin was caught up in a multi-car accident on Lap 417 and finished seven laps down.

15. Jimmie Johnson (—)

The No. 48 finished 15th, so that’s where Johnson is ranked this week. The defending series champion’s slow start to 2017 continues as he has only one top-10.

16. Austin Dillon (Not ranked last week)

Dillon earned his second career top-five at the half-mile track and first top-10 of the year. The Richard Childress Racing driver finished fifth and sits 18th in the standings.

Dropping out of the top-16 rankings this week: Daniel Suarez (was 15th) and Kurt Busch (was 16th).

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel Power Rankings

POWER RANKINGS: Australian Grand Prix

 

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Throughout the season, POPULAR SPEED will rank the top-10 drivers in Formula 1 following each event. Feel free to comment on the story at the POPULAR SPEED Facebook page.

 

2017 Constructor’s Championship:

  1. Ferrari (+2)
  2. Mercedes (-1)
  3. Red Bull Racing – Tag Heuer (-1)
  4. Williams – Mercedes (+1)
  5. Force India – Mercedes (-1)
  6. Toro Rosso (+1)
  7. Renault (+2)
  8. Sauber – Ferrari (+2)
  9. McLaren – Honda (-3)
  10. Haas – Ferrari (-2)

It’s hard to declare a trend after one race, especially with most teams remaining consistent within a couple of places. But please note two possibly significant changes: McLaren drops three places, from sixth to ninth and Ferrari leads the Constructor’s for the first time since 2012. We may be witnessing a Ferrari renaissance, and the rumors regarding Honda’s failures of might be true.

 

Driver Rankings:

1. Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton (tie): Both multi-time champions seem poised for an epic battle at the top of the podium in 2017. If the season plays out this way, race fans may have a season to remember ahead of them.

3.  Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas (tie): This could also be an epic battle of the Finns. 2007 Champion Raikkonen may have a slight edge over the recently promoted to Mercedes Bottas, but it’s barely perceptible. These two low-key Scandinavians are primed to scoop up points and wins in the wake of their flashier teammates and maybe the 2017 Championship. Go Finns!

5. Fernando Alonzo: Many rank the double world champion as the greatest current active driver in the series. While his team, McLaren, has fallen on hard times, Fernando soldiers on.

6. Max Verstappen: It takes tremendous talent to thoroughly piss off a triple world champion as Verstappen annoyed Hamilton at Australia.

7. Felipe Massa: The great Michael Schumacher often pointed out the talents of his friend Felipe who came out of one of the shortest retirements on record to drive for Williams again this year.

8. Daniel Ricciardo: The Australian had a horrible debut in front of this countrymen Sunday, but he still has remarkable skills which should be more evident as the season unfolds.

9. Sergio Perez: Perez is one of the more consistent drivers and this was evident with his seventh place in the opener.

10. Daniil Kvyat: The Russian is not as consistent as Perez, but delivered a ninth place in Australia.

 

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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NASCAR Cup Series Power Rankings

POWER RANKINGS: Auto Club 400

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1. Kyle Larson (—)

Larson’s weekend sweep at Auto Club Speedway after three consecutive runner-ups in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series proved he’s the sport’s hottest driver. The Chip Ganassi Racing wheelman leads the points standings five races into the season.

2. Brad Keselowski (—)

Early trouble in Fontana wouldn’t keep Keselowski at bay on Sunday. After spinning through the frontstretch grass on Lap 4 and suffering damage to his No. 2 Ford, he rallied for a second-place result.

3. Martin Truex Jr. (+2)

Truex led 73 laps at the two-mile oval but finished fourth after not pitting late in the race. Still, the No. 78 team showed speed, with a Stage 2 victory.

4. Chase Elliott (-1)

The 21-year-old finished third in the first two stages but ended up 10th after 200 laps due to an ill-timed caution fumbling crew chief Alan Gustafson’s strategy. It won’t be long before Elliott finally visits Victory Lane, though — he’s in contention each week.

5. Joey Logano (-1)

Logano finished fifth, which is also his position in the standings. It’s only fitting the No. 22 driver is there for this week’s power rankings.

6. Kyle Busch (+1)

“Rowdy’s” eighth-place finish marked his second consecutive top-10 finish.

7. Ryan Blaney (+1)

The Wood Brothers Racing driver earned his third top-10 of 2017 by finishing ninth after starting 19th in Southern California.

8. Kevin Harvick (-2)

When the field stacked up on the start of Sunday’s event, Harvick got the worst of it. His No. 4 Ford suffered nose damage and cut a tire in Stage 1, forcing him to pit under green. He wound up 13th and was never a factor — a rarity for the 2014 series champion.

9. Jamie McMurray (+2)

The driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet continues to ride in the shadow of his CGR teammate, but McMurray earned 12 stage points and finished sixth.

10. Clint Bowyer (Not ranked last week)

Stewart-Haas Racing’s newest driver is “having fun again.” He finished third, marking his first top-five since August 2015.

11. Erik Jones (+4)

The Furniture Row Racing rookie posted his first career top-10 in Phoenix two weeks ago and finished 12th last weekend after a pit road penalty. He sits 15th in the standings, four spots above the next highest rookie, Daniel Suarez.

12. Denny Hamlin (+2)

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver said he had a “fifth or sixth-place” car at best but was shuffled back to 14th after electing to stay out on old tires for track position with nine laps to go.      

13. Ryan Newman (-4)

After his upset victory in Phoenix, Newman came back to reality. He finished 15th in Fontana, but the win locked him into the playoffs, which he failed to make last season.

14. Jimmie Johnson (-4)

It has not been an ideal start to 2017 for the seven-time champion. Johnson has one top-10 and has finished outside the top-15 three times.

15. Daniel Suarez (Not ranked last week)

Auto Club was essentially a repeat of Phoenix for the JGR rookie. The No. 19 Toyota was a top-15 car most of the race, yet ended up seventh when the checkered flag waved.

16. Kurt Busch (-3)

The West Coast swing was not good for this year’s Daytona 500 champion. Busch finished 30th in Las Vegas, 25th in Phoenix, and 24th in Fontana.

Dropping out of the top-16 rankings this week: Kasey Kahne (was 12th) and Matt Kenseth (was 15th).

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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NASCAR Cup Series Power Rankings

NASCAR Power Rankings — Phoenix

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1. Kyle Larson (+4)

Larson has been on fire this month. He finished second for a third consecutive week and leads the series standings, becoming the first Chip Ganassi Racing driver to do so since Sterling Marlin in 2002.

2. Brad Keselowski (-1)

Although he fell out of the points lead after Phoenix, Keselowski is the only driver with three top-fives and a win through the first four races.

3. Chase Elliott (+3)

No sophomore slump for this ‘Young Gun.’ Elliott led 106 laps at Phoenix but is still searching for his first victory. The driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet is third in the standings with two top-five results.

4. Joey Logano (–)

If it weren’t for a pit road speeding penalty, Logano might have been the man to beat on Sunday. He won the pole for the Camping World 500 but finished 31st after suffering a blown right front tire with six laps to go.

5. Martin Truex Jr. (-3)

After a dominating win at Las Vegas, Truex had a quiet day at the desert oval. The No. 78 team elected to stay out for track position during the final caution and restarted third but was shuffled back to 11th in the final two laps on older tires.

6. Kevin Harvick (-3)

Phoenix International Raceway has been Harvick’s playground the last four years, having won five of the last eight events there. However, he’s failed to lead a lap at the track the last two races and struggled throughout the first half of Sunday’s race. While he rallied to finish sixth, he has yet to post a top-five this season.

7. Kyle Busch (+1)

After a rocky start to 2017, ‘Rowdy’ finally earned a finish reflective of his performance with a third-place result on Sunday.

8. Ryan Blaney (-1)

Blaney was fast this weekend but also got nabbed for speeding, which led to his 23rd-place finish after qualifying second at the mile-long track.

9. Ryan Newman (Not ranked last week)

The choice to not pit during the final caution paid off for Newman, and Richard Childress Racing visited Victory Lane for the first time since Harvick won at Phoenix in November 2013. Performance-wise, RCR is still searching for more speed, but Sunday’s win was certainly a weight lifted off Newman, who ended a personal 127-race winless streak, and organization’s shoulders.

10. Jimmie Johnson (+3)

Johnson finished ninth on Sunday, marking the driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet’s first top-10 of the year.

11. Jamie McMurray (+1)

McMurray was quick at the Arizona short track. He qualified his No. 1 Chevrolet fifth and ran in the top five early in the race, but settled for 15th place as pit strategy didn’t play into his favor at the end.

12. Kasey Kahne (-2)

The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet took a step backward by finishing 20th after three top 15s to start the season but remains ninth in the standings. He has an average finish of 10.8 after four races.

13. Kurt Busch (-4)

For a second straight week, Busch’s No. 41 Ford suffered voltage issues, and he finished 25th on Sunday. He’s tied with Kahne for ninth in points.

14. Denny Hamlin (+2)

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver got his second top-10 of the season with a 10th-place result but has yet to lead a lap in 2017.

15. Erik Jones (Not ranked last week)

Jones earned his first career top-10 with an eighth-place finish at the site of his first NASCAR national touring series victory. The No. 77 has been consistent the last three weeks, with three consecutive top-15 results.

16. Matt Kenseth (-5)

It was hard to choose who would claim the final position in the rankings. Clint Bowyer was almost put in the 16th spot, but Kenseth is given the benefit of the doubt despite wrecking on Sunday since he has one top-five and a top-10 while Bowyer has only one top-10.

Dropping out of the top-16 rankings this week: Trevor Bayne (was 14th) and Clint Bowyer (was 15th).

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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IndyCar Open Wheel Power Rankings

IndyCar Power Rankings — St. Petersburg

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Throughout the season, POPULAR SPEED will rank the top-10 drivers in the Verizon IndyCar Series following each event. Feel free to comment on the story at the POPULAR SPEED Facebook page.

With the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg officially in the record books, it is time to update the team rankings from this past week. Recall, before the season, the rankings were released based on last year and off-season changes. Click here to refresh your memory.

It is also a chance to debut the top ten drivers on the circuit. Keep in mind, the rankings you will see here do not necessarily follow finishing positions from Sunday.

So buckle up folks, here are the results!

Team Rankings:

1. Chip Ganassi Racing (+1)
2. Team Penske (-1)
3. Andretti Autosport (No Change)
4. Dale Coyne Racing (+3)
5. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (-1)
6. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (-1)
7. Ed Carpenter Racing (-1)
8. A.J. Foyt Racing (No Change)

Dale Coyne Racing is no surprise the biggest mover, jumping from No. 7 to No. 4 in the run up to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske swap places at the top as CGR went beyond where they were expected to be in its return to the Honda engine and aerodynamic options. Team Penske and Andretti Autosport were a push this past weekend, so they line up in positions two and three.

The early elimination of Graham Rahal and the bad luck with the second full course caution hampering early race leader James Hinchcliffe means both Rahal and Schmidt drop a place on the list. And while Spencer Pigot made noise early in the race for ECR, they fall to No. 7 following the opening round. Foyt rounds out the list after disappointing outputs from both Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly.

Driver Rankings:

1. Scott Dixon

Following my views on the teams’ list, Scott Dixon moves to the top with his solid third-place effort at St. Petersburg, a performance hurt by the debris caution that shuffled the running order. The Iceman’s performance also puts the 2008 Indy 500 champion as my early favorite for the 101st edition of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, as he has shown impressive oval savvy in recent runnings.

2. Will Power

St. Pete was a throwaway race for Power, who also was negatively affected by the caution and then sidelined by mechanical failure late. Before his eventual elimination, Power showed enough in both qualifying and the race to merit the number two spot ahead of race winner Sebastien Bourdais.

3. Sebastien Bourdais

While DCR showed the potential to be a consistent frontrunner on at least the road courses, a back-up of its first showing at Long Beach is necessary before Bourdais challenges for the top two spots.

4. James Hinchcliffe

The Mayor of Hinchtown also deserves a second chance at Long Beach after a solid effort to make the Firestone Fast Six and two strong early race moves to vault from the second row at the start to the early lead. Hinch could also be primed for a further jump after the Toyota GP if Honda continues to show superiority over Chevrolet in the power and handling department.

5. Simon Pagenaud

Pagenaud did well to salvage his weekend with a runner-up finish; however, the yellow flag aid, plus a lackluster qualifying performance drop him to fifth in the rankings.

6. Ryan Hunter-Reay

Andretti Autosport had a decent opening act for 2017 as Hunter-Reay finished best for the team with a fourth-place result.

7. Takuma Sato

Sato finished fifth in his debut with AA. He also qualified fifth — solid first day at the office for the Japanese racer.

8. Josef Newgarden

Newgarden’s much-anticipated first race with Penske wasn’t spectacular, but not terrible either. He finished eighth after starting the race fourth.

9. Tony Kanaan

Kanaan opened the 2017 campaign with a 12th-place result after qualifying sixth.

10.Helio Castroneves

Castroneves started 16th and picked up 10 positions in the 110-lap event to end up sixth on the day.

I also give honorable mention honors to Spencer Pigot, who before his suspension failure entering the pit lane, was perhaps the most aggressive driver with the eye test. If he can make the checkered flag at Long Beach, Pigot could join the top ten after two events.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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NASCAR Cup Series Power Rankings

NASCAR Power Rankings — Las Vegas

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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. 

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

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Power Rankings: The Fast 15

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 story-filled AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

  1. Kevin Harvick (LW: 1)

His streak of four straight victories at Phoenix was snapped by a 15 lap caution and the rain that followed it. But make no mistake, he was the man to beat and should be again on Sunday as he chases a second consecutive championship.

  1. Jeff Gordon (LW: 2)

How about this for a stat. Jeff Gordon leads all playoff drivers with a 7.7 average finish in the Chase for the Championship. He’s also posted six consecutive top-10s. One last race for Jeff Gordon very well may end with that elusive fifth championship.

  1. Kyle Busch (LW: 3)

Long expected to be the powerhouses of the playoffs, Joe Gibbs Racing is down to one contender left in Kyle Busch. But it’s also the man you would most expect as Busch has been on a tear since returning from injury and is good at both Homestead and with this race package.

  1. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 4)

Not since Alan Kulwicki in 1992 has there been an underdog of this sort racing for the Sprint Cup Series championship. Martin Truex Jr. has single-car Furniture Row Racing, out of Denver, on the brink of winning its first ever championship.

  1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 9)

Lost in the shuffle of solidifying the Championship Four was that Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the race on Sunday night. A case could be made that Earnhardt should be headed to the Championship Four but isn’t due to the shenanigans at Talladega last month. So it goes …

  1. Joey Logano (LW: 10)

Logano was left wishing for one more chance at Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. before the rain came and probably should have gotten it if not for the 20 minute caution cleanup that preceded the rain out.

  1. Kurt Busch (LW: 7)

The 2004 champion was the fastest driver all weekend at Phoenix but never really got a chance to show his might as NASCAR flagged him for jumping the start of the race over pole-sitter Jimmie Johnson. As the race was rained out just after halfway, Busch could only work himself back up to seventh before the rain came.

  1. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 8)

Despite a pit road speeding penalty, the six-time champion still survived to a top-five finish in an all-around good day for Hendrick Motorsports.

  1. Carl Edwards (LW: 6)

Add Edwards to the list of drivers who wishes he could have gotten the rest of the race in on Sunday. He had a fast car and just never got the chance to make up the seven point deficit on Martin Truex Jr.

  1. Brad Keselowski (LW: 5)

One week after Jimmie Johnson stole a win from him at Texas, the 2012 champion spent much of the weekend out of the spotlight on down on the speed charts. He finished ninth, which was about where he’s been all season.

  1. Denny Hamlin (LW: 12)

Solid run for the No. 11 team with an eighth-place finish.

  1. Ryan Newman (LW: NR)

There were no car slamming opportunities for Newman who finished 11th to continue his solid but not spectacular Chase for the Championship.

  1. Paul Menard (LW: NR)

The driver of the No. 27 won’t get a lot of recognition for his season, but yet again, he finishes in the top-15 and has to be given credit for his smooth consistency.

  1. Erik Jones (LW: 14)

The Joe Gibbs Racing top prospect finished 19th in his second straight start filling in for Matt Kenseth. But he also moved one step closer to winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Jamie McMurray (LW: 11)

Meh. 15th.

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

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.