NASCAR America: Playoff power rankings of the 2018 contenders

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Entering the 2018 playoffs, NBCSports.com has compiled its first power rankings in NASCAR’s premier series.

The polling was done with several industry experts, including media members, manufacturer reps, drivers and crew chiefs. They were asked to assign a 1 to 10 rating in 11 categories for drivers, eight categories for crew chiefs and three for their teams, producing an overall rating.

Drivers were ranked on talent, qualifying, short tracks, intermediate tracks, plate tracks, road courses, restarts, pit road, driver engagement, team player/mentor and X factors. Crew chiefs were graded on strategy, chassis, aerodynamics, chemistry, leadership, creativity, experience and X factors. Teams were rated on pit crews, support staff and X factors.

Here are the overall rankings, followed by individual rankings for drivers and crew chiefs:

OVERALL RANKINGS

  1. Kyle Busch/No. 18 team: Aside from plate tracks, hardly any weaknesses in his game
  2. Kevin Harvick/No. 4: His immersion within team direction is viewed as a major positive
  3. Martin Truex Jr./No. 78: Best crew chief in the game and an exceptionally steady driver
  4. Brad Keselowski/No. 2: Driver’s cerebral side draws high marks; crew chief is tops in strategy
  5. Denny Hamlin/No. 11: Strong grades for the driver’s versatility and crew chief’s tech savvy
  6. Chase Elliott/No. 9: Crew chief one of the best leaders; driver rapidly reaching potential
  7. Kyle Larson/No. 42: Driver was ranked consistently near the top in the “talent” category
  8. Joey Logano/No. 22: Above average in every way but still not in 2014-15 title-contention form
  9. Jimmie Johnson/No. 48: Seven-time champion’s experience and intangibles still carry weight
  10. Kurt Busch/No. 41: Grades out among the more underrated restarters in Cup
  11. Ryan Blaney/No. 12: Just experience and pit road improvement needed to break into top 10
  12. Erik Jones/No. 20: Erratic performances reflected in a wide range of ratings
  13. Clint Bowyer/No. 14: Two-win driver still ranked behind all with a victory this season but one
  14. Alex Bowman/No. 88: Winning crew chief is graded ahead of the driver for now
  15. Aric Almirola/No. 10: Restarts and pit road are among Achilles’ heels of subpar ratings
  16. Austin Dillon/No. 3: Qualifying is the highlight of a team still trying to back up Daytona 500 win

DRIVER RANKINGS

  1. Kyle Busch
  2. Kevin Harvick
  3. Martin Truex Jr.
  4. Kyle Larson
  5. Brad Keselowski
  6. Kurt Busch
  7. Joey Logano
  8. Chase Elliott
  9. Denny Hamlin
  10. Jimmie Johnson
  11. Ryan Blaney
  12. Erik Jones
  13. Clint Bowyer
  14. Alex Bowman
  15. Austin Dillon
  16. Aric Almirola

CREW CHIEF RANKINGS

  1. Cole Pearn
  2. Rodney Childers
  3. Adam Stevens
  4. Paul Wolfe
  5. Chad Knaus
  6. Alan Gustafson
  7. Mike Wheeler
  8. Todd Gordon
  9. Chad Johnston
  10. Jeremy Bullins
  11. Mike Bugarewicz
  12. Greg Ives
  13. Chris Gayle
  14. Billy Scott
  15. Johnny Klausmeier
  16. Justin Alexander