In much the same way we saw considerable shuffling at Las Vegas on pit road during qualifying and then in Sunday’s race, this week’s NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings have a number of changes heading into Sunday’s race in Phoenix.
Las Vegas winner Joey Logano and Las Vegas native Kurt Busch made the biggest jumps in this week’s rankings. Logano jumped from a tie for eighth last week to sole possession of third this week, while the elder Busch brother, who has been the highest-finishing Chevrolet driver in each of the last two races, goes from being part of “others receiving votes” last week to fifth this week.
Here are this week’s Power Rankings:
(tie) 1. Kyle Busch (37 points): For the second straight weekend he overcame a misfortune – last week a cut tire, this week a speeding penalty – and the challenges of the new rules package. He finished sixth in Atlanta and third in Vegas. He’s the only driver with three top 10s.
(tie) 1. Brad Keselowski (37 points): Had there been another lap at Las Vegas, he might be heading to Phoenix on a two-race win streak. With a win at Atlanta and second-place at Vegas, is off to his best start since 2014 when he finished in the top three in first three races.
3. Joey Logano (31 points): Las Vegas marked the fifth time Logano and Keselowski have finished 1-2 in a race. Logano has won three of those times. Has led 119 laps through the first three races, with two top fives with his win Sunday.
4. Kevin Harvick (29 points): Led 133 laps in the last two races and finished fourth in both. Heads to his favorite playground in Phoenix where he won last spring (and has nine Cup wins overall there). When his team gets the handling right for the entirety of a race, the wins will come.
5. Kurt Busch (21 points): Two top fives in a row, first time he’s had two in the first three races since 2005 when he had three. Perhaps the most underrated driver going. The move to Ganassi is obviously agreeing with him.
6. Denny Hamlin (13 points): Daytona win and no finish lower than 11th in next two races. Being paired with new crew chief Chris Gabehart is definitely working.
(tie) 7. Martin Truex Jr. (12 points): Needed Penn & Teller in his pits to help make his car better in traffic at Vegas. If he can finally find a way around lapped traffic with the new aero package – he’s criticized it in each of the last two races – he has several wins awaiting him in 2019.
(tie) 7. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (12 points): Qualified eighth and stayed in the top 10 most of the race. Finished sixth for his first top 10 since placing third at Talladega last fall. No one seems to be doing more with less than Stenhouse, whose verve deserves plaudits.
9. Aric Almirola (10 points): Is definitely coming into his own with two top-10 finishes thus far. A win at Phoenix or Fontana would not be surprising.
10. Kyle Larson (8 points): Back-to-back mistakes weren’t as costly as they could have been, showing the No. 42’s mettle. Even with struggles and penalties, is still sixth in points. Imagine where he’d be if it wasn’t for the issues he’s had.