Kevin Harvick returned from NASCAR’s COVID-19 hiatus to not only win last weekend at Darlington but also take the No. 1 spot in the NBC Sports Power Rankings.
The rankings are significantly different than when the Cup series was last on track in March. Joey Logano won at Phoenix before racing and all other sports were interrupted by the pandemic.
There are a number of changes in this week’s rankings:
1. Kevin Harvick (30 points of 30): A unanimous pick. Dominated Darlington on Sunday and is bringing the same car back for Wednesday night’s race. The field has been warned. Ranking after Phoenix: 2nd.
2. Alex Bowman (24 points): In the first five races, Bowman has one win and came close two other times. Another win is likely on the horizon. Ranking after Phoenix: 9th.
3. Kurt Busch (23 points): Like Harvick, the elder Busch brother didn’t look worse for the wear from the hiatus. Watch out for him in tonight’s return to Darlington. Ranking after Phoenix: tied for 5th.
4. Matt Kenseth (21 points): If he was that good after not having raced for 1 ½ years, imagine how much better he’ll be when he hits full stride in the coming races. Ranking after Phoenix: inactive.
5. Chase Elliott (20 points): Overcame pit road speeding penalty to finish fourth at Darlington for his third consecutive finish of seventh or better. Ranking after Phoenix: 4th.
6. Denny Hamlin (16 points): With three top-10 finishes in the first five races of 2020, including winning the Daytona 500, is it too early to start saying this may finally be Hamlin’s long-awaited championship-winning season? Ranking after Phoenix: unranked.
7. Tyler Reddick (11 points): First time in a Cup car at one of the most challenging tracks in NASCAR and he comes away with a seventh-place finish. Ranking after Phoenix: unranked.
8. John Hunter Nemechek (8 points): Helped guide Front Row Motorsports to its first top-10 finish ever on an intermediate-sized track with a ninth-place finish in his first Cup start at Darlington. Ranking after Phoenix: unranked.
9. Martin Truex Jr. (6 points): Struggled in first two stages but rallied to earn his first top-10 finish of the season. Will he be able to pick up where he left off tonight? Ranking after Phoenix: unranked.
(tie) 10. Kyle Busch (2 points): His 26th-place finish was not indicative of how well he ran for the most part, only to be forced to pit late under green. Ranking after Phoenix: 3rd.
(tie) 10. Erik Jones (2 points): What is it about Darlington that Jones does so well there? Four starts = one win, another top five and two other top-10 finishes. Will he be able to add to that string tonight? Ranking after Phoenix: unranked.
(tie) 10. Ryan Newman (2 points): That he raced again, let alone finished 15th, just three months after his horrific crash at Daytona is nothing short of a miracle. Ranking after Phoenix: was recovering from injuries suffered at Daytona.
Others receiving votes: None