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NBC Sports Power Rankings: What were best NASCAR teams overall in 2019?

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As NASCAR Talk continues its post-season Power Rankings, here are the 10 teams we feel performed the best throughout the entire season across all three major series: Cup, Xfinity and Trucks.

We made our picks based using a number of variables including which drivers work the best with their crew chiefs, which teams have the strongest pit crews, how a team was run, and assorted other elements that often spell the difference between success and lack thereof.

Note that we are selecting the best TEAMS, not necessarily the best organizations overall. But as you will soon find out, several of those best teams also came from within the same organization, as well.

Here’s how we picked them:

1. Kyle Busch and No. 18 Cup team (30 points): Sure, this team slumped a bit in the second half of the season, going winless in 21 of the final 22 races (although they still were able to win the regular season championship), but when everything was on the line in the championship-deciding race at Miami, Busch and crew chief Adam Stevens proved why they are the best … and why they are the champions.

2. Martin Truex Jr. and No. 19 Cup team (27 points): From an overall consistency standpoint, there are few teams like the one spearheaded by Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn. Truex won the championship in 2017 and finished second in 2018 and 2019. The No. 19 also had a combined 19 wins in those three seasons. No other team matched that kind of performance (although Busch came close with 18 wins and finishes of 2nd, 4th and 1st during that same period). Truex will have a new crew chief in 2020 after Pearn unexpectedly announced he was leaving his position with Joe Gibbs Racing on Monday.

3. Kevin Harvick and No. 4 Cup team (23 points): Even though most other teams would welcome the opportunity to have the kind of performance the No. 4 team has enjoyed, the No. 4 team is seemingly stuck in a loop of sorts. Even though Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers have a team that has won 14 races in the last three seasons and have one of the best pit crews in the business, they’ve finished third in each of those last three seasons. This is a team that has made a few mistakes over that same time period, and it can be argued that may be one of the reasons why it finished third so frequently.

4. Denny Hamlin and No. 11 Cup team (22 points): The combination of Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart together for the first time in 2019 paid big dividends, particularly with six wins (including the Daytona 500). Not only was that the second-most number of wins in a single season for Hamlin – and the most races he’s won in a decade – but also was a big bounceback after Hamlin failed to win even one race in 2018 with former crew chief Mike Wheeler. Sadly, the season did not end the way Hamlin and company had hoped. And given he is now 39 years old, it may very well have been the last strong bid Hamlin will have to win that elusive Cup championship.

5. Christopher Bell and No. 20 Xfinity team (15 points): There’s domination, then there’s what this team did from 2018-19. No titles, but 15 wins, 38 top fives and 41 top 10s in 66 races. Bell now advances to the Cup Series for 2020 and he’s taking crew chief Jason Ratcliff with him, which is a no-brainer.

(tie) 6. Chase Elliott and No. 9 Cup team (7 points): Valiant comeback to advance past the second round was wasted when everything went wrong in the next round. Elliott and crew chief Alan Gustafson have become a strong team, winning a combined six races in the last two years, but there is still the issue of performing well under pressure. Elliott appeared a lock to advance to the Championship 4 round until he reached the third round and finished 36th, 32nd and 39th, ending his title hopes with a definitive thud.

(tie) 6. Ross Chastain and No. 45 Truck team (7 points): A team that opened the season not planning to run a full season with one driver, switched to a championship hunt after eight races, bounced back from having a win disqualified to win the next race and made it to the Championship 4.

(tie) 6. Cole Custer and No. 00 Xfinity team (7 points): Upgraded at crew chief with Mike Shiplett and went from a one-win-per-season team for the previous two seasons to finishing with seven wins in 2019, one less win than Christopher Bell. Not surprisingly, Custer and Shiplett will remain together when Custer jumps to the Cup series and the No. 41 in 2020.

(tie) 9. Joey Logano and No. 22 Cup team (6 points): It was a similar season to 2018 for Logano and crew chief Todd Gordon in 2019, but the end results were diametrically opposite. Whereas Logano went from underdog to champ in 2018, he fell short of running for a second career title in 2019, ultimately finishing fifth in the standings. Still, this duo works very well together. One thing that needs to be looked at if Logano wants to improve in 2020 is to cut down on the number of mistakes both he and his pit crew make.

(tie) 9. Tyler Reddick and No. 2 Xfinity team (6 points): This was an outstanding season for Reddick despite some challenges. Not only did Reddick move to Richard Childress Racing after he won the 2018 Xfinity championship for JR Motorsports, Reddick and crew chief Randall Burnett worked seamlessly throughout the season, winning five times and failing to finish in the top 10 just six times in 33 races. No surprise, they’ll stay together when Reddick drives the No. 8 for Richard Childress Racing in 2020, with Burnett going with him.

Others receiving votes: Brad Keselowski and No. 2 Cup team (5 points), Austin Hill and No. 16 Truck team (5 points), Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 51 Truck team (2 points), Kyle Larson and No. 42 Cup team (3 points) and Ryan Newman and No. 6 Cup team (1 point).

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Power rankings: NASCAR driver/crew chief combinations

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NASCAR Talk continues its offseason Power Rankings, as voted on by NBC Sports’ NASCAR writers.

Today, we present our picks for the top driver/crew chief combinations in the sport.

There are a few surprises, for sure. Most notably: 2019 Cup champion Kyle Busch and crew chief Adam Stevens did not take the No. 1 spot in the rankings.

We’re asking fans to give their take on our picks (choose from Cup, Xfinity or Trucks). Do you agree or disagree – and why? Take our poll at the bottom of these rankings.

The top driver/crew chief rankings:

1. Martin Truex Jr./Cole Pearn (29 points): Among the sport’s gold standard, if not the standard other driver/crew chief pairings are measured. A series-high 23 wins have come in the last four seasons, including one championship in 2017 and back-to-back runner-up finishes in 2018 and 2019.

2. Denny Hamlin/Chris Gabehart (25 points): In his first season as a Cup crew chief, Gabehart brought a second wind to Hamlin’s career after the latter went winless in 2018. Hamlin put together his best year in almost a decade in 2019 with six wins, 19 top five and 24 top-10 finishes.

3. Kyle Busch/Adam Stevens (24 points): This is the only current driver-crew chief combo with multiple Cup titles. Stevens and Busch have been to the Championship 4 all five years they’ve been together. Sure, it wasn’t easy in the playoffs this year but they still claimed the championship.

4. Kevin Harvick/Rodney Childers (23 points): Were fast when they first got together in 2014 and have not slowed since. They have collected 26 wins in their six years together, earning the championship in 2014 and only missing the Championship 4 round once since (2016). If it wasn’t for occasional inconsistency and slumps, the No. 4 team likely would be ranked higher.

5. Christopher Bell/Jason Ratcliff (13 points): Though they will move to the Cup Series in 2020 without any Xfinity championships, they tormented the competition in the Xfinity Series the past two years, winning 15 times. Placed in the top five in 38 of 66 races.

6. Brad Keselowski/Paul Wolfe (12 points): The longest-tenured active combo in Cup at nine years. The duo has 29 wins, one championship and won three or more races in seven of those nine seasons together. The No. 2 team would have placed higher in these rankings except it has reached Championship 4 round just once (2015) since NASCAR went to an elimination playoff format in 2014.

7. Joey Logano/Todd Gordon (11 points): Did not have a strong playoffs but remained in contention for a Championship 4 spot until the penultimate race at Phoenix by grabbing stage points. The duo has 21 wins, one championship and one runner-up in seven years together. Have earned at least one win in each season they’ve been together but haven’t had more than three wins in a single season since 2015.

8. Chase Elliott/Alan Gustafson (7 points): Gustafson is underrated in his ability to build a team. After a slow start together, they’ve managed to produce back-to-back three-win seasons. Granted, the third round (finishes of 36th, 32nd and 39th) sealed Elliott’s hope of making the Championship 4, but this is a team that has laid a strong foundation.

9. William Byron/Chad Knaus (6 points): Only one of our voters selected Byron/Knaus. While this first-year pairing didn’t lead to a win for Byron, there was a tremendous amount of growth this season with five top-five and 13 top-10 finishes. Knaus’ veteran ability and patience and mentoring has paid dividends, leading to even higher expectations for this pairing in 2020.

10. Cole Custer/Mike Shiplett (5 points): After Custer earned just one win in each of his first two full-time Xfinity seasons, Shiplett provided a supercharge to Custer’s career. They earned seven wins and finished second in the championship race to Tyler Reddick in 2019. There has been no announcement whether Shiplett will follow Custer to Cup in 2020.

Others receiving votes: Ryan Newman/Scott Graves (4 points), Kyle Larson/Chad Johnston (3 points), Tyler Reddick/Randall Burnett (2 points), Matt Crafton/Carl Joiner (1 point).

NBC Sports Power Rankings: Martin Truex Jr. pulls ahead of Denny Hamlin

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After two weeks atop the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, Denny Hamlin is out and Martinsville winner Martin Truex Jr. is back in the No. 1 spot.

But fear not Hamlin fans. Your driver didn’t fall far. He drops to second place, three points behind his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate in the weekly voting of NBC Sports’ NASCAR writers.

As for the other JGR driver still in the playoffs, Kyle Busch, he plummets from second to 10th this week. But at least he’s not like Chase Elliott, who fell out of this week’s rankings after being third last week.

The biggest gainer is William Byron (eighth last week to third this week).

Here are the power rankings ahead of Sunday’s Round of 8 playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN):

1. Martin Truex Jr. (39 points). Had never won a short track race in Cup before this year. Now has three wins. And also has three wins in the playoffs. 3 + 3 = No. 1 in the rankings. Last week: Fourth.

2. Denny Hamlin (36 points). Could the championship come down to a battle between the two Joe Gibbs Racing teammates? It’s sure starting to look like that. Last week: First.

3. William Byron (30 points). If he had just a couple more laps or a slightly faster car, Byron might have earned his first Cup career win at Martinsville. Don’t be surprised if he wins one of the three remaining races this season – he’s ready. Last week: Eighth.

4. Ryan Blaney (24 points). Fifth-place finish gave him three top fives at short tracks this season. Last week: Ninth (tied).

5. Kevin Harvick (23 points). Has been kind of quiet of late but could generate a lot of noise in the next two races at two of his favorite race tracks. Last week: Fifth.

6. Joey Logano (14 points). Given the number of confrontations with other drivers he’s had this season – as well as with Denny Hamlin throughout his career – karma may be harder to beat than all his rivals. Last week: Ninth (tied).

7. Brad Keselowski (13 points). Showed he still has a lot of gas left in his tank despite no longer being in contention for the championship. Could still be a dangerous spoiler for remaining title contenders. Last week: Unranked.

(tie) 8. Kurt Busch (11 points). Who would have thought he’d be ranked higher in this week’s rankings than his little brother? Even though he’s no longer in the playoffs, he’s driving like he still is. Like Keselowski, could be a dark horse in the remaining three races. Last week: Unranked.

(tie) 9. Kyle Larson (11 points). Scoring nine points in Stage 2 at Martinsville helped take the sting away from a rough race and ninth-place finish. Last week: Seventh.

10. Kyle Busch (8 points). Has he smiled once since the playoffs began? An even better question: Could anyone have expected that the regular season champ would fall this far? Last week: Second.

Others receiving votes: Chase Elliott (6 points), Ryan Newman (2 points), Todd Gilliland (2 points), Bubba Wallace (1 point).

  • Kyle Busch is scheduled to be on NASCAR America’s MotorMouths from 5-6 p.m. ET today on NBCSN.

NBC Sports Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick back to No. 1

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Martin Truex Jr.’s reign atop the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings lasted all of one week. Kevin Harvick returns to the No. 1 spot — where he had been the previous two weeks before Truex overtook him — in this week’s balloting.

But it’s close: While Truex was a unanimous choice among the NBC Sports NASCAR writers last week, Harvick was not an all-in pick this week. In fact, Harvick beat Truex by two points.

Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval race winner Chase Elliott made the biggest jump in the rankings, going from being unranked to No. 3 this week, just three points behind Harvick and only one point behind Truex.

The biggest drops were Denny Hamlin (tied for second last week to tied for 10th this week) and Kyle Busch (tied for fourth last week to tied for 10th this week).

Here are this week’s rankings:

1. Kevin Harvick (35 points): Third-place run at Roval marked his ninth top 10 in the last 10 races. Last week: Tied for fourth.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (33 points): So much for him winning three or even four in a row. Still, had a strong run on the Roval. A win at his home track of Dover would lock him into the Round of 8. Last week: First place.

3. Chase Elliott (32 points): Honestly, could anyone have predicted he’d bounce back from his wreck with 44 laps left – which dropped him from first to 37th place – and wind up winning? One of the best comebacks NASCAR has seen in years. Could be the key motivating factor that sends him all the way to Miami. Last week: Unranked.

4. Brad Keselowski (29 points): Fifth-place finish at the Roval was his fifth top-five result in the last six races. He’s under the radar but should not be overlooked. Last week: Tied for second.

5. Alex Bowman (19 points): Charged from the rear to a second-place finish in a backup car while feeling sick after being involved in two spins. That deserves recognition. Last week: Unranked.

6. Clint Bowyer (17 points): Had strong run when he needed it to advance to the next round. Now can he and his team repeat that effort in the second round? Top 10 finishes in five of his last six races. Has potential to be Cinderella story of playoffs. Last week: Ninth.

7. William Byron (13 points): Top 10s in three of last four races, but has to pick up performance even more if he hopes to advance to Round of 8. Last week: Unranked.

8. Kyle Larson (12 points): Penalty hurt him at Roval but he’s moving on to the second round, so there’s that. With teammate Kurt Busch now eliminated, Larson is carrying the championship torch for Chip Ganassi Racing. Can he deliver? Last week: Sixth.

9. Ryan Blaney (8 points): Even though he has top 10s in three of last four races, he’s in same boat as guys like Byron, Bowyer, Bowman and Larson: he has to significantly pick up his performance if he hopes to advance to the next round. Last week: Unranked.

(tie) 10. Denny Hamlin (7 points): Not a memorable run at the Roval but it’s all about surviving and advancing in the playoffs. Sitting fairly pretty heading into start of Round of 12 this weekend at Dover. Last week: Tied for second.

(tie) 10. Kyle Busch (7 points): Winless streak has now hit 15 races. Roval mechanical failure not his fault. Saving grace was all the playoff points he’s earned, allowing him to be No. 1 in the Cup standings heading to Dover. But he needs a win desperately. Can it come at Dover? Last week: Tied for fourth.

Others receiving votes: Jimmie Johnson (4 points), Michael McDowell (2 points), Joey Logano (1 point), AJ Allmendinger (1 point).

NBC Sports Power Rankings: Martin Truex Jr. roars to top spot

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Many people are climbing aboard the Martin Truex Jr. express and the NBC Sports NASCAR writers are no exception, unanimously choosing the Mayetta, New Jersey native for the top spot in this week’s Power Rankings.

Truex, who tied for second in last week’s rankings, earned all 40 points this week to knock Kevin Harvick off the top of the hill after a two-week reign. Harvick drops to a tie for fourth this week.

Making the biggest jumps in the rankings were Denny Hamlin (from eighth to tied for second) and Kyle Busch (10th to tied for fourth).

Suffering the biggest drop was Chase Elliott, who went from fifth last week to out of the rankings this week.

Here is how this week’s rankings look:

1. Martin Truex Jr. (40 points): The idea that he could win the first four playoff races doesn’t seem outlandish. Last week: Second (tied).

(tie) 2. Denny Hamlin (29 points): Had his usual strong run (finished third) at his home track, but a win would have been better. Now has eight top 10s in the last 10 races. Last week: Eighth.

(tie) 2. Brad Keselowski (29 points): Led 89 laps but just didn’t have as strong a car to challenge for the win as Truex or Kyle Busch had. Last week: Second (tied).

(tie) 4. Kyle Busch (26 points): Bounced back from incident-filled playoff opener in Las Vegas to lead race-high 202 laps at Richmond – but still had to settle for second place. Last week: 10th.

(tie) 4. Kevin Harvick (26 points): Consistency has become his middle name. Seventh-place finish marked his eighth top 10 in the last nine races. Last week: First.

6. Kyle Larson (23 points): The good news is his sixth-place finish at Richmond was his seventh top 10 in the last eight races. But the bad news is he still keeps coming up short for a win (hasn’t won in last 74 starts). Last week: Fourth.

7. Ryan Newman (18 points): Keep an eye on this team, it could be a big surprise. As he noted in a tweet after his fifth-place finish at Richmond: “They knew we were there and hungry.” Last week: Unranked.

8. Christopher Bell (10 points): With a Cup deal now firmly in his back pocket, Bell has nothing else to think or worry about other than winning the Xfinity championship. Last week. Unranked.

9. Clint Bowyer (7 points): Has become one of the better road racers on the circuit. Needs another strong run on the Roval (finished third last year) if he hopes to advance to the second round of the playoffs. He head to Charlotte four points below the cut line. Last week: Unranked.

10. Joey Logano (4 points): That he managed an 11th stands out after his struggles at Richmond. Last week: Sixth.

Others receiving votes: Erik Jones (3 points), Jimmie Johnson (2 points), Bubba Wallace (1 point), Chase Elliott (1 point), Cole Custer (1 point).