The Pre-Dover Power Ranking comes after their race at Darlington and before the Drydene 400 at Dover International Speedway on Sunday afternoon.
After the first 11 races of the season brought ten different winners, with plenty of unpredictable finishes, more of the same was expected at Darlington. Martin Truex Jr, however, decided to throw a wrench in the season’s plan. Truex put on an absolutely dominating performance, sweeping both stages and the race for his third victory of the season. His performance drew him closer to the top of the point standings for a new No. 1 in the power ranking for the first time in a long time.
1. Martin Truex Jr.
Goodyear 400 Result: 1st
Though there is still a sizable gap between Truex and his teammate Denny Hamlin for the points lead, Truex absolutely dominated Darlington to pick up his third victory of the season. Aside from Kyle Larson in the last 20 or so laps, nobody had anything for Truex’s No. 19 throughout the entire race. A third of the way through the year, and nearly halfway through the regular season, Truex is still the only driver with multiple wins.
2. Denny Hamlin
Goodyear 400 Result: 5th
It seems harsh to say that Hamlin is slowing down, given that he has top-five finishes in all but three races so far this season. Hamlin has also a series-high 749 laps and has a 75 point lead over Martin Truex at the top of the standings. That being said, there have now been three straight races in which Hamlin wasn’t in the thick of the race in the final laps. His top-five finish at Darlington was nice, but the lack of a win is still the elephant in the room.
3. William Byron
Goodyear 400 Result: 4th
With his fourth-place finish at Darlington, Byron ran his streak of top-ten finishes to ten straight races and now leads the series in that category. So far, 2021 has been a true coming-out party for Byron, as he has firmly established himself as a legitimate contender through 12 races. Byron sits third in points with an average finish of 9.7, just 26 points behind Truex for a second.
4. Kyle Busch
Goodyear 400 Result: 3rd
Is it safe to say that Kyle Busch is his old self again? Busch endured one of the roughest seasons in his incredibly successful career in 2020, but if the first 12 races of this season are any indication, that may be in the past. Though Busch is still a bit low in the standings (tenth) by his standards, he has four top-ten finishes, including a win, in his last five starts. The No. 18 appears to be returning to form.
5. Kyle Larson
Goodyear 400 Result: 2nd
Following a three-race stretch in which Larson didn’t finish better than 18th, it had to be refreshing for the team of the No. 5 to rattle off a runner-up result at Darlington. Larson likely thought he’d be able to run down Martin Truex in the final laps, but even so, he ran an impressive race that bumped him from ninth to sixth in the standings. Larson won at Dover, the next track on the schedule, in 2019, so look out for him to become the second repeat winner of the year.
6. Ryan Blaney
Goodyear 400 Result: 8th
Blaney put together another solid run at Darlington, finishing inside the top ten for the sixth time this season. Following a rough start to the year, Blaney has really turned it on over the last nine races. He has finished worse than 11th just once during that recent stretch and has found a home in fifth place in the points standings.
7. Kevin Harvick
Goodyear 400 Result: 6th
Though Harvick still has yet to visit victory lane in what has been a topsy-turvy season for Stewart-Haas Racing, he continued to significantly outpace his teammates at Darlington. Harvick ran in the top-ten for almost the entirety of the race and brought home a sixth-place finish. Even in what many would consider a down year, Harvick has nine top tens in 12 races and has only finished worse than 20th once. His consistency will keep him in the hunt all year.
8. Joey Logano
Goodyear 400 Result: 13th
Darlington wasn’t too kind to Logano, as his car didn’t have the long-run speed to keep pace with the leaders and he finished off the lead lap. Though Logano is still currently fourth in points, he’s now on a streak of three finishes outside the top ten. Multiple drivers are breathing down Logano’s neck, as he leads teammate Ryan Blaney by one point, with Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick just 21 points behind.
9. Chase Elliott
Goodyear 400 Result: 7th
Elliott has been holding steady in the seventh and eighth spots in the standings for about a month now, and that didn’t change following a top-ten run at Darlington. Though a win is likely on the horizon for Elliott with a plethora of road courses approaching on the schedule, it’s still a bit concerning that he has led just 76 laps in 12 races. The defending champion hasn’t been at the front as much as expected.
10. Brad Keselowski
Goodyear 400 Result: 24th
It wasn’t an ideal day for Keselowski at Darlington. His car just didn’t seem to have the necessary speed to keep up with the fastest cars of the day, as he finished well off the lead lap and outside of the top-20. It’s been a bit of an all-or-nothing year for Keselowski to this point, with five top-five finishes and three finishes of 24th or worse. Some more consistency could help him climb the standings as the regular season moves on.
11. Chris Buescher
Goodyear 400 Result: 9th
It appears that there has been a significant increase in speed for Roush-Fenway Racing this year, as Buescher continues to rattle off solid results. He finished inside the top-ten at Darlington, picking up his third top-ten of the season, and second in a row. Most importantly, Buescher has finished inside the top-25 in all but one race, which shows that he keeps the car clean and stays consistent.
12. Christopher Bell
Goodyear 400 Result: 14th
Bell had a decent race at Darlington, though it wasn’t up to par with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, who all finished inside the top-five. After a blazing start to the year, Bell has just two top-ten finishes in his last seven races and has slid from eighth to 11th in the standings during that stretch.
13. Tyler Reddick
Goodyear 400 Result: 12th
After an extremely rough start to the year, Reddick has rebounded nicely, and after another top-15 finish at Darlington, he now holds the final playoff spot in the standings. How bad was that start exactly? Well, Reddick finished 22nd or worse in five of the first six races. He has now finished 12th or better in five of his last six. If this continues, there’s no reason why Reddick wouldn’t be able to point himself into the playoffs.
14. Austin Dillon
Goodyear 400 Result: 16th
Like his teammate one spot above him, Dillon had a decent race at Darlington, finishing just outside of the top-15. Dillon has arguably been the most consistent driver in the series this season, with just two finishes worse than 17th on the year. Of the 3345 laps that have been run, Dillon has completed 3341, an impressive percentage that has kept him afloat in the standings.
15. Alex Bowman
Goodyear 400 Result: 17th
Despite essentially locking up a playoff spot with his win at Richmond, this season hasn’t really been all that kind to Bowman. After running well early in Sunday’s race, Bowman had to pit with a flat left rear tire, putting him multiple laps down and out of contention. Though he was still able to salvage a top-20 finish, Bowman’s Richmond victory is his only top-ten finish in his last six starts. Racing certainly hasn’t been smooth for the No. 48, and he is still battling with Michael McDowell for the lowest spot among winning drivers.
16. Ryan Newman
Goodyear 400 Result: 10th
It’s been refreshing to see Newman return to form after a poor 2020 season. He picked up his third top-ten of the season at Darlington, joining teammate Chris Buescher in the front quarter of the field. If not for rough races at Daytona and Richmond, Newman would be right in the middle of the playoff conversation. He snuck in with the No. 6 car two years ago; why not this year too?
17. Matt DiBenedetto
Goodyear 400 Result: 19th
DiBenedetto may have lost his streak of three straight top-tens, but he did a good job of damage control and keeping his car inside the top-20. After finishes of 33rd, 37th, and 28th in the first three races of the season, DiBenedetto has rattled off nine consecutive finishes of 19th or better. It hasn’t been particularly flashy, but he’s climbed from 34th to 17th in the standings and could very well make another playoff run.
18. Kurt Busch
Goodyear 400 Result: 35th
After seeing his day go up in flames (not for the first time this year), Busch took his car to the garage at Darlington for a 35th place finish. Believe it or not, Busch still has not finished better than 13th since Homestead. Obviously, the Chip Ganassi Racing equipment isn’t what it once was, but Busch sitting 20th in points is still a bit shocking. It’s hard to see this streak continuing for too much longer, but Busch needs to turn on the heat now.
19. Ross Chastain
Goodyear 400 Result: 15th
Chastain has begun to see an uptick in performance as of late, with five consecutive finishes of 17th or better. Unfortunately, that stretch has also come without a top-ten, as Chip Ganassi Racing as a whole appears to be lacking some speed. That being said, Chastain is beginning to find a groove and is gradually climbing the standings. He picked up two spots at Darlington, moving from 24th to 22nd.
20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Goodyear 400 Result: 20th
Darlington didn’t bring too much success for Stenhouse, who finished three laps down and at the very back of the top-20 in the field. Though the race itself wasn’t that great, there are still many more positives than negatives that can be taken from his first 12 races. Stenhouse is 18th in the standings, well within reach of a playoff spot if he rekindles his form of the first two months.
BEST OF THE REST
21. Michael McDowell (Front Row Motorsports No. 34)
22. Bubba Wallace (23XI Racing No. 23)
23. Chase Briscoe (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14)
24. Daniel Suarez (Trackhouse Racing No. 99)
25. Erik Jones (Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43)
26. Aric Almirola (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10)
27. Cole Custer (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41)
28. Corey LaJoie (Spire Motorsports No. 7)
29. Ryan Preece (JTG Daugherty Racing No. 37)
30. Anthony Alfredo (Front Row Motorsports No. 38)