News & Multimedia

Kyle Busch Tops Inaugural Brickyard Power Rankings

IMS.com will take a weekly look between now and early September at which Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers are hot heading into the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line on Sunday, Sept. 8 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The top-five list each week will be based on statistics, recent performances and the subjective, but all-important “eye test.” So without further delay, here’s the first edition of the Brickyard Power Rankings:

1. Kyle Busch. Cue the famous, ominous theme song from the classic 1970s shark horror film “Jaws” because Rowdy is rolling heading toward the Brickyard. Kyle Busch is second in the standings to Joey Logano by six points, 824-818, but he leads in nearly every other category. Busch is tops or tied for the lead in wins (four), top-five finishes (11), top-10 finishes (18), stage wins (eight) and laps led (1,015). He joins Logano and brother Kurt Busch as the only drivers in the top 10 in the standings to finish all 21 races this season. Kyle Busch also has finished second, eighth and ninth, respectively, in the last three races. That combination of consistency and speed in his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota will be tough to top both at Indianapolis and in the NASCAR Playoffs.

2. Denny Hamlin. One year after going winless but still making the NASCAR Playoffs, Denny Hamlin is enjoying his strongest season in at least five years in his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. He earned his third victory of the season last Sunday at Pocono and is surging, finishing fifth, second and first, respectively, in his last three starts. Hamlin has 10 top-five finishes, just one behind teammate Kyle Busch, and has failed to finish just once this year. Hamlin is fourth in the points entering Watkins Glen this weekend, and it would be no surprise whatsoever to see him and new crew chief Chris Gabehart – a combination that has clicked seamlessly since Hamlin opened the season with a win in the Daytona 500 – earn a spot in the Final Four at the season finale at Homestead.

3. Erik Jones. Noticing a trend here? Yep – the top three spots in the Power Rankings belong to drivers in Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas. Jones might be the hottest of the leading Gibbs trio, finishing third, third and second, respectively, in his last three starts this season in the No. 20 Camry. The only thing that keeps Jones behind his teammates Busch and Hamlin is his winless status so far in 2019. But Jones seems to be a win waiting to hope, and once he walks through that door, more wins could come quickly. Jones is 13th in the standings, inside the cut for the Playoffs. But among those lingering toward the bottom of the 16-driver field, Jones appears to be the least vulnerable due to the consistent speed he showed in July. If a driver can run this well on the hot, slick tracks of July, there’s a good chance he can deliver during the Playoffs.

4. Joey Logano. It seems weird that the series points leader is fourth in the inaugural Power Rankings, but that’s more of a compliment to the current speed and strength of the top three than an indictment of Logano. “Sliced Bread” just keeps on trucking along in his No. 22 Penske Racing Ford, keeping the top spot in the standings with two wins, nine top-five finishes and 14 top-10 finishes. Logano’s form was infernal from the Bristol spring race through Chicagoland, with seven top-10 finishes in the nine races during that stretch. But he has cooled a bit in the five races since, with three top-10s but a 25th and a 13th. Still, there are about 35 other drivers in the Cup field who would love to have that as a “cold streak.” Logano will defend his championship during the Playoffs with a big fight.

5. Ryan Newman. Indiana native Ryan Newman clings to the 16th and final spot for the Playoffs entering Watkins Glen this weekend, but he’s fifth in the Power Rankings? Say what? Hear us out here. “Rocket Man’s” season has launched in the last seven weeks, big time. He has five top-10 finishes during that span in the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Mustang after finishing outside of the top 10 in his first seven races of the year. Newman is winless this season and needs a victory in the next five weeks to rest easy, but his recent resurgence may be enough to make the postseason even if he doesn’t drive into Victory Lane. And remember Newman knows how to win at IMS, as he won the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard in 2013.

Tickets for the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard, Indiana 250 and Driven2SaveLives BC39 Powered by NOS Energy Drink are available at IMS.com.

Show More Show Less
Items 1 - 5 of 965