For years in this NASCAR Power Rankings, we listed drivers and drivers only. This year, we’ve been mixing it up a bit. This month’s rankings focus not on the people in the race cars, but the level of entertainment that those race cars have produced. So, without further ado, adieu, ahem, here’s the Power Rankings of the 16 Cup series races run so far this season.
1. Daytona, Feb. 18
The Great American Race had the second-most lead changes of the year, including a ginormous one on the final lap when Aric Almirola went ’round … and Austin Dillon won in the No. 3 car … and Bubba Wallace finished second in the No. 43. C’mon, man.
2. Bristol, April 16
Forget the rain, the Monday racing and the fact that all of that kept the grandstands pretty bare. The people who did show up saw the year’s second-most entertaining race, complete with wrecks (including one that took out the leader) and a classic bump-and-run by Kyle Busch to get around Kyle Larson for the win.
3. NASCAR All-Star Race, May 19
You should always expect the restrictor-plate races to be near the top of the list when it comes to great races. You just shouldn’t ever expect one of those races to be at Charlotte.
4. Phoenix, March 11
Kevin Harvick outdueled Kyle Busch in what’s likely a preview of this fall’s title fight, winning his third consecutive race and extending a giant middle foam finger toward critics still ripping him for a rules violation the weekend before.
5. Martinsville, March 26
Honestly, this weekend could have made the top five simply based on the awesome videos drivers posted of them driving snowplows around the track on Saturday night. But Clint Bowyer‘s emotional snapping of a five-plus-year losing streak wasn’t bad, either.
6. Richmond, April 21
Busch answered Harvick’s three-peat with one of his own, holding off a series of would-be charges during a series of late restarts.
7. Texas, April 8
Busch and Harvick again. This was the first time that Rowdy got the better of Happy, keeping Harvick behind him during a final 23-lap dash and finally winning a race after three runner-up finishes.
8. Kansas, May 12
They call Harvick “The Closer,” and this race is why. After 237 laps of pretty much nothing, the final 30 included a big crash, dramatic pit stops and Harvick making like Cole Trickle with his final-stanza reeling-in of Martin Truex Jr. on fresh tires.
9. Atlanta, Feb. 25
Harvick. Again. Though at the time it was his first victory of the season, not to mention his first win at Atlanta since his first Cup win in the car he inherited after Dale Earnhardt’s death.
10. Talladega, April 29
I didn’t hate this race. But so many people have told me I should have that I’ve started believing them.
11. Pocono, June 3
A guy had the best car pretty much all day, another had a bad late pit stop while another guy stayed out and took the lead. I feel like I could Ctrl C this into half of these descriptions.
12. Dover, May 6
Full disclosure, I had totally forgotten what happened in this race and I had to look it up. Surprise! Harvick won.
13. The Clash, Feb. 11
Full disclosure: I had also totally forgotten what happened in this race, and I didn’t even look it up because it wasn’t even a real race. I did remember Brad Keselowski won because my next-door neighbor is from Michigan and he keeps reminding me that Brad is also from Michigan and won the Clash.
14. California, March 18
Truex ended Harvick’s bid for four in a row and broke the Ford blockade. The defending Cup champ smoked the field and won by almost 12 seconds. Normally that would qualify as the biggest whipping of the year. Not this year.
15. Las Vegas, March 4
Harvick unleashed a beatdown of almost embarrassing proportions on Sunday and then unleashed a debate of equally embarrassing proportions when his car was found with more illegal parts and pieces than my grandparents trying to get through airport security.
16. Charlotte, May 27
We only thought what Harvick did at Vegas was a beatdown. What Kyle Busch did to the Coca-Cola 600 was the NASCAR equivalent of what Thanos did to the Avengers.