Post-Darlington 2 Power Ranking

The Post Darlington 2 power ranking takes into account the win for Denny Hamlin.
DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA – MAY 20: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Delivering Strength Toyota, crosses the finish line under caution to later win the rain-shortened NASCAR Cup Series Toyota 500 at Darlington Raceway on May 20, 2020, in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Post-Darlington 2, the power ranking for the NASCAR Cup Series reveals a few ups and downs with Denny Hamlin’s win and Chase Elliott’s spin.

The second Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway was an exciting finish. Denny Hamlin was leading the Toyota 500, with Chase Elliott in close pursuit. Suddenly, Kyle Busch nipped the No. 9 car in the rear quarter panel, spinning Elliott around and out of contention. Hamlin wins the rain-shortened race, Busch still finishes second, Kevin Harvick is third, with Brad Keselowski and Erik Jones rounding out the top-five.

1. Kevin Harvick

Last Rank: 1

Toyota 500 Finish: 3rd

Harvick wasn’t able to complete the Darlington sweep, but he was able to finish third to finish up a very good week. He was, once again, in contention for a victory, but the handling on the car seemed to fade as the race finished up. Some of the drivers, Harvick included, were probably happy that the rain came and their positions were frozen. The final few laps may not have been kind to Harvick, but he continued to open up his points lead over second-place Joey Logano. 

2. Denny Hamlin

LR: 5

Toyota 500 Finish: 1st

Well, it wasn’t conventional, but it worked. Hamlin picked up his second win of the season in rain-shortened fashion, taking the lead when it mattered. This race was a huge step forward for Joe Gibbs Racing as a whole. It has to be a good feeling for the team to break their winless streak (which was only four races, but for JGR, that’s a drought). If there was ever a year for Hamlin to win his first championship, it may just be 2020.

3. Alex Bowman

LR: 2

Toyota 500 Finish: 18th

For the first half of the race, Bowman looked like his typical self, running near the front and putting constant pressure on the leaders. Toward the latter half of the race, some minor damage caused him to slowly fall back through the field, eventually finishing outside of the top-15. Bowman still sits comfortably in third place in the point standings, however, and he’s typically pretty good at Charlotte, the next track on the schedule. 

4. Joey Logano

LR: 3

Toyota 500 Finish: 6th

Logano is no longer the only driver on the circuit with multiple wins this season. Yet, he still sits behind only Kevin Harvick in the standings after another nice drive on Wednesday. It wasn’t as flashy as he may have hoped, but another top-ten finish is nothing to scoff at and rounds off a solid week for the No. 22 team. 

5. Kyle Busch

LR: 7

Toyota 500 Finish: 2nd

Aside from the whole Chase Elliott incident, Busch drove an impressive race on Wednesday. He started near the back due to his poor finishing position on Sunday, but drove through the field and had a chance to win before the previously mentioned wreck that brought out the race’s final caution. Busch probably didn’t imagine he’d be winless at this stage in the season, but slow starts happen. This may be the race that gets him out of the slump.

6. Brad Keselowski

LR: 6

Toyota 500 Finish: 4th

Keselowski didn’t have the type of car capable of winning Wednesday’s race, but he was able to finish fourth after running outside of the top-ten for the majority of the contest. So far, Keselowski is the second-best driver in the standings who is without a win, and most indications would say that first victory isn’t too far off. 

7. Chase Elliott

LR: 5

Toyota 500 Finish: 38th

As much as Chase Elliott fans won’t want to hear it, Kyle Busch didn’t intentionally take out the No. 9. It was a very poor misjudgment that cost Elliott a top-five finish (and possibly a win), but not a deliberate move to wipe out another driver. That being said, it’s a shame that Elliott was wrecked, because his car was likely the best on the track at the time of the final caution. Hendrick Motorsports has a solid history at Charlotte. Elliott will be one of the favorites. 

8. Martin Truex Jr.

LR: 10

Toyota 500 Finish: 10th

If the two JGR drivers ahead of Truex in this ranking haven’t already made it clear, Joe Gibbs Racing is on their way to the top once again. While Darlington wasn’t a dominating performance from the team, all four drivers finished in the top-ten, with Truex rounding them out in tenth. Truex is the most predictable pick to win the 600, having finished in the top-three the past three years. 

9. Kurt Busch

LR: 8

Toyota 500 Finish: 15th

At a track where he’s usually great, Busch struggled a bit on Wednesday. He was stuck in the back half of the field for the first couple of stages and didn’t have enough time to make a ton of progress when the necessary adjustments were made. If the race had run its full length, Busch may have been able to break through to finish in the top-ten. The race shouldn’t be considered a failure, but it’s a slight disappointment after finishing third on Sunday.

10. Aric Almirola

LR: 12

Toyota 500 Finish: 7th

It seems Wednesday was the first race of the season where Almirola was able to break through and run the full race with a decent car. Almirola had a very good long-run car. He was able to keep himself firmly inside the top-ten and battle for a top-five spot down the stretch. At seventh in the standings, the hope is that his position will hold, versus last year when he struggled down the stretch.

11. Ryan Blaney

LR: 9

Toyota 500 Finish: 21st

Blaney still has just one top-ten finish in six races, which is partly due to bad luck, somewhat due to poor execution, and partly due to a pretty subpar pair of races at Darlington. After looking like arguably the best car on the track for the first four races, Blaney has settled back into the mid-pack area. Due to the odd circumstances of this season, he gets a pass for now. He has plenty of time to get back on the right track, but this week wasn’t exactly a confidence builder.

12. Matt DiBenedetto

LR: 13

Toyota 500 Finish: 9th

It’s safe to say at the one-sixth mark of the season that DiBenedetto has erased any doubt about whether he can take the Wood Brothers Ford to the playoffs. After a nice top ten finish at Darlington, the hope continues to be that he can bring the No. 21 back to victory lane – and it’s certainly not out of the question. DiBenedetto continues to show that he is a very talented driver that will be a threat within the sport for a long time. 

13. Tyler Reddick

LR: 11

Toyota 500 Finish: 13th

Reddick ran not one, but two good races at Darlington. This is impressive in its own right, but those races being his first and second races at the track at the Cup level makes it even more so. Reddick sits 17th in the standings currently as the first car outside of the playoff cut line. It’s night and day for the No. 8 car from last year to this year. If the Coca Cola 600 becomes a fuel mileage race, watch out. An RCR car won in the same way there three years ago. 

14. Clint Bowyer

LR: 16

Toyota 500 Finish: 22nd

Even while wrecking toward the end of the race and finishing outside of the top-20, this was probably Bowyer’s best race of the past couple of years. He won two stages and was one of the fastest cars all night long before his incident. And he was able to prevent major damage, which was a bonus. It was nice to see Bowyer up front again, but I can’t help but think, he missed a huge opportunity to set himself apart. 

15. Jimmie Johnson

LR: 14

Toyota 500 Finish: 8th

Johnson is currently well inside the playoff cutline, which is a big improvement from last year already, and he has shown race-winning speed. Charlotte has certainly been circled on Johnson’s calendar since the offseason. The seven-time Cup champion has won eight times at this track and should be one of the favorites to win for a ninth time. The hope is these next two races will be trendsetters for the rest of the season. 

16. Erik Jones

LR: 17

Toyota 500 Finish: 5th

Jones, the defending Darlington winner, continued to show his skill at the track by posting a top-five finish on Wednesday and pushing himself a little further up in the standings. So far, the early signs are that this season will be a slight improvement for Jones. At this point in his career, anything other than multiple wins in Joe Gibbs Racing equipment feels like a disappointment. 

17. Ryan Newman

LR: 18

Toyota 500 Finish: 14th

Expectations for Newman returning from his Daytona crash are extremely difficult to gauge. But despite what the expectations are, he’s met, if not exceeded, them so far. Newman finished 14th on Wednesday after finishing 15th on Sunday, an overall solid weekend, especially given his equipment. It will be interesting to see how he continues to work through the season. 

18. Matt Kenseth

LR: 14

Toyota 500 Finish: 30th

It was unfortunate that Kenseth blew a tire late in the race because he was having another decent run. He wasn’t a top-ten car, as he was on Sunday, but still a threat to finish near the middle of the pack. The finish wasn’t great, and Kenseth will be disappointed in the result, but he has plenty of races left to make up the ground he needs to make the playoffs. It will be a storyline to watch for the rest of the season. 

19. William Byron

LR: 19

Toyota 500 Finish: 12th

With Byron finishing outside of the top-ten in the second Darlington race, he continued to run well behind the performance of the other three Hendrick cars. Alex Bowman is the only one of the HMS drivers who has won yet, but Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson have been in contention week in and week out. Byron has time to turn it around, but this may be a make or break season for him. 

20. Ty Dillon

LR: 23

Toyota 500 Finish: 19th

It was somewhat clear that Dillon and Germain Racing brought a qualifying setup for the beginning of the race. He started second due to the invert from Sunday’s race and stayed up front for a few laps before falling off hard. That being said, it was great to see No. 13 at the front of the field. And he grabbed another top 20 finish. He has outperformed his equipment by a sizable margin this year. 

BEST OF THE REST

21. Chris Buescher (LR: 20)

22. Bubba Wallace (LR: 27)

23. John Hunter Nemechek (LR: 21)

24. Austin Dillon (LR: 24)

25. Cole Custer (LR: 22)

26. Christopher Bell (LR: 29)

27. Michael McDowell (LR: 28)

28. Ryan Preece (LR: 25)

29. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (LR: 26)

30. Daniel Suarez (LR: 30)

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