To the off week we go. There’s not many of them during a NASCAR season, but the first one is up this weekend for observing the Easter weekend. After six races into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, some championship contenders are starting to show themselves. At the moment, I think we have three drivers from three different teams that are the favorites to take the 2018 Cup title in Homestead later this year.
That could obviously change between now and then also.
But, as we sit here today, here are power ranking the top 10 Cup teams at this moment.
Last year, they were factors more times than not. While they weren’t seriously challenging for race wins on a regular basis, they were solid top 15 drivers. This year, they’re lucky to even crack the top 20. Currently, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is 21st in points and Trevor Bayne 29th. Stenhouse’s best finish is 14th in Vegas while Bayne’s is 13th in Daytona. Combined, they have eight finishes of 20th or worse.
AJ Allmendinger was strong in Daytona with a 10th place run and even better at Martinsville with an eighth place finish. In between, he never cracked the top 20. He sits 19th in the Cup standings. His teammate Chris Buescher is 24th in the standings and finished fifth in the season opening Daytona 500. Since, his best result is 15th in Vegas. Other than that, he hasn’t finished inside the top 20 either.
Some wondered if there would be a drop off from Ryan Blaney to Paul Menard. If there is, it’s minimal. While Menard isn’t contending for race wins just yet, he’s a solid factor for a top 15 finish on any given week. Menard, has three finishes inside of the top 15 and has one finish outside of the top 20. They’re not there yet as far as contending on a regular basis for top 10’s, but they’re not too far off either.
They have a win at Daytona with Austin Dillon, but they’re also not there yet on contending to win anywhere else. Dillon, has led one lap all year, the final one in the Daytona 500. But, Dillon also has four top 15 finishes in six starts. His teammate Ryan Newman has three top 11 finishes and has led 40 laps already this year.
This team is getting closer and closer to being back.
Its definitely a rebuilding season for HMS. Gone are Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne. In are Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman and William Byron. Mix that with a struggling Jimmie Johnson and a new car that everyone from Chevy is struggling with and you get all four drivers outside of the top 10 in points.
Alex Bowman is the only one really surging with finishes of 16th, 13th, 13th and seventh the last four weeks. Rookie William Byron is struggling as he’s yet to crack the top 10. Byron, has just two finishes inside of the top 15. But, he leads the team with 16 laps led.
Jimmie Johnson crashed three cars in Speedweeks and left Daytona with a 38th place finish. In Atlanta, he spun on his own and finished three laps down in 27th. In Vegas, he was 12th, but again down a lap. At Phoenix, he came home 14th, this time on the lead lap. In Fontana, he was ninth. At Martinsville, he was back to a lap down in 15th. He has just four top five finishes in his last 42 starts and zero laps led this year.
After having championship winning dreams for 2018, Chase Elliott has struggled. He’s led four laps and his only top five finish was taken away.
They’re the top Chevy team, but not by much. Kyle Larson sits ninth in points with just 54 laps led and two top five finishes. Jamie McMurray is down in 26th in the standings and struggling. His best finish is 16th. McMurray also has three finishes of 26th or worse already.
The team is close to finding victory lane. They just need a little more speed. Three of the last four weeks, all three drivers have finished inside of the top 10 in the same race. They’ve never done that prior to this season. Heading into the off week, they all sit inside of the top five of the Cup points standings too.
New comer Ryan Blaney tops the team in laps led with 264. That’s second most in all of NASCAR right now. He’s third in the standings with four top 10 finishes already.
Joey Logano is next up in fourth with five top seven results in six tries. He’s only led 38 laps though. What’s that tell you?
Brad Keselowski is fifth in the standings and has four top 10 finishes over his last five starts. He’s led 51 laps.
The results are there, they just need a bit more speed to win.
The only reason they’re not higher is because they’re a four car team and one of their cars isn’t performing on a top level yet. They have 1-6-12-22 in the standings heading into the off week. Kyle Busch has led 233 laps, third most in the series, and has three runner-up finishes over the last four weeks. His other result was third.
Denny Hamlin could very easily have six top 10 finishes in six tries for 2018 if not for a late race mechanical malfunction in Vegas and late race contact with Kevin Harvick in Martinsville. He has four top six finishes other wise.
Erik Jones is surging with three top 10 finishes over the last four weeks. His sophomore counterpart in Daniel Suarez is still struggling. But he can just as easily turn that around too.
This one was tough. I could just as easily had them No. 1. They went back to a one car team but that’s not costing them. In fact, Martin Truex Jr. is off to a better start in 2018 than he was in 2017. He has five straight top five finishes and if not for being collected in a late crash in the season opening Daytona 500, he would have a top five in all six races.
He’s led 143 laps, swept all three stages at Fontana, has a better average finish, more top five and more stage points at this point than he had last year.
He’s a championship favorite.
How can I not go with them for the top spot? They have won four of the six races and have the best overall speed. Kevin Harvick has three wins and another top five to his credit. Clint Bowyer just won in Martinsville, ending a 190 race winless streak and leading more laps on Monday than he led in the last three years combined. Aric Almirola has yet to finish outside of the top 15 and Kurt Busch is contending on a more regular basis too.
They’re 7-8-10-11 in the points and could easily get all four in the playoffs.