Kyle Larson performed wonderfully down the stretch on restarts and held off the field on Sunday to win the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
His second win of the season moved him back into the points lead and added some much-needed playoff points. Martin Truex Jr. won both stages in the race and increased his playoff point total to 20.
Check out the updated power rankings as NASCAR heads to Sonoma Raceway this weekend.
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Larson’s quickly becoming the championship favorite with consistent performance and his second win of the season. He retakes the top spot in the power rankings and point standings this week.
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While Larson has the edge in regular season points, Truex dominates the field when it comes to playoff points. He’s scored 20 already this season with two race wins and 10 stage wins. An average finish of 8.9 also looks really good for the No. 78 bunch.
Kevin Harvick, no change
Harvick’s figured something out in the past two months and has been a contender week-after-week. He got caught in a bad situation late and finished 14th but had a top-five car for most of the day.
A win can’t be far away from Busch. He’s been on the wrong side of the final lead chance in the last two races and seems to be doing all he can to find his way to Victory Lane. A positive for Busch is that he might peak at the right time and run off a couple wins right before the playoffs, which would be a huge momentum boost.
The only time McMurray has finished outside the top-15 this season is because of an accident. McMurray’s nearly matched his season-total for top-10 finishes from last year and looks poised to score his first win since 2013.
Johnson salvaged a 10th-place finish after a long weekend at Michigan. He spun in practice and went to a backup car, started in the back, and had a poor pit stop set him back in the race. No worries about Johnson until the playoffs start, though.
The gap Team Penske had over the competition at the beginning of the season seems to have disappeared. Keselowski and Joey Logano have struggled in recent weeks and need to make some strides to get back to championship contention.
Hamlin’s improvement continued as he contended for the lead in the closing laps at Michigan. He nearly won Sonoma last year until Tony Stewart made a power move past him in the final turn. The No. 11 should be a favorite at the California road course.
The Daytona 500 winner’s had an up-and-down season since his triumph to open the season. He posted a solid 12th-place finish at Michigan and will head back to try to add another restrictor-plate victory in two weeks at Daytona.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., no change
The surprise Talladega winner posted his sixth top-10 finish of the season on Sunday in Michigan, which ties his career-best that he should easily eclipse with 21 races still remaining in 2017. Good resurgence by Roush Fenway Racing this season.
Kenseth currently holds the final playoff spot by seven points over Clint Bowyer and would like a win to ease his mind about the postseason. He’s finished 12th or better in the past five races after a bout of bad luck to start the season.
Logano went through a five-race stretch between his Richmond win and Michigan where he didn’t finish better than 21st. He was glad to score a third-place result on Sunday and “stop the bleeding.”
Elliott’s still chasing that elusive first Cup Series victory and once again finished second in the Irish Hills. He’s comfortable inside the playoff cutline but would love to score that first victory and be locked in.
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Bowyer’s slid down the standings in recent weeks and now finds himself on the outside looking in for the postseason. After posting a runner-up finish at Bristol, he’s only finished in the top-10 once in the past seven races.
The last two months have only seen two good finishes for Blaney but the one was his first Cup Series victory last weekend at Pocono, which trumps the stretch of poor finishes.
The rookie battle has been a tight one between Jones and Daniel Suárez but the driver of the No. 77 Furniture Row Racing Toyota has gotten the best of Suárez the past two weeks. While the Michigan-native didn’t win in his home state, he posted a 13th-place finish and sits just outside the playoff bubble.
Suárez got caught up with Blaney and Harvick and ended up making contact with Danica Patrick as a result in the closing laps at Michigan. A 24th-place finish was the result but the young driver continues to improve.
We’ve become used to seeing Newman run between 14th and 18th in the standings over the past few years. His big advantage in 2017 is that he’s already locked up a win and has a spot in the playoffs, unless we have eight different winners in the comings weeks.
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Not sure what to expect from Dillon going forward. He seems to lack the speed and consistency from 2016 but his Coca-Cola 600 victory has him playoff bound once again, while currently sitting 20th in the points standings.
The younger Dillon brother has exceeded expectations with top-20 finishes in five of the past six races. He’s a bit behind Jones and Suárez in the Rookie of the Year battle but he’s done the most with his equipment.
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After such a consistent start with finishes near the top 10 every week, Bayne’s slipped back a bit and finished closer to 20th. RFR will need to make some adjustments if they want both of their cars in the playoffs.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., +2
It’s now a must-win situation for Dale Jr. to make the playoffs. Fortunately for him, he’ll head to Daytona in two weeks and still has a couple other strong tracks before the end of the regular season. Outside of his mishap at Pocono, he’s finished 11th or better in three of four races.
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Menard isn’t doing anything impressive and pretty much finishing where we expect him. That’s why he passes Kasey Kahne on the power rankings. He’s living up to his expectations of finishing around 20th. Kahne should be capable of posting better finishes than that.
If it isn’t a crash, it’s a late-race mistake or issue that costs Kahne solid finishes. He’s finishing nearly three spots (19th) below his average position (15.7) during the race, showing that he’s been better than his finishes.
Buescher had a mechanical issue put him behind the wall for several laps on Sunday at Michigan, leading to a 36th-place finish. He’s performed well in recent weeks but would still need a Hail Mary to make the playoffs.
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