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Brad Keselowski
AP
Power Rankings

Power Ranking After: Kentucky

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: July 15, 2020, 12:50 pm ET

Kentucky Speedway has always been fairly predictable. Entering the weekend, no one had ever earned their first win on this track in nine attempts. The closest anyone ever got was Brad Keselowski, who grabbed his seventh career victory there in 2012 and his 12th two years later. Martin Truex Jr. earned his 10th career victory there in 2017. Beyond that, all other winners were seasoned vets with 20 or more wins to their credit.

Only one rookie had ever finished among the top 15; Erik Jones finished sixth in 2017.

This was not a race for dark horses, but as the event progressed it became increasingly apparent that long shots were going to run well. In the closing laps, the rookies were in contention. And they were joined by some other drivers with less than household names.

With +10000 (100/1) odds on Saturday in the Draft Kings sportsbook Cole Custer mashed the gas and refused to be cowed by the more experienced drivers below him in the groove. His bold four-wide pass came with a minor assist from Ryan Blaney’s bump on Kevin Harvick, but it is likely he would have had the momentum to sweep past in any event.


Along with him, he brought Matt DiBenedetto to third. DiBenedetto was among the leaders all day and accumulated the fourth-best Average Running Position (6.97). Fellow rookies Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick finished among the top 10 in seventh and 10th. They got there at the expense of drivers like Denny Hamlin (12th), Joey Logano (15th), and Jimmie Johnson (18th) in a race with very little attrition. Twenty-six drivers finished on the lead lap.

It was a difficult race to handicap. Now the series rolls onto another 1.5-mile track in Texas – and then, they head to another in Kansas.

1. Kevin Harvick (last week: 1)
Weeks in the top 10: 15
Weeks as #1: 7
Power Average: 7.44

Harvick was an odds maker’s favorite last week because of the momentum he brought into Kentucky. He started out at +550, improved to +400 midweek, and landed at +500 as money started to pour in, but we suggested some caution in the Best Bets post and listed him at fourth. That is precisely where he finished, but he was less impressive even than we expected with only the 12th-best Average Running Position (11.72).

2. Brad Keselowski (last week: 4) +2
Weeks in the top 10: 15
Power Average: 8.96

Keselowski has not been particularly flashy since the return to action, but he has been extremely consistent. In the 13 races since the COVID-19 restrictions were eased, he has finished in the top 10 in all but two events. He also has a pair of top-15s. That has kept him ranked consistently among the top five in regard to his odds for a given race even though he has not won since Bristol.

3. Ryan Blaney (last week: 3)
Weeks in the top 10: 11
Weeks as #1: 2
FPR#: 8.99

Blaney was the driver to beat for much of last week. He had the best Average Running Position (4.78) in the field and the second-best Driver Rating (119.5) behind Aric Almirola. Most impressively, he did so one-handed with a shifter that kept popping out of gear. He was on his way to being the top Ford driver until he banged doors with Harvick in a three-lap shootout at the end of the race, but his overall numbers are enough to keep him in contention through the next two 1.5-mile races.

4. Chase Elliott (last week: 2) -2
Weeks in the top 10: 16
Weeks as #1: 5
Power Average: 9.30

Elliott is slowly losing steam. His Power Average for the entire year is a league-leading 6.89, but he’s faded to 9.30 over the past 45 days. He continues to run with the leaders and deserves attention as a title contender, but unless he and the team find a way to eliminated mistakes, he is going to have weekends like Kentucky where he raced among the top five much of the day before getting shuffled back on a late-race restart. Elliott has been outside the top 20 in three of his last five races and that makes him a risky bet for a while.

5. Denny Hamlin (last week: 7) +2
Weeks in the top 10: 11
Weeks as #1: 1
Power Average: 9.97

Hamlin had a disappointing week at Kentucky, but since we are looking at recent strength and an equally unsatisfactory Bristol race has fallen out of the 45-day range, he managed to move up the ranking. Hamlin has been solid in that timeframe with two wins and five top-fives in eight races. Texas is one of his better tracks and he should be a threat there. One thing is certain: He will continue to be a favorite of odds makers for a while. However, gamblers will want to hedge their bets.

6. Martin Truex Jr. (last week: 5) -1
Weeks in the top 10: 12
Power Average: 11.15

From Homestead through Indy, Truex struggled to finish among the top 10. Then, last week, his team put him at a deficit again when they failed inspection twice and sent him to the back of the grid. Truex seems to thrive under those conditions, however, and once he got to the lead, he had one of the dominant cars. His second-place finish may have righted the ship. The last time he earned top-fives was in consecutive races at Atlanta and Martinsville.

7. Jimmie Johnson (last week: 6) -1
Weeks in the top 10: 10
Power Average: 11.99

Johnson was in the hunt at Kentucky before he was spun from a top-five position by Keselowski. He wound up 18th after posting the 11th-best Average Running Position (11.05). That is not going to be enough to keep him among the top five unless he manages to string together some decent runs. Despite strong showings, he has not scored a top-10 since Martinsville or a top-five since Bristol and they don’t pay out the big money until the checkers wave.

8. Joey Logano (last week: 8)
Weeks in the top 10: 16
Power Average: 12.26

The regular season of the 2020 NASCAR Cup series is down to single digits remaining. It’s great that Logano won in Weeks 2 and 4 at Vegas and Phoenix, but he has not shown much momentum since with an average finish of 16th in the last 13 races. He’s had a handful of top-10s – but only two of those came in back-to-back weeks. That makes him unpredictable with high odds. It also makes him a risky bet.

9. Kurt Busch (last week: 10) +1
Weeks in the top 10: 12
Power Average: 12.47

Last week we suggested that one should wager on Busch finishing in the top 10 saying that he covered that mark 60 percent of the time in 2020. He rewarded our confidence with a fifth-place finish. All the things we said about him before Kentucky remain in effect through Texas. He will finish somewhere inside or on the cusp of the top 10 for much of the season, but he will likely make the playoffs on his points’ production instead of a win. Keep betting the top-10 or top-three line, but fade the outrights.

10. Kyle Busch (last week: 9) -1
Weeks in the top 10: 10
Power Average: 12.53

Odds makers poured a big glass of Kool-Aid last week, and try as we might, we ended up taking a sip. His line moved considerably from +650 at the start of the week to +500 the day before the race and the implication that large amounts of money were pouring in caused us to make him a favorite. The fact that he almost never finishes outside the top five at Kentucky was another huge factor in his favor. Unfortunately, for the moment the biggest intangible affecting his handicap is the fact that NASCAR is not allowing drivers to practice. That is killing Busch’s results. He currently sits 10th in the standings without a win and only one playoff point.

Winners, Last 45 Days (Outright Odds to win)
Quaker State 400, Kentucky: Cole Custer (+10000)
Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400, Indy: Kevin Harvick (+400)
Pocono 350, Pocono: Denny Hamlin (+800)
Pocono Organics 325, Pocono: Kevin Harvick (+650)
Geico 500, Talladega: Ryan Blaney (+1200)
Dixie Vodka 400, Homestead: Denny Hamlin (+1000)
Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500, Martinsville: Martin Truex Jr. (+550)
QuikTrip 500, Atlanta: Kevin Harvick (+500)
Supermarkets Heroes 500, Bristol: Brad Keselowski (+1000)

 

Power Average, Last 45 Days

This
Week

Driver

Power
Avg.

Avg.
Odds Rank

Last
Week

Difference

1.

Kevin Harvick

7.44

2.84

1

0

2.

Brad Keselowski

8.96

4.24

4

2

3.

Ryan Blaney

8.99

7.04

3

0

4.

Chase Elliott

9.30

4.08

2

-2

5.

Denny Hamlin

9.97

3.88

7

2

6.

Martin Truex Jr.

11.15

4.40

5

-1

7.

Jimmie Johnson

11.99

11.20

6

-1

8.

Joey Logano

12.26

5.12

8

0

9.

Kurt Busch

12.47

10.36

10

1

10.

Kyle Busch

12.53

2.32

9

-1

 

11.

Matt DiBenedetto

14.10

16.70

13

2

12.

Aric Almirola

14.12

14.24

14

2

13.

Clint Bowyer

14.63

12.16

16

3

14.

William Byron

14.72

12.54

11

-3

15.

Alex Bowman

15.22

9.80

12

-3

16.

Erik Jones

16.57

12.64

15

-1

17.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

17.51

19.64

18

1

18.

Bubba Wallace

17.98

22.72

22

4

19.

Christopher Bell

18.00

20.48

20

1

20.

Austin Dillon

18.28

19.19

17

-3

21.

Tyler Reddick

18.38

16.13

19

-2

22.

Matt Kenseth

19.10

16.92

23

1

23.

Chris Buescher

19.29

22.96

21

-2

24.

Ross Chastain

20.13

NM

29

5

25.

Michael McDowell

20.78

27.54

26

1

26.

JH Nemechek

21.23

25.40

24

-2

27.

Ryan Newman

21.38

19.60

25

-2

28.

Cole Custer

21.55

24.08

27

-1

29.

Brendan Gaughan

22.14

26.00

28

-1

30.

Ryan Preece

23.93

26.40

30

0

31.

Ty Dillon

25.99

26.58

32

1

32.

Corey LaJoie

26.71

29.84

31

-1

33.

Daniel Suarez

27.19

28.52

33

0

34.

Gray Gaulding

31.20

31.83

34

0

35.

JJ Yeley

31.75

30.56

38

3

36.

Timmy Hill

31.88

30.04

35

-1

37.

Brennan Poole

32.09

30.96

36

-1

38.

BJ McLeod

32.26

30.50

37

-1

39.

Quin Houff

32.59

30.56

39

0

40.

Josh Bilicki

33.90

30.25

40

0

41.

Garrett Smithley

34.09

29.95

41

0

42.

Joey Gase

35.51

30.40

42

0

43.

Reed Sorenson

36.79

29.38

43

0

 

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 20 years with a little help from his >650,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.