After the demolition derby that was the Daytona 500, here’s how the team rankings have shaken out. Reminder it is still early, so there’s some surprises near the top that could fade. And same for anyone who is at the bottom.
The Wood Brothers found themselves eighth last week, but sky rocketed to the top of the charts this week. That is on the back of Ryan Blaney’s surprise second place finish in the Daytona 500. Most thought they could be a threat, along with Team Penske, but many fans were treated to Blaney nearly getting the upset victory.
This is controversial because they were placed 16th last week, but stats wise Leavine Family Racing did a lot with a little. Michael McDowell scored them a 15th place finish and they hit the markers that the formula is skewed for. Reality is once Atlanta is over, look for them to drop like a rock.
3 Team Penske
Luck was not on Brad Keselowksi’s side as he was taken out in one of the major wrecks of the day, but Joey Logano was stout in his sixth place finish. Had other drivers actually tried to go with Logano, we might be talking about his second Daytona 500 victory this week.
Jamie McMurray kept driving like a man fighting for a new contract by bulldozing the competition before succumbing to crash damage and finishing 28th. Had Kyle Larson kept fuel in the car, he too could have been a surprise winner of the 500. In the end both drivers seemingly cancel each other out on this weekend.
A weird ending of the 500 led to Paul Menard picking up his first top-5 finish in two years, but late incidents ruined the chances of Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman to secure top finishes. Dillon and Newman showed promise early on during the race that the team will help to build on.
Chase Elliott was two laps away from immortality as a Daytona 500 champion, unfortunately his curse of not being able to finish races did him in. Kasey Kahne took advantage of the big wrecks for a 7th place finish. Favorites going into the event, Dale Earnhardt Jr and Jimmie Johnson, both saw their cars taken out of the track in piles of sheet metal.
Lean and mean is the new Richard Petty Motorsports and they got a solid result with Aric Almirola coming home in fourth place. He kept his nose clean all afternoon and that helped him to the finish. Going forward the team will hope to capitalize on the momentum.
Tough to see this team so far back after one of their driver wins the race, but that’s what happens when you have four drivers to “even” things out. Kurt Busch benefited from empty gas tanks to get the win. Kevin Harvick showed the learning curve moving to Ford would not be a problem for him, until he was caught up in a wreck. Clint Bowyer showed promise that he remembers how to drive, but he and Danica Patrick each were knocked out early due to crashes.
A tale of two different teams, one nearly won the race and the other was one of the first out of the event. AJ Allmendinger sliced his way through the field in the frantic final lap to finish third. Chris Buescher on the other hand, was caught up in a wreck that ruined his day early. It’ll be interesting to see how the team rebounds with both at Atlanta.
Cole Whitt did what he needed to do and that was log laps and finish. With TriStar Motorsports returning to the Cup Series, the bar was not set too high, but 18th on the first time out will get momentum on their side.
Ty Dillon’s first run with the team did not turn out as he probably expected. He kept the nose clean for most of the race, but like many, was a victim of circumstances during a large wreck.
Despite the top-10 performance from Trevor Bayne, his driving during the race will mean very few drivers congratulated him on that result. That was the good, but like most teams, the bad dragged them down and that was Ricky Stenhouse Jr getting taken out in a wreck.
A surprise top-10 for this team and they begin to get to know what they have in driver Matt DiBenedetto. Not quite the performance he turned in for BK Racing last year, driving through the field vs getting lucky, but it’s a solid result for the team.
14 Beard Motorsports
Brendan Gaughan was just one spot away from a top-10 performance with this team, but it was all smiles after the race. They’re only running a partial schedule, so they will drop in the rankings, but they can enjoy it now.
Despite crash damage, Martin Truex Jr almost pulled off a victory in the Great American Race. It was not to be as he ran out of fuel late like Chase Elliott. Erik Jones had a miserable first Daytona 500, crashing out early and placing 39th. This team will certainly rebound going forward.
Elliott Sadler turned in a solid 20th place performance for this team. This might be a one off for the group who sold their charter last year, but helps them end on a high note if so.
It was not the return to Front Row that David Ragan wanted, coming home 25th. Landon Cassill on the other hand was decent with a 16th place finish. This will be their season, good but not great at most tracks.
One of the biggest surprises for where they’re ranked, but wrecks derailed any good mojo Joe Gibbs Racing might have had coming into the season. Matt Kenseth finished 40th, Kyle Busch was 38th, Daniel Suarez was 29th, and the long “bright” spot was Denny Hamlin in 17th. They’ll rebound for sure, but Daytona will be a good memory to forget.
One car missed the show with Reed Sorenson driving, but the other scored a top-10 with Michael Waltrip. It’ll be interesting to see how the season goes with changing drivers each week, next up is Derrike Cope.
Jeffrey Earnhardt did about what we’d expect from him, was a nonfactor and finished in the lower 20s. Actually that’s better than what I pictured, so go Jeffrey!
21 Gaunt Brothers Racing
Wrecking early, D.J. Kennington did not make many friends out there when he was on track. This team will continue to build and presumably Kennington will get better when he’s next in the car.
22 BK Racing
Corey LaJoie wrecked a guy to get into the Daytona 500, then nearly hit everyone on the track. Somehow Joey Gase only did one spot better than LaJoie. Miraculously it was 23rd and 24th position we’re talking about. You got to love Daytona, but reality will come quick for this team.
Missed the race, not much more to say about that.