By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on June 28, 2011 | 1:14 P.M. EST
Kurt Busch has the best average finish (5.4) in the last five races in 2011. (Photo: Getty Images)
Kurt Busch moves to the top spot in the Power Rankings after he continued his hot summer streak with his first Sprint Cup win on a road course.
1. Kurt Busch: Busch broke a 38-race winless streak in dominating fashion, leading 76 laps en route to the win in the Toyota/Save Mart 350. He topped just about every Loop Data category in the 110-lap race including average running position (2.9), driver rating (142.6) and laps in the top 15 (107). The victory, which moved him up three spots in the championship standings, was Busch's first on a road course and the 23rd of his career to move him into a tie with Ricky Rudd for 26th on the all-time win list. Now, Busch, who has the best average finish (5.4) in the last five races in 2011, will look to pick up his first points-paying win at Daytona International Speedway. His last trip to Daytona at night turned out to be a successful one as he won the Budweiser Shootout in his first outing with the No. 22 team.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 97.4
2. Carl Edwards: .Edwards padded his series points lead with his first top-five finish in seven starts at Infineon Raceway. The decision not to race in the Nationwide Series event at Road America played a major role in Edwards equaling his best Sprint Cup finish on a road course and scoring his third top five in the last four races in 2011. After starting 23rd, Edwards came on strong late in the race, cracking the top five by lap 90 and was the third fastest (88.134 mph) in the last 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop. Edwards will now look to continue his points lead for the 11th consecutive week with a good finish at Daytona International Speedway where his last four races have resulted in finishes of ninth or better.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 103.8
3. Jeff Gordon: Gordon jumps to the third spot in the rankings after coming from behind in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 to finish in the runner-up position. Gordon ranked 15th in average running position (15.2) in the race, but after numerous adjustments and the move to cleaner air he was able to crack the top 10 at lap 80. The finish, which was Gordon's sixth consecutive finish of ninth or better at Infineon, moved him up three positions in the championship standings to ninth. Gordon will now look to continue his hot streak as of late (6.0 average finish in last four races) at Daytona International Speedway where last year's third-place finish in the July race was his only top 10 in the last seven races there.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 91.5
4. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson rebounded from his disappointing finish at Michigan International Speedway to finish seventh in the Toyota/Save Mart 350. The finish was his third consecutive top 10 at Infineon, which includes a win in 2010. Johnson was among the top closers at Infineon, improving six positions in the final 11 laps and the effort moved him up two positions to third in the championship standings. Johnson's record at Daytona International Speedway has not been stellar since winning the 2006 Daytona 500. In his last nine starts there Johnson has only produced two finishes inside the top 20 with the most recent (second) coming in the July race in 2009.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 96.0
5. Kevin Harvick: Harvick battled back from being involved in an accident and numerous adjustments on his No. 29 Chevrolet to post a ninth-place finish in the Toyota/Save Mart 350. Harvick posted the worst average running position (17.0) among the drivers that finished in the top 10, but the perseverance in the end helped maintain his second position in the championship standings. Harvick, who has the second-best average finish (8.0) in the last five races in 2011, will now head to Daytona International Speedway where he's the defending race winner of the July event.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 91.8
6. Kyle Busch: Busch looked like he was on his way to a top-10 run in the Toyota/Save Mart 350, but he was sent of course on lap 103 when Juan Pablo Montoya and Brad Keselowski had a dust up in front of him. Busch was the second fastest driver late in a run (Last 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop) at 88.141 mph and used that to his advantage to rally to an 11th-place finish in the closing laps. Busch, who lost one spot in the standings at Infineon, will now head to Daytona International Speedway where he won the 2008 July race.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 110.2
7. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth appeared to be on his way fourth consecutive top 10 of the season up until a spin on lap 65 took him out of contention. With AJ Allmendinger spinning out in front of him, Kenseth was spun out from behind by Joey Logano as the pack raced through Turn 11. The end result sent Kenseth from a top-15 position to 35th in the field as he waited for all the cars to clear before turning his No. 17 Ford in the right direction. Now, Kenseth will head to Daytona International Speedway, which has been one of his best tracks since 2008. Although a crash took him out of contention in this year's Daytona 500, Kenseth has finished eighth or better in four of his last six starts at "The World Center of Racing."
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 94.4
8. Clint Bowyer: Bowyer had one of his best outings on a road course in the Sprint Cup Series when he finished fourth in the Toyota/Save Mart 350. He posted the second-best average running position (8.2) and led one lap en route to equaling his best finish at the track for the third time. After making adjustments on pit road with 22 laps-to-go, Bowyer was able to rocket through the field, gaining 15 positions over the last 19 laps. After picking up two positions in the championship standings at Infineon, Bowyer will now look to gain more at Daytona International Speedway where he's finished in the top 10 six times in 11 starts.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 93.0
9. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin had a strong run going in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 up until a broken track bar sent him to the garage and to a 37th-place finish. Hamlin, who was upset with AJ Allmendinger after the race because of contact on the track, posted the most fastest laps (13) and was second in laps led (12) up until his untimely trip to the garage. The finish dropped Hamlin two spots, to 11th, in the championship standings and he will now look to get things turned back around at Daytona International Speedway where his only top 10 in 11 starts came in the 2009 July race.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 93.5
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr: Earnhardt Jr. posted his worst finish of the season, and first outside the top 25, when damage to the radiator and engine from a lap 38 crash relegated him to a 41st-place finish in the Toyota/Save Mart 350. The finish dropped him four positions in the championship standings to seventh. Earnhardt, who is still the highest driver in the standings without a win, will look to get back on track at Daytona International Speedway where he has 13 top-10s, including two in his last three races there.
Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 87.4
Off This Week: Paul Menard (was 10th).
Other Notable Drivers Making Moves in the Point Standings: AJ Allmendinger +2 to 15th; Martin Truex Jr. +2 to 18th.