NASCAR Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick makes a six-spot jump

The only race at New Hampshire is behind us. Next up, Pocono, where there will be sticky stuff on the track in the corners in an attempt to liven up the dull racing that happened there in June.

1. Kyle Busch (LW: 1)

Busch had an eventful race on Sunday. He started on the front row and led 118 laps. And then he hit the wall on lap 214 and got the benefit of an extremely quick caution call by NASCAR.

Busch didn’t lead a lap after hitting the wall but he also didn’t lose much track position either. He restarted the race in the top 20 and fought his way back to eighth before the checkered flag.

“We had a good car all day,” Busch said. “Just got into it on a restart I guess with [Kyle Larson] and that got us damage and that got us behind the eight ball. We would have been on strategy with where [Denny Hamlin] was the whole rest of the day, but we had to fix damage.”

2. Joey Logano (LW: 2)

Logano finished a spot behind Busch in ninth but scored eight fewer points because he didn’t have as many stage points. That means his points lead over Busch has been whittled to three with six races to go in the regular season. That regular-season points title is important because the winner gets a 15-point bonus for the playoffs.

“We were off when we unloaded and we just kept trying to find a little something here and there to keep moving forward on things and never really did,” Logano said. “We qualified eighth and ran about 12th to 15th most of the race. We grabbed some stage points in the second stage and came home [ninth], so that’s kind of the best we had.”


3. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 4)

Truex also rebounded from a crash. He got pinched into the wall when Clint Bowyer was in the middle of a three-wide situation immediately after a restart and Bowyer slid into him. He still somehow finished sixth. He’d probably have been a contender for the win had he not hit the wall.

“[The car] wasn’t quite good enough on restarts and I kept getting inside restarts and just lost track position,” Truex said. “Each time the caution came out we’d lose a spot or two and it’s just hard to overcome that, but proud of the battle that we came through to come from the back to get back to sixth with a tore up race car.”

4. Kevin Harvick (LW: 10)

A win gets you a six-spot jump in the rankings. And, quite frankly, Harvick has been a top-five driver all season. The No. 4 team just didn’t have the wins that others did.

That’s changed now, and don’t be surprised if Harvick ends up winning one or two more races before the playoffs. He’s the defending champion of the August Michigan race and won the Bristol night race in 2016.

Sunday’s win was Harvick’s third in five races at New Hampshire. It’s a good thing for the rest of the field that the track no longer has a playoff race.

“It’s been a racetrack that has been really good for us from a performance standpoint, and I think from a confidence standpoint coming here this weekend, being able to adjust on the car and know what we're looking for, I think this is definitely a racetrack where a lot of those things came into play and used a lot of the same things that we've used in the past as far as tools of how we make our car go around the corner,” Harvick said.

5. Denny Hamlin (LW: 5)

Hamlin stays in his spot after that second-place finish. Hamlin played the end of Sunday’s race the way he should have. There was no reason to be needlessly aggressive with Harvick — do you really want to set yourself up for retaliation in the playoffs when you already have two wins? — and Hamlin gave himself two chances to get Harvick out of the way on the final lap.

Harvick just played some fantastic defense.

6. Kurt Busch (LW: 9)

Busch didn’t have a great day. He started third but ended up finishing 18th. Busch scored just one stage point; just one driver inside the top 20 had fewer points than Busch did on Sunday. And Truex scored 16 more points than Busch did, meaning Truex is now 16 points ahead of Busch for sixth in the standings.

7. Erik Jones (LW: 10)

As Jones’ contract extension with Joe Gibbs Racing keeps slowly progressing — it seems preposterous to think he won’t be in the No. 20 car in 2020 — Jones’ season keeps getting better and better. After finishing third on Sunday, Jones has scored seven top-10 finishes in the last 10 races. He’s up to 14th in the standings and should have no issues making the playoffs at this current rate.

8. Brad Keselowski (LW: 7)

Keselowski scored his first pole in nearly two years on Friday. He then finished 10th on Sunday. After running down Kyle Busch in the first stage and then leading 11 laps, Keselowski led just one lap the rest of the day.

9. Alex Bowman (LW: 8)

Bowman drove Sunday’s race in the car that was set to be Jimmie Johnson’s backup. He had a drive shaft problem during qualifying on Friday and then crashed his backup car on Saturday. That necessitated the move to Johnson’s backup and ... he promptly finished 14th and ahead of Johnson. The seven-time champ had a power steering issue and finished 30th.

10. Chase Elliott (LW: 6)

Elliott finished one spot ahead of Johnson in 29th after his car had an engine problem. He’s fallen five spots in the points standings over the last six races.

11. Aric Almirola (LW: 11)

Almirola won the second stage and finished 11th after starting ninth. Winning the stage, however, led to that 11th-place finish.

“You’ve got to make a decision on scoring points or trying to win the race, and we chose to score stage points and that paid off,” Almirola said of his team’s decision to stay out on the track during a late second-stage caution. “We won the stage, but in the end we got behind and couldn’t recover from track position.”

12. Ryan Blaney (LW: NR)

Blaney finished fourth. It was just his second top-five finish since Bristol in April.

“We got to second there towards the end and I was starting to fade a little bit, but I thought we could probably run second,” Blaney said. “The last caution when we started sixth, we got up to fourth and just kind of stayed there. We just needed a little bit more speed, but, overall, not a bad day.”

The Lucky Dog: Matt DiBenedetto finished fifth. It was his second top five of the season and also the second of his career.

The DNF: Austin Dillon is having a really bad season. He was 32nd after a crash.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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