NASCAR Power Rankings: Harvick is predictably back at No. 1

1. Kevin Harvick (LW: 3): Harvick is now ahead of Kyle Busch with a series-leading seven wins in 2018, though remember that one of them won’t officially count. That’s because of his penalty after dominating at Las Vegas.

Harvick and Busch going toe-to-toe with Martin Truex Jr. serving as a formidable third option is a fascinating — if not monotonous — plot for the 2018 season.

“The motivation is to not let things slip through the crack, and they’re covering all the details, and especially my group of guys that we’re going on our fifth year together,” Harvick said of his Stewart-Haas Racing team. “That experience and those attention to details of things that they do is second to none, and you see it week after week.  You look in the win column, and we’re capitalizing on those fast cars that hasn’t always happened over the last four years, and I think this year we’re making those moments count and getting wins out of them.”

2. Kyle Busch (LW: 1): Busch led 22 laps and finished third. He said cars were unable to get near each other to make passes as the field got strung out over green-flag runs and the leader of the race would be able to sprint away from everyone else.

“But it definitely seemed like whoever got out front just could kind of take off, and if you were the fastest car like [Harvick] was, there was nobody that was going to be able to come close to you and do anything with you,” Busch said.

“There were some moments there that last run once it got strung out, everybody was eight lengths apart, eight lengths apart, eight lengths apart, eight lengths apart, and you couldn’t get any closer than that.  You were just at an air deficit from being able to get air on your car from the car in front of you and just lacking grip, so you just weren’t able to make up time.”

3. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 2): Truex finished 14th after he was involved in an early caution with William Byron. That continues Truex’s streak of either finishing in the top five or outside of the top 10 altogether. It’s kinda weird when you think about it.

4. Chase Elliott (LW: 4): Elliott started 21st and finished ninth.

“Yeah, we didn’t have a lot of pace and very frustrating, but I feel like we made the most of it,” Elliott said.

5. Brad Keselowski (LW: 11): Keselowski made up 16 spots in a charge up to second. It was his best finish since he was second to, you guessed it, Harvick at Atlanta. That was the second race of the season.

Keselowski is in a position to scramble for playoff points over the last few weeks of the regular season. He’s going to make the playoffs but he’s going to be at a significant disadvantage as the playoffs go on.

“You can really only point your way through to the third round,” Keselowski said. “You really can’t count on pointing your way through to the fourth round, unless you have all the bonus points, which we don’t.”

“With that in mind, we’re going to have to deliver and make results and win races, and I think that’s what the sport is about at the end of the day.  It’s easy to say, harder to do, but I think, again, having a day like today where we were solid, we executed, it allows us to move forward as a team and as a company with all four cars, or three and a half cars, to get there.”

6. Kurt Busch (LW: 5): On a weekend where his 2019 plans were the source of much speculation, Busch got another top-10 finish to further solidify himself as the top driver in the standings without a win. Busch said he’s been talking to multiple teams about 2019 employment and that nothing was finalized. If Busch doesn’t stay at Stewart-Haas Racing, his new employer is going to be a step down.

7. Ryan Blaney (LW: 10): Blaney finished fifth on Sunday.

There were a couple cars better than us all day and a couple that got better at the end. Second half of the race the track kind of changed and our car lost a little bit of speed but I am happy with a fifth after the last two weeks that have been a struggle for us.”

8. Denny Hamlin (LW: 9): Hamlin started first and ended up eighth. He’s got to be slightly annoyed that he’s been unable to come close to replicating the success Busch has had in 2018.

9. Clint Bowyer (LW: 7): Bowyer didn’t come close to repeating his June Michigan success. To be fair, he probably would have been passed by Harvick for the win had rain held off for five more minutes earlier this summer.

10. Erik Jones (LW: 8): Jones spun early and then bounced back for a top-15 finish. Those types of races are good for surviving in the playoffs.

11. Joey Logano (LW: 12): Logano bounced back from his last-place finish at Watkins Glen with a 10th at Michigan.

12. Aric Almirola (LW: NR): Almirola was seventh.

Lucky Dog: Austin Dillon was running second late before falling back to fourth because of a vibration.

The DNF: Corey LaJoie’s engines are very reliably unreliable.

Dropped out: Kyle Larson

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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