Race #3 – Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
What better place to gamble than Las Vegas? Dale Earnhardt certainly rolled the dice on Sunday, but in the end he crapped out, running out of gas on the final lap. Junior’s loss was Keselowski’s gain, as the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion streaked by the 88 and didn’t stop until he reached victory lane.
Keselowski now has one of those coveted spots in the Chase all but locked up, joining Earnhardt and Kevin Harvick as 2014 race winners.
Here's a look at the MMPR heading into Race 4 at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday:
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. – While Junior Nation can be upset with the way things went down during the final lap on Sunday, there is a silver lining. Crew chief Steve Letarte told Junior over the radio with 40-plus laps to go that they were going to be three-quarters of a lap short. Which they were, exactly. This team is clicking on all cylinders, even when it comes back to haunt them.
Previous ranking: First, --
2. Brad Keselowski – Sure, it was a case of being at the right place at the right time. Had Junior not run out of gas then it would have been Bad Brad taking the runner-up position. Instead, Keselowski chased down Earnhardt, forced him to use up his fuel and captured his first win of the season – and with it, a guaranteed spot in the Chase.
Previous ranking: Second, --
3. Joey Logano – Some want to completely debunk the importance of points now that an emphasis has been put on winning. But for those still interested in, you know, the whole point standings thing – Logano is currently ranked fourth with back-to-back fourth-place finishes.
Previous ranking: Sixth, +3
4. Jimmie Johnson – A third straight top-10 to begin the season, Johnson now has a fifth- and two sixth-place finishes to begin his quest for a seventh championship. Double J ran up front for most of the race, leading 44 laps and finishing with a race-best average running position of 3.4.
Previous ranking: Third, -1
5. Jeff Gordon – The 24 ran 97.4 percent of the laps in the top 15. That’s an impressive stat for one of the quietest strong starts to Gordon’s illustrious career. His ninth-place finish at Vegas wasn’t anything to sneeze at, but the veteran was certainly eyeing a third straight top-five to begin the season, something he hasn’t done since 1997. Oh, by the way, he won the championship that year.
Previous ranking: Fifth, --
6. Carl Edwards – Smart pit strategy put the 99 near the front at the end of the race, and Edwards did all he could to earn his first top-five of the season, his third straight fifth-place finish at Vegas. Next up is Fontana, where Cousin Carl has finished fourth, fifth and sixth dating back to 2011.
Previous ranking: 10th, +4
7. Ryan Newman – A fitting spot in power rankings for Newman, who has back-to-back seventh-place finishes. The first-year Richard Childress Racing pilot is off to a strong start, and given how things have started at Stewart-Haas (aside from Kevin Harvick’s victory), Newman has to be very happy with his new home.
Previous ranking: Ninth, +2
8. Matt Kenseth – At this time last year, he left Vegas with the first of a career-high seven victories. His 10th at Vegas was a respectable one given his 29th starting position, the only driver to start the race outside the top 20 and finish in the top 10.
Previous ranking: Eighth, --
9. Kyle Busch – Rowdy hasn’t gotten off to the most scintillating start, but he ranks fourth in laps led and has been a factor in every race so far.
Previous ranking: NR
10. Kevin Harvick – It’s hard to drop a race winner completely off this list. Harvick led 23 laps on Sunday and had a car to win, but a locked up front hub put the 4 in the garage early.
Previous ranking: Fourth, -6
Wave Around: Paul Menard – This was no fluke. Menard’s third-place finish was well-earned, as he had a race-high 71 quality passes and 92 green flag passes, making the 27 Chevy one of the best on the track all day.
Out of MMPR: Denny Hamlin
Previous MMPR No. 1s
Week 1 – Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Week 2 – Dale Earnhardt Jr.
*This list is comprised of drivers that compete in the Sprint Cup Series on full-time basis.