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Tue Dec 20 11:32am EST

Power Rankings: The best drivers under 30

By Jay Busbee

Power Rankings: The best drivers under 30

 

 

Sure, it's the offseason, but that doesn't mean we can't throw out a few Power Rankings now and then. Today, we focus on the young bucks, the drivers under the age of 30 who will be dominating the sport for the next 15 years or so. Most NASCAR drivers don't seem to hit their peak until their early 30s, so we've got plenty of time to watch these cats in action.

1. Kyle Busch (26): His constant struggles in the Chase notwithstanding, Busch is far and away the best driver in this crew, and one of the top handful now in NASCAR. Love him or hate him, he'll be around for a long, long time,

2. Brad Keselowski (27): Kes probably would have struggled to make the top five on this list as recently as July. But his hot streak vaults him almost to the top, and he actually beat Busch in the 2011 season standings. Now, what does he do for an encore?

3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (23): The 2011 Nationwide Series champ is very, very close to the big time. Question is, where's he going to drive on the Sprint level?

4. AJ Allmendinger (30). He turned 30 last Friday, so we're bending the rules a bit to let him in, but what the heck. Dinger is this offseason's unquestionable hard-luck case, with rumors running rampant of him getting pushed out of his car by Kurt Busch and now losing his primary sponsor in Best Buy. Shame, too, because his on-track career is definitely on the upswing.

5. Joey Logano (21): We're getting close to a make-or-break year for Logano. One more season outside the Chase competition and he may well become expendable for the Gibbs organization. Still, he's shown the ability to reel off strings of strong finishes, and perhaps a new crew chief will invigorate him.

6. Trevor Bayne (20): He's got himself a Daytona 500 win, and they can't take that away from him. Not even Tony Stewart has one of those. But now it's time to see if he's a legit Sprint Cup-level driver, or the world's luckiest right-place, right-timer.

7. Brian Vickers (28): His stock took a sharp hit in the wake of several on-track incidents later this year, but he's still talented enough to run with (and into) the leaders. Perhaps a year in Nationwide will settle him out; he ought to be challenging for the championship if he's there.

8. David Ragan (26 on Dec. 24): Another Sprint Cup-level driver who's way too young to write off completely. He too will benefit from some time at a lower level to let things shake out at the Sprint Cup level; his days at NASCAR's highest level probably aren't done.

9. Justin Allgaier (25): Still a bit of an X factor; it'll be interesting to see what he can do once he gets up to the Sprint level and gets some reliable equipment. Strong enough to run with the Sprint regulars in Nationwide, but can he do it in the show?

10. Austin Dillon (21): The trucks champion is already the heir apparent at Childress, and the big "3" on the side of his car is a target. So far, though, he's kept moving. He'll be one of the most fascinating on this list to watch over the next five years, for many reasons, and could well be at the top within a half-decade.

All right, your turn. Who's your pick for the best of the young guns?

December 21, 2011  10:28 AM ET

I wouldn't rank Joey that high. Considering the equipment and the team he has, he should be contending for the championship if he were any good.

December 21, 2011  10:37 AM ET

I agree about Joey. We'll see on the rest.

December 21, 2011  11:06 AM ET

Agreed that they ranked Joey a little higher than he should be but they seem to have him on a short lead. Perform this year or else. LOL The new C.C. will help. That's all Jooonya needed, so I hope it's contagious.

December 21, 2011  12:02 PM ET

I have to agree with all of ya's, Joey needs to show what he's got or ELSE.

December 21, 2011  12:10 PM ET

First and second, agree. The rest are unprovn as of yet or a flash in the (bread)pan

December 21, 2011  12:22 PM ET

Big Winner today: 4. A J Allmendinger .... Late b-day / Early X-mas present ;-)

.... PENSKE Racing has named A J Allmendinger as the driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger for the 2012 to replace Kurt ...

must be that 3 years in CART / Indy 04-06 ... 5 wins in 40 races ...

December 21, 2011  12:25 PM ET
QUOTE(#6):

Big Winner today: 4. A J Allmendinger .... Late b-day / Early X-mas present ;-)

.... PENSKE Racing has named A J Allmendinger as the driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger for the 2012 to replace Kurt ...

must be that 3 years in CART / Indy 04-06 ... 5 wins in 40 races ...

Wow. Didn't see that one coming. I guess that means Kurt will be in the 43 next year. But with the way the Dinger has been steadily improving in second tier equipment this is a big (and probably last) chance. Good luck to him!

December 21, 2011  12:32 PM ET

I called it last week on T&R ....

Posted Tuesday December 13, 2011, About: Hamlin's new crew chief is...

would A J Allmendinger get a look from Roger Penske, for the #22 then ....

15th in Points A J, over 23rd in points Ragan ....

Comment #9 has been removed
December 21, 2011  12:42 PM ET
QUOTE(#7):

Wow. Didn't see that one coming. I guess that means Kurt will be in the 43 next year. But with the way the Dinger has been steadily improving in second tier equipment this is a big (and probably last) chance. Good luck to him!

Not so Fast .... rumor is David Ragan in the #43 ...

which if Kurt is still on the Jack Roush - Black List from Kurt actions in 2005 ...

and Roush supplies cars for Front Row, also ...

which leaves only the #51 Phoenix / HMS Chev for Kurt ...

Comment #11 has been removed
December 21, 2011  02:22 PM ET

Decent list, but Stenhouse (completely unproven in Cup), Logano, and Bayne are too high up for sure. It's good to see Allmendinger have a shot in a more stable setting with a better team.

December 21, 2011  02:30 PM ET
QUOTE(#12):

Decent list, but Stenhouse (completely unproven in Cup), Logano, and Bayne are too high up for sure. It's good to see Allmendinger have a shot in a more stable setting with a better team.

I'll agree about Stenhouse. You have to remember it was 1 year ago he wasn't sure he'd have a Nationwide ride for 2011 because of all the cars he had wrecked in 2010.

Bayne needs another year or two in Nationwide before going full time to Cup. Yes a Daytona 500 win is impressive, it is also a blind squirrel race. Would we be talking about how impressive his win would have been if it were at Talladega or the July Daytona race?

Lagano needs to add at least one non-rain win to the column next year or he will be out of the #20.

December 21, 2011  02:32 PM ET
QUOTE(#6):

Big Winner today: 4. A J Allmendinger .... Late b-day / Early X-mas present ;-) .... PENSKE Racing has named A J Allmendinger as the driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger for the 2012 to replace Kurt ... must be that 3 years in CART / Indy 04-06 ... 5 wins in 40 races ...

Wow. Great for Dinger and great to see Kurt given the boot.

Comment #15 has been removed
Comment #16 has been removed
December 21, 2011  03:08 PM ET

I am pondscum, and I approve this message!

December 21, 2011  03:08 PM ET
QUOTE(#6):

Big Winner today: 4. A J Allmendinger .... Late b-day / Early X-mas present ;-) .... PENSKE Racing has named A J Allmendinger as the driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger for the 2012 to replace Kurt ... must be that 3 years in CART / Indy 04-06 ... 5 wins in 40 races ...

I am pondscum, and I approve this message!

Comment #19 has been removed
 
December 21, 2011  03:27 PM ET
QUOTE(#18):

I am pondscum, and I approve this message!

Woo good. I thought we'd have an issue if you didn't approve Pond!

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