ThatsRacin

In honor of the NFL Draft, what if NASCAR did the same? Your first overall pick is...

Jimmie Johnson, right, and Kyle Busch, left, would both be high selections if NASCAR had its own version of the NFL Draft.
Jimmie Johnson, right, and Kyle Busch, left, would both be high selections if NASCAR had its own version of the NFL Draft. AP file photo

Across-sport debate? Across-sport debate.

While this weekend was one of NASCAR’s more exciting of the season, what with Chase Elliott winning at Talladega in grand fashion, it was a stacked weekend for athletics in general. Playoff hockey and basketball continued in full swing, and of course, the 2019 NFL Draft consumed the city of Nashville.

In honor of the NFL Draft, where professional teams take turns selecting the best college players, we decided to try and apply that same concept to NASCAR drivers. Given their talent, marketability, youth, versatility, and more, who would you take with the No. 1 overall pick?

Without further ado, your Top 10. Which starts at No. 1 with the best NASCAR has to offer right now...

1. Kyle Busch: Busch is the clear-cut No. 1 pick. His combination of youth (he turns 34 on May 2) and talent (more than 200 NASCAR wins) makes him a likely bet to rule the sport for the next decade. If Busch keeps winning at his current pace, he’ll retire in the conversation as one of NASCAR’s best-ever drivers. He leads all drivers this season with three wins and is atop the points standings.

2. Joey Logano: He doesn’t turn 29 until later in May, and yet Logano already has a championship and a decade’s experience under his belt. He’s arguably the most consistent driver in the sport right now, as he has six top-5 finishes in 10 races this season. Simply, Logano is a threat to win at every type of track and should be in championship contention for the foreseeable future.

3. Chase Elliott: This pick is all about youth and potential. Elliott won’t turn 24 until after this season, and yet with four wins in his last 25 races, he’s clearing finally starting to capitalize on his potential. Elliott is probably Chevy’s best chance at making it into the championship four this year, and he’s surpassed Jimmie Johnson as the top car at Hendrick Motorsports. Worst-case scenario: Elliott becomes a Dale Earnhardt Jr.-like figure as a consistent winner and perpetual Most Popular Driver award winner.

4. Brad Keselowski: Kez has two wins and is squarely in the championship hunt through a third of the Cup Series season. At 35, he doesn’t have the longevity the top three picks do, but he’s always good for a handful of wins a year. Keselowski also gets a boost here as one of the sport’s vocal leaders, as he’ll be heavily involved in any changes or directives from NASCAR in the future.

5. Kyle Larson: Larson’s selection, like Elliott’s, hinges largely on his continued growth. Two seasons ago, Larson won four races and was one of the top three championship contenders all season... but he hasn’t won since. Can he get back to Victory Lane this year? At 26, he has some of the most pure talent of anyone in the Cup Series, but he needs to get back to putting races together.

6. Martin Truex Jr.: Truex is the oldest pick so far, as he’ll turn 39 in June. Still, he’s sixth in the points standings this year and has qualified for three of the last four championship races, winning it all in 2017. He’s clearly already comfortable at Joe Gibbs Racing, and as long as he stays there, it’s hard to count him out. Also, Truex’s lengthy personal back story makes him a fan favorite.

7. Kevin Harvick: This pick is all about winning now. Harvick is 43, so you don’t know how long you’ll have him around. That said, he has made the last two championship races and won a ridiculous eight races last season. He’s been good again this year and sits fourth in the points standings, but to truly maximize his short title window, he needs to start reeling off wins sooner rather than later.

8. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin’s an interesting driver right now, considering he’s already a known quantity at age 38 and yet has never won a championship. He’s a less-attractive veteran option than Kez, Truex or Harvick, but you can’t discount that he’s third in the points standings right now with two victories. A Hamlin title may never come to fruition, but he is practically guaranteed to make the playoffs every year... and probably has one last title run left in him.

9. Ryan Blaney: Again, at 25 he has plenty of potential but not a ton to show for it now. Two Cup Series wins in 136 races doesn’t look terrific given the rides he’s had, but he also has been one of the sport’s top young drivers. He’s a step below Larson and Elliott as far as potential, but still a near-lock for the playoffs for the next 10-plus years. Now if only he can catch fire like Elliott late last year...

10. Jimmie Johnson: You can’t make a list of top NASCAR picks and leave off a seven-time Cup Series champ. Johnson may not be the driver he used to be, but he’s still one of the best in history and there’s no discounting that. He’ll be 44 before the end of this season, so there’s no telling how much longer he’ll stick around, but Johnson may still have one last trick in trying to win a record-eighth title. A good first step would be just getting back to Victory Lane.

This week’s NASCAR race at Dover: What you need to know.

Race: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Gander RV 400.

Distance: 400 laps, or 400 miles.

Where: Dover International Speedway, a 1-mile concrete oval in Dover, Del.

When: 2 p.m. Sunday.

TV: FS1.

Radio: MRN.

Last year’s winner: Kevin Harvick.

Also this week: Allied Steel Buildings 200, Xfinity Series, Dover International Speedway, 1:30 p.m., Saturday, FS1.

Worth mentioning: The fall Cup Series race at Dover is still currently without an official sponsor.

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not

HOT

Chase Elliott: His first win of the 2019 season is a banner moment for Chevy and Hendrick Motorsports.

Joey Logano: Nothing to see here — just another top-5 finish from Logano, who still sits second in the points standings.

NOT

Kevin Harvick: He’s still fourth in the points standings, so there’s nothing to worry about here, but when will he finally win one this season?

Bubba Wallace: Another wreck, another DNF, and Wallace’s season just keeps going sideways.

Brendan Marks is a general assignment sports reporter for the Charlotte Observer covering the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, NASCAR and more. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has worked for the Observer since August 2017.
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