The post-Atlanta power ranking is for the NASCAR Cup Series race six in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway this past weekend.
With six races officially completed, the NASCAR Cup Series has reached the one-sixth mark of the season. Race number six at Atlanta brought about another intermediate track. Kyle Larson was the dominant driver for most of the race, leading more than half of the laps and winning both stages.
In the closing laps, Ryan Blaney ran down Larson to eventually pass him and claim his fifth career victory. Blaney is now the sixth different winner in as many races this year. At the top of the power ranking, there is another new driver. Below the top spot, there are some shake-ups.
1. Kyle Larson (Hendrick Motorsports No. 5)
Last Week: 4
Folds of Honor 500 Result: 2nd
Larson’s somewhat surprising start to the 2021 season continued at Atlanta. Though he wasn’t able to cap the race off with a win and become the season’s first repeat winner, Larson swept the stages and led more laps than in any other race over the course of his career. In his first year with Hendrick Motorsports, Larson is showing that he truly is arguably the most talented and well-rounded driver in the sport.
2. Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11)
Last Week: 1
Folds of Honor 500 Result: 4th
Even without a win through six races, Hamlin has a sizable lead at the top of the point standings and is the current model of consistency in the Cup Series. Hamlin, with five top-five finishes, is the only driver in the series with more than three. Atlanta brought another solid run for the team of the No. 11, as he ran inside the top-five for the majority of the race to bring home a fourth-place result. Nothing to complain about for Hamlin, and a win appears to be on the horizon.
3. Martin Truex Jr. (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19)
Last Week: 5
Folds of Honor 500 Result: 9th
With Truex having already won a race at Phoenix, he came into Atlanta as one of the favorites to win yet again. The car didn’t quite have race-winning speed, but Truex had himself a pretty quick car, fast enough to finish in the top-ten for the fourth time this season. Compared to last year, when Truex won just once, the outlook seems to be more positive thus far.
4. Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4)
Last Week: 3
Folds of Honor 500 Result: 10th
Even while finishing just tenth, Harvick had arguably the most impressive drive of the day in Atlanta. Harvick fell a lap down after cutting a tire early in the race, was able to use the wave around during the final stage, and drove all the way back into the top-ten on older tires. Considering the abuse that Atlanta puts on tires, Harvick’s finish has to be taken with a grain of salt, especially when it’s also considered that none of his teammates finished in the top-15.
5. Brad Keselowski (Team Penske No. 2)
Last Week: 2
Folds of Honor 500 Result: 28th
Keselowski was one of the favorites at Atlanta, having won two of the last four races at the track, but his day was essentially ruined after taking some serious nose damage about halfway through. Keselowski is still looking for his first win of the season, but he still sits top-five in point standings and has been one of the most consistently fast cars week-to-week.
6. Ryan Blaney (Team Penske No. 12)
Last Week: 10
Folds of Honor 500 Result: 1st
Though Blaney has still yet to put together a multi-win season, his shocking victory at Atlanta extended his streak of seasons with a win to five. The race looked all but over down the stretch with Kyle Larson dominating and pulling away from Blaney, but as the tires continued to wear, Blaney was able to save enough to catch Larson and capture the win. Big, big win for a guy who is in a position to prove himself this year.
7. William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports No. 24)
Last Week: 9
Folds of Honor 500 Result: 8th
Byron put together another top-ten run at Atlanta, running well consistently and finishing eighth. After a 2020 season in which Byron barely snuck into the playoffs with his win in the regular-season finale, Byron is locked in with a win and is sitting eighth in points overall. The season has certainly gone to plan for the No. 24 to this point.
8. Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports No. 9)
Last Week: 6
Folds of Honor 500 Result: 38th
The bad luck for Elliott early in this season has put a damper on what could have otherwise been a tremendous start to the year. A late spin at the road course and a blown engine this week in Atlanta have caused setbacks for the defending champion. However, the statistics show that Elliott has still been one of the series’ fastest. Elliott tops NASCAR in quality passes per lap, a stat that shows the true speed that cars have relative to other top cars.
9. Joey Logano (Team Penske No. 22)
Last Week: 7
Folds of Honor 500 Result: 15th
It was a bit of a rough race for Logano, especially after coming in as one of the favorites to win at Atlanta. Even so, if a top-15 finish is considered a bad day, then more is going right than wrong. Sitting third in points, Logano has been a race-winning quality car essentially week in and week out, and a win seems essentially imminent for the No. 22 team in the coming weeks.
10. Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18)
Last Week: 11
Folds of Honor 500 Result: 5th
Even with another top-five finish for Busch on Sunday, his start to the season has been somewhat underwhelming. There hasn’t been a race yet where Busch has been in contention to win in the closing laps, and he still has yet to lead even a single lap. Busch will be one to watch on the dirt at Bristol, but the following race at Martinsville will likely be his best shot for an early-season win.
11. Alex Bowman (Hendrick Motorsports No. 48)
Last Week: 13
Folds of Honor 500 Result: 3rd
Bowman seems to keep putting together quietly solid runs this season, and Atlanta was the best example of that in the early part of the season. Despite being sparingly shown on the TV broadcast, Bowman came home with a third-place finish, his first top-five of the season. Hendrick appears to be the team to beat to this point, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bowman hit victory lane.
12. Christopher Bell (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20)
Last Week: 8
Folds of Honor 500 Result: 21st
After a pair of top-ten runs at Las Vegas and Phoenix, Atlanta was a disappointing day for Bell. He finished outside of the top-20 and ran most of the race off of the lead lap after a slow start. Bell could be a sleeper to possibly grab his second win of the season on the dirt at Bristol, but he’ll mainly be focused on getting things back on the right track with a solid finish.
13. Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing No. 3)
Last Week: 15
Folds of Honor 500 Result: 6th
The speed of the No. 3 car so far this season has been extremely impressive. Dillon and his RCR team showed glimmers of hope last season but mainly ran well toward the end of the season. They’re getting off to a better start this year, with Dillon finishing worse than 17th just once so far. Sitting just outside of the top-ten in points, Dillon appears to be in a great position to secure a playoff spot.
14. Chris Buescher (Roush-Fenway Racing No. 17)
Last Week: 18
Folds of Honor 500 Result: 7th
Aside from Michael McDowell, Buescher is likely the biggest surprise among the current top-16 in the point standings. After a seventh-place run at Atlanta, Buescher has put himself into playoff position, and even in the early portion of the season, this has provided some very encouraging signs. Roush-Fenway appears to have taken a large step forward from 2020, which will benefit Buescher greatly.
15. Kurt Busch (Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1)
Last Week: 14
Folds of Honor 500 Result: 39th
Busch caught a rough break at Atlanta, as a stack-up on a restart caused Denny Hamlin to turn him into the wall. It’s difficult to place much blame on anyone for the accident, but the only one who it turned out poorly for was Busch, who ended up finishing dead last. It was a shame for Busch, as he had another fast car and has now dropped to 15th in the standings with a wild card race coming up.
16. Michael McDowell (Front Row Motorsports No 34)
Last Week: 12
Folds of Honor 500 Result: 19th
Though it’s easy to look at McDowell returning to mid-pack runs as a disappointment, there are still some positives to take from the No. 34 team’s performance. McDowell has finished outside of the top-20 just once and still hasn’t finished worse than 23rd. Five years ago, when Chris Buescher picked up his fog-shortened win at Pocono, he had to fight late in the season just to finish top-30 in points and sneak into the playoffs. It doesn’t appear that McDowell will be anywhere close to that position.
17. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (JTG Daugherty Racing No. 47)
Last Week: 17
Folds of Honor 500 Result: 12th
Looking at Stenhouse’s stats on the surface, there isn’t much that stands out. He has no top-ten finishes and sits 17th in points. That being said, Stenhouse has finished between 11th and 18th in every race, has picked up a solid number of stage points, and is outperforming his JTG Daugherty Racing equipment. Above all, Stenhouse is taking care of his car and avoiding incidents, something he couldn’t do last year.
18. Bubba Wallace (23XI Racing No. 23)
Last Week: 20
Folds of Honor 500 Result: 16th
Wallace is still looking for his first top-ten with 23XI Racing, but the driver and team are gradually beginning to show cohesion after a bit of a rough start. Two straight 16th-place finishes are nothing to write home about, but consistency is the first step toward contention. Wallace isn’t currently in playoff position, but at 19th in points, he is still in a position to attack the playoff bubble.
19. Matt DiBenedetto (Wood Brothers Racing No. 21)
Last Week: 24
Folds of Honor 500 Result: 11th
After an absolute nightmare start to the season, DiBenedetto has resurfaced in the top-20 of the power ranking. DiBenedetto’s past three finishes (16th, 14th, 11th) have set him up to gradually move up to 24th in the point standings. He still has a long way to go, but there’s clearly some progress being made after three awful races early on. Picking up 14 spots in the standings in four races is big, but he’ll need to continue making progress on the dirt.
20. Aric Almirola (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10)
Last Week: 16
Folds of Honor 500 Result: 20th
Though Almirola’s 20th-place finish wasn’t necessarily bad, he was likely hoping for more when it came to making up ground in the standings. After his first solid run of the year at Phoenix, Almirola’s No. 10 again appeared well off the pace compared to other top cars. The season is still early, but he’ll need some good runs to begin digging out of a 50+ point hole.
BEST OF THE REST
21. Tyler Reddick (Richard Childress Racing No. 8) LW: 19
22. Daniel Suarez (Trackhouse Racing No. 99) LW: 25
23. Cole Custer (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41) LW: 23
24. Erik Jones (Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43) LW: 22
25. Ross Chastain (Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42) LW: 26
26. Ryan Newman (Roush-Fenway Racing No. 6) LW: 27
27. Ryan Preece (JTG Daugherty Racing No. 37) LW: 21
28. Chase Briscoe (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14) LW: 28
29. Austin Cindric (Team Penske No. 33) LW: NR
30. Corey LaJoie (Spire Motorsports No. 7) LW: 29