The NASCAR Cup Series Power Ranking after the Daytona 500 is presented by Fan4Racing contributor Owen Stewart.
The NASCAR season is officially underway, and as usual, the Daytona 500 provided plenty of excitement to begin the 2023 campaign. After two overtime restarts, this year’s opener was the longest Daytona 500 in history, ending with an upset after Ricky Stenhouse Jr. took his first checkered flag since 2017. It’s difficult to make too much of a read on the field after just one race, especially at a track that provides as much uncertainty as Daytona, but the power rankings still see a bit of a shakeup heading into race number two. The top sees some minor changes, while the bottom half of the top 20 sees a few new faces and a few drivers drop out following a topsy-turvy race. There should be some more clarity following the series’ second race, as NASCAR will head to Auto Club this coming Sunday.
1. Joey Logano (Team Penske #22)
Last Week: 2
Daytona 500 Result: 2nd
Following up a championship is never easy, but Logano started his championship defense almost as well as could be hoped. He ran up front for the entirety of his duel race and secured the victory before nearly winning the 500. Logano may have had the upper hand if the caution flag hadn’t come out on the last lap, but regardless, a second-place finish and a big points day is nothing to scoff at for the No. 22 team. They tend to perform well on the upcoming West Coast swing, so there’s plenty of room for optimism for the defending champ.
2. Kyle Larson (Hendrick Motorsports #5)
Last Week: 3
Daytona 500 Result: 18th
Larson has never had too much luck at Daytona, but it appeared for a while that he may finally strike gold this year. He spent most of the final stage near or at the front of the pack, leading six laps and running firmly inside the top ten going into the final lap. Unfortunately, he was caught up in the massive wreck that brought out the race’s last caution, and had to settle for an 18th-place, and had to settle for an 18th-place finish. If there’s any consolation for Larson, Auto Club has traditionally been one of his best tracks. With a bounce back this weekend at Auto Club Speedway, he can avenge his disappointing Daytona finish.
3. Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports #9)
Last Week: 1
Daytona 500 Result: 38th
After getting caught up in a mid-race wreck that claimed Tyler Reddick and Erik Jones, the 2020 champion had an unsettling start to his 2023 season at Daytona. Chase Elliott isn’t likely to overreact after one race, but no one finds it fun to dig out of a hole. The key for him will be staying composed in his next couple of races and keeping the car clean; a couple of poor races strung together can become a serious hamper on championship hopes.
4. Ross Chastain (Trackhouse Racing #1)
Last Week: 4
Daytona 500 Result: 9th
Chastain had a great day in the 500, continuing to build off his superspeedway successes in 2022. He drove his car to the front and held off the field for a stage win. He then stayed out of trouble to manage a top ten at the checkered flag in the season opener. After making the Championship 4 in his first year with Trackhouse Racing last season, Chastain appears here to stay. He’s always exciting to watch with his aggressive driving style, and I’d be shocked to not see him return to victory lane sooner rather than later.
5. Christopher Bell (Joe Gibbs Racing #20)
Last Week: 7
Daytona 500 Result: 3rd
Bell had an eventful day, as he led 20 laps and finished in the top ten in Stage 2 before getting a penalty for running over equipment. He took advantage of the carnage of the final stage to gradually work his way back to the front, eventually bringing home a third-place result. After a breakout season that saw Bell win three races and make his first Championship 4 appearance, he’ll be looked at more seriously as a contender this season. After one race, things are looking pretty good for the No. 20, and he’ll be glad he got off to a good start heading into Auto Club. In two starts at the California two-miler, Bell has finished 36th and 38th.
6. Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing #11)
Last Week: 5
Daytona 500 Result: 17th
Hamlin had a disappointing race at Daytona, considering we usually see him in contention for the checkered flag. He led six laps and was running near the front before being caught up in a late accident, but as the race developed, he was never one of the favorites to win. Despite that, he did bring home a decent finish. Inside the top 20, he was able to avoid the post-Daytona hole that many drivers now find themselves in. Hamlin will look to rebound at Auto Club, where he has a chance at finding his first win in 21 starts at the track.
7. Ryan Blaney (Team Penske #12)
Last Week: 6
Daytona 500 Result: 8th
Honestly, it’s a miracle that Blaney was able to finish the race, much less take the checkered flag inside the top ten. Getting caught up in a wreck and suffering significant right front damage, Blaney later lost a wheel off the same right front. Incredibly, he wheeled the car back to pit road for service on the rim, and continue his battle throughout. Blaney’s perseverance through the final stage was a sight to behold, and it keeps him in a great position heading out to the West Coast.
8. Kyle Busch (Richard Childress Racing #8)
Last Week: 9
Daytona 500 Result: 19th
Daytona just hasn’t been very kind to Busch throughout his career. Despite being a two-time champion and 60-time race winner, Busch has never been able to take home a Daytona 500. For a while, Busch was hanging on for the victory. But, he and teammate Austin Dillon briefly became disconnected before Dillon spun and was caught up in a massive wreck. Busch was able to continue but did not finish the race after being swallowed up in the last-lap debacle that ended the race. Unfortunately, he did not finish the race after being swallowed up in the last-lap debacle that ended the season opener. All in all, a top-20 finish is far from the worst-case scenario, and Busch’s four career wins at Auto Club will make him one of the favorites heading into the next race.
9. Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing #4)
Last Week: 11
Daytona 500 Result: 12th
While Harvick’s final (for now) Daytona 500 didn’t result in a win or even a top-ten finish, it still felt like a somewhat successful race for the No. 4 team. Harvick ran near the front for most of the race and felt like a contender to win. He ran all 212 laps and kept the car relatively clean throughout, bringing home a solid points day in a race where many contenders struggled. Harvick has had some success at Auto Club, with a win and seven top-five finishes in 28 career starts at the track, so he’ll look to build on his 12th-place finish next week.
10. Tyler Reddick (23XI Racing #45)
Last Week: 8
Daytona 500 Result: 39th
Reddick might be at the top of the list of drivers who would like to forget that Daytona ever happened. He got caught up in the day’s first big wreck, ending his day on lap 117 and handing him a 39th-place finish to get his season underway. With plenty of time left in the season, Reddick can still turn things around, but he obviously would have preferred a better start to his tenure with 23XI Racing. The track at Auto Club Speedway is where Reddick may find some success. He led 90 laps there last year despite finishing outside the top 20 and could be a sleeper to pick up a checkered flag in the season’s second race..
11. William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports #24)
Last Week: 10
Daytona 500 Result: 34th
Daytona has not been kind to Byron throughout the past couple of seasons. After finishing second in the summer 2019 race and winning the summer 2020 race, Byron has followed that up with five consecutive finishes outside the top 25, including three finishes of 34th or worse. It’s safe to say he’s excited to move on to a track where he may be less likely to end up on the wrecker. Byron did lead 16 laps last year at Auto Club before getting caught up in a wreck with Tyler Reddick and finishing 34th. He’ll hope to stay away from the wall this time and rebound from a rough start to the season.
12. Alex Bowman (Hendrick Motorsports #48)
Last Week: 14
Daytona 500 Result: 5th
As his teammate one spot above him, Bowman hasn’t had a good track record at Daytona lately. Coming into this year’s race, he had just three top-ten finishes in ten starts at the track since joining Hendrick Motorsports, with all three coming in the summer edition of the race. Bowman started the week by continuing his incredible run in qualifying, taking the pole for his sixth consecutive front-row start in the 500. This year, however, he sealed the deal and completed a very successful week, finishing in the top five for the first time. Bowman has to be happy with this start, as it puts him in a great position heading into Auto Club, a track where he has just one top ten (albeit a win) in six career starts.
13. Martin Truex Jr. (Joe Gibbs Racing #19)
Last Week: 12
Daytona 500 Result: 15th
It wasn’t a poor result for Truex, as he brought home a top-15 finish with a significantly damaged car, but it feels like something always goes wrong at Daytona for the No. 19 team. They looked like one of the race’s best cars, and Truex led 13 laps, but the accident he got caught up in ended his chance at picking up his first Daytona 500 win. Truex is still looking to break a winless streak that dates back to late in the 2021 season, but Auto Club is a track where he may make it happen. The veteran driver has four top-ten runs, including a win, in his last seven starts at the two-mile oval. He may not be one of the favorites coming into the weekend, but Truex should never be counted out at any track.
14. Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing #3)
Last Week: 15
Daytona 500 Result: 33rd
After winning the summer Daytona race in 2022, it looked for a brief moment like Dillon had a chance to not only go back-to-back at the track but also had a chance to win his second Daytona 500. Unfortunately, he was unable to hang onto his car and spun, causing a massive wreck in the closing laps and securing a disappointing final result. Despite the poor finish, Dillon once again showed his superspeedway prowess throughout the race. He showed that he shouldn’t be forgotten in a powerful field. Dillon has finished 11th or better in five of his eight career Auto Club starts, including a runner-up finish last year. He’ll be in a good position to put together a solid day and make up for the points hole he finds himself in.
15. Chase Briscoe (Stewart-Haas Racing #14)
Last Week: 13
Daytona 500 Result: 35th
Briscoe saw his day end after getting involved in an accident on Lap 182. Otherwise, he had a relatively quiet day beforehand, running just 11 percent of his laps inside the top 15. After a breakout season that saw Briscoe make a run to the Round of 8 last season, expectations will be high for this year, and he’ll feel some pressure, even this early in the season, to bounce back. Briscoe has just one career start at Auto Club, so there isn’t much to go off of regarding his performance, but he’ll be hoping to build off of a 16th-place finish at the track last year.
16. Austin Cindric (Team Penske #2)
Last Week: 16
Daytona 500 Result: 23rd
At first glance, Cindric’s 23rd-place finish won’t raise anyone’s eyebrows. After all, he won last season’s Daytona 500 and came into this season’s race as one of the favorites. However, when you look further into the analytics of Cindric’s performance, it’s clear he was still one of the best drivers on the track before suffering damage in a last-lap wreck. Cindric led the race with 299 quality passes and ran over 85 percent of the race inside the top 15, also the highest of any driver. Cindric’s average running position of 9.5 was fourth best, and his 97.4 driver rating ranked fifth. None of this will take away from Cindric’s disappointment, but they at least show that last year’s win was no fluke.
17. Daniel Suarez (Trackhouse Racing #99)
Last Week: 17
Daytona 500 Result: 7th
Suarez had an eventful day at Daytona. He was caught up in the first major wreck, surviving with moderate damage. He was then the primary culprit of a later wreck that included Kyle Busch and many other contenders. Suarez did, however, bring his No. 99 Trackhouse Racing machine home in seventh place, his first-ever top ten at the track. Incredibly, aside from Duel races, it was also the first race at Daytona where Suarez completed every single lap. Suarez couldn’t have asked for a much better start, and he’ll look to build off of last year’s impressive fourth-place finish at Auto Club.
18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (JTG Daugherty Racing #47)
Last Week: 29
Daytona 500 Result: 1st
Every time the Cup Series heads to either Daytona or Talladega, Stenhouse is one to watch. He’s always in the mix late in the race if he doesn’t wreck early. That being said, it had been nearly six years since Stenhouse made it to victory lane, and he was seen as a serious longshot to win Daytona. On Sunday, the veteran driver finally made it happen, bringing JTG Daugherty Racing their first Cup win since A.J. Allmendinger won at Watkins Glen in 2014. It was an incredible drive from Stenhouse, who (for now) has locked down a playoff spot. Stenhouse also finished tenth last year at Auto Club, so this is his chance to get off to a flying start this season.
19. A.J. Allmendinger (Kaulig Racing #16)
Last Week: 21
Daytona 500 Result: 6th
One of the more intriguing changes in the off-season was Allmendinger returning to full-time Cup Series racing for the first time since 2018, joining Kaulig Racing after two very successful Xfinity seasons with the team. His career resurgence is off to a terrific start after he brought home a top-ten finish at Daytona, battling back after going a lap down early in the race. He may have angered some drivers with his antics in an effort to get the free pass, but in the end, it worked out, and it was an impressive drive to get himself back into contention. It’s a bit difficult to project what we’ll see from Allmendinger at Auto Club, but he did finish eighth there twice in five starts with JTG Daugherty from 2014-2018.
20. Bubba Wallace (23XI Racing #23)
Last Week: 19
Daytona 500 Result: 20th
One of a few drivers swallowed up in the last-lap crash, Wallace did not get to the finish line. He officially finished in 20th place. Wallace didn’t run up front quite as much as we’re used to seeing from him at Daytona, running just 23.6% of laps inside the top 15. That said he did lead five laps, even though his day ended on the wrecker. Finishing inside the top 20 means things could have been much worse. Wallace hasn’t finished better than 19th in four career starts at Auto Club, so he’ll be looking to buck that trend this weekend and hang on to a spot in these power rankings.
BEST OF THE REST
21. Chris Buescher (RFK Racing #17) LW: 24
22. Aric Almirola (Stewart-Haas Racing #10) LW: 22
23. Erik Jones (Legacy Motor Co. #43) LW: 18
24. Ty Gibbs (Joe Gibbs Racing #54) LW: 20
25. Brad Keselowski (RFK Racing #6) LW: 26
26. Michael McDowell (Front Row Motorsports #34) LW: 23
27. Ryan Preece (Stewart-Haas Racing #41) LW: 27
28. Justin Haley (Kaulig Racing #31) LW: 25
29. Noah Gragson (Legacy Motor Co. #42) LW: 28
30. Harrison Burton (Wood Brothers Racing #21) LW: 30