The NASCAR Cup Series Power Ranking after Las Vegas is presented by Fan4Racing contributor Owen Stewart this week.
The NASCAR season is long, and with just three out of 36 total races completed, the picture is still a little foggy. That being said, with Las Vegas, the first intermediate track on the schedule, out of the way, the power ranking is getting clearer. Saturday was dominated by Team Penske, as defending champion Joey Logano took the pole with his teammate Ryan Blaney also starting close to the front. On Sunday, the race changed the power players in a big way, as Hendrick Motorsports was the class of the field. William Byron swept the stages and took advantage of a late-race restart to hold off teammates Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman for his first win of the season. With this race in mind, the power ranking has a new number one and plenty of changes throughout the top 20.
NOTE: With Chase Elliott out for a significant amount of time, I have elected to remove him from the rankings until he returns.
The NASCAR Cup Series Power Ranking after Las Vegas
1. Kyle Larson (Hendrick Motorsports #5)
Last Week: 4
Pennzoil 400 Result: 2nd
Current Championship Odds (Season-Opening Odds): +700 (+600)
Larson will have a bone to pick with Aric Almirola after his spin in the closing laps brought out a caution. That caution stole a sure victory from Larson, as he had a sizable lead over teammate William Byron. Unfortunately, the final restart did not go Larson’s way, as he did not track down Byron on the last lap. Larson still made the day strong, leading 63 laps and posting an average running spot of second place. The checkered flag hasn’t fallen for Larson yet this season, as he seems to be back to his dominant self. Larson has been great as of late at Phoenix, with a win, four top fives, and seven top tens in his last eight starts at the track. The race will provide an early championship preview, and Larson can set the tone by returning to victory lane.
2. Ross Chastain (Trackhouse Racing #1)
Last Week: 3
Pennzoil 400 Result: 12th
Current Championship Odds (Season-Opening Odds): +1200 (+1200)
Is anyone looking for a value bet for the NASCAR championship? Chastain has increased his odds for a title early in the season. Arguably the best driver in the series, he has three consecutive races with three stage wins. Chastain may have finished outside the top ten at Las Vegas, but he ran the entire race inside the top 15, with an average running position of fifth. Chastain ranks second in the series in laps led (97) and driver rating (101.5) in three races this season and is a true contender. In addition, Chastain has an excellent chance to keep his momentum rolling this weekend. He finished in the top three in both Phoenix races last year and will be one of the favorites to win the championship race in November.
3. Joey Logano (Team Penske #22)
Last Week: 1
Pennzoil 400 Result: 36th
Current Championship Odds (Season-Opening Odds): +1000 (+1100) After bringing home the pole award on Saturday, Logano had a great chance to earn another checkered flag at Las Vegas. The 1.5-mile oval is where he has enjoyed consistent success. When the green flag dropped, however, it was clear that Logano had a car incapable of running up front. Struggling in the first part of the race, Logano was looking at a long day. Then, just as he was starting to rally, an accident ended his day. One short race won’t be more than a blip on the radar for Logano, who was off to a terrific start at Daytona and Auto Club. Las Vegas is a missed opportunity, sure, but nothing that can’t be bounced back from. After all, the last time Logano raced at Phoenix, he took home the championship.
4. Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing #11)
Last Week: 6
Pennzoil 400 Result: 11th
Current Championship Odds (Season-Opening Odds): +800 (+800)
Hamlin didn’t quite bring home a second consecutive top-ten finish, but he ran well throughout the day, continuing his strong start to his season. Hamlin currently leads the series in quality passes (427), a stat that surpasses the other top 15 cars, Making it a great indicator of actual speed. This coincides with running over 90 percent of his laps in the top 15, also leading the series. Hamlin will have a good chance to continue to build momentum, as he’s been successful over the years at Phoenix. He won at the track in 2012 and 2019 and has seven finishes of eighth or better in his last ten starts.
5. Alex Bowman (Hendrick Motorsports #48)
Last Week: 8
Pennzoil 400 Result: 3rd
Current Championship Odds (Season-Opening Odds): +2500 (+3000)
Over the past couple of years, speed hasn’t been the problem for Bowman, but consistency has been a bit of an issue. It’s early in the season, but Bowman seems to be putting those concerns to bed with his performance. He is one of only six full-time drivers to complete all 683 possible laps with an average finish of 5.3. Bowman sits second in points and fourth in driver rating (98.8), behind only Hamlin, Chastain, and teammate William Byron. If Bowman can tame Phoenix, a track that has notoriously given him trouble, it may be time to consider him a legitimate championship contender. Bowman hasn’t finished better than 13th at the one-mile track since 2016.
6. Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing #4)
Last Week: 7
Pennzoil 400 Result: 9th
Current Championship Odds (Season-Opening Odds): +1600 (+1800)
With how much the Stewart-Haas Racing organization has struggled early in the season, Harvick has performances making him a massive outlier. His cars do not give him race-winning speed to this point. Despite that, he keeps his cars inside the top ten to bring home solid finishes. To put that in perspective, Harvick is currently third in points. His three teammates sit 21st (Almirola), 31st (Preece), and 32nd (Briscoe). Even in his last season, Harvick is out-driving his equipment, and, as usual, he’ll be one of the favorites to win at Phoenix. Harvick has an incredible 19 consecutive top-ten finishes at the track, including four straight wins from 2013-2015.
7. Kyle Busch (Richard Childress Racing #8)
Last Week: 5
Pennzoil 400 Result: 14th
Current Championship Odds (Season-Opening Odds): +750 (+1200)
Perhaps no one has seen their stock rise more this season than Busch. After coming into the season as somewhat of a wild card, he is now the second-best odds to win the championship, trailing only Kyle Larson. Busch didn’t have a great day at his home track, even hitting the wall twice, but persevered with a poor handling car to at least achieve a top 15 finish and some stage points. Busch doesn’t have quite the insane consistency at Phoenix that we see from Kevin Harvick, but he’s won at the track three times in his career and has finished worse than 11th just once since 2014. It would not be shocking if he picks up his second victory this season.
8. Christopher Bell (Joe Gibbs Racing #20)
Last Week: 9
Pennzoil 400 Result: 5th
Current Championship Odds (Season-Opening Odds): +1200 (+1200)
This season has already become a roller-coaster for Bell, who has picked up top-five finishes at Daytona and Las Vegas, but DNF’d at Auto Club. Even with the one poor finish, Bell finds himself firmly inside the top ten in points. The underlying stats are somewhat underwhelming, as less than half of Bell’s passes have been quality passes (passing a car in the top 15), and he is just 14th in driver rating, but it’s hard to argue with his place in the standings. Bell has three top-ten finishes in six career starts at Phoenix but has yet to finish better than ninth. He’ll be a driver looking to break through and pick up another solid finish, further boosting his position.
9. William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports #24)
Last Week: 15
Pennzoil 400 Result: 1st
Current Championship Odds (Season-Opening Odds): +900 (+1200)
Sunday was Byron’s race to lose, but for a while, it appeared as if he had done just that. After sweeping the stages, Byron fell close to five seconds behind teammate Kyle Larson before a caution caused a late-race restart. Byron took advantage of the restart, passing Martin Truex Jr. and holding off Larson for his first win of the season, a well-deserved victory. After starting the season with finishes of 34th and 25th, the 60 points Byron earned from Las Vegas helped him climb from 29th to 13th in points. Byron has yet to record a top-five finish at Phoenix but does have four top-tens in his last six starts at the track, so there’s a decent chance he’ll continue to rise.
10. Martin Truex Jr. (Joe Gibbs Racing #19)
Last Week: 12
Pennzoil 400 Result: 7th
Current Championship Odds (Season-Opening Odds): +1600 (+1100)
The end of the race may not have worked out for Truex, but he made an admirable gamble in the closing laps. Truex elected not to pit on a late caution, assuming the lead and was able to hold off the Hendrick brigade for about half of the remaining laps. He wound up dropping out of the top five but finished right around where he would have finished if he had pitted. That move from the No. 19 shows he’s searching for a win, as his winless drought dates back to Richmond in 2021. Truex has had some past success at Phoenix, including a win and a runner-up finish in 2021. Truex is still searching for that elusive victory, but he’s shown plenty of speed this year, and his playoff chances are looking good early on after he missed out last year.
11. Ryan Blaney (Team Penske #12)
Last Week: 10
Pennzoil 400 Result: 13th
Current Championship Odds (Season-Opening Odds): +1000 (+1000)
Honesty, Blaney should be happy about his 15th-place position in the point standings so far. He surprisingly managed a top ten at Daytona with a mangled car, finished off the lead lap at Auto Club, and was dealt with a poorly handling car at Las Vegas. From the early part of the race, it was clear that Blaney (and the Team Penske organization ) didn’t have their best car. However, his ability to still grind out a decent 13th-place finish speaks to his skill and adaptability as a driver. Blaney would prefer to run more smoothly at Phoenix, a track where he’s finished sixth or better in six of his last eight starts.
12. Daniel Suarez (Trackhouse Racing #99)
Last Week: 14
Pennzoil 400 Result: 10th
Current Championship Odds (Season-Opening Odds): +4000 (+5000)
Suarez has turned his game up another notch in 2023 after an impressive 2022 season that saw him reach the Round of 12. So far, Suarez has finished top ten in all three races, joining Alex Bowman as the only driver to have accomplished that feat. He had fast speed at Auto Club and ran in the top ten for most of the race at Las Vegas. Trackhouse Racing has arguably been the second-fastest team (behind Hendrick), and Suarez’s potential for this season continues to rise. Since joining Trackhouse, Suarez has finished outside the top 20 in three of four starts at Phoenix, so this will be a chance to see just how far Suarez and the team have come.
13. Tyler Reddick (23XI Racing #45)
Last Week: 13
Pennzoil 400 Result: 15th
Current Championship Odds (Season-Opening Odds): +2000 (+1500)
To say the season hasn’t been smooth for Reddick would be an understatement. He bowed out early at Daytona and Auto Club and then had to start in the rear at Las Vegas after an engine change. Reddick flew through the field early on before stalling out in the tenth-15th range and running in that area for the rest of the race. Some growing pains are always expected when a driver moves to a new team and manufacturer, so it’s hard to worry about Reddick’s start to the season. Currently, he is tied with Travis Pastrana (who only ran Daytona) in points. He finished third in the spring Phoenix race last year, a feat he’ll be looking to replicate this weekend.
14. Austin Cindric (Team Penske #2)
Last Week: 18
Pennzoil 400 Result: 6th
Current Championship Odds (Season-Opening Odds): +5000 (+5000)
Cindric seemingly appeared out of nowhere in Las Vegas, racing to a finish of sixth despite an average running position outside the top 15. Team Penske struggled mightily for speed at Vegas, but Cindric’s finish allowed him to outpace both of his teammates and was an impressive result on a day where he didn’t have the raw pace. Those are the finishes that keep a season going, and Cindric’s current 17th-place position in the standings is evidence of that. Cindric struggled somewhat at Phoenix last season, with an average finish of 17.5, but it’s hard to put too much stock into just two races. Cindric hopes his car puts him in a better position to succeed this coming Sunday.
15. Bubba Wallace (23XI Racing #23)
Last Week: 22
Pennzoil 400 Result: 4th
Current Championship Odds (Season-Opening Odds): +4000 (+4000)
Perhaps no one needed a strong, clean race more than Wallace, who had cars unable to finish at Daytona or Auto Club. The NASCAR gods smiled upon Wallace in Las Vegas. He completed the race by avoiding trouble and taking the checkered flag inside the top five. Wallace’s underlying stats show some incredible speed this year. He’s run close to 70 percent of his completed laps inside the top 15, higher than drivers such as Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez, and Ryan Blaney. Wallace hopes to string together a couple of good races, though Phoenix has never been one of his best tracks. Wallace has just one career top ten at the one-miler, all the way back in 2018, and has finished 22nd or worse in three straight.
16. Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing #3)
Last Week: 11
Pennzoil 400 Result: 27th
Current Championship Odds (Season-Opening Odds): +10000 (+25000)
Not sure what happened to Dillon at Las Vegas, as he was extremely slow for the entire race. Dillon finished multiple laps down purely on speed (or lack thereof) in a wildly disappointing day. Even with Dillon’s top-ten finish at Auto Club, he still ranks 26th in points, leaving much work to do with the West Coast swing wrapping up. Phoenix has been a mediocre track for Dillon, as each of his last five starts has resulted in a finish between 13th and 21st. Though a finish like that wouldn’t hurt Dillon all that much, it certainly won’t help make up the ground he’s lost. Wallace may need to up his effort over the next couple of weeks.
17. Brad Keselowski (RFK Racing #6)
Last Week: 20
Pennzoil 400 Result: 17th
Current Championship Odds (Season-Opening Odds): +4000 (+6000)
After an underwhelming 2022 season where Keselowski was never even an actual playoff threat, this season seems to be taking a turn for the better as a driver-owner for RFK Racing. Though his finishing position won’t pop out at anyone, Keselowski was the fastest Ford on track for most of Sunday’s race and ran the majority of the laps inside the top ten. Keselowski’s 68.1 percent quality pass ratio ranks him third in the series, and his 91.6 driver rating puts him sixth, ahead of drivers such as Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. Keselowski has never won at Phoenix but had sustained success there early in his career, and he’ll look to keep his momentum rolling.
18. Chris Buescher (RFK Racing #17)
Last Week: 16
Pennzoil 400 Result: 21st
Current Championship Odds (Season-Opening Odds): +10000 (+10000)
Buescher’s day wasn’t all that great at Vegas, but even after getting sandwiched into the wall and taking some significant damage, he wheeled his car to a 21st-place result. Certainly not stellar, but not back-breaking either. Through three races, Buescher finds himself tenth in points, a solid place to be especially considering the unpredictability of the first couple of races. Buescher finished top ten in the spring Phoenix race last season, but that is the only top ten he’s ever recorded at the track. With the steps forward that RFK Racing has taken, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him double that total on Sunday.
19. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (JTG Daugherty Racing #47)
Last Week: 19
Pennzoil 400 Result: 24th
Current Championship Odds (Season-Opening Odds): +6600 (+50000)
After picking up a big upset win at Daytona and driving another solid race at Auto Club, Las Vegas was a ‘come back to Earth’ moment for Stenhouse and JTG Daugherty Racing. Though Stenhouse finished just one lap down, his car lacked the speed necessary to even run inside the top 20, and he already finds himself down to 12th in series points. Stenhouse is never a driver to count out, even in mid-tier equipment. So, he could be a candidate to bounce back at Phoenix, but to do that, he’ll need to buck his recent trend. Stenhouse has finished outside the top 20 in five of his last six starts at the track, including 28th or worse in his past three attempts.
20. Erik Jones (Legacy Motor Co. #43)
Last Week: 21
Pennzoil 400 Result: 19th
Current Championship Odds (Season-Opening Odds): +10000 (+10000)
Nothing to write home about for Jones, who wasn’t quite able to hang onto the lead lap at Las Vegas, but did at least secure a top-20 finish. Points-wise, the early season has been rough for Jones, as he sits 28th through three races, but the analytics tell a slightly different story. Jones has 53.2 percent of his completed laps inside the top 15, showing that he has speed when he isn’t suffering from a DNF. Jones is still searching for his first top-ten finish of the year, but it doesn’t appear all that likely at Phoenix. Since joining the No. 43 team, Jones has just two top-20 finishes in six starts and a best finish of 14th.
BEST OF THE REST
21. Chase Briscoe (Stewart-Haas Racing #14) LW: 17
22. Aric Almirola (Stewart-Haas Racing #10) LW: 24
23. A.J. Allmendinger (Kaulig Racing #16) LW: 26
24. Justin Haley (Kaulig Racing #31) LW: 27
25. Ty Gibbs (Joe Gibbs Racing #54) LW: 23
26. Corey LaJoie (Spire Motorsports #7) LW: 30
27. Michael McDowell (Front Row Motorsports #34) LW: 25
28. Ryan Preece (Stewart-Haas Racing #41) LW: 29
29. Harrison Burton (Wood Brothers Racing #21) LW: 28
30. Noah Gragson (Legacy Motor Co. #42) LW: NR