The NASCAR Cup Series Power Ranking after Atlanta Motor Speedway and the Ambetter 400 on Sunday afternoon.
The West Coast swing has officially concluded, with the Cup Series visiting Atlanta Motor Speedway this past Sunday. Atlanta is no longer the track it was once and now resembles more of a superspeedway in the way the cars drive, making the result much more unpredictable. But you wouldn’t have known that by watching Sunday’s race.
The NASCAR Cup Serie Power Ranking after Atlanta
Joey Logano won the pole in a Penske-dominated qualifying session and led over half the total laps. Logano picked up his first win in his title defense season, holding off a late charge from former teammate Brad Keselowski, and also assumed the points lead following the race. Logano’s win caused a pretty sizable shakeup in the top five, especially as some other top drivers struggled badly and saw their days end early.
1. Joey Logano (Team Penske #22)
Ambetter Health 400 Result: 1st
Logano wasn’t going to let this one slip through his fingers. After running two solid races to start the season but not finishing either with a victory, Logano led 140 laps at Atlanta and used a late pass on former teammate Brad Keselowski to pick up his first win of 2023. It was a dominant performance for the Penske driver, as he started on the pole and had an average running position of 4.1 throughout the 260 laps. Logano is now the series points leader after five races, and his title defense is off to a great start. With Circuit of the Americas next up on the schedule, Logano will look to pick up just the second road course win of his career. Despite a 31st-place finish at COTA last season, he did pick up 15 stage points with an early-race strong run.
2. Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing #11)
Ambetter Health 400 Result: 6th
It looked for all the world that Hamlin would have a crack at the win. He led 14 laps and had an average running position of 6.3, staying near the front for the entire day. Unfortunately, Hamlin was somewhat stuck in the pack, finishing outside the top five. It was still another solid run for the No. 11 car, but a couple of bad breaks early in the season have Hamlin sitting just ninth in the point standings. Look at the analytics to see the success and consistency of Hamlin. He has run an astounding 94.5 percent of all laps inside the top 15 and leads the series in quality pass percentage (73.9 percent) and driver rating (101.3). By his standards, Hamlin hasn’t had much success at road courses in his career, but one win and 13 top fives in 46 career starts aren’t too shabby. So COTA could be another chance for a good points day.
3. Kyle Larson (Hendrick Motorsports #5)
Ambetter Health 400 Result: 31st
The past week and a half have not been kind to Larson. First, he was passed by teammate William Byron for the win at Phoenix. Then, he was one of the drivers handed a 100-point penalty for illegal parts modifications, with massive implications. Finally, he was an innocent victim caught up in a wreck after Aric Almirola blew a tire from the lead. Larson was in second place when the incident happened, meaning he missed many points. Speed-wise, Larson is still in a great spot. He leads the series in laps led (270) and fastest laps (127), and is sixth in driver rating (93.7). Larson has recorded stage points in three of four stages at COTA and finished second in 2021, so he’ll have a good chance at redemption this coming weekend.
4. William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports #24)
Ambetter Health 400 Result: 32nd
Racing was bound to swing the other way for Byron after winning back-to-back races, but similar to his teammate one spot above him, this week was a rough one. Byron also took the 100-point penalty and saw his day end early at Atlanta with a finishing position outside the top 30. Luckily for Byron, his two wins mean his playoff spot isn’t in jeopardy regardless of his point standings, but he’d still like to dig himself out of this hole. Byron has finishes of 11th and 12th at COTA, and while those results won’t jump off the page, a similar finish would at least keep him on the right track toward making up the lost ground caused by the penalty.
5. Ross Chastain (Trackhouse Racing #1)
Ambetter Health 400 Result: 13th
It was a surprisingly quiet day at Atlanta for Chastain. He did lead five laps but also ran just 31.5 percent of the race inside the top 15, with an average running position of 16.9. The finishing result won’t cause many complaints, especially considering how many competitive cars ended their race on the wrecker. But it did feel like a race where Chastain could take advantage of his aggressiveness and take his car to the win. Chastain still sits third in points, but an interesting stat is that he is just 16th in quality pass percentage among drivers who have attempted all five races. That isn’t to say that Chastain’s car hasn’t been fast this year, but there may be more desired than the standings will show. Luckily, we head to COTA this weekend, the track where Chastain picked up his first career win just last year.
6. Christopher Bell (Joe Gibbs Racing #20)
Ambetter Health 400 Result: 3rd
Aside from Auto Club, where he wrecked out early and finished 32nd, Bell has yet to finish a race worse than sixth in a race this year. This consistency has pushed Bell to second in the points standings, and he is one of just two drivers (Alex Bowman) with four top-ten finishes already this year. Early this year, Bell is establishing himself as one of the championship contenders after making a surprising run to the Championship 4 last season. There’s a good chance that run continues, as Bell has succeeded on road courses throughout his young career. His first win came at the Daytona Road Course in 2021, and he won last fall’s race at the Charlotte ROVAL, then finished third at COTA last year.
7. Alex Bowman (Hendrick Motorsports #48)
Ambetter Health 400 Result: 14th
Due to his incredible start to the season, Bowman wasn’t inflicted too much pain by the Hendrick penalties. Bowman has already worked his way back to 20th in the standings, just 26 points out of a playoff position. His Atlanta race was decent, with a top-15 finish and an average running position of 11.1. Nothing too crazy, but nothing that will hurt him either. Especially with how many good cars ended the race with a DNF next to their name, Bowman helped himself more than hurt himself. Last year at COTA, he entered the last corner of the race with a chance to win before Ross Chastain left nothing to chance, moving Bowman and A.J. Allmendinger for the win. He also finished top ten at COTA in 2021, opening an opportunity to build on a solid start.
8. Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing #4)
Ambetter Health 400 Result: 33rd
Of all drivers, Harvick is probably the one with the most disdain for the changes made to the Atlanta track. Before the reconfiguration, it was a track he had a ton of success at, including his first career win. Even with the new superspeedway layout, Harvick found himself back at the front on Sunday before he lost control of his car and wrecked, ending his day early. After entering the race as the points leader, Harvick now sits sixth, still in good standing but not nearly as advantageous as previously. In 56 career road course starts, Harvick has two wins and 12 top-fives. Those numbers aren’t stellar, but they show that he’s at least put together some good runs at times. He’ll look to build on those numbers on Sunday and climb back toward the points lead.
9. Tyler Reddick (23XI Racing #45)
Ambetter Health 400 Result: 5th
Reddick has officially turned around his season. He started the year with consecutive DNFs at Daytona and Auto Club and finished just 15th at Las Vegas. Since then, however, he has put up consecutive top-five results at Phoenix and Atlanta, picking up stage points in each. A stat that stands out for Reddick this season is his pass differential, which stands at an incredible +120 through five races. For reference, Martin Truex Jr. is second in pass differential at +82. Although his numbers do not always lead to good finishing positions, his stats prove Reddick can pass cars. He’ll look to extend his hot streak at COTA, a track where he finished fifth last year and ninth in 2021.
10. Ryan Blaney (Team Penske #12)
Ambetter Health 400 Result: 7th
Blaney has had an intriguing start to the year. He has three top-ten finishes despite not having too many clean races. At Atlanta, Blaney had to perform a pass-through penalty under a green flag run and briefly went multiple laps down before working his way back into the lead draft and ultimately into the top ten. Blaney continues to climb the standings and now sits in fourth despite his up-and-down start to the year. If he can run a pair of smooth races, it seems a checkered flag could be in his near future. Blaney ran well at COTA last year with a sixth-place finish and has had past successes at road courses, including a win at the Charlotte ROVAL.
11. Brad Keselowski (RFK Racing #6)
Ambetter Health 400 Result: 2nd
My previous rankings are reviewed weekly, and I wonder how I put Keselowski outside the top 25 coming into the season. Even considering his rough 2022 season, I should have known better. Keselowski’s talent, with a year of driver-owner experience, should equal a significant uptick in success. Nevertheless, his meteoric rise up the ranking continues after he nearly won this weekend at Atlanta. Keselowski has run 85.7 percent of laps inside the top 15 (third in the series) and is fourth with a 96.3 driver rating. These first five races aren’t a mirage; Keselowski is back. He’ll be looking for his first career road course win this coming weekend, as 38 career starts have yielded a pole, seven top fives, and 11 top tens, but no checkered flags.
12. Kyle Busch (Richard Childress Racing #8)
Ambetter Health 400 Result: 10th
Busch dropping a few spots this week is more a product of other drivers impressing than Busch disappointing. After all, Busch earned a top-ten finish in a race where plenty of drivers didn’t bring their cars home in a good position. It was his third top-ten finish this season, a great start to his first year with Richard Childress Racing. One of the biggest keys has been Busch keeping his car clean; he has completed 1259 of 1260 laps and has run over 76 percent of those laps inside the top 15. It looks like the Kyle Busch of old may have returned. Though his two starts at COTA haven’t been great, Busch does have five career wins on road courses, so he’ll be one of the favorites this coming weekend.
13. Martin Truex Jr. (Joe Gibbs Racing #19)
Ambetter Health 400 Result: 19th
Truex has not been flashy this season, with just one top-ten in five races. With the craziness of competitive drivers taking DNFs and penalties, Truex’s style has kept him inside the top ten of the points. Of course, it helps that he hasn’t finished a race worse than 19th, and Truex is also one of only four drivers to have completed all possible laps. How sustainable is his strategy? Truex is just 15th in both quality pass percentage and percentage of laps inside the top 15. He has four career road course wins and finished seventh at COTA last year, however, so he may be able to rise in the ranking for both of those categories this weekend.
14. Daniel Suarez (Trackhouse Racing #99)
Ambetter Health 400 Result: 29th
Even before wrecking out with Aric Almirola and Kyle Larson, Suarez wasn’t running great this past weekend. His average running position of 17.1 left more to be desired, especially with the speed that Trackhouse has had this season. That being said, Suarez’s start to the season still looks more than average, as he sits tenth in points and has already recorded three top-ten finishes. Suarez has finished 24th and 33rd in two starts at COTA, but that doesn’t tell the story of his road course success. Suarez owns a victory at Sonoma last year and has five top-five finishes in 23 career road course starts, so there’s a good chance that he’ll bounce back from his two previous poor finishes in Austin.
15. Austin Cindric (Team Penske #2)
Ambetter Health 400 Result: 11th
Cindric has somewhat flown under the radar this season, as he is currently 11th in points despite having just one top-ten and having led just five laps. Luckily for Cindric, one of those five laps was the final lap of Stage 2 last Sunday, giving him a playoff point that he can carry down the line. Though the race ended with Cindric in 11th, he spent most of the race near the front with an average running position of 7.5. It was probably the best race he’s driven so far this season, but there’s a good chance that changes this coming weekend. Cindric is one of the series’ best road course racers, and he will be among the favorites this time around.
16. Bubba Wallace (23XI Racing #23)
Ambetter Health 400 Result: 27th
His race at Atlanta didn’t start well for Wallace, as he spun into the inside wall within the first dozen laps. Luckily, Wallace’s car wasn’t terminally damaged, as he continued and eventually finished the race. Unfortunately, Wallace finished the race well off the pace and outside of the top 25. The race at Atlanta will go down as a missed opportunity, as many playoff contenders had rough days at the track, but the race did not allow Wallace to move up the standings. With COTA next up on the schedule, Wallace will have to hope for a change in fortune. He has finished 39th and 38th in two starts at the track, and he has yet to finish in either race.
17. Chris Buescher (RFK Racing #17)
Ambetter Health 400 Result: 35th
It’s a shame that Buescher was caught up in a wreck on lap 189 because he was putting together another solid run. Buescher had run nearly 70 percent of his laps inside the top 15, and even with the DNF, he still sits 13th in Cup Series points. After missing out on the playoffs last season, it appears that a postseason appearance could be very likely for the No. 17. RFK Racing has taken a sizable step forward this season, and the result shows in Buescher’s performance. Buescher hasn’t had much road course success in his career, with just three top fives and seven top tens in 27 career starts, so he’ll look to change his luck this coming weekend.
18. Josh Berry (Hendrick Motorsports #9)
Ambetter Health 400 Result: 18th
After a rough race at Las Vegas, Berry has shown his worth as Chase Elliott’s replacement over the past two weeks. He pounded out a top-ten finish at Phoenix and ran a clean, solid race at Atlanta to bring home an 18th-place result. Berry won’t be in the car next weekend at COTA, but he will return to the No. 9 for the race at Richmond the following weekend and will remain in the vehicle until Elliott can return. There are no concrete plans for Berry to receive a full-time Cup Series ride in the future, but despite that, he’s making a case to be considered in 2024.
19. Erik Jones (Legacy Motor Co. #43)
Ambetter Health 400 Result: 8th
Coming into Atlanta, Jones desperately needed a good run. Though he wasn’t near the front of the pack very often, running just 8.1 percent of laps inside the top 15, Jones did avoid all of the crashes and finds himself in the top ten by the end of the race. That result brings Jones back into the top 20 of the power rankings after a brief hiatus, and he’ll have a legitimate chance to secure a second straight top-ten finish at COTA. In two starts, Jones has finished ninth and 16th on the track. Jones still has some ground to make up, as he sits 29 points out of the final playoff spot, but he is starting to get on the right track.
20. Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing #3)
Ambetter Health 400 Result: 20th
Dillon had another uneventful day in Atlanta. With the new superspeedway layout, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it also meant that Dillon ran mid-pack pretty much all day and barely finished inside the top 20. Dillon sits 22nd in points, now 31 markers out of the final playoff spot, but the analytics say he may be lucky to even be within spitting distance. Dillon is 27th among full-time drivers in driver rating and has run just 20 percent of all laps inside the top 15. Hopefully, Dillon can put together a strong run at COTA, but at the moment, he is struggling in the early going.
BEST OF THE REST
21. Chase Briscoe (Stewart-Haas Racing #14) LW: 17
22. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (JTG Daugherty Racing #47) LW: 22
23. Corey LaJoie (Spire Motorsports #7) LW: 29
24. Ty Gibbs (Joe Gibbs Racing #54) LW: 28
25. Justin Haley (Kaulig Racing #31) LW: 23
26. A.J. Allmendinger (Kaulig Racing #16) LW: 25
27. Aric Almirola (Stewart-Haas Racing #10) LW: 27
28. Michael McDowell (Front Row Motorsports #34) LW: 26
29. Noah Gragson (Legacy Motor Co. #42) LW: 30
30. Ryan Preece (Stewart-Haas Racing #41) LW: 24