The NASCAR Cup Series Power Ranking after Talladega is presented before they race at Dover Motor Speedway this weekend.
Drivers and fans were able to experience both ends of the NASCAR spectrum over the past two weeks. First, the Cup Series headed to Martinsville, the series’ shortest track at just half a mile in length. The ‘Paper Clip’ was very track position-oriented, as drivers struggled to pass for much of the race. The Stewart-Haas Cars were strong early, but drivers such as Chase Briscoe and Ryan Preece managed to hang on to the lead, and Kyle Larson spoiled the party with a late pit strategy move to take his second win of the season.
This past weekend, the Cup Series headed further south to Talladega, the series’ longest track at 2.67 miles. As usual, the race was filled with plenty of lead changes and plenty of action. Bubba Wallace led at the white flag but wrecked while trying to block Ryan Blaney. Kyle Busch, of all people, made it through the carnage first, claiming his second win of the year.
These two races brought mixed results for many drivers so the power ranking will have a few small movements throughout.
The NASCAR Cup Series Power Ranking after Talladega
1. William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports #24)
Last Ranking: 1
It seems odd that Byron stays atop the rankings despite sitting just 14th in points, but he continues to put together an impressive season, even while dealing with a points penalty and some bad on-track luck. Byron rebounded from a poor race at Martinsville by finishing seventh at Talladega and putting together a clean superspeedway race. It should be noted that, without his points penalty, Byron would be fourth in the point standings. He also leads the series in stage wins (5) and driver rating (98.79). He may not look like a championship contender on paper, but one could argue that he’s still the favorite through ten races.
2. Kyle Larson (Hendrick Motorsports #5)
Last Ranking: 2
Larson put together the best race he’s ever had at Martinsville, taking over in the closing stages and winning at a track he hasn’t had much past success. That race allowed Larson to pull away from Byron for the series lead in laps led, as Larson’s 468 now leads all other drivers by a fairly wide margin. Unfortunately, he followed that up by getting blasted in the passenger door by Ryan Preece at Talladega, ending his day early. Despite four DNFs, tied for the most in the Cup Series, Larson still sits in the top five in points and is one of three drivers with multiple wins this season. If he can find a higher level of consistency (and, to a degree, luck), it wouldn’t be surprising to see Larson on top of the heap soon.
3. Christopher Bell (Joe Gibbs Racing #20)
Last Ranking: 3
Bell somewhat surprisingly struggled at Martinsville, as he was never a contender for a top-ten finish. That being said, he was able to keep his car clean and grind out a 16th-place finish before securing another top-ten at Talladega. That Talladega result was Bell’s seventh top-ten finish of the year, which puts him alone in the series lead in that category. In a year where plenty of the series’ top drivers have had struggles and inconsistencies, Bell has been a perfect example of why rattling off consistent decent finishes is the best approach. Thus far, Bell is the series points leader and finished fourth at Dover last season. Another strong race could very well be in the cards.
4. Joey Logano (Team Penske #22)
Last Ranking: 5
Martinsville wasn’t kind to Logano…until it was. Despite running outside the top 20 for most of the day (and briefly going a lap down), Logano used an aggressive late-race strategy to gain track position and wound up finishing second. That decision paid off, especially since he did not make much happen at Talladega after being involved in multiple incidents. The defending champion sits just 11th in points and 12th in driver rating, but as we saw at Martinsville, it is not a good idea to ever count him out. Logano has never won at Dover but does have five finishes of eighth or better in his last seven starts at the track.
5. Ross Chastain (Trackhouse Racing #1)
Last Ranking: 4
Especially when Chastain’s typically aggressive nature is considered, it is impressive that he has completed all but one possible lap this season. That level of consistency has Chastain just 12 points behind Christopher Bell for the series points lead, despite having recorded just four top tens compared to Bell’s seven. After finishing 13th and 22nd in the past couple of races at Martinsville and Talladega, Chastain will be happy to see Dover on the schedule. After all, he brought home the checkered at the track last year and should be one of the favorites to do so again.
6. Tyler Reddick (23XI Racing #45)
Last Ranking: 6
If the final stage had gone a little differently for Reddick at Martinsville, it’s not outrageous to think he may have picked up his second win of the season. Reddick had an average running position of seventh and was one of the fastest cars on the track before a late caution and poor strategy ruined his track position. He also finished 13th at Talladega, which is decent, but one that won’t help him much in the standings. Reddick currently resides in sixth, just 45 points out of the series lead, meaning one big race could get him right back into the thick of things. In four career starts at Dover, Reddick has three finishes of 18th or better but just one top ten. He hopes to take that next step and make up some ground in the standings.
7. Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing #11)
Last Ranking: 7
Hamlin still has yet to win a race this season and has recorded just three top-ten finishes, but it seems he’s beginning to get into a groove. He ran in the top five for almost the entirety of the race at Martinsville and was a strong car at Talladega with an average running position of tenth. The analytics show that Hamlin will probably make a move up from his tenth-place spot in the standings pretty soon. He leads the series in quality passes, quality passes per lap, and quality pass percentage, and is second in the percentage of laps inside the top 15. These numbers show him as one of the best drivers n the field, and Hamlin will look to build off of that at Dover.
8. Kyle Busch (Richard Childress Racing #8)
Last Ranking: 10
The past couple of races were not in the historical trends for Busch. Martinsville, a track that Busch has plenty of success over his long and storied career, went poorly. Busch had an average running position of 23rd and crossing the finish line in 21st did not help. In contrast, Busch was able to win at Talladega, a track that traditionally hasn’t been very kind to him. There is not much in terms of growing pains for Busch in his first season with Richard Childress Racing, as the two-time champion has already won twice, recorded five top tens, and is currently fifth in points. This is exactly what Childress himself envisioned with this move.
9. Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing #4)
Last Ranking: 8
Finishes of 20th and 21st in the past couple of races were a slight setback for Harvick points-wise, but his performance has not seen a hit. Despite the poor result at Martinsville, Harvick showed speed throughout the race, with an average running position of 6.5. He was one of a few drivers who were unable to take advantage of a couple of late cautions, fell back in the field, and couldn’t make enough passes to work back through. Harvick ran at an average of 11.6 at Talladega but again finished well behind after getting shuffled out of the main pack in the closing laps. Regardless, Harvick is still in position (third in points) and can get himself within spitting distance of the lead with a strong Dover race.
10. Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports #9)
Last Ranking: NR
After a six-week injury-related absence, Elliott returned at Martinsville and immediately rattled off a top ten, followed by a solid 12th-place result at Talladega. Though neither finish jumps off the page, they are exactly what Elliott needs to get back into playoff contention after missing six races. Getting a win to secure a spot is ideal, but Elliott’s main goal is to keep the car clean and gain as many points as possible. There is a considerable hill to climb, as Elliott trails 16th place Chris Buescher by 120 points, but with 16 races left in the regular season, it is a very attainable goal even without a win.
11. Martin Truex Jr. (Joe Gibbs Racing #19)
Last Ranking: 11
Truex and teammate Denny Hamlin are putting together very similar seasons so far. Both drivers have just three top-ten finishes and are in the top ten in points as they have been very consistent. Truex and Hamlin are the only two drivers to complete all 2,581 possible laps, and Truex’s +104 pass differential is second in the series, behind only Tyler Reddick. Talladega was Truex’s first finish outside the top 20 this year, but he made up for it by finishing third at Martinsville, his best result of the season. Truex may not be blowing anybody away right now, but if he keeps his consistency up, he’ll be a threat to win his second championship.
12. Chase Briscoe (Stewart-Haas Racing #14)
Last Ranking: 14
Briscoe continues his rise up the standings over the past couple of weeks by picking up back-to-back fourth-place finishes. Though he may have finished in the same position, Briscoe got there in dramatically different ways. He led 109 laps at Martinsville and ran almost the entire race inside the top 15, while he averages a running position of 26.5 at Talladega before taking advantage of the late-race chaos. Regardless, fourth place is fourth place, and Briscoe will appreciate both equally. He still looks for a win to solidify his playoff spot, but he is building momentum and has climbed to 15th in the standings heading into Dover.
13. Ryan Blaney (Team Penske #12)
Last Ranking: 12
The worst part about being on a long winless streak is that everyone wants to remind him about his long winless streak. That is certainly the case for Blaney, who probably would have lost his mind had he been watching the Talladega broadcast over the final 20 or so laps. Blaney came oh-so-close yet again, as he seems to have a habit of doing at superspeedways, but couldn’t close the deal. That being said, a seventh-place finish at Martinsville and a second-place finish at Talladega have pushed Blaney to eighth in points, as he is finding a rhythm with the season heading toward summer. He’d like to change his fortune at Dover this weekend, a track where he has not finished in the top ten since 2018.
14. Alex Bowman (Hendrick Motorsports #48)
Last Ranking: 9
As if one driver injury wasn’t enough for Hendrick Motorsports this season, Bowman will miss about a month after fracturing a vertebra in a dirt racing accident this week. It’s a huge blow for Bowman, who is having the best season of his career to this point. Even with a points penalty, Bowman is tenth in points and leads the series with his 82 percent top 15 percentage. Given the recovery timetable, Bowman will likely target the Coca-Cola 600 as his return date, which means he’ll only miss two races (and the All-Star Race). As long as recovery goes smoothly, this isn’t a huge blow to Bowman, but it certainly makes his campaign more difficult.
15. Brad Keselowski (RFK Racing #6)
Last Ranking: 13
It is no surprise to see Keselowski contending for the win at Talladega, as he was in the lead pack for much of the final stage and ended his day finishing fifth. That race came after a disappointing Martinsville race where Keselowski finished outside the top 20 and stabilized him at 12th place in the standings. Keselowski has cooled off after a flying start to the season but is still in a good place to make the playoffs if he can hold steady. He does have a win at Dover (albeit back in 2012) and hasn’t finished outside the top 20 there since 2017. He hopes to keep that streak rolling, and ideally bring his No. 6 home inside the top ten.
16. Daniel Suarez (Trackhouse Racing #99)
Last Ranking: 16
Suarez’s Martinsville result was not what he probably deserved at Martinsville, as he ran inside the top ten for almost the entire race before finishing 17th. He was able to cancel that out somewhat by finishing ninth at Talladega. Similar to Keselowski one spot above him, Suarez’s season got off to a terrific start, but he is beginning to drop down the standings and is hovering around the playoff cut line for the past few weeks. Dover is a good track for Suarez across his career: excluding his one year with Gaunt Brothers Racing, Suarez has not finished worse than 14th in his eight starts there.
17. Chris Buescher (RFK Racing #17)
Last Ranking: 20
It seems every time the Cup Series heads to a superspeedway, the No. 17 is threatening the win when the white flag comes out, and that was true yet again at Talladega. Buescher did not take home a victory, but his third-place finish was a big points day after a solid top-15 finish at Martinsville. Buescher continues to hang on to the 16th and final playoff spot, so he needs to turn up his effort a bit. His 37.8% quality pass percentage and 44.9% top 15 percent are below average and could use some improvement. Buescher has just one career top-ten finish at Dover, but on the bright side, it was in his most recent start at the track. He is hoping to make it two in a row.
18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (JTG Daugherty Racing #47)
Last Ranking: 19
After Stenhouse won the Daytona 500, I’m sure many expected him to drop down the standings and begin praying that less than 16 drivers win a regular season race. Turns out Stenhouse may be in the playoffs even without his win. Nearly halfway through the regular season, Stenhouse is 13th in points, still ahead of drivers like William Byron, Chase Briscoe, Daniel Suarez, and Austin Cindric. The No. 47 has been a competitive car in most races this season, and he recorded his fourth top ten of the year by finishing eighth at Martinsville. The underdog story continues for Stenhouse, and he continues to catch attention with his performance.
19. Ty Gibbs (Joe Gibbs Racing #54)
Last Ranking: 15
Gibbs has not had the best time over the past couple of weeks, as he ran mid-pack all day at Martinsville before finishing two laps down at Talladega. Before Martinsville, Gibbs was riding a streak of four consecutive top tens, and though that streak is gone, he is hungry to get another one going. The rookie has put together some impressive runs this year, and though he is still looking up from 20th place at the playoff drivers, he’s not too far off. A couple of more strong runs, and Gibbs will find himself on the correct side of the cut line.
20. Austin Cindric (Team Penske #2)
Last Ranking: 17
Cindric is beginning to teter toward the danger zone after two consecutive finishes outside the top 25. He had virtually no speed at Martinsville, struggling all day and finishing three laps down, and was one of the unfortunate victims of a wild final stage at Talladega, finishing 26th. There’s obviously still a lot of the season left, but Cindric sits 18th in points and is still without a top-five finish in Penske equipment. After an impressive rookie season, year number two has been a bit of a letdown to this point.
BEST OF THE REST
21. Bubba Wallace (23XI Racing #23) LR: 23
22. Aric Almirola (Stewart-Haas Racing #10) LR: 26
23. Todd Gilliland (Front Row Motorsports #38) LR: 25
24. Justin Haley (Kaulig Racing #31) LR: 24
25. Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing #3) LR: 22
26. Erik Jones (Legacy Motor Co. #43) LR: 28
27. Michael McDowell (Front Row Motorsports #34) LR: 21
28. AJ Allmendinger (Kaulig Racing #16) LR: 29
29. Ryan Preece (Stewart-Haas Racing #41) LR: NR
30. Corey Lajoie (Spire Motorsports #7) LR: 27