The NASCAR Cup Series power ranking is after Darlington Raceway. This weekend they race the All-Star event at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
The NASCAR Cup Series regular season has officially hit its halfway point with the completion of the Goodyear 400 at Darlington. Even in just 13 races, the season has already seen more than its share of unexpected twists and turns, and Darlington added more fuel to that fire. Top contenders Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., and Ross Chastain were all taken out of contention in final-stage incidents, and instead, William Byron drove through and grabbed his third win of the season, becoming the first driver to do so this year. The win for Byron means there are no changes at the top spot, but the rest of the list sees some shake-ups this week as we head into the All-Star break.
The NASCAR Cup Series Power Ranking after Darlington
1. William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports #24)
Last Week: 1
Darlington Result: 1st
Byron is back on the upswing after a rough three-race stretch at Richmond, Bristol, and Martinsville. Since then, Byron has had four consecutive finishes of seventh or better, and he put the cherry on top by taking advantage of late-race chaos to win his third race of the season at Darlington. Looking at the halfway point in the season, Byron is easily the fastest car on the track, and the statistics prove it. He leads the series in top-five finishes (6), laps led (596), and stage wins (6), as well as being the only driver with three race wins. For Byron, racing could not be any better. He will look to win the All-Star Race this weekend to continue strengthening his campaign.
2. Kyle Larson (Hendrick Motorsports #5)
Last Week: 3
Darlington Result: 20th
As usual, Larson was one of the fastest cars of the weekend at Darlington. He won the Xfinity race driving for Kaulig Racing, then was near the front for most of the Cup race before a late-race tangle with Ross Chastain took him out of contention. It was yet another missed opportunity for Larson in a season full of them, as he has now finished 20th or worse six times this year. The Darlington incident was faultless for Larson, but that does not lessen the blow for him as he sits a relatively disappointing ninth in points. Regardless, the speed has been there, and it is only a matter of time before Larson returns to victory lane.
3. Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing #11)
Last Week: 4
Darlington Result: 12th
Hamlin did not pick up his third consecutive top-five finish this past weekend, but he was still one of the better cars and brought home a solid points day by finishing in the top 15. The No. 11 is starting to find a groove, as Hamlin has now led laps in five consecutive races, dating back to Martinsville. Hamlin also earned a positive distinction this weekend. In the Martin Truex Jr late-race accident, Hamlin is now the only driver to have completed all 3,543 possible laps this season. He may have just the one win, but his No. 11 car is seemingly a contender every week, and another win should be on the horizon.
4. Ross Chastain (Trackhouse Racing #1)
Last Week: 2
Darlington Result: 29th
Another week, another issue for Chastain, who was involved in an incident with Kyle Larson late in the Goodyear 400 that ended his day after leading 93 laps. Luckily, Chastain did salvage his day by picking up 17 stage points (and a stage win). He now has a 27-point gap at the top of the standings. Though it has not become a problem yet, one has to wonder how much more of the Chastain shenanigans other drivers will put up with. He has new enemies each week and will have a target on his back for the rest of the season, especially as the points leader.
5. Christopher Bell (Joe Gibbs Racing #20)
Last Week: 5
Darlington Result: 14th
Although it was not a stellar day at Darlington for Bell, the day did not hurt him either. He picked up points in both stages and finished in the top 15, making a marginal gain on Ross Chastain for the points lead. Bell has been in second place in the standings despite three DNFs on the season, a feat that attests to the blazing speed the No. 20 machine has had in most races this year. After making a shocking run to the Championship 4 last year, it looks like a repeat run may be in store.
6. Martin Truex Jr. (Joe Gibbs Racing #19)
Last Week: 8
Darlington Result: 31st
Though the day ended with his first DNF of the season, Truex should still look back at Darlington as a successful day. Truex dominated the first stage, led 145 laps, and continued his strong run until his late-race aggression got the best of him. A different version of the veteran has shown up over the past month, as he seems to have turned the attack up a notch. The 2017 champion is gradually placing himself right in the center of that conversation again this year, just one season removed from missing the playoffs entirely.
7. Tyler Reddick (23XI Racing #45)
Last Week: 6
Darlington Result: 22nd
Not a great day for Reddick, though he probably deserved better than where he ended up. He was a top ten car in the first stage but struggled in the second stage and was caught up in a late incident, which kept him out of the top 20. Even so, the first half of the season was a resounding success for Reddick and the No. 45 team. He already has a win, has picked up four top-five finishes, and resides in the top ten in points. This could be the year Reddick takes the next step toward being a legitimate championship threat.
8. Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports #9)
Last Week: 9
Darlington Result: 3rd
Elliott has not had a bad race since returning from injury, as he has finished 12th or better in all five starts. Darlington brought his best finish over that stretch, as Elliott avoided the late-race calamities that claimed many other contenders to finish third. Even after missing six races, Elliott has already made significant gains on 16th place Chase Briscoe, which has to ease his mind with 13 races still to go in the regular season. Surely Elliott would love to win a race and lock in his playoff spot, but it looks less and less likely that he needs one.
9. Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing #4)
Last Week: 10
Darlington Result: 2nd
Boy, did Harvick need that one? After four straight finishes outside the top ten, Harvick picked up points in both stages and came home with a second-place finish at Darlington. The season has been largely successful for the 2014 champion, but this recent slide was causing doubts about his status as a true contender. For now, those thoughts can be put to bed. Harvick still sits third in points, within striking distance of leader Ross Chastain. Of course, Harvick would love to grab a win at some point in the remaining regular season races, but he seems pretty safe in his current spot.
10. Joey Logano (Team Penske #22)
Last Week: 7
Darlington Result: 18th
It was an oddly uneventful day for Logano this weekend, as he did not make any noise at Darlington. 18th place is not a catastrophic finish by any means, but this marks the fifth time in the last eight races that Logano has finished outside the top 15. It has been a surprisingly rocky season for the defending champion, especially considering his early-season win at Atlanta. Logano is a shocking 14th in the driver rating, in the neighborhood of playoff bubble drivers such as Bubba Wallace and Chris Buescher. He is hoping the second half of the regular season brings more speed.
11. Kyle Busch (Richard Childress Racing #8)
Last Week: 12
Darlington Result: 7th
After finishing 21st and 35th at Dover and Kansas, Busch has turned in the right direction at Darlington. Busch grabbed points in both stages, including a runner-up finish in the second stage, and picked up his sixth top-ten finish of the season. After a rough couple of seasons with Joe Gibbs Racing, Busch looks revitalized in his new home with RCR, and the results show it. As one of only three drivers with multiple wins, Busch is in a great position in the regular season.
12. Ryan Blaney (Team Penske #12)
Last Week: 11
Darlington Result: 9th
It was another strong run for Blaney at Darlington as he continued a string of solid runs. Blaney has now finished ninth or better in four of his last five starts and has put himself in a great position playoff-wise. He sits seventh in points and is third among drivers who have yet to win a race. There should still be some urgency for the No. 12 team to try and get his car to victory lane, but he has to feel pretty good about where he sits at the halfway point of the regular season.
13. Brad Keselowski (RFK Racing #6)
Last Week: 14
Darlington Result: 4th
Over the past month, Keselowski has been one of the most consistent drivers in the series. His past four races have resulted in finishes of a fifth, eighth, 19th, and fourth, with his most recent result coming from a strong race at Darlington. Keselowski spent nearly the entire race inside the top ten, grabbed some stage points, and ended with a finish inside the top five for the third time this season. The optimism surrounding the No. 6 team, and RFK Racing as a whole, has to be high right now as Keselowski is eighth in points. The situation for Keselowski is looking up, and a win could be coming shortly if he stays on this path.
14. Chris Buescher (RFK Racing #17)
Last Week: 13
Darlington Result: 10th
When it comes to consistency, it would be wise to take a look at Buescher if you want a good example. The driver of the No. 17 has finished 21st or better in 11 out of 13 races and has already grabbed five top-ten finishes. The equipment at RFK Racing is taking a sizable step forward compared to last season, but this is partly because of Buescher. After narrowly missing out on the playoffs last year, he is in place to likely break through and find himself in the postseason. There are still plenty of races to go, but the way Buescher is going right now should keep him where he is standings-wise.
15. Bubba Wallace (23XI Racing #23)
Last Week: 16
Darlington Result: 5th
After a strong race at Darlington, Wallace finished fifth, and for the first time this season, he put together back-to-back top-five finishes. The No. 23 car seems to have found a new gear over the past month or so, as Wallace has finished 12th or better in five of the last six races. Following a couple of seasons where he just missed the postseason cutoff, Wallace will be looking to break that trend this year and finally participate in the playoff festivities. He currently sits 15th in the standings, but that cushion is far from safe with 13 regular-season races left. A couple of more top-five finishes will have him feeling much more secure.
16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (JTG Daugherty Racing #47)
Last Week: 15
Darlington Result: 13th
Another week, another top-15 finish for Stenhouse, who has now finished 15th or better in seven of the last eight races. After being somewhat off the pace in most races in 2022, the No. 47 car appears to be more on par with the competition this season. Stenhouse is keeping his car extremely competitive. The Cinderella Daytona 500 winner is pushing to make the playoffs despite the upset win. Stenhouse has put on an impressive display of driving through 13 races.
17. Chase Briscoe (Stewart-Haas Racing #14)
Last Week: 18
Darlington Result: 17th
Following two straight finishes of 30th or worse, Briscoe needed to stop the bleeding at Darlington. He did so, albeit with a mediocre 17th-place finish. Briscoe is hanging on to 16th in the standings and currently holds the final playoff spot, but that spot could be very much in jeopardy with Chase Elliott fast approaching and Alex Bowman likely to return from injury shortly. Briscoe will have to stay on the right trajectory for the No. 14 driver to hold on, and he’ll hope the second half of the regular season brings a little more consistency than the first half, as he has already recorded five finishes of 24th or worse.
18. Ty Gibbs (Joe Gibbs Racing #54)
Last Week: 19
Darlington Result: 16th
Gibbs put together a decent race at Darlington, running right around where he finished for most of the 295 laps. After a rough beginning to his first full-time Cup Series season, Gibbs has been on a solid run as of late. Over his past nine races, he has just two finishes worse than 18th and has recorded four top tens. Gibbs is not inside the playoff cutline yet but is 15 points behind Chase Briscoe for the final spot. In JGR equipment, it would not be wise to count the youngster out, especially with so many regular-season races left. He’s certainly trending in the right direction.
19. Daniel Suarez (Trackhouse Racing #99)
Last Week: 17
Darlington Result: 34th
Early on at Darlington, the race was looking up for Suarez. He started near the front, running inside the top five, but a speeding penalty halted his momentum. He fell off the lead lap, then was involved in an accident that ended his day early. This was another poor result for Suarez, adding to a horrific past couple of months. After beginning the year with three straight top tens, Suarez has just one finish better than 15th (and five finishes of 25th or worse) in his last ten starts. Suarez has slid to 18th in the standings, and unless there are some quick and wise changes, that slide will be difficult to stop.
20. Justin Haley (Kaulig Racing #31)
Last Week: 24
Darlington Result: 8th
Haley came out of nowhere at Darlington to finish inside the top ten. His three top tens this season have come at Las Vegas, Bristol Dirt, and Darlington. There isn’t a ton of speed in this No. 31 car, but when Haley keeps it clean, it seems to have a chance to be there at the end. Haley makes his first appearance in the top 20 here, and though it’s not especially likely that he is there for long, he deserves credit for a solid finish.
BEST OF THE REST
21. Austin Cindric (Team Penske #2) LW: 23
22. Todd Gilliland (Front Row Motorsports #38) LW: 25
23. Aric Almirola (Stewart-Haas Racing #10) LW: 21
24. Josh Berry (Hendrick Motorsports #48) LW: 20
25. Erik Jones (Legacy Motor Co. #43) LW: 22
26. Harrison Burton (Wood Brothers Racing #21) LW: NR
27. Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing #3) LW: 26
28. AJ Allmendinger (Kaulig Racing #16) LW: 27
29. Ryan Preece (Stewart-Haas Racing #41) LW: 30
30. Michael McDowell (Front Row Motorsports #34) LW: 28