It was a roller-coaster weekend for Hendrick Motorsports, but it ended with a near-perfect race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
On Friday, 2020 champion Chase Elliott suffered a broken tibia in a snowboarding accident, which will keep him out indefinitely. But in the race on Sunday, Elliott’s three teammates swept the podium positions: Alex Bowman finished third, Kyle Larson ran second and William Byron scored his fifth career victory.
Looking ahead, NASCAR’s annual “West Coast Swing” will conclude this weekend at Phoenix Raceway. This race has heightened importance, as Phoenix will host the championship race in November.
So, who’s the driver to beat as the series heads to the desert? Here’s our latest power rankings:
1. Ross Chastain
Last week: 3
Chastain didn’t get the finish he deserved after a hectic overtime finish pushed him back to 12th. He ran inside the top-five for most of the race, scored 12 stage points, led 10 laps and retained the points standings lead. He finished second and third in two races at Phoenix last season.
2. Kyle Busch
Last week: 2
After a dominant win at Fontana, Busch was quiet at his home track on Sunday. He finished 14th and scored just two stage points while running outside the top-10 for much of the race. For a driver who entered Las Vegas as the betting favorite, it was certainly a disappointing result.
3. Kyle Larson
Last week: 9
If it weren’t for a late caution, Larson had the victory at Las Vegas locked up. But after a slow pit stop, he had to settle for second place. Larson was clearly a tick slower than Byron throughout the race, but he did lead 63 laps and maintained track position when he had it. With cars this fast, Larson is destined to find victory lane soon.
4. Joey Logano
Last week: 1
Team Penske’s performance on Sunday was a real head-scratcher. Logano qualified on the pole, with his teammates also in the top-10. But once the green flag dropped for the race, they all dropped straight back. Logano didn’t score any stage points before wrecking out at lap 183, giving him a last-place finish.
5. Alex Bowman
Last week: 8
Fifth, eighth and third – those are Bowman’s three finishes so far in 2023. He’s one of just two drivers with three straight top-10 finishes. Las Vegas was his best race yet, running out front with his Hendrick teammates early and often. He was definitely a small step behind Larson and Byron, but it was another encouraging result for a driver who has lacked consistency in the past.
6. William Byron
Last week: not ranked
Following miserable finishes of 34th and 25th, Byron put together the best race of his career on Sunday. He won both stages, led 176 of 271 laps and, most importantly, went home with the big trophy (and hat). Byron, 25, has now won a race in four straight seasons.
7. Christopher Bell
Last week: 7
Bell followed up a rough performance in California with a strong showing in Las Vegas. He finished fifth and looked like the best Toyota driver for most of the afternoon. Bell will look to keep things rolling in Phoenix, where he has top-10 finishes in three of his last four starts.
8. Denny Hamlin
Last week: 6
The overtime restart hurt Hamlin, who finished 11th after running in the top-10 all day long. He restarted fourth with a real shot at the win, but he got shuffled to the outside groove and couldn’t recover. Hamlin has two career wins at Phoenix as he looks to snap a 25-race winless streak dating back to last May.
9. Ryan Blaney
Last week: 4
Blaney was plagued by Team Penske’s lack of overall speed. He battled a vibration for a good portion of the race and ultimately finished 13th. Phoenix could be the spot to break his 49-race winless streak after posting three straight top-fives at the track.
10. Kevin Harvick
Last week: 10
Harvick continued his decent start to the season at Las Vegas, finishing 9th despite having a car with limited speed. The 47-year-old veteran hasn’t finished worse than 12th so far in 2023, which will be his final season. Phoenix is undoubtedly Harvick’s best track with nine career wins and 29 top-10 finishes in 40 starts.
First four out: Martin Truex Jr., Daniel Suarez, Bubba Wallace, Brad Keselowski