The penultimate race of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season produced an unforgettable ending.
At the front of the field, Christopher Bell scored his second walk-off win of the playoffs to advance to the Championship 4. Behind Bell, Ross Chastain used a video game-inspired move to ride the wall into the title race. Here’s how it happened:
So, who’s the driver to beat before this season’s final race? Here’s our latest power rankings:
1. Ross Chastain
Last week: 1
It’s hard to fathom what Chastain did to save his season – letting go of the steering wheel, flooring it into the corner and hoping for the best. He said it himself, but this is the type of move that only works in video games.
From this angle, it looks like his car is being fast-forwarded while everyone else is at normal speed:
Chastain now has three straight top-fives heading into Phoenix, where he finished second in March.
2. Joey Logano
Last week: 2
Logano was a quiet sixth at Martinsville as chaos unfolded around him. Now heading into the Championship 4 for the fifth time in his career, the 32-year-old Logano has the most experience of the title contenders. He has two Phoenix wins in 27 career starts, most recently in 2020.
3. Christopher Bell
Last week: 6
Chastain’s move overshadowed Bell, who pulled off his second walk-off win in as many tries. He would’ve been eliminated if he finished second, but a late pass with five laps to go sealed the deal. Bell, 27, will make his first Championship 4 appearance, though he’s never finished better than ninth in five Phoenix starts.
4. Chase Elliott
Last week: 4
Even though he secured a third straight Championship 4 appearance, Elliott is running the worst of the quartet. He scored 18 stage points at Martinsville but faded to finish 10th. Despite winning the regular season title, Elliott clearly enters Phoenix with the least buzz. He won the title race in the desert two years ago and has finished 11th or better in five straight Phoenix starts.
5. Denny Hamlin
Last week: 3
The most consistent driver of the playoffs won’t race for a title. Hamlin was fifth at Martinsville, losing the final Championship 4 spot after Chastain’s move. In nine playoff races, Hamlin had five top-fives, eight top-10s and a 6.44 average finish. The 42-year-old will go another year without a championship, which has eluded Hamlin since he debuted in 2006.
6. Kyle Larson
Last week: 7
Larson finished second at Martinsville after winning at Homestead a week prior. If he was still in the playoff, Larson would undoubtedly be the favorite for the championship. Larson is hitting his stride a bit too late, but this stretch could be a sign of things to come in 2023.
7. William Byron
Last week: 5
A poor qualifying effort put Byron in a hole on Sunday, and it was a hole he couldn’t dig out of. He struggled to move forward all day, eventually climbing to finish seventh. That wasn’t nearly enough to advance to the Championship 4, as he was 21 points below the cut line after entering five points above it.
8. Ryan Blaney
Last week: 8
Blaney is staring at his first winless season since 2016 (his rookie year) after running third at Martinsville. He had a chance to win his way into the Championship 4 on a few late restarts, but Bell outclassed him for the victory. After a number of self-inflicted errors this season, Blaney will be searching for answers all winter long.
9. Chase Briscoe
Last week: 9
After staying out on old tires with 24 laps to go, Briscoe nearly held on for the upset win. But he was eliminated from the playoffs after Bell passed him with five laps to go. It was an impressive playoff debut for the 27-year-old Briscoe, who had five top-10s in nine playoff starts after totaling just four top-10s in 26 regular season races.
10. Daniel Suarez
Last week: first four out
While his teammate Chastain races for a championship, Suarez continues to rattle off solid runs. He finished 12th at Martinsville, which moved him up to ninth in the overall points standings. Trackhouse Racing’s future (and present) continue to look great with Chastain and Suarez in the fold.
First four out: Tyler Reddick, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski