NASCAR’s annual West Coast Swing provided a clear picture of who has the fastest cars in 2023: Hendrick Motorsports.
William Byron won his second straight race in Phoenix to finish the road trip, one week after a dominant win in Las Vegas. Two of his Hendrick teammates finished second and third behind him in Las Vegas, while all four HMS Chevrolet’s finished in the top-10 in Phoenix.
Hendrick was dealt a severe penalty for a rulebook infraction on Wednesday, but they clearly have the quickest cars on the grid right now. Looking ahead, the Cup Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend – a track where Hendrick won both races last year.
So, who’s the driver to beat after the West Coast Swing? Here’s our latest power rankings:
1. William Byron
Last week: 6
With two wins in the first four races, Byron has already matched his career-best total with two victories in a season. He’s now up to six career wins as the 25-year-old is truly on the verge of a breakout season. To make matters even better, Byron won the race in Atlanta last spring as he looks to make it three in a row.
2. Kyle Larson
Last week: 3
Despite recent finishes of second (Las Vegas) and fourth (Phoenix), Larson has to be wondering what could’ve been. He was leading late at Las Vegas before a caution. At Phoenix, he led a race-high 201 laps before losing the lead during the overtime finish. If things went a little differently, it easily could’ve been Larson celebrating back-to-back wins for Hendrick.
3. Kyle Busch
Last week: 2
After a hot start to his first season with Richard Childress Racing, Busch has quieted down over the last two weeks. The veteran driver still salvaged an eighth-place finish in Phoenix, but he was outside the top-10 for most of the race. The newly-configured superspeedway in Atlanta could be a bounce-back opportunity after Busch ran so well at Daytona last month.
4. Ross Chastain
Last week: 1
Chastain had a respectable top-10 result going until Denny Hamlin had other plans. During the overtime finish, Chastain’s longtime foe put him in the wall and he finished 24th – his first result outside the top-12 all season.
5. Kevin Harvick
Last week: 10
Before the final caution, Harvick was on his way to a 10th victory in Phoenix. He led 36 laps and clearly had the best long-run car, but the late yellows doomed his chances. Harvick finished fifth, giving him 20 (!) consecutive top-10 finishes at the track. Through four races, Harvick is yet to finish worse than 12th as his retirement tour is off to a strong start.
6. Alex Bowman
Last week: 5
Before the penalties for Hendrick, Bowman was the points leader. He finished ninth in Phoenix – giving him four straight top-10s to open the season. While Bowman hasn’t been quite as strong as his teammates Byron and Larson, he’s avoiding mistakes and finishing races well.
7. Christopher Bell
Last week: 7
Outside of a puzzling performance in Fontana, Bell has been knocking off great finishes in 2023. He was third in Daytona, fifth in Las Vegas and then sixth in Phoenix. After a surprise Championship 4 run last November, Bell is proving that his run was no fluke.
8. Ryan Blaney
Last week: 9
Blaney nearly snapped his 49-race winless streak, but had to settle for second in Phoenix. He ran in the back half of the top-10 all day before a great two-tire pit stop put him in contention to win. Blaney is one of the most talented drafting track drivers, so he should be confident heading to Atlanta.
9. Joey Logano
Last week: 4
Just a few months after leading 187 laps and winning the championship in Phoenix, Logano struggled mightily on Sunday. He was lapped in the early portion of the race before recovering to finish 11th. But Phoenix marked the second straight race where Logano wasn’t competitive at a track where he won last year. It’s definitely an early concern for the defending champ.
10. Denny Hamlin
Last week: 8
For the second straight week, late restarts derailed Hamlin’s otherwise solid race. He earned 12 stage points before falling to finish 23rd. On his podcast, he admitted to intentionally trying to wreck Chastain after they had incidents last year, and Hamlin was ultimately penalized for it.
First four out: Brad Keselowski, Daniel Suarez, Bubba Wallace, Tyler Reddick