NASCAR Power Rankings: Kyle Busch cruises to top spot
This year’s Coca-Cola 600 marked NASCAR’s longest race.
While Denny Hamlin celebrated his first win at Charlotte Motor Speedway, all the action behind him provided another shake up to the NBC Sports Power Rankings, including a new driver on top.
NASCAR Power Rankings
1. Kyle Busch (Last week: No. 2) Consistency and strength are beginning to play into the two-time Cup Series champion’s hands. The No. 18 Toyota has four top 10s and three top-three finishes in his last five starts and led 36 laps in Sunday night’s race at Charlotte. With a series-best 11.2 average finish, Busch has been Toyota’s best weapon all year as contract discussions persist, despite his teammate Hamlin leading the manufacturer’s entries with two wins this year.
2. Ross Chastain (Last week: No. 3) What a drive Chastain displayed in NASCAR’s longest race. The No. 1 Chevrolet paced the field for a race-high 153 laps and was in the hunt for the win in overtime. Heavy nose damage relegated Chastain to a 15th-place finish, but his performance was a good reminder of his early-season success. A two-time Cup winner this year, Chastain has led laps in each of the past five races, notching significant totals at Dover (86 laps led), Darlington (26) and Charlotte (153).
3. Chase Elliott (Last week: No. 1) Elliott’s day went sour after contacting the wall in a battle for second with Daniel Suarez. The series points leader won Stage 1 and was competitive to start the race, leading 86 circuits. But the damage proved too significant as time expired on the damaged vehicle policy’s six-minute clock. Elliott finished 33rd, his second straight finish outside the top 25.
4. Christopher Bell (Last week: No. 5) The No. 20 Toyota is showing speed much more regularly, and Bell is getting results to match. Despite some late wall contact, Bell rallied to a fifth-place finish at the 1.5-mile oval, his fifth top-seven finish in the past six races.
5. Denny Hamlin (Last week: No. 10) Hamlin’s luck really has changed. Yes, it’s only a two-race stretch, but finishing fourth at Kansas ahead of a Coca-Cola 600 victory in consecutive points events is one heck of a turnaround given Hamlin’s miserable first dozen races of the year. Career win No. 48 suddenly ties him for the series lead in victories this season (two) and follows a runner-up effort in the NASCAR All-Star Race. The recent sample size is small, but it is impressive nonetheless.
6. Kyle Larson (Last week: No. 7) Larson crossed the start/finish line as the leader on Lap 400, but that wasn’t when the checkered flag waved Sunday night. The No. 5 Chevrolet wound up ninth after a late charge from Chase Briscoe resulted in a spin, sending the race to overtime. Larson was then collected in a multi-car mess for the lead on the first overtime attempt, eliminating his chances to win. But Larson has led at least 19 laps in each of the last six races, including a season-high 51 Sunday.
7. Ryan Blaney (Last week: No. 4) The high from the All-Star Race win returned to a disappointing low at Lap 192 Sunday when Blaney clipped the Turn 1 apron, sending his No. 12 spinning in front of half the field and collecting 11 others in a Turn 2 melee. Blaney’s 29th-place finish is his fifth straight outside the top 10 and marked his second results outside the top 25 in that stretch.
8. Joey Logano (Last week: No. 6) Thanks to Briscoe’s spin, Logano found himself hunting for a win -- or at least a potential top five -- late in the going at Charlotte. But his No. 22 Ford was instead sent driver-side into the frontstretch wall, shipping Logano to a 20th-place finish. That marks Logano’s fourth finish of 17th or worse in the past five races. The exception is the win he scored at Darlington on May 8.
9. Alex Bowman (Last week: No. 8) Bowman moves in silence, a trend that continued at Charlotte, where he scored a 10th-place finish for his fifth top 10 in the last six races. The No. 48 car isn’t going out and dominating races -- Bowman has led a total of 18 laps this year -- but his 11.7 average finish ranks second in Cup this season.
10. William Byron (Last week: No. 9) Eventually, the results will start righting themselves for Byron. That time hasn’t come yet. After getting swept up in the massive multi-car accident triggered by Blaney’s spin, Byron finished 32nd, his sixth straight finish of 13th or worse since winning at Martinsville. Sunday marked his first DNF since February, when he crashed out of both the Daytona 500 and the race at Auto Club Speedway.
Dropped out: None.