NASCAR Power Rankings: Ross Chastain rises to No. 1 after COTA
In its second appearance on the NASCAR schedule, Circuit of the Americas sent another jolt through the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.
Ross Chastain’s recent stretch of high-quality performances finally resulted in a win. But with a larger sample size of the 2022 season available, more trends are starting to develop.
Here’s where drivers rank after six Cup Series races:
NASCAR Power Rankings
1. Ross Chastain (Last week: No. 4) With an average finish of 2.0 in his last four races, the No. 1 Chevrolet rockets to the No. 1 spot in the rankings. Chastain has been knocking on the door of his first career win for the last month. And while he had to bust through the door in Turn 19 in the form of AJ Allmendinger, Chastain finally got the job done. That he did so in the midst of a four-race streak of top-three finishes proves Chastain is no fluke. Chastain has also led the second-most laps in the Cup Series through six races. There are no guarantees that Trackhouse Racing can keep up its momentum, but there is no reason to doubt the organization after six strong showings.
2. Ryan Blaney (Last week: No. 2) Blaney was a three-race winner in 2021 and hasn’t broken through yet this year, but the No. 12 Ford continues to find its way to the front on a weekly basis. Outside of fourth-place efforts at Daytona and Phoenix, his finishes haven’t quite been there yet. But Sunday marked another solid run for Blaney as he finished sixth at COTA. Blaney also maintains the laps led lead and holds the best average running position (10.107) in the series.
3. Tyler Reddick (Last week: No. 1) Perhaps a two-spot drop is a bit harsh after posting a top-five finish and the second-best average running position at COTA, but Reddick’s season-long resume isn’t yet what Chastain’s and Blaney’s are. The Richard Childress Racing driver restarted on the front row for the overtime restart Sunday but slid to fifth place in one lap. Reddick has proven he’s fast and can run with the best in the series, boasting the fourth-best average running position this season at 12.487. But without a victory -- or at least consistent laps led -- all Reddick has shown is potential. Three of his races have resulted in top 10s -- seventh after a spin at Vegas, third at Phoenix and fifth at COTA; the others have seen him outside the top 20 -- 35th at Daytona, 24th at Auto Club and 28th at Atlanta.
4. Chase Elliott (Last week: No. 5) Elliott remains atop the point standings after another solid run on a road course, which should come as no surprise. What was a bit surprising was that Elliott was never a factor for the win at COTA, failing to lead a single lap. But the No. 9 Chevrolet kept his nose fairly clean (although Kyle Busch might dispute that after a spin off his bumper), and Elliott notched his first top-five finish of the season. His was a quiet fourth-place finish, but it continues a steady start to Elliott’s season in which he’s only finished outside the top 11 once and holds the second-best average running position in the series. Elliott hasn’t felt like a threat to win since Auto Club, but maybe his run at COTA can help his future footing.
5. Joey Logano (Last week: No. 6) Logano hasn’t been flashy, but like Elliott, he’s been running well enough to sit third in points and in average running position. His COTA showing didn’t go nearly as well after a Lap 67 crash with Kyle Larson and Kurt Busch relegated him to a 31st-place finish, but the No. 22 team has still seemed more competitive than most through six races. The finishes will need to improve, but Sunday marked the first time in five races that Logano finished worse than 14th. Richmond should provide an opportunity for Logano to start posting better results.
6. Kyle Larson (Last week: No. 3) The defending champ’s season has not gone to plan. Through six races, Larson has one win (Auto Club) and a runner-up finish (Las Vegas) and four finishes of 29th or worse. The No. 5 Chevrolet has been running well before its myriad issues, but those issues are piling up in a hurry. No one should be ready to count out a driver who has won 11 races since the start of last season, but a seventh-best average running position is only worth so much when two-thirds of the young season has produced awful results. This week, the most significant factor was a Turn 1 crash with Logano and Kurt Busch that created the overtime restart. It’s hard to fault Larson for the issues that have plagued him. But results matter, and his have fallen severely.
7. Alex Bowman (Last week: Unranked) Bowman’s lack of consistency still makes him difficult to rank appropriately. That consistency has plagued the No. 48 team for years, dating back to its days as the No. 88 program. However, Bowman is starting to string good runs together -- and nearly backed into another win Sunday before Chastain’s contact to Allmendinger sent the No. 16 car into Bowman, allowing Chastain to pull away while Bowman cruised home second. Bowman has finished first (Vegas), 14th (Phoenix), 10th (Atlanta) and second in his last four outings. Those outings are better than most, and the No. 48 might be on the rise as others falter.
8. William Byron (Last week: No. 8) Byron was very quiet at COTA, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Off the heels of his Atlanta victory, the No. 24 Chevrolet seemed fairly average compared to the other contenders of the day. His 12th-place finish displays as much, but Byron’s results have been a roller coaster. After two DNFs to start the season, the No. 24 car has finished fifth, 18th, first and 12th. By no means has the team been bad, but with the series’ fifth-best average running position (12.501), it certainly needs to figure out which of those finishes are more indicative of where it runs.
9. Kyle Busch (Last week: No. 7) Kyle Busch has been faced with adversity nearly every week this season. The No. 18 Toyota has been fast but has had to overcome spins or incidents in at least five of the season’s six races. After an early spin at COTA, Busch had recovered to run near the top five on the final restart. But two spins in the final two laps relegated Busch back to a 28th-place finish. COTA and Atlanta (33rd) mark Busch’s only finishes worse than 14th, but the two-time champion is being forced to overcome struggles on a regular basis.
10. Chase Briscoe (Last week: No. 9) Briscoe was in contention to win at COTA in the closing laps, but a flat-spotted tire and being forced wide through the esses -- before another flat tire on the final lap -- ruined a strong showing for Briscoe. The No. 14 Ford is still competitive every week and has now led laps in four of six races this season. But the sophomore driver is still learning his limits and that was evident Sunday.
Dropped out: Kurt Busch (Last week: No. 10)