The GEICO 500 at Talladega on Sunday provided another iconic finish at a track known for memorable moments.
Erik Jones had the checkered flag in sight before going up to block Kyle Larson on the outside. The drivers touched, which allowed third-place Ross Chastain to sneak by for his second win of the season. Multiple drivers wrecked out on the final straightaway, including Bubba Wallace, Kurt Busch and Corey LaJoie.
After the chaos of Talladega, the Cup Series heads to Dover Motor Speedway next week for a race at the “Monster Mile.” Every race continues to bring uncertainty with the brand new Next Gen cars, which have never raced on the concrete, high-banked oval at Dover.
Who is the driver to beat through 10 weeks? Here’s our power rankings with 16 regular season races remaining:
1. William Byron
Last week: 2
After a win at Atlanta (a drafting track) earlier this year, Byron was expected to contend at Talladega. He did just that, winning a stage and leading 38 laps before getting into the wall on the final lap to finish 15th – his eighth straight top-20 finish. Byron and Chastain are the only drivers with multiple wins this season.
2. Ryan Blaney
Last week: 1
Blaney drops one spot in the power rankings after finishing 11th, an uncharacteristic result at one of his best tracks. He didn’t score any stage points, but he did lead 23 laps. Still searching for his first win of the year, Blaney remains second in the points standings heading to Dover, where he finished 12th last year.
3. Chase Elliott
Last week: 4
Another week, another top-10 for the points leader. Elliott was seventh at Talladega after earning 14 stage points. He has seven top-10 finishes and nine top-15 finishes in 10 races this year. Elliott has been the model of consistency, though he still seeks his first victory of the year. He has eight top-five finishes in 11 Dover starts, so that could be the place to do it.
4. Ross Chastain
Last week: 6
The Melon Man capitalized on a hectic final straightaway to steal his second victory in five weeks, both of which came on a last-lap pass. He now has a series-best six top-five finishes in 2022, double the total he had in his entire career before this year. It’s truly been a breakout season for the 29-year-old, eight-generation watermelon farmer.
Chastain’s signature victory celebration is a fitting tribute to his roots:
5. Alex Bowman
Last week: 5
I’ve been saying it for weeks now: this is the best version of Bowman we’ve ever seen. After finishing ninth at Talladega, he has put the No. 48 in the top-15 for eight straight races – the longest streak of his career. Bowman’s 11.1 average finish is second among all drivers, only behind Elliott (10.5). Oh, and Bowman is the defending race winner at Dover.
6. Kyle Larson
Last week: 7
Don’t look now, but the reigning champion is starting to find his groove. Larson has posted top-five finishes in three of four races, including fourth at Talladega. He’ll leave Alabama disappointed that he didn’t win after leading 42 laps, though he did jump up to seventh in the points standings.
7. Joey Logano
Last week: 3
A three-time Talladega winner, Logano crashed out early after completing 89 of 188 laps. It wasn’t entirely his fault, but that’s the nature of the beast at Talladega. Logano dropped three spots to sixth in the standings, and he’s now on a 39-race winless streak dating back to last year. He’s winless with 15 top-10 finishes in 25 career Dover starts.
8. Kyle Busch
Last week: 8
Last week’s winner nearly stole another one, charging from outside the top-10 to finish third on the final lap. Busch is up to fourth in the standings with seven top-10 finishes and an 11.2 average finish this year. Amid rumors of contract disputes with Joe Gibbs Racing, the two-time champion will take a solid top-five spot at Talladega.
9. Martin Truex Jr.
Last week: first four out
I’ve had Truex unranked for most of the season. That might’ve been a mistake, but he’s yet to “wow” me through 10 races. He’s been steady, for sure, with five top-10s and seven top-15s. It just hasn’t been the dominant Truex we’re used to seeing, the Truex who won 28 races from 2016 to 2021. With a fifth-place run at Talladega, he is eighth in the standings.
10. Austin Dillon
Last week: first four out
If it weren’t for an engine failure last week, Dillon could’ve scored three straight top-fives. He was second at Talladega, good for his fifth top-10 of the season. Typically on the playoff bubble, Dillon is likely to find himself in a similar position this year if he doesn’t win a race. He’s just three points above the current playoff cut line with 16 races to go.
First four out: Kevin Harvick, Chase Briscoe, Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick