Dirt shook up the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings as much as it did the Cup schedule.
NASCAR Power Rankings
1. Ryan Blaney (Last week: No. 2) Blaney returns to the top spot after a fifth-place finish at Bristol on Sunday night. The No. 12 Ford holds the highest average running position in the series at 9.048, making Blaney the lone driver with an average better than 10th. Blaney is still looking for a way back to victory lane after a three-win campaign in 2021, but he is tied with Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch for the most top-10 finishes this year (six) and has the second-most top fives (four), tying him with Byron and Kyle Larson. Blaney is always strong at superspeedways, so perhaps this weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway is where he finally breaks through.
2. William Byron (Last week: No. 1) Byron remains the only driver in Cup to win more than one race in 2022. However, the No. 24 team took a step back on the dirt at Bristol with an 18th-place finish and slides from the top spot in the rankings. The good news is that nothing from Bristol’s dirt will translate to the rest of the season. Byron maintains the fourth-best average running position (11.12) and sits fourth in points. A quiet day on the dirt doesn’t do much to quell the momentum of the No. 24 team.
3. Chase Elliott (Last week: No. 4) The series’ points leader bumps up a spot in this week’s rankings after a decent run on dirt. Elliott’s weekend started with spins aplenty, going for loops on four separate occasions during Friday’s practice sessions. But the 2020 Cup champion rebounded with an eighth-place finish after picking up fourth-place stage points in Stage 2. He remains the only Hendrick Motorsports driver without a victory this year, but nobody has a better average finish in Cup than Elliott’s 10.9.
4. Kyle Busch (Last week: No. 9) The Candy Man is back with a win. A couple weeks ago, it was noted Busch would likely finish inside the top five if he could just have a clean race. That came to fruition Sunday at Bristol when leaders Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe tangled in the final corner, allowing Busch to swoop from third to first for his first triumph of the season. Busch has the fourth-best average finish in the series (12.1) and the seventh-best average running position to boot (13.25).
5. Joey Logano (Last week: No. 5) In two Cup races on dirt, Logano has a 2.0 average finish thanks to his third-place effort Sunday night. The defending winner of the Bristol dirt race had a quiet but impressive night, averaging a 6.64 running position en route to his third top five of the year and second in a row, following his runner-up effort at Martinsville Speedway. Logano is now on a 38-race winless streak in points races despite winning the exhibition Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in February, but the No. 22 Team Penske Ford appears to be gaining momentum after a couple down weeks at Circuit of the Americas and Richmond.
6. Tyler Reddick (Last week: No. 7) Reddick fell 0.33 seconds short of his first career Cup victory Sunday night. The two-time Xfinity Series champion was hit by Briscoe in the final corner, sending both cars spinning. Reddick recovered quickly thanks to the four-second advantage he and Briscoe held over Busch, but Reddick couldn’t cross the line quick enough to win. Nonetheless, Reddick nabbed his third top-five finish of the season after leading 99 of the final 100 laps and appears closer to breaking through.
7. Ross Chastain (Last week: No. 3) Chastain had a tough time trudging through NASCAR’s short-track trek. A motor issue at the conclusion of Stage 2 reared its head again following a rain delay, ending Chastain’s night and relegating him to a 33rd-place finish. It’s Chastain’s second finish of 19th or worse in the three races following his COTA victory on March 27, a downturn broken up by a fifth-place finish at Martinsville. Chastain sits eighth in points and holds the 10th-best average running position in Cup (14.331).
8. Alex Bowman (Last week: No. 6) Bowman’s two-spot drop in the rankings this week is more a byproduct of others around him excelling than a downturn in performance for the No. 48 team. Bowman was involved in two separate incidents early at Bristol, including a solo spin at Lap 92, but rallied back to a sixth-place finish. Bowman’s 11.3 finish is third-best in the series, bettered only by Elliott and Blaney, and the No. 48 car has finished 14th or better in each of the past seven races.
9. Kyle Larson (Last week: No. 8) Larson’s up-and-down year continued with another up on the dirt at Bristol. After sounding off about the use of windshields in NASCAR’s dirt races, Larson went out and led 27 laps and won Stage 1 before finishing fourth at Bristol. It’s his fourth top-five finish of the year, but the five other races have seen the No. 5 Chevrolet 19th or worse. The defending champion sits ninth in points and is still seeking better consistency, but Bristol was a possible step in the right direction.
10. Chase Briscoe (Last week: Unranked) Briscoe is back in the rankings after an excellent performance at the Bristol dirt race. The No. 14 Ford was out front for 59 laps and won Stage 2 despite a flat tire, spin and wall contact at Lap 50 that dropped him outside the top 30. Briscoe charged to Reddick’s back bumper in the closing laps but drove too deep into Turn 3, spinning sideways and backing into Reddick to send both cars around. Briscoe dropped to 22nd but was a corner-and-a-half away from at least a second-place finish.
Dropped out: Martin Truex Jr. (Last week: No. 10)
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NASCAR Power Rankings: Ryan Blaney bumps back to top after Bristol dirt originally appeared on NBCSports.com