January 26, 2022

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Power Ranking After: Charlotte

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The Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway was more of what we traditionally expect from NASCAR. The top five were all from marquee teams. Granted, four of those drivers were Hendrick Motorsports pilots, but the real needle mover in this race is that those five drivers all spent most of the race among the top five. It is the kind of dominance seen in the past.

That was the scenario for much of 2018 and 2019. The 2020 season was a little less predictable, but that was somewhat attributable to the disruption to the schedule caused COVID-19. And while the protocols put in place last year are still being used – i.e. no practice and qualification most weeks – there was not the same kind of parity we’re seeing this season.

What was different about the Coke 600 is that the top five finishers all had Driver Rating and Average Running Positions in that range. Since these drivers were already in the top 10, they fairly well held position against one another, but with AJ Allmendinger being moved out of the top 10 (because he did not race last week) and generally disappointing runs for Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. last week, the drivers sixth through 11th uniformly moved up.

This week, the Blue-Emu 500 at Martinsville Speedway falls out of the last 45-day formula, which runs from Richmond Raceway through Charlotte.

Top 10

1. William Byron (last week: 2) +1
Weeks in the top 10: 10
Cup wins: 1 (Homestead)
Power Average: 6.80
After failing to extend his top-10 streak by one position at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), Byron took all doubt out of his performance at Charlotte. He was part of the Hendrick juggernaut who were basically the only competition each of them had. Until this week, Byron’s top-10 streak had failed to elevate him into the top 10 because they were typically outside the top five. In the past 45 days, Byron has four top-fives in seven races and none of those are offset by a poor result.

2. Denny Hamlin (last week: 1) -1
Weeks in the top 10: 16
Weeks as #1: 8
Cup wins: 0 (Points leader by +76)
Power Average: 7.87
Last week Hamlin lost 22 points of his advantage to second-place in the championship standings, which is a tie between Kyle Larson and Byron. Chase Elliott also cut into Hamlin’s advantage. Hamlin is not in any serious danger of failing to make the playoffs, especially now that repeat winners are popping up. He is mathematically vulnerable, however, and if the points lead continues to shrink, pressure will build. There is also the undesirable fact that he has only five playoff points to Larson’s 19 and Truex’s 18.

3. Chase Elliott (last week: 3)
Weeks in the top 10: 16
Weeks as #1: 3
Cup wins: 1 (COTA)
Power Average: 7.95
Elliott did not need to win last week to help secure his playoff bid. And if you’re going to lose, a teammate is the best driver to lose to because it confirms the organization has a strong program. But in another sense, Elliott did need the victory. There are still several road course races on the schedule and Elliott can pad his playoff points’ total. He is at risk of being labeled a one-trick pony and that could affect his confidence in the final 10 races where there is only one road course race.

4. Kyle Busch (last week: 5) +1
Weeks in the top 10: 15
Cup wins: 1 (Kansas 1)
Power Average: 8.04
Busch has looked more comfortable in the car in the last two weeks than he has all year. He has made no secret of his need for practice in order to run well in race trim. At COTA and Charlotte, he got those extra laps on the track and it showed with top-five capable cars. He has to be lobbying NASCAR hard to restore practice for the playoffs.

5. Kyle Larson (last week: 8) +3
Weeks in the top 10: 12
Weeks as #1: 2
Cup wins: 1 (Las Vegas 1, Charlotte)
Power Average: 8.91
If we narrowed our focus to the last four races, Larson would be head and shoulders above the competition. In the past 45 days, however, he has three results outside the top 15 including the terrible statistical performance at Talladega when his team left a panel in front of his engine and cooked it in two laps. Next week his 18th-place finish at Richmond ages out of the formula and by the time we get to Nashville, Talladega’s disappointment will also be gone. Unless he crashes at Sonoma, it is only a matter of time before he ascends to the top spot again.

6. Joey Logano (last week: 9) +3
Weeks in the top 10: 16
Weeks as #1: 1
Cup wins: 1 (Bristol dirt)
Power Average: 10.34
It is not that Logano moved up three spots as much that his teammate Blaney and Truex had terrible performances at Charlotte. Because he did not race in the Coke 600, we momentarily moved Allmendinger out of the top 10. He will return to his rightful spot when he races again. In terms of his Fantasy Power Rankings average, Logano actually lost some ground to fifth position. He still needs to find consistency before he becomes a weekly value.

7. Tyler Reddick (last week: 10) +3
Weeks in the top 10: 4
Cup wins: 0
Power Average: 10.40
Reddick now has seven top-10s and a 12th in his last nine races. If he keeps running like this, we’re going to have to stop calling him a dark horse. The good news is that oddsmakers have still not quite caught up to his potential. As of Monday evening, he was listed with +4000 odds at PointsBet Sportsbook and that will drag his top-10 odds to an attractive level.

8. Kevin Harvick (last week: 11) +3
Weeks in the top 10: 13
Cup wins: 0
Power Average: 10.83
Harvick has not completely turned a corner yet, but he is improving. In the past 45 days he has two top-fives, a pair of sixth-place finishes, and a 10th. His COTA accident is dragging his stats down, but the real issue with him is that he is simply not leading races and dominating. That is a far cry from the driver who won nine times last year and he is not going to be viewed as a threat until he actually wins.

9. Brad Keselowski (last week: 12) +3
Weeks in the top 10: 11
Cup wins: 1 (Talladega 1)
Power Average: 11.17
The Coke 600 was a typical race for Keselowski. He didn’t turn a lot of heads, but the team kept him in contention and he was among the top 10 at the checkers. He is vulnerable to attack from a variety of dark horses especially as the series heads into a portion of the schedule with a lot of road courses. The distraction of where he will race next year also has to take a bit of a toll.

10. Alex Bowman (last week: 13) +3
Weeks in the top 10: 4
Cup wins: 1 (Richmond 1, Dover 1)
Power Average: 11.24
Bowman has been making his way up the grid and he finally rejoins his three Hendrick mates. It doesn’t take long to forget how anemic he seemed at Kansas Speedway and Darlington Raceway. So long as he and the rest of this organization dominates the top five, the spotlight will shine brightly. Bowman will continue to be the most underrated of these four, which could make him a good bet for top-threes and -fives.

Other drivers with wins, not among the top 10: Martin Truex Jr. ([3] Phoenix 1, Martinsville 1, and Darlington 1), Michael McDowell (Daytona 1), Christopher Bell (Daytona road), and Ryan Blaney (Atlanta).

Dropped from the Top 10

12. Ryan Blaney (last week: 7) -5
Weeks in the top 10: 9
Cup wins: 1 (Atlanta 1)
Power Average: 11.29
Blaney has run better than his stats reveal, but the bottom line is that he does not have any top-fives in the last 45 days. It’s hard to be considered part of the 10 elite drivers without a few strong runs and his ninth in the Talladega lottery and eighth at Darlington simply won’t do the trick.

13. Martin Truex Jr. (last week: 6) -7
Weeks in the top 10: 13
Weeks as #1: 2
Cup wins: 2 (Phoenix, Martinsville 1, Darlington 1)
Power Average: 11.93
Truex has been caught in a perfect storm in recent weeks. That was quite literally the case at COTA when his car was destroyed in an accident in the rain. Last week, we reluctantly called him a Best Bet to finish in the top 10. His road racing skill makes him worth noting again at Sonoma, but if he does not have a strong run there, he could get dropped from consideration on the next oval course.

Winners, Last 45 Days (Outright Odds to win)
Coke 600, Kyle Larson (+450)
Texas Grand Prix, Chase Elliott (+240)
Drydene 400, Alex Bowman (+1800)
Goodyear 400, Martin Truex Jr. (+775)
Buschy McBusch 400, Kyle Busch (+1200)
Geico 500, Brad Keselowski (+1200)
Toyota Owners 400, Alex Bowman (+3300)

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner, and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links.

Power Average, Last 45 Days


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