Power Rankings: Byron moves up to No. 1 after Martinsville
The NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings has a new leader for the third week in a row and for good reason.
William Byron drove the #24 Chevrolet to its second win of the season (and second in four weeks) Saturday night at Martinsville Speedway.
No one has dropped out of the leaderboard this week, but Christopher Bell and Kevin Harvick are knocking on the door, ready to pounce if those in the bottom half of the leaderboard falter.
NASCAR power rankings
1. William Byron (last week: #5) As the only repeat winner of the Next Gen era, no pilot in the series currently wields more power than Lord Byron. The recent presence of the No. 24 Chevrolet in the front row was no accident. Since collapsing in the first two races of the season, Byron has averaged 6.7 over the past six races with two wins, four top five finishes and no worse than 18th (Phoenix). Leading 445 laps in the last four races, including a record 212 at Martinsville, Byron also leads the series in laps led and ranks third in average race position (10.43). The dirt in Bristol next week offers a different challenge, but Byron looks here to stay.
2. Ryan Blaney (last week: #1) Blaney drops a spot this week but remains a major threat despite the goose egg in his win column. Leading five laps at Martinsville, the #12 Ford has topped the standings in every race this year and remains the series best in average race position (8.89). Blaney still hasn’t finished better than fourth this season, but he’s also had three top 10 finishes in his last four starts, except for Atlanta where he was in the top five at the white flag but finished 17th.
3. Ross Chastain (last week: #2) Somehow, Chastain helped the No. 1 Chevrolet finish fifth at Martinsville to score its fifth top-five in the last six races. Chastain, who finished 19th at Richmond, appeared to be heading for a similar fate on Saturday night with much of his evening spent outside the top 10, averaging 14.5 race position. But a career year so far continues to go in favor of Melon Man, an eighth-generation watermelon farmer from Florida.
4. Chase Elliott (last week: #6) NASCAR’s reigning most popular driver put in his best performance of the season on Saturday night, leading the first 185 laps and sweeping the stages at Martinsville. Track position was at a premium, however, and ceding the lead to Hendrick Motorsports teammate Byron under the caution of Stage 2 proved an impossible hurdle to overcome as the #9 Chevrolet finished 10th. He enters the Bristol Dirt Race this week with once again the lead in points and the best average of the series (11.3).
5. Joey Logano (last week: #8) Speaking of drivers who put in their best performance of 2022 in a points race, Logano scored his best result of the season with a second-place finish at Martinsville. The No. 22 Ford had a few weeks of discouraging results – 31st at Circuit of the Americas and 17th at Richmond – but bounced back with an impressive performance on the trombone-shaped short track. Martinsville scored only the second race Logano hasn’t led this season, but he held the third-best average race position at Martinsville (4.83) and ranks fourth in the class overall.
6. Alex Bowman (last week: #7) The No. 48 team didn’t have a stellar day in Martinsville, but Bowman and Co. are putting together consistent performances week in and week out. Bowman has finished no worse than 14th since winning in Las Vegas in early March, a significant improvement from the first two races of the year in which Bowman finished 24th (Daytona) and 25th (Auto Club ). His 12.0 average score also ties Blaney for second in the Cup Series.
7. Tyler Reddick (last week: #4) Reddick’s hot start has cooled considerably. The No. 8 team looked like a threat to win in each of the first six-point races, but Reddick has now finished 12th or worse in three of the last four races, including 18th at Martinsville. Any momentum generated by his early performances – like leading 90 laps at the Auto Club and finishing seventh or better three times in four – waned.
8. Kyle Larson (last week: #3) A five-spot drop in the standings puts the defending champion in the top 10 this week. A pit road speeding penalty on lap 303 was factored into a 19th-place finish at Martinsville for Larson. The No. 5 team is only three finishes better than 19th all season. These three results are all top-five finishes, including a win and a second-place finish. But the team’s execution has taken a significant setback as teammates Byron, Elliott and Bowman find their groove.
9. Kyle Busch (last week: #10) Busch came away from Martinsville with a seventh place finish, his fifth top 10 finish in eight races this year. The #18 Toyota averaged a race position of 12.43 on the 0.526 mile track, but quietly clawed its way to another good finish and outperformed how it perhaps should have finished .
10. Martin Truex Jr. (last week: #9) Truex was a non-factor at Martinsville, a track he has enjoyed significant success on in recent years. Aside from a DNF due to a crash in Phoenix, Truex’s effort for 22nd place on Saturday night was his worst of the season. The 2017 champion is carried this week by the sum of his results and his regularity, but the Toyota n°19 is about to be abandoned with a new poor performance.