NASCAR Power Rankings: Tyler Reddick holds steady after Atlanta

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A volatile race at the new Atlanta Motor Speedway has shaken up the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings yet again.

William Byron notched his first win of 2022 with an impressive defense over the final 13 laps of the superspeedway-style event, becoming the fifth different winner in five Cup races this season.

Chaos aside, some drivers are affirming themselves as stable frontrunners week after week. See where they rank with nearly 20% of the regular season complete:

NASCAR Power Rankings after Atlanta

1. Tyler Reddick (Last week: No. 1) Every week seems like the week Reddick may finally break into Victory Lane. Unfortunately, Reddick lost a right-rear tire while leading the field on Lap 145, sending his No. 8 Chevrolet nose-first into the outside wall as the field scattered around him. A similar issue plagued Reddick at Auto Club on Feb. 27, when a left-rear tire gave out while leading at Lap 153. While loop-data metrics have not been Reddick’s best friend, Reddick has been toward the front of the pack on a regular basis. It’s difficult to penalize a driver for inopportune flat tires while running P1, so Reddick earns his keep atop these rankings for at least another week.

2. Ryan Blaney (Last week: No. 4) Blaney has yet to win this season, but the Team Penske driver checks myriad boxes as the sport’s top competitor cumulatively through five races. The No. 12 Ford has led the most laps of any car this season (205), including at least one lap in every race. The team also tops the field in average running position (10.409) and has posted the most fastest laps run (83), according to NASCAR’s loop data metrics. Blaney has been in contention to win seemingly every week, a trend that began in the Daytona 500 when he pushed rookie teammate Austin Cindric to the victory. Blaney was in position for another strong finish at Atlanta before a push from Chase Briscoe went awry on the final lap, sending the No. 12 car in to the Turn 1 wall. The finishes need to be better — Blaney has three finishes of 17th or worse in five races — but he’s certainly knocking on the door of being the year’s dominant driver.

3. Kyle Larson (Last week: No. 2) Larson has been a victim of circumstances in each of the past two weeks and now holds three finishes of 30th or worse through five races. Still, the defending champion has been running well enough to warrant his high positioning in the rankings, notching a win and a second-place finish in the races where nothing went wrong. There’s no question Larson needs to avoid his superspeedway wrecks, and a broken valve spring at Phoenix was out of his control. But Larson has the fifth-best average running position in the series (12.523) despite his dismal results. COTA could be where Larson regains momentum.

4. Ross Chastain (Last week: No. 8) Chastain continued his astonishing start to 2022 by earning his second straight runner-up finish Sunday at Atlanta. This may have been Chastain’s most impressive performance of the year too. The No. 1 Chevrolet led 42 laps and was up front when a right-rear tire sent him into the Turn 1 wall. Somehow, Chastain mitigated the damage well enough to keep the car in decent shape and was in contention to win on the final lap. Trackhouse Racing as a whole has been impressive, but Chastain has managed three consecutive top-three finishes and may be in Victory Lane soon.

5. Chase Elliott (Last week: No. 6) Elliott finds himself atop the points standings for the first time since winning the Cup title in 2020. And while the No. 9 Chevrolet has been relatively quiet this season — aside from a three-wide battle gone wrong at Auto Club Speedway with teammate Larson — the data points toward extremely competitive runs from Elliott. His 11.218 average running position is third-best behind Blaney and Joey Logano; he led 50 laps at Phoenix before leading 29 more at Atlanta; and he notched his best finish of the season last week, placing sixth at his home track. His 42 stage points are also second-best in the series, so the No. 9 team remains one to watch.

6. Joey Logano (Last week: No. 5) Like many drivers, Logano has been running better than his finishes would say. But the 2018 series champion actually has some finishes to back up his strong showings — fifth at Auto Club, eighth at Phoenix and ninth at Atlanta. The No. 22 Ford is second in average running position (10.98) and has led 31 laps this season. Nobody has spent more laps inside the top 15 than Logano (1,075) and he sits second in the points standings. Is the No. 22 team as close to winning as teammate Blaney? That remains hard to say, but a Logano victory anywhere shouldn’t come as a surprise.

7. Kyle Busch (Last week: No. 3) Superspeedway racing and Kyle Busch have never seemed to mesh. That was the case again Sunday when Busch was involved in a Lap 102 crash that developed when Austin Dillon got loose in front of him. Busch had spent much of the afternoon to that point inside the top five and led 21 circuits. The 33rd-place finish is his first lower than 14th this year, but some familiar tracks ahead may allow the two-time Cup champ to rebound in the coming weeks.

8. William Byron (Last week: Unranked) Welcome to the show, Willy B. He dominated the day in Atlanta, proving to be the one constant in an ever-changing race. Despite 46 lead changes and being one of 20 different leaders, the No. 24 Chevrolet paced the field for 111 of 325 laps of chaos and went to Victory Lane. Superspeedway-style racing aside, Byron’s win is no fluke. Byron has the fourth-best average running position this year (11.798), has netted the most stage points through five races (55) and is second behind Logano in laps spent inside the top 15. This all comes after starting the year with two DNFs. Now, Byron sits fourth in points.

9. Chase Briscoe (Last week: No. 10) Briscoe followed his first career win at Phoenix by being in the mix again when the white flag fell at Atlanta. His late push to Blaney went awry, sent both Blaney and Briscoe into the Turn 1 wall and relegated Briscoe to a 15th-place finish. The sophomore Cup driver has posted the second-most fastest laps in the series and has led 126 laps. His 14.0 average finish is sixth-best among full-time drivers, and his best run in 2021 came at the Indianapolis road course. With a road course ahead at Circuit of the Americas, Briscoe will likely be toward the front again.

10. Kurt Busch (Last week: Unranked) Kurt Busch has done a masterful job of turning mediocre days into impressive finishes. Nobody should be surprised that Busch, a 23-year cup veteran, is utilizing his experience so well. But how he’s doing it is notable. The No. 45 Toyota ranks 19th in average running position at 17.927, but Busch now has two straight top-five finishes after finishing fifth at Phoenix and third at Atlanta. He’s only finished outside the top 10 twice in five races and his worst finish was 19th in the Daytona 500. Sitting fifth in points with only nine stage points, Busch is well worthy of a spot in these rankings.

Dropped out: Aric Almirola (Last week: No. 7), Martin Truex Jr. (Last week: No. 9)

Helio Castroneves rules out Daytona 500

Helio Castroneves Daytona 500
Robert Scheer/Indy Star/USA TODAY NETWORK
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Helio Castroneves might be at the 2023 Daytona 500, but the four-time Indy 500 winner won’t be in a race car.

During a news conference Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, Castroneves confirmed in response to a question from NBC Sports that he essentially has ruled out attempting to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the Feb. 19 season opener.

As recently as last Thursday at Rolex 24 Media Day, Castroneves, 47, said he still was working on trying to piece together a deal.

The Brazilian had been negotiating with the Cup team co-owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather and would have been in an “open” entry that lacked guaranteed entry to the Great American Race. That potentially would leave him in the precarious position of needing to make the race on qualifying speed or a qualifying race finish (as action sports star Travis Pastrana likely might need in his Cup debut).

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“Unfortunately for me, lack of experience, no testing,” Castroneves said. “A lot of things. I believe it would be a little bit tough throwing myself in such a short notice, and to go in a place that you’ve got to race yourself into it. So as of right now, yes, it’s not going to happen.

“But we did have an opportunity. We just got to elaborate a little bit more to give me a little more experience on that. So there is more things to come ahead of us, but as of right now, I want to focus on the IndyCar program as well and (the Rolex 24 at Daytona).”

Castroneves, who has a residence in Key Biscayne, said he still might attend the Daytona 500

“I might just come and see and watch it and continue to take a look and see what’s going to be in the future,” he said.

Castroneves enters Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona having won the event the past two years. He made his signature fence-climb after winning last year with Meyer Shank Racing, which he will be driving for full time in the NTT IndyCar Series this year. He became the fourth four-time Indy 500 winner in history in his 2021 debut with Meyer Shank Racing.

The 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar champion also has indicated an interest in Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 car that aims to place international drivers in a Cup ride (such as Kimi Raikkonen at Watkins Glen International last year). Team co-owner Justin Marks recently tweeted Trackhouse wouldn’t field the Project 91 car at the Daytona 500.

After winning the 2022 Superstar Racing Experience opener, SRX CEO Don Hawk had promised he would help secure a Daytona 500 ride for Castroneves.

Castroneves has been angling for a NASCAR ride for years, dating to when he drove for Team Penske from 2000-20. After winning the Rolex 24 last year, he said he had been lobbying Ray Evernham and Tony Stewart for help with getting in a Cup car.

Though Castroneves is out, Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern reported that Mayweather’s The Money Team Racing still is considering IndyCar driver Conor Daly for its seat.

Fire at Reaume Brothers Racing shop injures three

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A Thursday fire at the Reaume Brothers Racing shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, injured three individuals, according to Mooresville (North Carolina) Fire-Rescue.

Firefighters were dispatched to the shop, which is scheduled to field entries for driver Mason Massey in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this season, at about 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

The fire department extinguished the blaze quickly. The department stated on its Facebook page that one individual was transported to Lake Norman Regional hospital for smoke inhalation, and another was transported to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C. with burn injuries. A third was treated and released.

The team stated Thursday night on social media that Taylor Collier and Devin Fokin had been treated and released. The team stated that Taylor was treated for smoke inhalation and Fokin was treated “for serious burns.”

The Mooresville Fire Marshall’s office is investigating the cause of the fire. The fire department said the shop sustained “significant fire damage.”

In a tweet, the team said it is determining the extent of damage to the building. “More importantly,” it said, “a few of our team members did sustain injuries during the fire and are being transported for medical treatment.”

 

Trackhouse, RFK Racing, Front Row Motorsports sign sponsorship deals

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Trackhouse Racing, RFK Racing and Front Row Motorsports announced sponsorship deals Thursday morning.

Trackhouse said WWEX, a Dallas-based global logistics group, will increase its sponsorship presence with the team this year, serving as the primary sponsor in 21 races for drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez.

WWEX will appear on Chastain’s Chevrolets in 19 races and will sponsor Suarez twice. The organization was a Trackhouse sponsor in 11 events in 2022, which was a breakout season for both Chastain and Suarez.

RFK announced that Solomon Plumbing, which joined the team last season, will expand its presence this season and in future years. The Michigan-based company will serve as the primary sponsor for several races on driver Brad Keselowski‘s No. 6 Ford.

MORE: Chase Briscoe signs contract extension with Stewart-Haas

Solomon specializes in plumbing and fire services for new development and construction. It initially sponsored Keselowski last season in the dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Front Row Motorsports has signed Quincy Compressor, a Bay Minette, Ala.-based compressor manufacturer, as a sponsor for four races.

Quincy will sponsor Todd Gilliland‘s No. 38 team in three events and Michael McDowell‘s No. 34 team in one race.

 

 

Stewart-Haas Racing signs Chase Briscoe to contract extension

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Chase Briscoe has signed a multiyear contract extension to remain at Stewart-Haas Racing, the team announced Thursday.

The length of the deal was not announced.

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Briscoe is entering his third Cup season with the team. He won his first series race last year, taking the checkered flag at Phoenix last March. That victory put him in the playoffs. He finished the season ninth in the standings. 

“It’s huge to have stability, with my team and my partner,” Briscoe said in a statement from the team. “It just gives you more confidence. Stewart-Haas Racing is where I want to be for a long time. It’s the place I’ve known longer than anywhere else in my NASCAR career.

“I remember getting signed by Ford in 2017 and I told people, ‘You know, if I could pick one place to be, it would be Stewart- Haas Racing. And if I could drive one car, it would be the 14 car. That would be the ultimate dream.’ And now, here I am.

“SHR has such a great group of people, from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series, and they’ve all just guided me in the right direction. From drivers to crew chiefs to crew members, they’ve always had my back, and that’s been a huge help – just having people believe in you.”

The 28-year-old Briscoe has been with SHR since 2018. He split a limited Xfinity schedule that season between what is now RFK Racing and SHR. He ran full time with SHR in the Xfinity Series in 2019 and ’20 before moving to Cup in 2021.

“Chase has made the most of every opportunity and the proof is in the results. Keeping him at SHR was a priority and we’re proud to have him in our racecars for many more years to come,” said Tony Stewart, who co-owns SHR with Haas Automation founder Gene Haas, in a statement from the team. 

Briscoe’s signing comes two weeks after teammate Kevin Harvick announced that this will be his final season in Cup. 

The Cup season begins Feb. 5 with the Busch Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before going to Daytona for the Feb. 19 Daytona 500.