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.
#NASCAR … Kyle Busch spoke to the media after parking his car in the garage … pic.twitter.com/swYwAGG81V
— Dustin Long (@dustinlong) March 20, 2022
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)