NASCAR Power Rankings: Ross Chastain rises to No. 1 after COTA

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In its second appearance on the NASCAR schedule, Circuit of the Americas sent another jolt through the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.

Ross Chastain‘s recent stretch of high-quality performances finally resulted in a win. But with a larger sample size of the 2022 season available, more trends are starting to develop.

Here’s where drivers rank after six Cup Series races:

NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Ross Chastain (Last week: No. 4) With an average finish of 2.0 in his last four races, the No. 1 Chevrolet rockets to the No. 1 spot in the rankings. Chastain has been knocking on the door of his first career win for the last month. And while he had to bust through the door in Turn 19 in the form of AJ Allmendinger, Chastain finally got the job done. That he did so in the midst of a four-race streak of top-three finishes proves Chastain is no fluke. Chastain has also led the second-most laps in the Cup Series through six races. There are no guarantees that Trackhouse Racing can keep up its momentum, but there is no reason to doubt the organization after six strong showings.

2. Ryan Blaney (Last week: No. 2) Blaney was a three-race winner in 2021 and hasn’t broken through yet this year, but the No. 12 Ford continues to find its way to the front on a weekly basis. Outside of fourth-place efforts at Daytona and Phoenix, his finishes haven’t quite been there yet. But Sunday marked another solid run for Blaney as he finished sixth at COTA. Blaney also maintains the laps led lead and holds the best average running position (10.107) in the series.

3. Tyler Reddick (Last week: No. 1) Perhaps a two-spot drop is a bit harsh after posting a top-five finish and the second-best average running position at COTA, but Reddick’s season-long resume isn’t yet what Chastain’s and Blaney’s are. The Richard Childress Racing driver restarted on the front row for the overtime restart Sunday but slid to fifth place in one lap. Reddick has proven he’s fast and can run with the best in the series, boasting the fourth-best average running position this season at 12.487. But without a victory — or at least consistent laps led — all Reddick has shown is potential. Three of his races have resulted in top 10s — seventh after a spin at Vegas, third at Phoenix and fifth at COTA; the others have seen him outside the top 20 — 35th at Daytona, 24th at Auto Club and 28th at Atlanta.

4. Chase Elliott (Last week: No. 5) Elliott remains atop the point standings after another solid run on a road course, which should come as no surprise. What was a bit surprising was that Elliott was never a factor for the win at COTA, failing to lead a single lap. But the No. 9 Chevrolet kept his nose fairly clean (although Kyle Busch might dispute that after a spin off his bumper), and Elliott notched his first top-five finish of the season. His was a quiet fourth-place finish, but it continues a steady start to Elliott’s season in which he’s only finished outside the top 11 once and holds the second-best average running position in the series. Elliott hasn’t felt like a threat to win since Auto Club, but maybe his run at COTA can help his future footing.

5. Joey Logano (Last week: No. 6) Logano hasn’t been flashy, but like Elliott, he’s been running well enough to sit third in points and in average running position. His COTA showing didn’t go nearly as well after a Lap 67 crash with Kyle Larson and Kurt Busch relegated him to a 31st-place finish, but the No. 22 team has still seemed more competitive than most through six races. The finishes will need to improve, but Sunday marked the first time in five races that Logano finished worse than 14th. Richmond should provide an opportunity for Logano to start posting better results.

6. Kyle Larson (Last week: No. 3) The defending champ’s season has not gone to plan. Through six races, Larson has one win (Auto Club) and a runner-up finish (Las Vegas) and four finishes of 29th or worse. The No. 5 Chevrolet has been running well before its myriad issues, but those issues are piling up in a hurry. No one should be ready to count out a driver who has won 11 races since the start of last season, but a seventh-best average running position is only worth so much when two-thirds of the young season has produced awful results. This week, the most significant factor was a Turn 1 crash with Logano and Kurt Busch that created the overtime restart. It’s hard to fault Larson for the issues that have plagued him. But results matter, and his have fallen severely.

7. Alex Bowman (Last week: Unranked) Bowman’s lack of consistency still makes him difficult to rank appropriately. That consistency has plagued the No. 48 team for years, dating back to its days as the No. 88 program. However, Bowman is starting to string good runs together — and nearly backed into another win Sunday before Chastain’s contact to Allmendinger sent the No. 16 car into Bowman, allowing Chastain to pull away while Bowman cruised home second. Bowman has finished first (Vegas), 14th (Phoenix), 10th (Atlanta) and second in his last four outings. Those outings are better than most, and the No. 48 might be on the rise as others falter.

8. William Byron (Last week: No. 8) Byron was very quiet at COTA, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Off the heels of his Atlanta victory, the No. 24 Chevrolet seemed fairly average compared to the other contenders of the day. His 12th-place finish displays as much, but Byron’s results have been a roller coaster. After two DNFs to start the season, the No. 24 car has finished fifth, 18th, first and 12th. By no means has the team been bad, but with the series’ fifth-best average running position (12.501), it certainly needs to figure out which of those finishes are more indicative of where it runs.

9. Kyle Busch (Last week: No. 7) Kyle Busch has been faced with adversity nearly every week this season. The No. 18 Toyota has been fast but has had to overcome spins or incidents in at least five of the season’s six races. After an early spin at COTA, Busch had recovered to run near the top five on the final restart. But two spins in the final two laps relegated Busch back to a 28th-place finish. COTA and Atlanta (33rd) mark Busch’s only finishes worse than 14th, but the two-time champion is being forced to overcome struggles on a regular basis.

10. Chase Briscoe (Last week: No. 9) Briscoe was in contention to win at COTA in the closing laps, but a flat-spotted tire and being forced wide through the esses — before another flat tire on the final lap — ruined a strong showing for Briscoe. The No. 14 Ford is still competitive every week and has now led laps in four of six races this season. But the sophomore driver is still learning his limits and that was evident Sunday.

Dropped out: Kurt Busch (Last week: No. 10)

NBC will broadcast final six NASCAR Cup Series playoff races

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The final six races in the chase for the NASCAR Cup Series championship will be televised by NBC.

The races remaining on the schedule are at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2), the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 9), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Oct. 16), Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 23), Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 30) and Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 6).

NBC’s broadcasting team will be on hand Sunday for what is typically a seasonal highlight — a 500-mile race at Talladega Superspeedway. The next week the playoffs move on to Charlotte for a cutoff race. The lowest four drivers in the playoff point standings will be eliminated from championship competition.

The Round of 8 is scheduled at Las Vegas, Homestead and Martinsville, with the tiny Martinsville track serving as the final cutoff race. The four drivers who advance from Martinsville will race for the title at Phoenix Nov. 6.

The high drama of the Phoenix race, in which the championship will go to the highest finisher of the four competing drivers, will be carried by both NBC and Peacock.

Post-race commentary and analysis for all six remaining Cup races will be carried on Peacock.

Kyle Larson is the series defending champion. Joey Logano carries the point lead into Sunday’s race at Talladega.

NASCAR viewer’s guide for Talladega Superspeedway

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After a messy Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs move on this weekend to another potentially messy spot — Talladega Superspeedway.

Home to the Big One — an almost certain multi-car crash, Talladega also occasionally produces unexpected winners, including Richard Brickhouse, James Hylton, Lennie Pond, Ron Bouchard and Brad Keselowski.

The mix of tight drafting, the Next Gen car and general playoff tension should make Sunday’s 500-mile run quite the adventure.

On Sunday at Texas, Tyler Reddick became the second driver (after Chase Elliott) to score three wins this season.

Joey Logano enters Talladega with the playoff point lead.

Playoff rookies roll on

The four drivers participating in the Cup playoffs for the first time remain factors approaching the second race in the second round.

Ross Chastain is second in the standings, 18 points above the cutline entering Talladega.

MORE: NBC NASCAR rankings put Denny Hamlin first

Daniel Suarez, Chastain’s Trackhouse Racing teammate, is seventh. He’s four points above the cutline.

Two other playoff rookies — Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric — will start Talladega below the cutline. Briscoe is four points below the cutline. Cindric is 11 points below the cutline.

Looking for wins

Only six of the remaining 12 playoff drivers have won races at the two remaining tracks in the second round (Talladega and Charlotte Roval).

Among the six, Joey Logano has the best win record at Talladega, having finished first there in 2015, 2016 and 2018.

Other Talladega winners in the group: Ryan Blaney (two), Denny Hamlin (two), Chase Elliott (one), Ross Chastain (one).

The Charlotte Roval is relatively new, of course, but Chase Elliott already owns two wins there. Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson also have won at the Roval.

An opening for Brad?

Few people who watched it will forget the first Cup Series victory scored by Brad Keselowski.

It occurred at this week’s tour stop — Talladega Superspeedway — in April 2009. Keselowski and Carl Edwards made contact approaching the finish line and notched the win, even as Edwards’ car flew into the frontstretch fence, spraying car parts into the grandstands.

Thirteen years later, Keselowski returns to NASCAR’s biggest track having recorded six Talladega wins. No other active drive has more than three.

Keselowski’s refurbished team — Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing — has new fire with Chris Buescher winning at Bristol and Keselowski winning the pole and finishing eighth at Texas.

RFK Racing has led 309 laps in the past two races, more than the team had led in the prior 105 races combined.

Although he hasn’t won a Cup race since scoring a victory in a Team Penske Ford in April 2021 at Talladega, Keselowski must be considered a threat Sunday.

Entry lists

Thirty-seven drivers, including Xfinity Series star Noah Gragson and reigning Xfinity champion Daniel Hemric, are entered for Sunday’s Cup race.

Talladega Cup entry list

The Xfinity entry list includes 41 drivers for 38 spots. Among those joining the series regulars are Trevor Bayne, Parker Kligerman, Timmy Hill and Jeffrey Earnhardt.

Talladega Xfinity entry list

Forty-one drivers are entered for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race. Included are Kaz Grala, Ryan Preece, Natalie Decker, Jennifer Jo Cobb and Parker Kligerman.

Talladega Truck entry list

This week’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Friday, Sept. 30

Forecast: Partly cloudy. High of 77. (Weather note: There is the possibility that Hurricane Ian could impact the race weekend, depending on its path).

  • 3:30 – 5 p.m. — Truck Series qualifying
  • 5:30 – 7 p.m. — Xfinity Series qualifying (USA Network)

Saturday, Oct. 1

Forecast: Overcast with showers at times. Potential for heavy rainfall. High of 73. 60% chance of rain.

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 2

Forecast: Sun in the morning, increasing clouds in the afternoon. Slight chance of a shower. High of 74.

  • 2 p.m. — Cup Series race (188 laps, 500 miles; NBC, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

 

 

 

 

NASCAR fines Ty Gibbs $75,000 for pit road incident at Texas

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NASCAR fined Ty Gibbs $75,000 and docked him 25 points for door-slamming Ty Dillon on pit road during last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Crew members from other teams were nearby when Gibbs hit Dillon’s car, causing it to swerve. No crew members or officials were hit.

NASCAR has made it a priority that drivers are not to cause contact that could injured crew members or officials on pit road. NASCAR also penalized Gibbs 25 Cup driver points and docked 23XI Racing 25 car owner points for the No. 23 Cup car that Gibbs drives.

NASCAR penalizes William Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin

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NASCAR has docked William Byron 25 points and fined him $50,000 for spinning Denny Hamlin under caution in last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Byron drops from third in the playoff standings to below the cutline heading into Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Chase Briscoe moves up to hold the final transfer spot with 3,041 points. Austin Cindric is the first driver outside a transfer spot with 3,034 points. Byron is next at 3,033 points.

Hendrick Motorsports was docked 25 owner points as well.

Hendrick Motorsports stated it would appeal the penalty.

The caution waved at Lap 269 for Martin Truex Jr.’s crash. As Hamlin slowed, Byron closed and hit him in the rear. 

Byron admitted after the race the contact was intentional, although he didn’t mean to wreck Hamlin. Byron was upset with how Hamlin raced him on Lap 262. Byron felt Hamlin forced him into the wall as they exited Turn 2 side-by-side. Byron expressed his displeasure during the caution.

“I felt like he ran me out of race track off of (Turn) 2 and had really hard contact with the wall,” Byron said. “Felt like the toe link was definitely bent, luckily not fully broken. We were able to continue.

“A lot of times that kind of damage is going to ruin your race, especially that hard. I totally understand running somebody close and making a little bit of contact, but that was pretty massive.”

On the retaliatory hit, Byron said: “I didn’t mean to spin him out. That definitely wasn’t what I intended to do. I meant to bump him a little bit and show my displeasure and unfortunately, it happened the way it did. Obviously, when he was spinning out, I was like ‘I didn’t mean to do this,’ but I was definitely frustrated.”

Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart argued and questioned NASCAR for not putting Hamlin back in second place — where he was before Byron hit him — and also questioned Byron not being penalized.

“I guess we can just wreck each other under caution,” Hamlin said after the race.

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, told reporters after the race that series officials did not penalize Byron because they did not see the incident. 

“When we were in the tower, we were paying more attention to the actual cause of the caution up there and dispatching our equipment,” Miller said. “The William Byron-Denny Hamlin thing, we had no eyes on. We saw Denny go through the grass.

“By the time we got a replay that showed the incident well enough to do anything to it, we had gone back to green.”