NASCAR Power Rankings: William Byron rockets to No. 1 after Martinsville

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The NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings have a new leader for the third week in a row and with good reason.

William Byron wheeled the No. 24 Chevrolet to his second win of the season (and second in four weeks) Saturday night at Martinsville Speedway.

No one fell out of the rankings this week, but Christopher Bell and Kevin Harvick are pounding on the door ready to pounce if those in the bottom half of the standings falter.

NASCAR Power Rankings

1. William Byron (Last week: No. 5) As the only repeat winner of the Next Gen era, no driver in the series wields more power right now than Lord Byron. The No. 24 Chevrolet’s recent top-tier presence has been no fluke. Since crashing out in the first two races of the season, Byron has averaged a 6.7 finish in the past six races with two wins, four top fives and no finish worse than 18th (Phoenix). By leading 445 laps in the last four races, including a race-high 212 at Martinsville, Byron is also the series’ leader in laps led and sits third in average running position (10.43). The dirt at Bristol next week provides a different challenge, but Byron appears here to stay.

2. Ryan Blaney (Last week: No. 1) Blaney falls a spot this week but remains a top threat despite the goose egg in his win column. By virtue of leading five laps at Martinsville, the No. 12 Ford has reached the top of the leaderboard in every race this year and remains the series’ best in average running position (8.89). Blaney still hasn’t finished better than fourth this season, but he’s also notched three top 10s in his last four starts, the exception being Atlanta where he was inside the top five at the white flag but finished 17th.

3. Ross Chastain (Last week: No. 2) Somehow, someway, Chastain willed the No. 1 Chevrolet to a fifth-place finish at Martinsville to score his fifth top five in the past six races. Chastain, who finished 19th at Richmond, appeared headed for a similar fate on Saturday night with much of his evening spent outside the top 10, averaging a 14.5 running position. But a career year so far continues to go in favor of the Melon Man, an eighth-generation watermelon farmer from Florida.

4. Chase Elliott (Last week: No. 6) NASCAR’s reigning Most Popular Driver had his strongest performance of the season on Saturday night, leading the opening 185 laps and sweeping the stages at Martinsville. Track position was a premium, though, and relinquishing the lead to Byron, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, under the Stage 2 caution proved an impossible hurdle to overcome as the No. 9 Chevrolet finished 10th. He enters the Bristol Dirt race this week with the points lead in hand once again and the best average finish of the series (11.3).

5. Joey Logano (Last week: No. 8) Speaking of drivers who had their best showing of 2022 in a points race, Logano scored his best finish of the season with a second-place finish at Martinsville. The No. 22 Ford had a couple weeks of disheartening results — 31st at Circuit of the Americas and 17th at Richmond — but rebounded with an impressive performance at the paperclip-shaped short track. Martinsville marked just the second race Logano hasn’t led this season, but he held the third-best average running position at Martinsville (4.83) and sits fourth in the category overall.

6. Alex Bowman (Last week: No. 7) The No. 48 team didn’t have a stellar day at Martinsville, but Bowman and Co. are piecing together consistent performances on a week-to-week basis. Bowman hasn’t finished worse than 14th since winning at Las Vegas to start 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 finish also ties Blaney for the second-best in the Cup Series.

7. Tyler Reddick (Last week: No. 4) Reddick’s hot start has cooled considerably. The No. 8 team appeared to be a threat to win in each of the opening six points races, but Reddick has now finished 12th or worse in three of the last four races, including 18th at Martinsville. Any momentum sparked by his early performances — like leading 90 laps at Auto Club and finishing seventh or better three times in a four-span — has dwindled.

8. Kyle Larson (Last week: No. 3) A five-spot drop in the rankings finds the defending champion deep in the top 10 this week. A pit-road speeding penalty at Lap 303 factored into a 19th-place finish at Martinsville for Larson. The No. 5 team has only three finishes better than 19th all season. Those three results are all top fives, including a win and a runner-up finish. But the team’s execution has taken a significant step back as teammates Byron, Elliott and Bowman find their strides.

9. Kyle Busch (Last week: No. 10) Busch walked away from Martinsville with a seventh-place finish, his fifth top 10 in eight races this year. The No. 18 Toyota averaged a 12.43 running position at the 0.526-mile track but quietly worked his way into another good finish and outperforming how he perhaps should have finished.

10. Martin Truex Jr. (Last week: No. 9) Truex was a nonfactor at Martinsville, a track at which he’s had significant success in recent years. Aside from a DNF due to a crash at Phoenix, Truex’s 22nd-place effort Saturday night was his worst of the season. The 2017 champion is buoyed this week by the sum of his results and consistency, but the No. 19 Toyota is on the brink of being dropped with another poor performance.

Dropped out: None.