NASCAR Power Rankings: Ryan Blaney bumps back to top after Bristol dirt

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Dirt shook up the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings as much as it did the Cup schedule.

Ryan Blaney is back on top after a strong performance on Bristol Motor Speedway’s red clay, but last week’s top driver William Byron didn’t slide far.

See how far Kyle Busch rocketed up the rankings after his Bristol win and who fell after the ninth race of the season:

NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Ryan Blaney (Last week: No. 2) Blaney returns to the top spot after a fifth-place finish at Bristol on Sunday night. The No. 12 Ford holds the highest average running position in the series at 9.048, making Blaney the lone driver with an average better than 10th. Blaney is still looking for a way back to victory lane after a three-win campaign in 2021, but he is tied with Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch for the most top-10 finishes this year (six) and has the second-most top fives (four), tying him with Byron and Kyle Larson. Blaney is always strong at superspeedways, so perhaps this weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway is where he finally breaks through.

2. William Byron (Last week: No. 1) Byron remains the only driver in Cup to win more than one race in 2022. However, the No. 24 team took a step back on the dirt at Bristol with an 18th-place finish and slides from the top spot in the rankings. The good news is that nothing from Bristol’s dirt will translate to the rest of the season. Byron maintains the fourth-best average running position (11.12) and sits fourth in points. A quiet day on the dirt doesn’t do much to quell the momentum of the No. 24 team.

3. Chase Elliott (Last week: No. 4) The series’ points leader bumps up a spot in this week’s rankings after a decent run on dirt. Elliott’s weekend started with spins aplenty, going for loops on four separate occasions during Friday’s practice sessions. But the 2020 Cup champion rebounded with an eighth-place finish after picking up fourth-place stage points in Stage 2. He remains the only Hendrick Motorsports driver without a victory this year, but nobody has a better average finish in Cup than Elliott’s 10.9.

4. Kyle Busch (Last week: No. 9) The Candy Man is back with a win. A couple weeks ago, it was noted Busch would likely finish inside the top five if he could just have a clean race. That came to fruition Sunday at Bristol when leaders Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe tangled in the final corner, allowing Busch to swoop from third to first for his first triumph of the season. Busch has the fourth-best average finish in the series (12.1) and the seventh-best average running position to boot (13.25).

5. Joey Logano (Last week: No. 5) In two Cup races on dirt, Logano has a 2.0 average finish thanks to his third-place effort Sunday night. The defending winner of the Bristol dirt race had a quiet but impressive night, averaging a 6.64 running position en route to his third top five of the year and second in a row, following his runner-up effort at Martinsville Speedway. Logano is now on a 38-race winless streak in points races despite winning the exhibition Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in February, but the No. 22 Team Penske Ford appears to be gaining momentum after a couple down weeks at Circuit of the Americas and Richmond.

6. Tyler Reddick (Last week: No. 7) Reddick fell 0.33 seconds short of his first career Cup victory Sunday night. The two-time Xfinity Series champion was hit by Briscoe in the final corner, sending both cars spinning. Reddick recovered quickly thanks to the four-second advantage he and Briscoe held over Busch, but Reddick couldn’t cross the line quick enough to win. Nonetheless, Reddick nabbed his third top-five finish of the season after leading 99 of the final 100 laps and appears closer to breaking through.

7. Ross Chastain (Last week: No. 3) Chastain had a tough time trudging through NASCAR’s short-track trek. A motor issue at the conclusion of Stage 2 reared its head again following a rain delay, ending Chastain’s night and relegating him to a 33rd-place finish. It’s Chastain’s second finish of 19th or worse in the three races following his COTA victory on March 27, a downturn broken up by a fifth-place finish at Martinsville. Chastain sits eighth in points and holds the 10th-best average running position in Cup (14.331).

8. Alex Bowman (Last week: No. 6) Bowman’s two-spot drop in the rankings this week is more a byproduct of others around him excelling than a downturn in performance for the No. 48 team. Bowman was involved in two separate incidents early at Bristol, including a solo spin at Lap 92, but rallied back to a sixth-place finish. Bowman’s 11.3 finish is third-best in the series, bettered only by Elliott and Blaney, and the No. 48 car has finished 14th or better in each of the past seven races.

9. Kyle Larson (Last week: No. 8) Larson’s up-and-down year continued with another up on the dirt at Bristol. After sounding off about the use of windshields in NASCAR’s dirt races, Larson went out and led 27 laps and won Stage 1 before finishing fourth at Bristol. It’s his fourth top-five finish of the year, but the five other races have seen the No. 5 Chevrolet 19th or worse. The defending champion sits ninth in points and is still seeking better consistency, but Bristol was a possible step in the right direction.

10. Chase Briscoe (Last week: Unranked) Briscoe is back in the rankings after an excellent performance at the Bristol dirt race. The No. 14 Ford was out front for 59 laps and won Stage 2 despite a flat tire, spin and wall contact at Lap 50 that dropped him outside the top 30. Briscoe charged to Reddick’s back bumper in the closing laps but drove too deep into Turn 3, spinning sideways and backing into Reddick to send both cars around. Briscoe dropped to 22nd but was a corner-and-a-half away from at least a second-place finish.

Dropped out: Martin Truex Jr. (Last week: No. 10)

Drivers to watch in Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway

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The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs will reach a critical point Sunday in a 500-mile chase at treacherous Talladega Superspeedway.

The overriding factor in any race at Talladega, NASCAR’s biggest track, is the unknown. With cars running so fast and so close together, multi-car accidents are not only possible but expected, and it’s easy to become the innocent victim of someone else’s mistake.

MORE: NASCAR penalizes William Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin

The tension is doubled for the 12 playoff drivers. A bad finish at Talladega could open the door for a probable playoff exit at the end of the round Oct. 9 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

The playoffs to date have seen four wins by non-playoff drivers, an unprecedented result. Tyler Reddick was the most recent to join that list with a win last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

A look at drivers to watch at Talladega:

FRONTRUNNERS

Denny Hamlin

  • Points position: 6th
  • Last three races: 10th at Texas, 9th at Bristol, 2nd at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 2 career wins

Although he hasn’t won, Hamlin has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. In the past six races at Talladega, he has four finishes of seventh or better. Now if he can just keep people from running into him…

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Last three races: 7th at Texas, 3rd at Bristol, 6th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is a second

Byron stands alone as the only playoff driver who has been able to avoid major crashes and trouble in the pits, and he has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. After Tuesday’s penalty for his incident with Denny Hamlin at Texas, he sits below the cutline entering Sunday’s race.

Brad Keselowski

  • Points position: 24th
  • Last three races: 8th at Texas, 13th at Bristol, 25th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 6 wins, the active leader

Even in trying times, Keselowski is a threat at Talladega, where he last won in April 2021 (his last Cup victory). He has led 268 laps there in the past 13 races.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 15th
  • Last three races: 36th at Texas, 34th at Bristol, 26th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2008

Is Busch going to steadily disappear into the mist as he rides out the final weeks of his final year with Joe Gibbs Racing? His best finish in the past four races is 26th. On the positive side this week, he’s the only driver to finish in the top 10 in this year’s three races at Daytona and Talladega.

Chase Elliott

  • Points position: 8th
  • Last three races: 32nd at Texas, 2nd at Bristol, 11th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2019

Can Elliott rebound from a fiery finish and a 32nd-place run at Texas? Playoff points give him some comfort, but a second career win at Talladega would be greatly appreciated in the Hendrick camp.

Martin Truex Jr.

  • Points position: 17th
  • Last three races: 31st at Texas, 36th at Bristol, 5th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is 5th

Will one of the sport’s most enduring mysteries continue at Talladega? In 70 career starts at Daytona and Talladega, Truex, a former champion and a smooth driver, has zero wins. At Talladega, he has only three top-five finishes in 35 starts.

 

 

 

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.