Throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway didn’t disappoint.
An attrition-filled race saw 13 drivers fail to finish Sunday’s Cup race, which means the NBC Sports Power Rankings got a shake-up too.
NASCAR Power Rankings
1. Chase Elliott (Last week: No. 2) There’s a new No. 1. After notching his first win of the season at Dover, Elliott finds himself at the top with a fifth-place finish at Darlington. Elliott, who leads the points standings by 65 points, has five consecutive top-10 finishes and two straight top fives. Darlington started terribly for the No. 9 team after a crash in practice sent them to a backup car, but Elliott charged from the back to turn in a productive day.
2. Ross Chastain (Last week: No. 1) Chastain was on pace for his seventh podium finish of the season, but the two-time Cup winner couldn’t keep his No. 1 Chevrolet under control after a Lap 195 restart while fighting for the lead with Denny Hamlin. That sent Chastain spinning into the inside wall en route to a 30th-place finish. Chastain has three top-three finishes in his last five races, but his two other results in that frame that are DNFs of 30th or worse.
3. Kyle Busch (Last week: No. 4) Busch’s 33rd-place finish at Darlington was the result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His No. 18 Toyota had nowhere to go when Brad Keselowski hit the wall off Turn 2 and spun in Busch’s path, breaking the left-front suspension of Busch’s car and ending his day early. It snapped a five-race streak of top-10 finishes for Busch, but not before he led 19 laps and appeared to be a contender for the win.
4. Ryan Blaney (Last week: No. 3) Blaney’s hot start has cooled considerably over the past three weeks. Blaney has failed to finish inside the top 10 in each of the last three races with two straight finishes outside the top 15 — 26th at Dover and 17th at Darlington. The No. 12 team is tied for second in the points, but the speed it showed early has faded.
5. Joey Logano (Last week: No. 9) Logano went back to victory lane for the first time in 40 points-paying Cup races, getting a strong boost in the rankings after giving William Byron a boost of his own. The No. 22 Ford gave an abrupt bump to Byron with two laps to go to dispose of him and score the win. After finishes of 32nd (Talladega, DNF) and 29th (Dover) in the last two races, Darlington was a good rebound week for Logano, who led a race-high 107 laps and averaged a race-best 2.4 running position. Logano also has three top-three finishes in his last five races.
6. William Byron (Last week: No. 6) Byron was six turns away from what would have been a series-best third win of the season. Instead, he was relegated to 13th after contact from Logano sent him into the Turn 3 wall. Byron continues to show versatility in his ability to contend for wins on a regular basis, but his recent finishes are suffering. Since winning at Martinsville, Byron has placed 13th of worse in the past four races. Granted, a Logano lunge is a hefty factor in his latest result.
7. Alex Bowman (Last week: No. 5) Bowman had a “pretty miserable day” at Darlington where the No. 48 Chevrolet never proved to be a factor before late wall contact led to the end of the team’s race. The 29th-place finish is Bowman’s worst of the year and first DNF, snapping a three-race streak of top 10s.
8. Tyler Reddick (Last week: No. 10) Reddick’s season remains hard to gauge. Reddick, who’s still looking for his first Cup win, has finished runner-up twice in the past four races, but that masks some inconsistency from the No. 8 Chevrolet. Those second-place marks are his only finishes better than 12th in the last six races, a stretch that includes finishes of 39th at Talladega (DNF, motor) and 30th (Dover, multiple on-track incidents).
9. Kyle Larson (Last week: No. 7) Just when Larson’s season seemed to have fixed itself, the defending champion ended Darlington with a 36th-place finish, his fourth DNF of the year in 12 races. The No. 5 Chevrolet suffered an engine issue, putting an end to his three-race top-10 streak.
10. Christopher Bell (Last week: Unranked) After spending some time on the brink of these rankings, Bell has finally cracked the top 10. Bell hasn’t been exceptional, but the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team ranks 10th in average running position (14.3) and has scored top 10s in five of the last seven races, a stretch highlighted by leading 63 laps at Richmond.
Dropped out: Martin Truex Jr. (Last week: No. 8).