NASCAR Power Rankings: Kyle Busch cruises to top spot

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This year’s Coca-Cola 600 marked NASCAR’s longest race.

While Denny Hamlin celebrated his first win at Charlotte Motor Speedway, all the action behind him provided another shake up to the NBC Sports Power Rankings, including a new driver on top.

NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Kyle Busch (Last week: No. 2) Consistency and strength are beginning to play into the two-time Cup Series champion’s hands. The No. 18 Toyota has four top 10s and three top-three finishes in his last five starts and led 36 laps in Sunday night’s race at Charlotte. With a series-best 11.2 average finish, Busch has been Toyota’s best weapon all year as contract discussions persist, despite his teammate Hamlin leading the manufacturer’s entries with two wins this year.

2. Ross Chastain (Last week: No. 3) What a drive Chastain displayed in NASCAR’s longest race. The No. 1 Chevrolet paced the field for a race-high 153 laps and was in the hunt for the win in overtime. Heavy nose damage relegated Chastain to a 15th-place finish, but his performance was a good reminder of his early-season success. A two-time Cup winner this year, Chastain has led laps in each of the past five races, notching significant totals at Dover (86 laps led), Darlington (26) and Charlotte (153).

3. Chase Elliott (Last week: No. 1) Elliott’s day went sour after contacting the wall in a battle for second with Daniel Suarez. The series points leader won Stage 1 and was competitive to start the race, leading 86 circuits. But the damage proved too significant as time expired on the damaged vehicle policy’s six-minute clock. Elliott finished 33rd, his second straight finish outside the top 25.

4. Christopher Bell (Last week: No. 5) The No. 20 Toyota is showing speed much more regularly, and Bell is getting results to match. Despite some late wall contact, Bell rallied to a fifth-place finish at the 1.5-mile oval, his fifth top-seven finish in the past six races.

5. Denny Hamlin (Last week: No. 10) Hamlin’s luck really has changed. Yes, it’s only a two-race stretch, but finishing fourth at Kansas ahead of a Coca-Cola 600 victory in consecutive points events is one heck of a turnaround given Hamlin’s miserable first dozen races of the year. Career win No. 48 suddenly ties him for the series lead in victories this season (two) and follows a runner-up effort in the NASCAR All-Star Race. The recent sample size is small, but it is impressive nonetheless.

6. Kyle Larson (Last week: No. 7) Larson crossed the start/finish line as the leader on Lap 400, but that wasn’t when the checkered flag waved Sunday night. The No. 5 Chevrolet wound up ninth after a late charge from Chase Briscoe resulted in a spin, sending the race to overtime. Larson was then collected in a multi-car mess for the lead on the first overtime attempt, eliminating his chances to win. But Larson has led at least 19 laps in each of the last six races, including a season-high 51 Sunday.

7. Ryan Blaney (Last week: No. 4) The high from the All-Star Race win returned to a disappointing low at Lap 192 Sunday when Blaney clipped the Turn 1 apron, sending his No. 12 spinning in front of half the field and collecting 11 others in a Turn 2 melee. Blaney’s 29th-place finish is his fifth straight outside the top 10 and marked his second results outside the top 25 in that stretch.

8. Joey Logano (Last week: No. 6) Thanks to Briscoe’s spin, Logano found himself hunting for a win — or at least a potential top five — late in the going at Charlotte. But his No. 22 Ford was instead sent driver-side into the frontstretch wall, shipping Logano to a 20th-place finish. That marks Logano’s fourth finish of 17th or worse in the past five races. The exception is the win he scored at Darlington on May 8.

9. Alex Bowman (Last week: No. 8) Bowman moves in silence, a trend that continued at Charlotte, where he scored a 10th-place finish for his fifth top 10 in the last six races. The No. 48 car isn’t going out and dominating races — Bowman has led a total of 18 laps this year — but his 11.7 average finish ranks second in Cup this season.

10. William Byron (Last week: No. 9) Eventually, the results will start righting themselves for Byron. That time hasn’t come yet. After getting swept up in the massive multi-car accident triggered by Blaney’s spin, Byron finished 32nd, his sixth straight finish of 13th or worse since winning at Martinsville. Sunday marked his first DNF since February, when he crashed out of both the Daytona 500 and the race at Auto Club Speedway.

Dropped out: None.

COTA Cup starting lineup


Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron, who has won two of the first five races of the season, will lead the Cup field to the green flag Sunday at Circuit of the Americas.

Byron will be joined on the front row of the starting lineup by Tyler Reddick, the only driver to win multiple races at road courses last year.

MORE: COTA Cup starting lineup

Austin Cindric starts third and is joined in the second row by Jordan Taylor, who is filling in for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 Hendrick car.

Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.

William Byron wins Cup pole at COTA


William Byron will start on the pole for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas.

Byron won the pole with a lap of 93.882 mph around the 3.41-mile road course Saturday. He becomes the first Cup driver to win a pole at four different road courses: Charlotte Roval (2019), Road America (2021), Indianapolis road course (2021) and COTA (2023).

MORE: COTA Cup starting lineup

Byron will be joined on the front row by Tyler Reddick, who had posted the fastest lap in Friday’s practice and fastest lap in the opening round of qualifying Saturday. Reddick qualified at 93.783 mph.

Austin Cindric (93.459 mph) qualified third. Former IMSA champion Jordan Taylor, substituting for an injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, qualified fourth with a lap of 93.174 mph. AJ Allmendinger (93.067) will start fifth.

Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.

Ross Chastain, who won this event a year ago, qualified 12th. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen qualified 22nd, former world champion Jenson Button qualified 24th, seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson qualified 31st and IndyCar driver Conor Daly qualified 35th.

Sunday Cup race at Circuit of the Americas: Start time, TV info, weather


Is this Toyota’s weekend?

Chevrolet won the first four races of the season. Ford won last weekend with Joey Logano at Atlanta. Is it Toyota’s turn to win its first Cup race of the season? Or does Chevrolet return to dominance?

Chevrolet drivers have won 11 of the past 12 Cup races on road courses. The exception was Christopher Bell‘s win for Toyota at the Charlotte Roval in last year’s playoffs. Chevrolets have won the two previous Cup races at COTA: Chase Elliott in 2021 and Ross Chastain in 2022.

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas

(All times Eastern)

START: Brendan Hunt, who plays Coach Beard in “Ted Lasso” on Apple TV+, will give the command to start engines at 3:38 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:49 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Drivers meeting at 2:45 p.m. … Driver introductions at 3:05 p.m. … Invocation will be given by Sage Steele, ESPN broadcaster, at 3:30 p.m. … Jaime Camil, actor from “Schmigadoon” on Apple TV+, will perform the national anthem at 3:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 68 laps (231.88 miles) on the 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 15. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. Pre-race coverage begins at 2 p.m. on FS1 and moves to Fox at 3 p.m. … Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and will also stream at; SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.


FORECAST: Weather Underground – Mostly cloudy with a high of 80 degrees and a 2% chance of rain at the start of the race.

STARTING LINEUP: COTA Cup starting lineup

LAST YEAR: Ross Chastain scored his first career Cup win in a physical battle with AJ Allmendinger on the final lap. Alex Bowman finished second. Christopher Bell placed third.


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NASCAR Saturday schedule at Circuit of the Americas


Saturday will be a busy day at Circuit of the Americas, as all three national series are on the track.

Cup will qualify ahead of the Craftsman Truck and Xfinity Series races.

The forecast Saturday calls for sunny conditions and no chance of rain all day. The high is expected to be 69 degrees during Cup qualifying, 76 degrees at the start of the Truck race and 81 degrees for the start of the Xfinity race.

Zane Smith looks to win his second consecutive Truck race at the road course in Austin, Texas. AJ Allmendinger seeks his second consecutive Xfinity win at COTA.

Saturday, March 25

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 10:30 a.m.  — Truck Series
  • 2 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup qualifying (FS1)
  • 1:30 p.m. — Truck race (42 laps, 143 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 5 p.m. — Xfinity race (46 laps, 156 miles; FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)