After a messy Southern 500 that scrambled the Cup playoff standings, Joey Logano has moved to the top of the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.
Logano finished a strong fourth amid the turmoil Sunday night in Darlington, leading 64 laps. He also jumped to the top of the playoff leaderboard after the first race of Round 1.
Chase Elliott, who started the playoffs leading the standings and who has dominated the NBC rankings much of the year, had a miserable night in South Carolina. He crashed early, his team wasn’t able to make repairs in the 10-minute time limit, and he finished last. Among the results: He fell from first to ninth in the playoff standings and from first to second in the NBC rankings.
Erik Jones won Sunday night’s race to record his first victory of the season and earn a hearty honorable mention from the rankings.
The second race of the playoffs is scheduled at 3 p.m. ET Sunday (USA Network) at Kansas Speedway.
NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings
1. Joey Logano (No. 2 last week) — Logano has declared himself the favorite for the championship, and Sunday’s race was certainly a good start in that direction. His consistency in recent weeks has been a positive — five finishes of sixth or better in the past six races.
2. Chase Elliott (No. 1 last week) — The Darlington race was very un-Elliott-like. He lasted only 113 laps, leaving the race after slamming the wall and causing rear suspension damage that couldn’t be repaired within the 10-minute window. A last-place finish sent him spiraling down the playoff standings to ninth.
3. Denny Hamlin (No. 5 last week) — Hamlin jumps two spots in the rankings after finishing second at Darlington. He gained three spots in the playoff standings, moving to third place in pursuit of an ever-elusive Cup championship.
4. Kyle Larson (No. 4 last week) — Larson rebounded from trouble to make up three laps and finish 12th at Darlington.
5. Kevin Harvick (No. 3 last week) — Harvick was on fire at Darlington — and not in a good way. He finished 33rd after parking his flaming car and exiting hurriedly. If you need a reminder of how mad drivers can be in the aftermath of a major issue, replay Harvick’s Darlington interviews.
6. Christopher Bell (No. 7 last week) — Bell had a relatively quiet night at Darlington, and, in the context of a wacky race, that’s a good thing. He didn’t lead any laps but finished fifth, rising six spots in the playoff standings to fourth.
7. Ryan Blaney (No. 6 last week) — Blaney remains the only driver in the playoff standings without a race win. He was never at the front Sunday night and finished 13th.
8. William Byron (unranked last week) — Byron is showing some power at the right time of the season. He won a stage, led 50 laps and finished eighth at Darlington — good enough to jump back into the power rankings and to move up to second in the playoff standings.
9. Kyle Busch (No. 10 last week) — Busch was the Darlington star for much of the night, leading 155 laps and boasting the race’s best car. But smoke coughed from his car late in the night, and he parked with a sour engine. Chances are we’ll hear more from him as the playoffs roll on.
10. Ross Chastain (No. 8 last week) — Chastain’s season is moving in reverse. He was 20th at Darlington (making up three laps to get there) and has seven straight finishes of 18th or worse.
Dropped out: Martin Truex Jr. (No. 9 last week)