Does anybody here want to win this championship?
After two races in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, the 16 drivers eligible for the championship are 0 for 2. Erik Jones and Bubba Wallace, interlopers among the championship field, won at Darlington and Kansas, respectively.
Joey Logano, who topped the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings last week, had a boring Kansas, leading only two laps and finishing a sour 17th. He drops to fifth in this week’s rankings.
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Chase Elliott, the point leader entering the playoffs, couldn’t muster a top 10 at Kansas and falls a spot in the rankings.
The new leader is Denny Hamlin, who finished a strong second at Kansas and now is chasing both the driving championship (which would be his first) and the owners championship, thanks in part to Wallace’s Sunday victory for 23XI Racing.
The playoffs roll on to Bristol Motor Speedway for a 7:30 p.m. race Saturday (USA Network).
NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings
1. Denny Hamlin (No. 3 last week) — Hamlin’s second-place run at Kansas was the best effort among the playoff contenders. He also was second in the first playoff race at Darlington, giving him a sound start to the playoff run.
2. Christopher Bell (No. 6 last week) — Bell leaps four positions in the rankings this week as his third-place run at Kansas boosted him into the top spot in the playoff standings. He was fifth at Darlington in the playoff opener.
3. Chase Elliott (No. 2 last week) — Elliott was never a factor at the front at Kansas on Sunday. He drops a spot in the rankings (although he gained two positions in the playoff standings to seventh).
4. Kyle Larson (No. 4 last week) — Larson was eighth at Kansas but was no match for the Toyotas.
5. Joey Logano (No. 1 last week) — Logano had an uninspiring day at Kansas, finishing 17th and dropping from first in the playoff standings to fourth.
6. William Byron (No. 8 last week) — Byron finished sixth at Kansas and is positioning himself as a big threat for the title.
7. Ryan Blaney (No. 7 last week) — Still no wins for Blaney, who was ninth at Kansas, but he’s fifth in the playoff standings.
8. Kevin Harvick (No. 5 last week) — Harvick falls three spots in the rankings after crashing in tight traffic at Kansas. He might need a win at Bristol to hang on.
9. Ross Chastain (No. 10 last week) — Entering Kansas, Chastain had seven straight finishes of 18th or worse. He made a correction Sunday with a seventh-place run.
10. Alex Bowman (unranked last week) — Bowman had a strong day at Kansas, leading the most laps (107) and coming home fourth. He gained four spots in the playoff standings to sixth.
Dropped out: Kyle Busch (ranked 9th last week). Busch was 26th at Kansas. Maybe he needs to consider switching teams. Oh, wait…