2022 NASCAR Power Rankings: How the field stacks up after Bristol Dirt

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NASCAR Power Rankings: How the field stacks up after Bristol Dirt originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

After multiple rain delays, the highly-anticipated Food City Dirt Race at Bristol provided a thrilling finish on Sunday night.

Tyler Reddick, looking for his first career win, was poised for victory until Chase Briscoe’s last-lap, dive-bomb move went wrong and took out both competitors. Sitting in third, veteran Kyle Busch scooted by for his 60th career victory – which ranks ninth all-time.

With Bristol’s dirt race in the rearview mirror, the Cup Series will now move to Talladega Superspeedway for a race on NASCAR’s biggest track. The brand new Next Gen cars debuted on a superspeedway at Daytona in February, but Sunday will be the car’s first race at Talladega.

Who is the driver to beat through nine weeks? Here’s our power rankings with 17 regular season races remaining:

1. Ryan Blaney

Last week: 2

Bristol was the first race all year where Blaney didn’t lead a lap. Still, he finished fifth and scored 36 points on dirt, where he has less experience compared to many others in the field. After four straight top-seven finishes, Blaney has momentum heading to Talladega – where he’s won twice in his last five starts.

2. William Byron

Last week: 1

Bryon has less dirt experience than nearly anyone in the field, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that he finished 18th and was a non-factor at Bristol. That doesn’t take away from Byron’s great season, where he already has a career-best two wins and 482 laps led. Talladega is another opportunity to showcase his drafting prowess after recent wins at Atlanta (2022) and Daytona (2020).

3. Joey Logano

Last week: 5

For a guy with a limited dirt background, Logano sure seems comfortable at Bristol’s dirt track. After winning last year, he finished third on Sunday. Another strong superspeedway driver, Logano could pick up his first win of the season at Talladega. He’s up to third in the points standings after Bristol.

4. Chase Elliott

Last week: 4

Elliott retained the points lead with another solid top-10 at Bristol, his sixth in nine races this year. While he’s been the model of consistency (series-best 10.9 average finish), Elliott is still searching for a win. Historically, he’s been sink or swim at Talladega, with one win, four top-fives and three DNFs in 12 career starts.

5. Alex Bowman

Last week: 6

After years of inconsistency, Bowman is turning the corner in 2022. He won four races in 2021, but struggled on and off throughout the year. This season, he has rattled off seven straight top-15 finishes and climbed to fifth in the standings after finishing sixth at Bristol. Bowman’s 11.3 average finish is nearly four spots better than last season.

6. Ross Chastain

Last week: 3

Chastain ran well at Bristol before his engine expired. With the standings so tight, one bad finish dropped him from fifth to eighth. After several races at unique, one-of-a-kind tracks like Martinsville, Bristol and then Talladega, Chastain will be happy to get back to the “normal” circuits.

7. Kyle Larson

Last week: 7

On one hand, it was surprising to see Larson – the world’s best dirt racer – finish a quiet fourth at Bristol. But on the other hand, the defending champion should be happy with a clean finish after a handful of rough results. He picked up his first stage win of the year, too, after winning 18 stages in 2021.

8. Kyle Busch

Last week: 9

The win fell right into Busch’s lap after the leaders wrecked in the final corner, but years from now no one will remember that. The record books will just say this: Kyle Busch won a race in 18 consecutive seasons, tying legend Richard Petty’s record. He also became just the ninth driver in history to win 60 races, but Sunday was the first time he ever won a race while leading just one lap.

9. Tyler Reddick

Last week: first four out

One of these weeks, Reddick will win his first career race. He now has four career runner-ups, and the losses are starting to pile up. Reddick blamed himself after the race, but he has to learn to be mean. That’s not his personality, I know. It’s just hard to win races at this level without an edge – an edge that the 26-year-old Reddick hasn’t developed just yet.

10. Chase Briscoe

Last week: first four out

Briscoe comes across as a great guy – from his online presence to his touching family background. But Sunday was the second time that he’s outright wrecked the leader going for a win (Indy in 2021). Both times, he paid the price on the track with a worse finish. Briscoe won his first career race in March at Phoenix in a completely clean finish – he should stick with that strategy going forward.

First four out: Christopher Bell, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Austin Dillon