The 12 drivers racing for the NASCAR Cup Series championship are 0-for-3 in playoff races to date.
The question of the moment is not: Can a non-playoff driver win another race? Now the question appears to be: Will a playoff driver ever win again?
Texas Motor Speedway will provide the next platform for the championship hopefuls. Sunday’s 3:30 p.m. ET (USA Network) race will be the fourth of the playoffs and the first of the Round of 12.
Based on the results of a wacky Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway, Christopher Bell, who appears to be mounting a serious challenge for his first title, has moved to the No. 1 spot in the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, replacing Denny Hamlin.
NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings
1. Christopher Bell (No. 2 last week) — Bell is the only driver to finish in the top five in all three races in the first round. He led 143 laps on the way to a fourth-place finish at Bristol.
2. Chase Elliott (No. 3 last week) — After opening the playoffs with a crash at Darlington, Elliott has rebounded with an 11th at Kansas and a second at Bristol.
3. Denny Hamlin (No. 1 last week) — Hamlin was ninth at Bristol but led no laps. He has finished in the top 10 in all three playoff races.
4. Kyle Larson (No. 4 last week) — The defending champion led 34 laps at Bristol before finishing fifth. He’s fourth in the playoff standings.
5. William Byron (No. 6 last week) — Byron has been strong in all three playoff races, finishing eighth at Darlington, sixth at Kansas and third at Bristol.
6. Joey Logano (No. 5 last week) — Suspension issues parked Logano late in the evening at Bristol. His best finish in the playoffs is a fourth at Darlington.
7. Ross Chastain (No. 9 last week) — Chastain has recovered from a 20th-place run at Darlington to finish seventh at Kansas and sixth at Bristol.
8. Ryan Blaney (No. 7 last week) — Despite not having won a race, Blaney continues in the championship hunt.
9. Chase Briscoe (unranked last week) — Briscoe sits ninth in the playoff standings after a finish of 14th at Bristol.
10. Alex Bowman (No. 10 last week) — Bowman had an up-and-down first round, finishing 10th at Darlington, fourth at Kansas and 32nd at Bristol.
Dropped out: Kevin Harvick (No. 8 last week; he has “crappy-ass parts” and a new T-shirt).
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