NASCAR Power Rankings: Denny Hamlin takes top spot after Bubba Wallace wins

·4 min read

NASCAR Power Rankings: Hamlin takes top spot after Wallace's win originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The second race of the 2022 NASCAR playoffs resulted in another shocker.

For the second straight week, a driver outside of the playoffs won the race. This time it was Bubba Wallace, winning his second career race and first at Kansas Speedway on Sunday. Wallace might not be in the playoffs, but he leads all drivers with a 10.1 average finish in his last 10 starts.

Yet again, a number of playoff contenders had troubles while a non-playoff driver ended up in victory lane. Kevin Harvick, Tyler Reddick and Kyle Busch were among the biggest losers at Kansas, and they’re all in danger of being eliminated in the Round of 16 finale at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday.

So, who’s the driver to beat with one race left in the Round of 16? Here’s our latest power rankings:

1. Denny Hamlin

Last week: 3

For the entire season, Hamlin couldn’t find the week-to-week consistency. But through two playoff races, he’s delivered two runner-up finishes and sits comfortably third in the points standings. Hamlin isn’t in any danger of getting eliminated at Bristol, as he looks like a real title contender.

2. Chase Elliott

Last week: 2

Elliott followed up his Darlington crash with a quiet 11th-place finish at Kansas, which is exactly what he needed. Now 28 points above the cut line, Elliott is in a solid position to advance to the Round of 12. Once the points reset after Bristol, he’ll be back atop the standings thanks to his strong regular season results – he just needs to avoid disaster on Saturday.

3. Joey Logano

Last week: 1

Logano finished 17th at Kansas after his team took a chance on strategy in the final stage. It didn’t work out without a caution, but the No. 22 could afford the risk with the points they gained at Darlington. Logano is still 40 points above the cut line, so he can rest easy this week before resetting for the Round of 12.

4. Christopher Bell

Last week: 5

The only driver to mathematically clinch a spot in the Round of 12? That would be Bell, who has opened the playoffs with finishes of fifth and third. He now has the points lead for the first time in his career, and the No. 20 team appears to be peaking at the right time.

5. Kyle Larson

Last week: 4

It was an oddly quiet race for Larson after he won at Kansas last year. He finished eighth and scored four stage points, putting him 27 points above the cut line. That puts him in the same boat as Elliott, where they aren’t locked in but they can easily advance with a respectable run at Bristol. Larson, of course, won at Bristol last year as part of his run to the championship.

6. William Byron

Last week: first four out

Byron went 10 straight races without a top-10 finish before Darlington. Now, through two playoff races, he’s finished eighth and sixth. Not spectacular, but enough to advance through without much trouble. Byron has a 48-point cushion on the cut line, the most of any driver besides Bell.

7. Ryan Blaney

Last week: 8

Kansas was a typical race for Blaney in 2022 – finishing ninth, scoring stage points, but never really contending for the win. He’s still searching for his first victory this year, but he doesn’t necessarily need it to come at Bristol. Blaney is 36 points above the cut line, sitting fifth in the standings.

8. Tyler Reddick

Last week: 7

Reddick was poised to compete for the win on Sunday before he blew a tire while leading. Even though he finished 35th, Reddick showed he’s capable of winning at any moment. He’s just two points above the cut line, so any mistake at Bristol could end his championship hopes.

9. Ross Chastain

Last week: 10

Chastain did what he had to do at Kansas, finishing seventh and running inside the top 10 all day. He could be vulnerable to revenge at Bristol, as he’s made a lot of enemies throughout the season. With a 26-point cushion to the cut line, Chastain remains in a solid position to advance.

10. Kevin Harvick

Last week: 6

After consecutive poor finishes, Harvick will enter Bristol facing a must-win situation. He’s 35 points below the cut line, which would be nearly impossible to make up in one race unless a number of other drivers have issues. A victory automatically advances you to the next round, so that’s what Harvick needs to go for on Saturday – finishing second won’t cut it.

First four out: Alex Bowman, Bubba Wallace, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr.