NASCAR Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick snaps winless streak at Michigan

NASCAR Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick snaps winless streak at Michigan originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The 2022 NASCAR season only gets wilder by the week.

Just when the playoff picture looked to be clearing up, Kevin Harvick crashed the party with a much-needed win at Michigan. It was Harvick’s sixth career victory in the Irish Hills, but none were bigger than Sunday, which snapped a 65-race winless streak to punch his playoff ticket.

Harvick is the 15th driver to win a race in 2022, leaving only one playoff spot available as the series heads to Richmond Raceway this weekend.

Who’s the driver to beat with just three regular-season races to go? Here’s our power rankings:

1. Chase Elliott

Last week: 1

It was clear that Elliott didn’t have the same speed at Michigan that he’s had all summer. After running outside the top-15 for most of the race, he salvaged an 11th-place finish. Those are the types of days that help you maintain a 119-point lead, and Elliott is in position to clinch the regular-season title at Richmond.

2. Ross Chastain

Last week: 2

Chastain had a top-five run going before colliding with Christopher Bell late in the race. Unlike most of Chastain’s previous run-ins this year, it wasn’t his fault. Bell drifted up into him and ruined both of their races. Chastain now has three straight finishes outside the top-20.

3. Kyle Larson

Last week: 3

There were moments at Michigan where Larson looked quick enough to challenge for the win. But the speed wasn’t consistent from run-to-run, and he ended up finishing seventh. Larson remains fifth in the points standings, and it still feels like he’s on the verge of a hot streak.

4. Ryan Blaney 

Last week: 5

The good news? Blaney finished fifth at Michigan. The bad news? Harvick’s win bumped Blaney to the playoff bubble, just 19 points above the cutline despite being second in the overall standings. If Blaney doesn’t win one of the next three races, he is at risk of missing the playoffs for the first time since his rookie season in 2016.

5. Christopher Bell

Last week: 4

Bell has nobody but himself to blame after he threw away a near-guaranteed top-five finish. He was well off the pace after the incident with Chastain, finishing seven laps down in 26th. On the bright side, he won the first stage and continues to look like a legitimate championship threat.

6. Denny Hamlin

Last week: 9

Speaking of throwing away a potential win, look no further than Hamlin’s No. 11 team. A late pit road penalty forced Hamlin to restart at the back with 35 laps to go. He charged to finish third, showing that Hamlin clearly had one of the fastest cars. All these mistakes could come back to bite Hamlin’s team in the playoffs, as they’ve thrown away plenty of regular-season races (the No. 11 has a series-high 31 pit road penalties in 23 races this year).

7. Martin Truex Jr.

Last week: 7

The biggest loser from Harvick’s victory is Truex, who now sits outside the playoffs. He’s clearly running well enough to make it, as he sits fourth in the overall standings, but Truex is in trouble without a win. Unless he can find victory lane or make up 19 points on Blaney, the 42-year-old veteran will be left out.

8. Kevin Harvick

Last week: first four out

Harvick reminded everyone why he is nicknamed “The Closer” after his clutch victory at Michigan. At 46 years old, it was fair to wonder if we had seen Harvick’s last victory back in 2020. But now, he is as dangerous as any driver entering the playoffs. Harvick has more experience than anyone, and that could prove useful in a chaotic season like this one.

9. Joey Logano

Last week: 10

For the first time since April, Logano has scored consecutive top-10 finishes. He was fourth at Michigan, which moved him up to sixth in the points standings. Even if the consistency hasn’t always been there this season, Logano should be a contender when the playoffs begin.

10. Kyle Busch

Last week: 5

Make it eight straight weeks without a top-10 for Busch, the longest streak since the first eight races of his career in 2004-05. Michigan wasn’t his fault, as he got caught up in an early wreck despite having a fast car. Richmond, where Busch has six wins, is a good place to turn things around.

First four out: Tyler Reddick, William Byron, Bubba Wallace, Alex Bowman