NASCAR Power Rankings: William Byron back on top after Darlington win

NASCAR Power Rankings: Byron back on top after Darlington win originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Darlington delivered another thriller on Sunday.

For NASCAR’s annual Throwback Weekend, “The Track Too Tough to Tame” lived up to its nickname. Twenty of the 36 drivers were officially involved in an accident in the Goodyear 400 before William Byron survived an overtime restart to win his third race of the year.

The Cup Series will take a break from the regular season next Sunday to hold the All-Star Race at the legendary North Wilkesboro Speedway. It will be the first NASCAR race at that track since 1996.

As the regular season reaches the halfway mark, here’s our latest NASCAR power rankings:

1. William Byron

Last week: 2

As the only driver with three wins in 2023, Byron is back atop the power rankings. The No. 24 clearly wasn’t the fastest car on Sunday (only led seven laps). But it felt right that Byron finally found victory lane at Darlington, one year after he was punted out of the lead by Joey Logano in the final laps.

2. Kyle Larson

Last week: 1

For the second straight race, Larson wrecked while leading late. He was squeezed into the wall by Ross Chastain, which ruined both of their races as Larson finished 20th. Larson is consistently in the mix, but various circumstances have destroyed a lot of their races. In his last seven races, Larson has two wins, a second-place finish and four finishes of 20th or worse.

3. Ross Chastain

Last week: 3

At this point, I can just copy and paste the Chastain blurb each week. Yes, he was involved in another incident that left another driver mad. No, he wasn’t able to finish off the victory and end his 39-race winless streak. Yes, he still leads the overall points standings. No, he isn’t going to stop driving this aggressively.

4. Martin Truex Jr.

Last week: 6

Truex dominated the early portion of the race, leading 145 of the first 150 laps and winning Stage 1. He collided with Chastain while going for the Stage 2 win, an incident that he can only pin on himself. 

Then, while fighting back at the front, he triggered the massive crash on lap 282 – which ended his day and put him in 31st.

5. Christopher Bell

Last week: 5

Six stage points and a 14th place finish. Not exactly what Bell was looking for at Darlington, but a decent day nonetheless. He was set to restart on the front row on a late restart before having to pit due to a loose wheel. If the No. 20 team didn’t make that error, he would’ve been second behind Larson and the entire race could’ve turned out differently for both drivers.

6. Denny Hamlin

Last week: 4

Darlington is one of Hamlin’s best tracks. Coming off a win at Kansas, it seemed likely that he could go back-to-back. Instead, Hamlin struggled with his car and finished 12th. He did well to avoid the late accidents and pick up a few spots, but it was a strange performance.

7. Kevin Harvick

Last week: 8

Sunday was a classic Harvick performance. The 47-year-old veteran ran in the bottom half of the top-10 all day, then finished second while others made mistakes around him. It was a much-needed result for the No. 4 after four straight finishes outside the top-10.

8. Kyle Busch

Last week: 10

Similar to Harvick, Busch really just needed an issue-free race. The two-time champion got just that, outside of the usual Darlington wear and tear. He finished seventh and scored 15 stage points.

9. Tyler Reddick

Last week: 8

After finishing second and third at Darlington last year – and seeing two Toyotas qualify on the front row – many expected better results from Reddick on Sunday. He got caught up in the final big wreck, which probably cost him a top-10 result as he finished 22nd.

10. Brad Keselowski

Last week: first four out

The 2012 champion makes his first power rankings appearance of 2023. Keselowski has gone through struggles since buying RFK Racing last year, but the results are finally starting to show. He has three top-fives and six top-10s this season in 13 races, including a fourth-place run Sunday. In 36 starts last year, he had just one top-five and six top-10s.

First four out: Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Chris Buescher