Power Ranking After: COTA

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Road course racing has the potential to be one of the most disruptive changes to NASCAR since the advent of the Modern Era when the series severely lessened their reliance on short tracks to determine the national champion. Of course it will not rise to the level of the playoff format – and only one road course race is in the playoffs – but six events on this track type in 2021 could well change who is in or out of the finale.

Rain played havoc with the running order of the Echo Park Texas Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas and heavy crashes caused by slippery conditions and limited visibility ruined the day of several Cup Superstars. Chase Elliott won – and with odds only slightly lower than 5/2, he was expected to. In winning, he becomes the 11th different driver to stake a claim for the playoffs. Eleven races remain with five spots open. If Denny Hamlin remains the points’ leader through the end of the regular season, but does not earn a victory, he will take one of those spots. If there are five more unique winners, the bumping will begin and Michael McDowell is the lowest driver in the standings with a win.

In addition to Hamlin, current drivers among the top 16 and winless are Tyler Reddick (15th), Chris Buescher (13th), Austin Dillon (11th), and Kevin Harvick (eighth). COTA could prove to be one of the first, pivotal events. Not only because Elliott’s victory added to the list of unique winners, but because of some of the others who might have won in slightly different circumstances.


Ross Chastain finished fourth, Chase Briscoe was sixth, and Reddick was eighth. They did not sneak into the top 10, but ran well and might have an opportunity to take home a wild card victory at Sonoma Raceway, Road America, Watkins Glen, or the Indy Road course. If each road course has a new winner who is competing for Cup points that takes us to 15 winners. And remember, the season ends on the biggest wild card of all: Daytona International Speedway.

Additionally, Harvick, Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Kurt Busch, and Cole Custer each won last year and could do so again in 2021.

Top 10

1. Denny Hamlin (last week: 1)
Weeks in the top 10: 15
Weeks as #1: 8
Cup wins: 0 (Points leader by +98)
Power Average: 6.62
Hamlin retains his top ranking as the series heads to an oval next weekend. He did not run well at COTA and looked very uncomfortable, but it will take a while before we know if that was because of the road course or the rain. It’s not time to worry yet, but Hamlin needs a solid run at Sonoma in two weeks to solidify his position as the king of the hill. With a 98-point lead over William Byron, he is comfortable as the points’ leader for now.

2. William Byron (last week: 2)
Weeks in the top 10: 9
Cup wins: 1 (Homestead)
Power Average: 6.82
With a crash damaged car, Byron saw his 11-race streak of top-10s come to a close. That string is bracketed by the two road course events this year, but the difference between the O’Reilly 253 at Daytona and the Texas Grand Prix at COTA was night and day. Byron ran well enough to finish in the top 10 last week, but weather halted the race before he could gain one more position.

3. Chase Elliott (last week: 7) +4
Weeks in the top 10: 15
Weeks as #1: 3
Cup wins: 1 (COTA)
Power Average: 8.41
Elliott did not dominate last week. He took the lead just five laps from the end of the race, but was extending his advantage in the worst conditions seen for the day. He is becoming the undisputed master of the road courses with five wins in the past six events, but he is going to have a hard time defending his championship unless this team improves on oval tracks.

4. AJ Allmendinger (last week: NR)
Weeks in the top 10: 1
Cup wins: 0
Power Average: 8.60
We haven’t had to worry about what to do with part time drivers in the Power Rankings because, frankly, they are not usually very powerful. Given that five road courses remain in the season and that Allmendinger is capable of winning one of them, he must be noted during weeks after he’s run. Last week both Allmendinger and Austin Cindric had incredibly strong runs and either could play spoiler for someone’s championship hopes.

5. Kyle Busch (last week: 6) +1
Weeks in the top 10: 14
Cup wins: 1 (Kansas 1)
Power Average: 8.79
We’ve been saying this all season and last week proved it to be true: Busch needs to practice in order to regularly contend for victories. His 10th-place finish came as the result of making one extra pit stop than the field. Otherwise, he would have finished among the top five and possibly challenged for the win. He should be lobbying heavily for NASCAR to reinstate practice and qualification for the playoffs now that the CDC has relaxed their COVID-19 protocols.

6. Martin Truex Jr. (last week: 3) -3
Weeks in the top 10: 13
Weeks as #1: 2
Cup wins: 2 (Phoenix, Martinsville 1, Darlington 1)
Power Average: 9.07
Truex took the biggest hit last week, both literally and figuratively. When Michael McDowell slowed on track, Truex could not see him in the road spray. He nailed the No. 34 and knew he was a sitting duck. Cole Custer ran into the back of the No. 19 and eliminated both from contention, but Truex still has a safety net with three wins and seven more playoff points than the nearest contender Kyle Larson.

7. Ryan Blaney (last week: 4) -3
Weeks in the top 10: 9
Cup wins: 1 (Atlanta 1)
Power Average: 9.31
The Texas Grand Prix needs to be put into perspective the same way as an aero-restricted superspeedway race. The results there are not necessarily indicative of a driver’s overall strength, unless it is backed up by other stats. Blaney has run well enough in the last 45 days to make the list, but he has not earned a top-five since winning the QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He’s going have to improve from a best of eighth in that time span if he wants to remain one of our top 10.

8. Kyle Larson (last week: 9) +1
Weeks in the top 10: 11
Weeks as #1: 1
Cup wins: 1 (Las Vegas 1)
Power Average: 9.68
Larson is an example of why you want to read our coverage periodically throughout the week. Based on his road racing record, we suggested he should be faded in the Best Bets column [https://edit-edge.nbcsports.com/edge/article/best-bets/beavers-best-bets-texas-grand-prix], but he showed speed and poise while practicing in the rain. When that happened, we reversed our opinion. His second-place finish to Elliott might have become a win if the final 14 laps had been run at COTA and he will certainly be on our radar at Sonoma.

9. Joey Logano (last week: 10) +1
Weeks in the top 10: 15
Weeks as #1: 1
Cup wins: 1 (Bristol dirt)
Power Average: 9.83
Last week we handicapped Logano to finish third and that is precisely where he ended the race. He now has three podium finishes in his last three road course races and five straight top-10s. Logano was consistent, but not overly strong at Charlotte last year with a 13th in the Coke 600 and a sixth in the much shorter Alsco Uniforms 500k. With confidence restored, he could challenge for a top-five this week.

10. Tyler Reddick (last week: 8) -2
Weeks in the top 10: 3
Cup wins: 1 0
Power Average: 10.63
No one expected the former dirt track racer Reddick to earn his first pole on a road course. Of course, there have been limited options for him to show his one-lap speed with COVID-19 protocols, but this is another sign of just how strong the sophomore is becoming. He ran with the leaders much of the day at COTA and a victory could be right around the corner. He’s one of our picks to upend the apple cart.

Other drivers with wins, not among the top 10: Alex Bowman ([2] Richmond 1 and Dover 1), Michael McDowell (Daytona 1), Christopher Bell (Daytona road), and Brad Keselowski (Talladega 1)

Dropped from the Top 10

11. Kevin Harvick (last week: 5) +6
Weeks in the top 10: 12
Cup wins: 0
Power Average: 10.86
Harvick finds himself in a similar situation as Larson after his early departure from the Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. What he is missing is enough strong runs in the past 45 days to keep him in the top 10. He will need just a good solid run to retake his spot on this list, however, because next week the Coke 600 will replace the Blue-Emu 500, where he finished ninth.

Big Movers Outside the top 10

13. Alex Bowman (last week: 15) +2
Weeks in the top 10: 3
Cup wins: 1 (Richmond 1, Dover 1)
Power Average: 12.69
We really didn’t expect a lot out of Bowman last week and in that regard, his eighth-place finish was welcomed. He should be more highly regarded at Sonoma, however, because that is his 10th consecutive finish of 14th or better on road courses.

15. Christopher Bell (last week: 12) -3
Weeks in the top 10: 7
Cup wins: 1 (Daytona road)
Power Average: 13.43
No one can realistically be blamed for last week’s accident that retired Bell, Harvick, and Bubba Wallace while also damaging Blaney’s car. That accident was unfortunate for several reasons, but not the least of which was that it kept us from seeing in Bell could back up his Daytona road course win with another strong run at COTA. We’ll have to wait for Sonoma to see if he is a good value on road courses.

Winners, Last 45 Days (Outright Odds to win)
Texas Grand Prix, Chase Elliott (+240)
Drydene 400, Alex Bowman (+1800)
Goodyear 400, Martin Truex Jr. (+775)
Buschy McBusch 400, Kyle Busch (+1200)
Geico 500, Brad Keselowski (+1200)
Toyota Owners 400, Alex Bowman (+3300)
Blue-Emu 500, Martin Truex Jr. (+475)

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Power Average, Last 45 Days

This Week

Driver

Power
Avg.

Last
Week

Difference

1.

Denny Hamlin

6.62

1

0

2.

William Byron

6.82

2

0

3.

Chase Elliott

8.41

7

4

4.

AJ Allmendinger

8.60

NA

5.

Kyle Busch

8.79

6

1

6.

Martin Truex Jr.

9.07

3

-3

7.

Ryan Blaney

9.31

4

-3

8.

Kyle Larson

9.68

9

1

9.

Joey Logano

9.83

10

1

10.

Tyler Reddick

10.63

8

-2

11.

Kevin Harvick

10.86

5

-6

12.

Brad Keselowski

11.93

11

-1

13.

Alex Bowman

12.69

15

2

14.

Austin Dillon

13.19

13

-1

15.

Christopher Bell

13.43

12

-3

16.

Matt DiBenedetto

13.81

14

-2

17.

Ross Chastain

14.51

17

0

18.

Chris Buescher

14.87

16

-2

19.

Austin Cindric

17.13

24

5

20.

Kurt Busch

17.32

20

0

21.

Kaz Grala

17.60

18

-3

22.

Chase Briscoe

18.97

23

1

23.

Bubba Wallace

19.37

19

-4

24.

Michael McDowell

19.76

26

2

25.

Harrison Burton

19.83

21

-4

26.

Ryan Preece

21.78

31

5

27.

Daniel Suarez

21.80

22

-5

28.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

21.89

28

0

29.

Ryan Newman

22.50

25

-4

30.

Cole Custer

22.88

27

-3

31.

Erik Jones

22.97

30

-1

32.

Aric Almirola

23.86

29

-3

33.

Corey LaJoie

24.51

32

-1

34.

Ty Dillon

25.50

NA

35.

Anthony Alfredo

26.18

33

-2

36.

JJ Yeley

28.67

34

-2

37.

Timmy Hill

31.40

35

-2

38.

BJ McLeod

31.77

36

-2

39.

Josh Berry

32.20

39

0

40.

James Davison

32.71

38

-2

41.

Garrett Smithley

32.84

41

0

42.

Cody Ware

32.89

42

0

43.

Justin Haley

33.14

37

-6

44.

Quin Houff

33.26

40

-4

45.

Kyle Tilley

34.75

NA

46.

Josh Bilicki

34.85

43

-3

47.

Joey Gase

35.50

44

-3

48.

Matt Mills

37.00

45

-3

POWER RANKING AFTER DOVER 1
POWER RANKING AFTER DAYTONA ROAD
HANDICAPPING NASCAR WITH DRIVER RATING