Week 2 NASCAR Power Rankings

PBP writer Walker Skeeter takes his first shot at ranking every full-time driver in the field. These rankings are based on a combination of statistics, team and driver history, and the eye-test of someone who’s been watching for 20+ years. Any problems with the list? Come drop an angry reply on the Twitter thread, and catch some virtual hands.

RankDriverDiscussion
1Kyle LarsonI’m viewing Larson at #1 the same way I view Alabama football at #1 – keep em’ there until someone gives you a REALLY good reason not to. Coming off his first win of the year, the defending champion is showing no signs of letting up.
2Austin CindricThe Daytona 500 champion and current points leader, Cindric is only in the second spot because of a lack of data – he’ll need to really show out to unseat Larson. Still, he’s been incredibly impressive so far.
3Joey LoganoAfter running up towards the front all day in Fontana after a sub-ideal Daytona, Logano is showing he’s still a force, as everyone probably expected – new car or no.
4Kyle BuschBusch had a pretty spectacular recovery after going five laps down at Fontana, getting back on the lead lap following the last caution, and drove all the way up to 12th. If the Toyotas can mend their mechanical woes, there’s no reason to believe Busch won’t contend for wins soon.
5Ryan BlaneyAfter nearly winning the Daytona 500, Blaney had another solid run going at Fontana before running into issues late. If nothing else though, he has established himself as a legit contender early on in the year.
6Tyler ReddickHe was the dominant car for much of the race at Fontana, but a flat tire and ensuing incident spoiled his day. Still, the RCR 8 team showed impressive speed, and Reddick is definitely one to watch for his first career win sooner rather than later.
7Aric AlmirolaBeing the only driver to score a top-10 in the first two races affords some liberty here. Almirola has been impressive so far, though whether he will remain so high is certainly up for debate after last season, and knowing that he is a “lame duck” driver in his final season.
8Chase ElliottAfter a pretty lackluster Daytona, and a serious case of “itchy arm” after getting taken out by his teammate at Fontana, Chase has nowhere to go but up. On a side note, his in-car audio following the late race incident at Fontana is museum worthy if you’ve not heard it yet.
9Erik JonesJones put together a fantastic effort at Fontana. This was the best the 43 car has looked in several years. Erik Jones is obviously a talented driver – for him it’s all a matter of whether the equipment can do what it needs to do for him to succeed. In Fontana, it certainly did.
10Daniel SuárezAfter nearly collecting his first career win last week, it will be interesting to see how the team continues to progress moving forward. Trackhouse showed flashes last year, but for every great run they had a terrible one. We’ll have to see if they can work out the kinks.
11Chase BriscoeA good result at Daytona, and a run at Fontana that saw him towards the front most of the day, it seems like Briscoe may be on the upswing right now – watch out for him in the coming weeks.
12Kevin HarvickManaged to collect a solid, if not relatively quiet, seventh place result at Fontana. After an uncharacteristically poor year for SHR last season, it will be interesting to see how Harvick as the old guard of the group adjusts to the new car.
13Martin Truex Jr.Despite two relatively quiet 13th place runs to start the year, Truex is somehow third in points, which speaks to the volatility of the new car so far. So, 13th seemed like an appropriate spot for him.
14Denny HamlinA slow start to the year following a wreck at Daytona and a mechanical issue at Fontana puts Denny lower than where I’m sure he’ll finish out the year. Watch for him to climb soon.
15Brad KeselowskiWhile he’s looked like a rocket sled off the rails at times so far, there’s no doubt the RFK cars are fast, which is a welcome change from recent years. Brad just needs to get it under control.
16Austin DillonAfter it looked like he would be upstaged by his teammate, Dillon ended up winning the day in the RCR camp by bringing home an impressive second place result. As the new car increases parity, it will be interesting to see how Dillon shakes out amongst the competition.
17Ricky Stenhouse Jr.Stenhouse has the most green flag passes of any driver in the field this year, though a lot of that could be lent to his aggressive driving style. JTG is a team worth watching moving forward, as the 47 car looks stout so far.
18Kurt BuschAfter failing inspection three times in the lead up to Sunday’s race, Busch put on a strong display and rebounded to an eighth place finish. Need to see a bit more to determine whether or not the 23XI cars will continue improving, but so far Busch has been impressive.
19Bubba WallaceAfter a near history making run at the Daytona 500, Bubba ran into a bit of trouble at Fontana, getting caught up in a wreck with Brad Keselowski. While he ultimately managed to salvage a respectable top-20, he didn’t show overwhelming speed prior to the incident. We’ll see how he does moving forward.
20Alex BowmanAfter another front row start at Daytona, Bowman hasn’t had much success so far, finishing 25th and 24th respectively across the first two races.
21William ByronDespite running fairly well while he’s actually been on track, Byron has net-nothing to show for his efforts, with a pair of DNF’s. Chalk them up to bad luck and move on, because Byron will climb the ranks eventually.
22Chris BuescherAfter winning his duel race at Daytona, Buescher hasn’t had much success, coming home 16th at the 500, and collecting a DNF at Fontana. The RFK cars have more speed than we’re used to seeing out of the Roush camp, so we will have to wait and see if Buescher can thrive in his role as the #2 guy behind Keselowski.
23Christopher BellWhile I certainly expect Christopher Bell to contend for a playoff spot, his season is off to as bad a start as you could have, with two DNF’s and an average finish of 35th. While he can of course (and likely will) rebound, he has to fall somewhere in the first ranking.
24Michael McDowellMcDowell was putting together another solid run at Fontana, running inside the top-10 at times before a mechanical issue ended his day late. He had solid speed to follow up his top-10 at Daytona, and will be an interesting driver to watch with the new car increasing parity for smaller teams.
25Ross ChastainAfter a vicious hit in practice it looked like Chastain was on pace for a solid run. Unfortunately, he wrecked out of the top-10 and came home with a 29th place result. I’d look for Chastain to climb the ranks, but his season is off to a poor start.
26Cole CusterHe won the Xfinity race in Fontana, but only managed to parlay that into an 11th place result on Sunday. Custer is a guy that I’m simply not sold on – he needs to show more to move up the ranks.
27Justin HaleyAn unfortunate wreck on the last lap ruined what was an otherwise decent day for Haley at Fontana, while his Kaulig Racing teammate Daniel Hemric managed to secure a top-10. It’s clear the Kaulig cars have plenty of speed to contend for decent results, but poor luck has saddled Haley so far.
28Harrison BurtonA victim of circumstance and a lack of data, I fully expect Burton to climb to at least the fringe of the top-20 with time. The Wood Brothers are a solid team, and bad luck can only last for so long – but for now, this is all I can do.
29Ty DillonNot sure what to make of Ty yet. His Petty GMS counterpart had excellent speed at Fontana while Ty mostly hung around mid-pack. He hasn’t really shown anything too impressive so far, but to his credit he’s avoided trouble and currently sits 17th in points
30Todd GillilandThe rookie has been pretty quiet so far, securing a top-20 at Fontana after wrecking out of the 500. Another driver without enough data to assess fairly, but driving a second FRM entry leads me to believe a climb up the ranks isn’t imminent, regardless of talent.
31Corey LaJoieI had pretty high hopes for LaJoie coming into this year, but a 28th place run at Fontana doesn’t inSPIRE much confidence (see what I did there?) for the small team moving forward. We’ll have to wait and see to be sure though.
32Cody WareI think we’re all hoping RWR will improve dramatically with the new car. While it certainly looks like they’re at least a bit better, Cody had his day ruined at Fontana by mechanical issues. After a solid showing at Daytona, and at least decent speed from his RWR counterpart Garrett Smithley, Cody Ware will be an interesting driver to watch moving forward.
33BJ McleodManaged to collect a solid P22 result in a Fontana race marked by pretty extreme attrition, but man… these cars are not fast. The poor ranking is more so a reflection on the equipment than on BJ, as he has a pretty stellar reputation in the garage. Still, someone has to be last.

Published by Walker Skeeter

Walker is a 4th year climatology PhD candidate at the University of Delaware. Despite being a climate scientist, Walker has been a NASCAR fan for over 20 years! His favorite drivers are Bubba Wallace, Tyler Reddick, and Alex Bowman in cup, and AJ Allmendinger, Tommy Joe Martins, and Ryan Vargas in Xfinity. Outside of racing, he enjoys talking about (and studying) the weather, watching Baltimore sports, and playing video games.

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