Week 26 NASCAR Power Rankings

With only one week left until the playoff field is set, let’s take one final look at how the whole field of full-time drivers is stacking up heading into the end of the regular season.

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 (@PitBoxPress), and throw some virtual hands!

RankDriverDiscussion
1Chase ElliottI think it is safe to say at this point that Chase Elliott is the championship favorite. With the most wins, and the best average finish in the field, he is the man to beat right now. He would be sitting on five wins right now if it wasn’t for…
2Kyle LarsonIt’s honestly hard to believe that it took this long for Larson to get his second win of the year after how dominant he was in 2021. Regardless, Larson sits second in points, and is an obvious championship contender.
3Joey LoganoIt’s been an up and down year for Logano at times, but he’s riding an up at this point as he hasn’t finished worse than P6 in his last four races. Locked in with two wins, Logano is a legit championship threat.
4Kevin HarvickWhat an amazing job by Kevin Harvick to save his season! In a year where it looked like he may miss the playoffs entirely, he went out and silenced all the critics by winning at Michigan… and then did it again at Richmond the next week! He’s hitting his stride at the perfect time.
5Ryan BlaneyBlaney has had a very good season, and his numbers show it. He currently sits third in points and has the fifth best average finish in the field, but is one surprise Daytona winner away from missing the playoffs. It’s sad to see honestly… but if he gets in, he is a legitimate threat to win it all.
6Tyler ReddickAll of a sudden finding himself as one of the best road racers in the sport, Reddick’s ascent has been fun to watch. Sitting on two wins and with as much talent as you could hope for, the only thing seemingly holding him back is the RCR powerplant.
7Ross ChastainAs quick as his rise was, his descent has seemingly been just as meteoric, riddled with on-track incidents and off-track tiffs with fellow drivers, and only one top-20 finish in his last five races. Has Chastain’s unapologetic aggression finally caught up with him?
8Christopher BellIt seems like Christopher Bell is finally starting to realize his sky high potential, and I can’t even begin to explain how happy I am to see it. Locked in by virtue of a win at New Hampshire, Bell is a sneaky pick to make a deep playoff run.
9Martin Truex JrHow sad is this? Martin Truex Jr., a future hall of famer and former champion, sitting sixth in points with the fourth best average finish in the field, is almost certain to miss the playoffs if he doesn’t snag the win at Daytona.
10Daniel SuárezSuárez continues to put together a solid, consistent season in his second year with Trackhouse. With five top-10s in his last eight races, including three top-fives, Suárez seems to be in good shape entering the playoffs.
11Denny HamlinHamlin seems to have mostly recovered from the horrendous start to his season, and is running much more consistently now. While he certainly isn’t a championship favorite, don’t be surprised if he makes a deep run.
12Kyle BuschBusch finds himself locked in the middle of a pretty intense cold streak. With only one top-10 in the last ten races, a meager P9 at Richmond, you have to wonder if all the background nise surrounding his future is starting to have an impact.
13Erik JonesErik Jones continues the revival of both his career, and teh whole Petty organization. The 43 car hasn’t been this competitive this regularly in a long time. If it wasn’t for the “win and you’re in” rule, Jones would be close to a playoff berth in 17th.
14William ByronIn the 17 races since his second win of the season at Martinsville, William Byron has only one top-10, a ninth place result ten weeks ago at Sonoma. Granted there have been plenty of top-15’s sprinkled in there, but it’s still not going to cut it. I’m not anticipating a deep playoff run.
15Alex BowmanLike his HMS teammate, Bowman has been largely a non-factor recently, with only one top-10 (again, a P9) in his last 11 races. Locked in by virtue of a win, don’t be surprised in the 48 team has to eat a first round exit.
16Chris BuescherBuescher continues to be the lead dog at RFK, drastically outperforming his teammate/team owner Brad Keselowski. Give this team some time, and they could be a regular playoff contender.
17Austin CindricCindric has had about as good a rookie campaign as you could ask for, and seems to be improving all the time. Since his Daytona 500 win he’s scored six top-10s, three of which were top-fives, and seems to be competitive almost every week.
18Bubba WallaceWhile his hot streak officially came to an end at Watkins Glen thanks to a litany of issues, there is no doubt that Bubba Wallace turned his season around with four straight top-10s, four of which were top-fives. A great superspeedway racer, can he shock the world and win his way in at Daytona?
19Chase BriscoeSince his early season win, it’s been a pretty quiet season for Briscoe. In the 20 races since winning at Phoenix, Briscoe only has two top-10’s. Currently sitting 16th in points, don’t expect a deep run in the playoffs unless something really changes for the 14 team.
20Michael McDowellIf I had to pick a most impressive driver factoring in quality of equipment this year, I would almost certainly go with McDowell. Shattering his previous career high for top-10s in a season with ten, McDowell is proving that FRM can run with the big guns. Unfortunately, they can’t do it all the time – he has just as many bad races as good ones thanks to his equipment.
21Aric AlmirolaWell then, look who isn’t retiring after all? One of the good guys of the sport, it’s nice to hear that Almirola is sticking around… but his performance this year has been ho-hum at best. Then again, outside of Harvick SHR hasn’t exactly been putting super competitive cars on track this season.
22Austin DillonNext week, on “Austin Dillons Life in the Fast Lane”, Austin Dillon is holding RCR back from developing into a legitimate contender – Sundays at 6/7 central! Really though, after a few really good early season runs, Dillon has been no better than mid pack just about every week.
23Justin HaleyHaley has been doing exactly what he needs to do in Kaulig Racing’s first full-time foray into the Cup Series – keeping the car clean, logging laps, and putting up the occasional good finish. Haley is a good superspeedway racer, and Kaulig builds really good cars… are you thinking what I’m thinking? Chaos, and a Haley win at Daytona!
24Brad KeselowskiIt’s been a forgettable year for Keselowski as he has struggled to find his footing driving for his own team. He’s been better at times in the second half of the season, but it’s surely not what he or the team expected. Still, he’s one to watch at Daytona next week as a darkhorse winner.
25
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
It’s been a rollercoaster season for Stenhouse performance wise. Horrendous start, then four straight top-10s, then back to completely average the last 11 or so races. Is he really the path forward if JTG wants be be properly competitive?
26Ty DillonI’ve continued to be impressed with the way that Ty Dillon has driven in a second Petty GMS car, as well as how he has conducted himself in light of his pending departure from the team. He’s a consistent pro, and has proven that he belongs in the sport.
27Cole CusterCuster narrowly missed out on what would have been third top-10 of the year at Watkins Glen. I still don’t believe that sticking with Custer in the 41 long term is the right move for SHR, but… we all know why he’s there.
28Harrison BurtonHis third place run at Indianapolis was a nice bright spot in what has been an otherwise fairly forgetful year for Burton. Most knew it would be a struggle, but the fact that he has been a complete non-factor almost every week is surprising given how solid the Wood Brothers had been the previous few seasons.
29Todd GillilandJust like with Burton, Todd Gilliland’s Indianapolis P4 was a nice moment in an otherwise quiet year. The big difference being that while Burton is running for a historic Penske affiliated team, Gilliland is running the second car for a much smaller operation. I’d say Gilliland has been the more impressive of the two.
30Corey LaJoieWhile he’s had his moments and near misses this year, I think it’s save to say that the 2022 season has pretty much been a failure for LaJoie and Spire Motorsports. This team was hyped up a bit before the season began, and it seems that the hype was far from justified. Hopefully they continue to grow and improve.
31Cody WareAs I often like to do when we get to Ware, I would like to highlight a positive. His nine incidents (according to TobyChristie.com‘s incident tracker) is fewer than every full time driver save for Justin Haley (5) and William Byron (8). The improvement from Ware is there – now the equipment just needs to catch up.
N/RKurt BuschIt didn’t feel right including Kurt Busch, as he is still out with a concussion. Hopefully he is able to recover in time for the playoffs, as the lack of a new winner at Watkins Glen officially locked him in.
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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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