NASCAR Cup Series Power Rankings | After Race 14 at Circuit of the Americas
The first-ever NASCAR Cup Series race at Circuit of the Americas sure was a memorable one. From several multi-car wrecks to the rainy conditions that led to an early stoppage, the first stock car weekend at COTA delivered. Speaking of delivering, Hendrick Motorsports continues to do just that. Chase Elliott’s victory was the 268th in the team’s storied history, tying the all-time mark held by Petty Enterprises. With teammate Kyle Larson finishing runner-up and Alex Bowman also placing in the top-10, it’s no shock that Rick Hendrick’s four drivers are once again all up near the top of this week’s NASCAR power rankings.
NASCAR Power Rankings Q&A
In order to help readers gain a better understanding of our NASCAR power rankings, we will be fielding and answering a few questions to kick off this column each week. One that came up this past week had to do with why not all of the charter teams were included. The answer is a matter of who is behind the wheel of said cars. With the focus of these rankings being on the drivers, only those running a full-time NASCAR Cup Series schedule this year are included. The four charter cars that have had multiple drivers at various points during the season are not included.
If you have a question or inquiry about the NASCAR power rankings, feel free to reach out on Twitter or social media! Now, let’s dive into this week’s rankings.
NASCAR Cup Series Power Rankings | After Circuit of the Americas
1. Kyle Larson | Hendrick Motorsports #5
Last Week: 1
Woe to they who dared to fade Kyle Larson at COTA this past week. While prior stats certainly would suggest that road racing isn’t his strong suit, the No. 5 car just continues to line them up and knock them down. Yet another second-place showing begs the question of how much longer until Larson bags his second win of the season?
2. Martin Truex Jr. | Joe Gibbs Racing #19
Last Week: 2
A wreck and 35th-place finish were far from what Martin Truex Jr. had in mind for the first NASCAR Cup Series race at Circuit of the Americas. This marks two straight disappointing weeks for the No. 19 team, but the wreck that ended their day was no fault of Truex’s. That being said, the gap between him and Larson certainly feels wider than it did last week.
3. William Byron | Hendrick Motorsports #24
Last Week: 3
The streak of 11 straight top-10 finishes for William Byron was finally snapped this past weekend. That being said, an 11th-place run is nothing to frown upon. Byron continues to fly semi under the radar, but his average finish of 9.4 speaks for itself. It was admittedly tempting to bump him up over Truex this week. The No. 24 is back and here to stay.
4. Denny Hamlin | Joe Gibbs Racing #11
Last Week: 4
It was a lackluster weekend for Denny Hamlin at COTA. While a 14th-place showing in the rainy conditions on an unfamiliar track isn’t bad, it’s not what we expect from this team. After the incredible start to the season, Hamlin has cooled off in recent weeks. He still owns the top average finish (7.7) in the NASCAR power rankings, but there’s a different feel around the No. 11 car lately.
5. Chase Elliott | Hendrick Motorsports #9
Last Week: 8
It may have been in rain-shortened fashion, but Chase Elliott finally got the win he needed to surge into the top five of the NASCAR power rankings. The fact that it was a historic win for Hendrick Motorsports was simply icing on the cake. With a whole host of road courses still to come, this is likely nothing more than win No. 1 for Elliott.
6. Joey Logano | Team Penske #22
Last Week: 6
Joey Logano exceeded expectations at Circuit of the Americas. He earned his first career stage win at a road course and hung around until the end to bag a top-3 finish. He now sits third in average finish for the season (10.9) and heads to Charlotte riding a streak of two consecutive top-5 runs.
7. Alex Bowman | Hendrick Motorsports #48
Last Week: 7
‘Bowman the Showman’ showed out yet again at Circuit of the Americas. Although an 8th-place finish paled in comparison to his win at Dover the week prior, it certainly gets a vote of confidence in terms of consistency. No need to move the No. 48 down in the NASCAR power rankings following a top-10 finish. Yes, that means all four Hendrick Motorsports drivers are in the top-7 of this week’s rankings.
8. Kevin Harvick | Stewart-Haas Racing #4
Last Week: 5
Not a good week for Kevin Harvick and he certainly wasn’t happy about the crash that knocked him out of the race either. Even with that ugly 37th slapped onto his resume, Harvick still is fourth in average finish (11.0) on the season. But with the way things have been going for Stewart-Haas Racing lately, it’s hard to say when a win might happen.
9. Kyle Busch | Joe Gibbs Racing #18
Last Week: 12
Kyle Busch won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race by a wide margin and followed it up with a stage win and top-10 finish in the NASCAR Cup Series event on Sunday. For as many things that have gone wrong for the No. 18 team this season, they are sneakily eighth in average finish. Of course, Busch also has the Kansas win in his back pocket. Sleeping on Rowdy going forward would be a big mistake.
10. Tyler Reddick | Richard Childress Racing #8
Last Week: 13
Have a weekend young gun! Tyler Reddick hadn’t shown much in his prior road course starts, but boy did he show us something at COTA this weekend. He captured the pole in qualifying and although the race itself wasn’t perfect, he held on for a top-10 finish. Add it all up and he’s now in the top 10 of the NASCAR power rankings too. We are over halfway through the regular season but Reddick still has plenty of chances to nab that elusive first win.
11. Ryan Blaney | Team Penske #12
Last Week: 9
Ryan Blaney isn’t known for his prowess on road courses, so it wasn’t a shock to see him have a pretty quiet weekend at COTA. The bigger concern is the fact that we haven’t seen the No. 12 Mustang running out front for several weeks now.
12. Brad Keselowski | Team Penske #2
Last Week: 10
Brad Keselowski followed up his win at Talladega with a top-3 finish at Kansas. In the three races since, he hasn’t finished higher than 16th. The real talking point around the No. 2 team is whether or not Keselowski will even be driving for Team Penske next season .
13. Austin Dillon | Richard Childress Racing #3
Last Week: 11
Austin Dillon continued to be Mr. Consistency at Circuit of the Americas, securing a 12th-place finish. Although his weekend didn’t have the same flare about it as his RCR teammate Reddick, Dillon is now quietly tied for tenth in average finish (13.5) for the season.
14. Chris Buescher | Roush Fenway Racing #17
Last Week: 14
Roush Fenway Racing rewarded Chris Buescher for what has been a strong 2021 campaign thus far by extending his contract out through 2024. He promptly went out and threw down another solid run at COTA. Might he also get to call Keselowski his teammate in the near future?
15. Michael McDowell | Front Row Motorsports #34
Last Week: 17
Front Row Motorsports may not have the equipment to keep up with the big boys on the intermediate ovals. But whenever NASCAR runs at a superspeedway or road course, Micahel McDowell is one to watch. Sure enough, he bagged a 7th-place showing at COTA.
16. Ross Chastain | Chip Ganassi Racing #42
Last Week: 18
Some people have called me crazy for ranking Ross Chastain as highly as I have in recent weeks. But the positive signs simply could not be ignored and sure enough, the No. 42 drove to a top-5 finish at Circuit of the Americas. Slowly but surely, they’re figuring it out.
17. Matt DiBenedetto | Wood Brothers Racing #21
Last Week: 16
It was another lackluster weekend for Matt DiBenedetto and Wood Brothers Racing. Right when it seemed like the No. 21 team was putting it together, the last two weeks have been a major disappointment.
18. Christopher Bell | Joe Gibbs Racing #20
Last Week: 15
Christopher Bell shocked everyone by winning on the Daytona Road Course. A repeat performance was not meant to be. He got caught up in a crash and wasn’t even able to finish. Bell is now the lowest driver with a win in the NASCAR power rankings.
19. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. | JTG Daugherty Racing #47
Last Week: 21
A 22nd-place run at COTA wasn’t anything special, but Ricky Stenhouse Jr. continues to hang around. Could he surprise and sneak into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs on points?
20. Daniel Suarez | Trackhouse Racing #99
Last Week: 19
Daniel Suarez had plenty of road racing experience and success, but it failed to materialize this past weekend. The next step for this new race team is establishing better week-to-week consistency.
21. Ryan Preece | JTG Daugherty Racing #37
Last Week: 23
Stenhouse isn’t the only JTG Daugherty Racing driver jumping up a couple of spots in this week’s NASCAR power rankings. Ryan Preece notched a 15th-place run at COTA and continues to exceed expectations.
22. Kurt Busch | Chip Ganassi Racing #1
Last Week: 22
Kurt Busch pulled off one hell of a save to avoid a wreck with his brother, Kyle. Unfortunately, all he could muster in terms of a finish was 27th. The No. 1 team is being drastically overshadowed by their Chip Ganassi stablemates at this point.
23. Ryan Newman | Roush Fenway Racing #6
Last Week: 20
The discrepancy between Ryan Newman and RFR teammate Buescher seems to get worse by the week. It’s rather unusual to see such a disparity on a two-car team.
24. Chase Briscoe | Stewart-Haas Racing #14
Last Week: 27
COTA served as an excellent rebound week for Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 team. A 6th-place finish marked the best showing of the year for the NASCAR Cup Series rookie.
25. Erik Jones | Richard Petty Motorsports #43
Last Week: 26
Erik Jones was steady once again this past week, finishing 16th. But compared to his road course starts with JGR power, it was a bit of a disappointment.
26. Bubba Wallace | 23XI Racing #23
Last Week: 24
Not only did Bubba Wallace wreck out of this past weekend’s race but he took a few other drivers along with him. The struggles for Michael Jordan’s race team continue, with this potentially being considered a low-point.
27. Cole Custer | Stewart-Haas Racing #41
Last Week: 25
A top-10 run at Dover is now a distant memory after Cole Custer once again had his race cut short at COTA. Much like the wreck itself, this season has been pretty darn ugly.
28. Aric Almirola | Stewart-Haas Racing #10
Last Week: 28
Although it was nice to see Aric Almirola finish this weekend’s race running, a 26th-place effort isn’t exactly noteworthy considering his history of success on road courses. We need to see more before he can rise in the NASCAR power rankings.
29. Corey LaJoie | Spire Motorsports #7
Last Week: 29
Kudos to Corey LaJoie for driving to a top-20 finish and adding some stage points to boot. He has now run 10% of laps this season in the top-15, a bit of a surprising stat for an under-funded team.
30. Anthony Alfredo | Front Row Motorsports #38
Last Week: 30
Perhaps Anthony Alfredo is learning a thing or two from FRM teammate Michael McDowell about how to run the superspeedways and road courses. And 18th-place finish was a positive step for this team.
31. Quin Houff | StarCom Racing #00
Last Week: 31
He didn’t finish this weekend’s race, but Quin Houff stays ahead of the No. 52 in the NASCAR power rankings for the time being seeing how he still leads in season average finish and points.
32. Josh Bilicki | Rick Ware Racing #52
Last Week: 32
Josh Bilicki’s 30th-place run at COTA was three whole spots better than his average finish on the season.