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Power Rankings

2022 Power Rankings after Week 3: Disruption or Parity?

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: March 7, 2022, 3:22 pm ET

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Answers to some questions come in a flash of inspiration; others take time to study and allow the solution to evolve over time. The Next Gen car is not going to be easy to handicap for quite some while as we accumulate enough data to tell if patterns are truly emerging.

Two weeks ago Tyler Reddick dominated the first part of the Wise Power 400 at Auto Club Speedway. Last week it was Ross Chastain's turn to make his presence known in the Pennzoil 400 by Jiffy Lube at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Neither driver won and over the course of the first three races, neither has been strong enough to land in the top 10 in the Power Rankings. Reddick is ranked 16th this week. Chastain is 24th.

It is not simply a matter of throwing one's hands in the air in desperation, however; cream is starting to rise to the top and while there are still some dark horses among the top 10 and, this early in the season, the rankings are chaotic, players and bettors are starting to see some normalcy. Kyle Busch's near miss last week was one example.

Top 10

1. Kyle Larson (Last week: 5) +4
Weeks in the top 10: 3
Weeks as #1: 1
Wins: 1 (Auto Club)
Power Average: 7.74
A late-race pit stop jumbled the order and put Larson's top-five at risk when he was hit with a penalty in the pits. Cautions take opportunities away and restore them. A gamble on two tires was enough to put him in a position to win. With last year's numbers added in, Larson has top-fives in 61 percent of his last 18 races, (a rolling half-season).

2. Joey Logano (Last week: 4) +2
Weeks in the top 10: 3
Power Average: 8.36
When late-race cautions happen, the impact on the running order makes it appear a driver who performed solidly actually struggled. That is the case with Logano who ran inside the top 15 for 253 laps last week, which was the fourth-most in the field. Top-10 rankings in Average Running Position and Driver Rating – coupled with problems for Austin Cindric and Erik Jones – moved him up the order despite a modest 14th-place finish.

3. Austin Cindric (Last week: 1) -2
Weeks in the top 10: 3
Weeks as #1: 2
Wins: 1 (Daytona 500)
Power Average: 8.70
Now that the momentum of his Daytona 500 win is fading, Cindric is likely to start slipping down the order. How fast that happens is anyone's guess, but it will also be an indication of when he might start to climb again. Cindric is likely to see a 2022 season that looks like a bell curve. He is going to get better as the year progresses, but it might not always seem that way since his progress will constantly be compared to his first week.

4. Martin Truex Jr. (Last week: 8) +4
Weeks in the top 10: 3
Power Average: 9.30
Truex has been hard to handicap for the past two seasons and last week showed that he is still capable of confounding handicappers. In the last 18 races, he has earned top-10s in only slightly more than 50 percent of his starts and after beginning 2022 with back-to-back 13th-place results, we ranked him sixth in the Cheat Sheets. Ultimately, he finished eighth, but he had a shot at winning before the final caution.

5. Erik Jones (Last week: 3) -2
Weeks in the top 10: 2
Power Average: 10.60
The Next Gen cars seem to be an odd mix of durable and fragile. In the past two races, it has become apparent that tie rods are a weak link, and the cost associated with scraping the wall is major. Jones had a solid run going before he suffered that fate, but he was going to slip down the order regardless because of modest rankings in the strength-based statistics that we track, however.

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6. Kyle Busch (Last week: 11) +5
Weeks in the top 10: 2
Power Average: 10.63
On camera after the Pennzoil 400, Busch seemed about as composed as he ever is after suffering a setback. A likely victory was stripped from him because of a late-race caution, but instead of accepting that racing has those ups and downs, he went on an expletive-filled tirade against the winner for what he described as Bowman backing into an unworthy win. For the record, Bowman's Average Running Position of 6.55 was ranked four positions above Busch's 9.68.

7. Ryan Blaney (Last week: 2) -5
Weeks in the top 10: 3
Power Average: 10.65
If anyone has a right to be frustrated, it's Blaney. He's had a car capable of winning the first three races of the season, but has only one top-15 to show for his effort. It can be extremely difficult to keep perspective when bad things keep happening, but that is the mark of a strong driver. With top-10s in five of his last six Phoenix Raceway attempts, Blaney should be able to rebound.

8. Aric Almirola (Last week: 9) +1
Weeks in the top 10: 2
Power Average: 11.17
In the middle stages of the Pennzoil 400 one would not have given Almirola low odds to finish in the top 10. He kept chipping away at track position and ended the day sixth in the rundown. That is his fourth sixth-place finish in the past five races; his other result was a fifth, so a pattern is emerging.

9. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Last week: 6) -3
Weeks in the top 10: 2
Power Average: 11.30
Stenhouse is still riding the momentum from last week's strong run and 10th-place finish. Frankly, his position among the top 10 has more to do with the bad results for Brad Keselowski and Chase Briscoe, but that is part of the game in NASCAR. Short, flat tracks have not been particularly kind to Stenhouse in the past two seasons with no top-10s and an average of 20th, so this could be his last week in the rankings for a while.

10. Chase Elliott (Last week: 17) +7
Weeks in the top 10: 2
Power Average: 12.15
Elliott was riding a seesaw last week and ultimately landed in the ninth position. He started out too loose, improved the handling, challenged for the lead in the middle stages, and may have jumped the cushion on his setup at the end. Two top-10s in three races is not all that impressive but the only drivers better are Larson with a pair of top-fives and Almirola's three top-10s.

Dropped from the Top 10

13. Brad Keselowski (Last week: 7) -6
Weeks in the top 10: 2
Power Average: 13.63
This is more of what we expected from Keselowski at the start of the season. It takes time to turn an organization around and RFK Racing has struggled for too many seasons for everything to be fixed in a couple of weeks. We suspect Keselowski and Chris Buescher will find their natural level in the high-teens or low-20s for the first half of the season. If that is true, there is a hidden gem of opportunity because they will be solid values when improvement comes later in the year.

17. Chase Briscoe (Last week: 10) -7
Weeks in the top 10: 1
Power Average: 14.37
Briscoe's appearance in the top 10 was short-lived after an accident put him out of the race early enough to negatively impact his strength-based rankings. With how finicky the Next Gen cars are, he could very well be at the front of the pack again this week in Phoenix, however.

Winners, Last 45 Days (Outright Odds to win)
Pennzoil 400, Las Vegas: Alex Bowman (+2000)
Wise Power 400, Auto Club: Kyle Larson (+360)
Daytona 500, Daytona: Austin Cindric (+2800)

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Power Average, Last 45 Days

This
Week

Driver

Power
Avg.

Last
Week

Difference

1.

Kyle Larson

7.74

5

4

2.

Joey Logano

8.36

4

2

3.

Austin Cindric

8.70

1

-2

4.

Martin Truex, Jr.

9.30

8

4

5.

Erik Jones

10.60

3

-2

6.

Kyle Busch

10.63

11

5

7.

Ryan Blaney

10.65

2

-5

8.

Aric Almirola

11.17

9

1

9.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

11.30

6

-3

10.

Chase Elliott

12.15

17

7

11.

Kevin Harvick

13.05

14

3

12.

Bubba Wallace

13.05

12

0

13.

Brad Keselowski

13.63

7

-6

14.

Alex Bowman

13.74

21

7

15.

Kurt Busch

13.94

20

5

16.

Tyler Reddick

14.26

16

0

17.

Chase Briscoe

14.37

10

-7

18.

William Byron

14.95

25

7

19.

Austin Dillon

15.61

22

3

20.

Denny Hamlin

16.05

23

3

21.

Chris Buescher

16.50

13

-8

22.

Michael McDowell

17.41

15

-7

23.

David Ragan

17.50

28

5

24.

Ross Chastain

17.53

34

10

25.

Cole Custer

17.67

18

-7

26.

Ty Dillon

18.24

24

-2

27.

Daniel Suarez

18.47

19

-8

28.

Landon Cassill

18.63

27

-1

29.

Christopher Bell

20.00

30

1

30.

Todd Gilliland

20.53

26

-4

31.

Daniel Hemric

21.07

29

-2

32.

Corey LaJoie

21.71

31

-1

33.

Justin Haley

23.06

33

0

34.

Noah Gragson

24.50

35

1

35.

Harrison Burton

25.11

32

-3

36.

Cody Ware

26.35

36

0

37.

Jacques Villeneuve

26.50

39

2

38.

BJ McLeod

27.53

37

-1

39.

Garrett Smithley

30.33

38

-1

40.

Kaz Grala

30.67

40

0

41.

Josh Bilicki

32.78

42

1

42.

Greg Biffle

33.70

41

-1

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After 2022, Week 2 at Auto Club
2021, Week 3 at Homestead

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 20 years with a little help from his >650,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.