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Denny Hamlin
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Power Rankings

Power Ranking After Richmond 2: Joey Logano in; Tyler Reddick out

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: September 14, 2021, 1:32 pm ET

We are two races into the playoffs and the momentum has shifted away from Hendrick Motorsports to Joe Gibbs Racing. The Gibbs guys not only won back-to-back races, they dominated most of those events with drivers who had question marks behind their names entering the final 10 races.

Denny Hamlin could not win during the regular season and Martin Truex Jr. suffered through a long dry spell that had us wondering if the team was experimenting. If they were, they had a great set of baseline notes to which they could return without any loss of momentum.

With the exception of Kyle Larson, who has locked into the Round of 12 on points courtesy of his massive number of race and stage wins during the regular season, the remaining three Hendrick drivers face possible elimination going into one of NASCAR’s least predictable races. The Night Race at Bristol is exciting, but drivers can damage their cars quite easily.

No one wants to enter any of the elimination races below the cutline in need of a little help from the competition, but that is where William Byron (18 points behind 12th in the standings) and Michael McDowell (38 points back) find themselves. Eleven of the remaining 14 drivers who have not locked into the next stage with points or victories will have a sense of urgency this week that may well change the dynamic of their race.

Top 10

1. Denny Hamlin (last week: 2) +1
Weeks in the top 10: 29
Weeks as #1: 9
Cup wins: 1 (Darlington 2)
Power Average: 5.05
For much of the Federated 400, it appeared Hamlin was the driver to beat. He may have gotten a little behind on the final adjustment, which forced him to chase Truex in the closing laps. Christopher Bell finished third and they likely would have been joined by Kyle Busch at the front of the pack if not for a speeding penalty. The Gibbs organization will  be extremely hard to beat in the coming weeks.

2. Kyle Larson (last week: 1) -1
Weeks in the top 10: 25
Weeks as #1: 10
Cup wins: 5 (Las Vegas 1, Charlotte, Sonoma, Nashville, Watkins Glen)
Power Average: 5.54
Richmond has not traditionally been kind to Larson. The team thought this was his biggest hurdle and were probably happy that it occurred in the Round of 16 while Larson had such an immense bonus-point lead over 13th in the standings. He earned enough points in the stages to lock himself into the next round and is one of three drivers who can race at Bristol without pressure. He has not yet won on those high banks, but he swept the runner-up position in 2018.

3. Chase Elliott (last week: 3)
Weeks in the top 10: 29
Weeks as #1: 5
Cup wins: 2 (COTA, Road America)
Power Average: 6.81
It depends on whether you see the glass as half full or empty. Elliott scored a top-five last week on a track that has not been kind to him in the past and he was the highest ranking driver other than Joe Gibbs Racing. But he had a car capable of winning and squandered the opportunity of locking into the Round of 12. He currently has a 19-point advantage over 13th and won’t feel safe until the checkers wave this Saturday night and the points reset in a round that hosts a road course race.

4. Ryan Blaney (last week: 4)
Weeks in the top 10: 16
Cup wins: 3 (Atlanta 1, Michigan, Daytona 2)
Power Average: 8.45
Blaney does not want a repeat of last year when he failed to advance out of the Round of 16. His brake fade at Darlington had to scare the team, but he rebounded nicely to finish 10th at Richmond. Sitting fifth in the standings, he is relatively safe heading into the elimination round, but to fully make the No. 12 into title contenders, Blaney needs to earn a top-five. Unfortunately, he has only one of those in 11 Bristol attempts.

5. Martin Truex, Jr. (last week: 6) +1
Weeks in the top 10: 21
Weeks as #1: 2
Cup wins: 4 (Phoenix 1, Martinsville 1, Darlington 1, Richmond 2)
Power Average: 9.74
Our biggest concern about Truex last week was whether he could get through the Richmond race without making a mistake. He couldn't. Not even a lap had gone by before he was black flagged by NASCAR for jumping the start. He was fortunate that he had 399 laps to make up for his error and he actually dominated the final stage. He hasn’t put our mind at ease about his ability to continue without erecting obstacles in his own path.

6. Kevin Harvick (last week: 8) +2
Weeks in the top 10: 21
Cup wins: 0
Power Average: 11.24
He’s still winless, but Harvick has improved during the playoffs. After finishing outside the top 10 in five of the final seven races, he has been solid during the Round of 16, but if he cannot add some playoff bonus points none of that will matter after Bristol when everything resets. Perhaps the best thing for this team would be to get eliminated early so they can start working on 2022, but drivers never think that way.

7. Kyle Busch (last week: 7)
Weeks in the top 10: 27
Weeks as #1: 1
Cup wins: 2 (Kansas 1, Pocono 2)
Power Average: 11.81
Busch ran well at Richmond until a late-race speeding penalty cost him the opportunity to give Joe Gibbs Racing a sweep of the top four spots. His accident at Darlington looms large and while it was partially ameliorated with last week’s top-10 finish, he is still only eight points above the cutline. He needs to run well at Bristol and cannot afford to make another mistake. Fortunately, Bristol has treated him well in the past.

8. Joey Logano (last week: 14) +6
Weeks in the top 10: 24
Weeks as #1: 1
Cup wins: 1 (Bristol Dirt)
Power Average: 12.66
Logano is one of several drivers who radically improved their performance as soon as the playoffs began. His eighth at Darlington and fifth at Richmond has him sitting in a good place to advance to the Round of 12. He does not have enough bonus points to rest on his laurels, however, and needs to challenge for race and stage wins. If he can sweep this weekend, he will be the first to win two races in one season on a track with two different surfaces. He posted his only 2021 victory at Bristol on the dirt.

9. Christopher Bell (last week: 11) +2
Weeks in the top 10: 10
Cup wins: 1 (Daytona Road)
Power Average: 12.74
Bell looked much stronger at Darlington than his 20th-place finish suggests. He picked up where he left off at Richmond and scored his first top-five in seven weeks. This is the perfect time to develop some momentum and show that he can run with his teammates. If the team kept their notes in good order from the Southern 500, this weekend should go off without a hitch on another rough-surfaced track.

10. Ross Chastain (last week: 15) +5
Weeks in the top 10: 1
Cup wins: 0
Power Average: 12.83
Chastain makes his first appearance in the Power Rankings top-10 this week after being the best non-playoff contender in back-to-back weeks. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether he can keep that up in the coming weeks, but he will continue to face long odds on the sportsbooks and be relatively cheap in salary cap games. That makes him one of the best values in the field for the next couple of weeks.

Other drivers with wins, not among the top 10: Alex Bowman ([3] Richmond 1, Dover 1, and Pocono 1), William Byron (Homestead), Michael McDowell (Daytona 1), Brad Keselowski (Talladega 1), Kurt Busch (Atlanta2), Aric Almirola (New Hampshire), and AJ Allmendinger (Indy Road).

Dropped from the Top 10

11. Tyler Reddick (last week: 9) -2
Weeks in the top 10: 16
Cup wins: 0
Power Average: 12.86
Earlier in the season, a 15th-place finish would seem very positive for Reddick – but he has increased expectations by landing in the Power Rankings top-10 for 16 of the 28 weeks. This week’s 45-day lookback period includes only one top 10 for Reddick and a fifth-place finish in the Daytona lottery. He’s going to have to show a lot more to climb up this chart and to advance to the next round.

12. Kurt Busch (last week: 5) -7
Weeks in the top 10: 9Cup wins: 1 (Atlanta 2)
Power Average: 12.91
Busch is clinging to the top 12 by benefit of a tiebreaker over Bowman. The good news is that the driver of the No. 1 has been much stronger at Bristol than his competitor, but it remains to be seen just how well the Chip Ganassi Racing organization is going to run in their final weeks as a team.

14. Matt DiBenedetto (last week: 10) -4
Weeks in the top 10: 7
Cup wins: 0
Power Average: 14.18
DiBenedetto has been running on emotion and adrenalin for quite some time. That can be difficult to maintain and it’s unsurprising to see him drop out of the top 10. Bristol is one of the tracks where he has almost won in the past and he could rebound this week. In terms of winning, however, that is going to be difficult since every playoff victory in the knockout era has gone to a driver in the top 16.

Winners, Last 45 Days (Opening Outright Odds to win)
Richmond 2, Martin Truex, Jr. (+480)
Darlington 2, Denny Hamlin (+625)
Daytona 2, Ryan Blaney (+1400)
Michigan, Ryan Blaney (+1800)
Indy Road, AJ Allmendinger (+3000)
Watkins Glen, Kyle Larson (+475)

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Power Average, Last 45 Days

This
Week

Driver

Power
Avg.

Last
Week

Difference

1.

Denny Hamlin

5.05

2

1

2.

Kyle Larson

5.54

1

-1

3.

Chase Elliott

6.81

3

0

4.

Ryan Blaney

8.45

4

0

5.

Martin Truex, Jr.

9.74

6

1

6.

Kevin Harvick

11.24

8

2

7.

Kyle Busch

11.81

7

0

8.

Joey Logano

12.66

14

6

9.

Christopher Bell

12.74

11

2

10.

Ross Chastain

12.83

15

5

 

11.

Tyler Reddick

12.86

9

-2

12.

Kurt Busch

12.91

5

-7

13.

Austin Dillon

13.83

13

0

14.

Matt DiBenedetto

14.18

10

-4

15.

William Byron

14.75

12

-3

16.

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

16.16

16

0

17.

Alex Bowman

16.65

18

1

18.

Chase Briscoe

16.77

17

-1

19.

Brad Keselowski

17.24

22

3

20.

Aric Almirola

18.70

25

5

21.

Corey LaJoie

18.96

20

-1

22.

Chris Buescher

18.97

21

-1

23.

Bubba Wallace

19.23

19

-4

24.

Cole Custer

19.66

24

0

25.

Ryan Preece

20.41

23

-2

26.

Ryan Newman

20.97

26

0

27.

Erik Jones

22.87

28

1

28.

Justin Haley

23.42

27

-1

29.

Daniel Suarez

23.55

29

0

30.

Michael McDowell

26.37

30

0

31.

BJ McLeod

28.53

31

0

32.

Josh Bilicki

29.72

32

0

33.

Anthony Alfredo

30.79

33

0

34.

JJ Yeley

31.33

 

NA

35.

Cody Ware

32.60

34

-1

36.

Quin Houff

33.03

35

-1

37.

Joey Gase

33.67

37

0

38.

Garrett Smithley

33.72

36

-2

39.

James Davison

33.75

38

-1

 

Power Rankings after Bristol Dirt
After Darlington 2
After Daytona 2

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.