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Power Rankings

Power Ranking After Darlington: Tyler Reddick in, Brad Keselowski out

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: May 10, 2021, 2:50 pm ET

The 2021 NASCAR Cup schedule is 12 races deep and continues to be filled with surprises. We keep expecting a few drivers to separate from the pack and while there was not another unique winner at Darlington, the top of the order continues to be a unclear from week to week.

There is only one multiple winner still in the season. Martin Truex Jr.’s Goodyear 400 win did not do much to change the landscape. Based on his Darlington Raceway record, we had him handicapped as a likely top-10 finisher. No one was going to necessarily be surprised to see him win, but a perfect Driver Rating was certainly unexpected.

There are still 10 unique winners in 2021; there are still six drivers who won in 2020 who have yet to find Victory Lane and with strong recent runs by Matt DiBenedetto and Tyler Reddick, there is still the potential that there will be more than 16 winners in the regular season.

Truex is the only driver officially locked into the playoffs with multiple wins – and until someone else joins him, predicting exactly what the playoffs looks like will be difficult.

Top 10

1. Martin Truex Jr. (last week: 4) +3
Weeks in the top 10: 11
Weeks as #1: 2
Cup wins: 2 (Phoenix, Martinsville 1, Darlington 1)
Power Average: 5.44
The win count surely suggests Truex should be the top-ranked driver. He is the only one locked into the playoffs since there is a chance there will be 17 or more winners in the regular season and he has the most playoff points by a wide margin. Nonetheless, he has been less dominant than Denny Hamlin and as inconsistent as Kyle Larson. NASCAR is well into the playoff system, but it seems that only recently have drivers treated individual races in the first 26 as less meaningful than in other seasons. There is a lot of jockeying for position right now. 

2. Denny Hamlin (last week: 1) -1
Weeks in the top 10: 13
Weeks as #1: 6
Cup wins: 0
Power Average: 5.90
Hamlin maintains the points’ lead despite being winless in 2021. If that continues through Week 26, he will get a berth in the playoffs regardless of his victory count. The closing laps of recent races have shown just how important he views winning, however. Last year’s bonus points meant a lot to him in the final 10 races. This year he has only five based on stage wins. Seven drivers are ahead of him on this chart and that will make a difference before too long.

3. William Byron (last week: 2) -1
Weeks in the top 10: 7
Cup wins: 1 (Homestead)
Power Average: 6.27
Byron kept his top-10 streak alive impressively with a fourth-place finish and Average Running Position of 6.4. At the beginning of the year, we expected Chase Elliott and Larson to be the top two Hendrick Motorsports drivers. Byron and Alex Bowman were supposed to struggle for attention in the organization. We’ve stopped wondering when runs like this will stop and are just enjoying the consistency coming from the No. 24 camp.

4. Ryan Blaney (last week: 3) -1
Weeks in the top 10: 7
Cup wins: 1 (Atlanta 1)
Power Average: 8.07
Blaney’s ninth-place finish at Darlington keeps him in contention as one of the top performers over the past 45 days. He has not earned a top-five, however, since he won the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In six races since then he has five results of eighth through 11th in six races. That shows consistency, but it is hard to find a relevant bet given his seeming inability to challenge for a top-three.

5. Kyle Busch (last week: 5)
Weeks in the top 10: 12
Cup wins: 1 (Kansas 1)
Power Average: 8.43
It would seem Busch’s Buschy McBusch Race 400 victory at Kansas Speedway has helped. With a third-place finish last week at Darlington, he now has back-to-back top-fives for the first time in 2021. It is way too soon to make any sweeping comments, such as he has figured out how to race without practice, but he deserves attention over the next several weeks to see if his performance improves. The complicating factor is NASCAR’s parity and how that continues to jumble the order.

6. Joey Logano (last week: 8) +2
Weeks in the top 10: 13
Weeks as #1: 1
Cup wins: 1 (Bristol dirt)
Power Average: 9.54
Don’t get overly excited about seeing Logano move up a couple of positions this week. Remember that our Power Rankings look at the past 45 days and Logano’s 13th-place finish at Darlington replaces a 15th from Atlanta. Next week his Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track win will age out of the formula and his early departure from the Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway will have a much greater impact on his recent performance.

7. Kevin Harvick (last week: 6) -1
Weeks in the top 10: 11
Cup wins: 0
Power Average: 9.89
Based on his 2020 Darlington record, more was expected from Harvick last week. Given how badly he and Stewart-Haas Racing has struggled in 2021, however, a sixth-place finish was certainly a step in the right direction. That is now his third consecutive top-10. Next week will be critical. He opened the season with three straight top-10s and has not been able to garner a fourth consecutive yet. He needs that kind of consistency before he starts being bandied about as a potential winner.

8. Chase Elliott (last week: 10) +2
Weeks in the top 10: 13
Weeks as #1: 3
Cup wins: 0
Power Average: 9.92
Elliott’s Power Average last week was 12.13, so he shows a significant jump. A big part of the reason for that is because the QuikTrip 500 and its 38th-place finish aged out of the formula. He needs a good Dover International Speedway run and there is some rational for why he will get one. He’s finished in the top five in the past two spring races there. Unfortunately, he’s been 38th and 39th in Dover’s second races in the past two seasons.

9. Tyler Reddick (last week: 13) +4
Weeks in the top 10: 1
Cup wins: 1 0
Power Average: 10.22
Reddick came up only two positions shy of earning a third-consecutive top-10 last week. His 12th-place finish was the fifth time in the last six races that he finished in the top 12 and that says a lot about the performance of this sophomore driver. Austin Dillon had an up and down performance and finished 16th, but Richard Childress Racing is taking their place among the strongest secondary teams in the field. That could all change if Stewart-Haas Racing figures out how to improve their performance.

10. Matt DiBenedetto (last week: 7) -3
Weeks in the top 10: 3
Cup wins: 0
Power Average: 10.76
DiBenedetto was on a strong upward trajectory with three consecutive top-10s and six results of 13th or better. We were starting to think of him as a driver who would be able to win soon. It will be important for him to rebound this week at Dover. The good news is that track has some similarities to Bristol and he almost won there in fall 2019.

Other drivers with wins, not among the top 10: Michael McDowell (Daytona 1), Christopher Bell (Daytona road), Kyle Larson (Las Vegas 1), Alex Bowman (Richmond 1), and Brad Keselowski (Talladega 1).

Dropped from the Top 10

11. Brad Keselowski (last week: 9) -2
Weeks in the top 10: 10
Weeks as #1: 0
Cup wins: 1 (Talladega 1)
Power Average: 12.34
Much more was expected of Keselowski last week. He won the 2018 Southern 500, finished in the top five in two of the next four races and had a current streak of eight consecutive top-15s. After being awarded the pole based on NASCAR’s metric from Kansas, he started on the pole but quickly dropped back through the field and landed well outside of the top 20. His inconsistency this season has made him unpredictable and a bad bet.  

Big Movers Outside the top 10

14. Kyle Larson (last week: 16) +2
Weeks in the top 10: 9
Cup wins: 1 (Las Vegas 1)
Power Average: 14.80
Larson was not the driver with the greatest improvement among the top 20; that distinction belongs to Christopher Bell who jumped three spots to 12th. But Larson’s performance at Darlington deserves attention. He did not have the best car. In all probability, he didn’t have the second-best car over the course of the race. What he did have was a ‘no-quit’ attitude that propelled him into the top 15 for the first time since Martinsville Speedway. He should start the long, arduous process of moving back up the grid now.

16. Alex Bowman (last week: 12) -4
Weeks in the top 10: 3
Cup wins: 1 (Richmond 1)
Power Average: 15.46
Bowman’s victory at Richmond is starting to look like a fluke. In sits in the middle of five sub-15th-place results on either side. His other top-five of the season came at Atlanta and it is surrounded by four results outside the top 10. If there are more than 16 unique winners, Bowman will challenge Michael McDowell for the unwanted distinction of being the first-ever winner not involved in NASCAR’s playoffs.

Winners, Last 45 Days (Outright Odds to win)
Goodyear 400, Martin Truex Jr. (+775)
Buschy McBusch 400, Kyle Busch (+1200)
Geico 500, Brad Keselowski (+1200)
Toyota Owners 400, Alex Bowman (+3300)
Blue-Emu 500, Martin Truex Jr. (+475)
Food City Dirt Race, Joey Logano (+2000)

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Power Average, Last 45 Days

This
Week

Driver

Power
Avg.

Last
Week

Difference

1.

Martin Truex Jr.

5.44

4

3

2.

Denny Hamlin

5.90

1

-1

3.

William Byron

6.27

2

-1

4.

Ryan Blaney

8.07

3

-1

5.

Kyle Busch

8.43

5

0

6.

Joey Logano

9.54

8

2

7.

Kevin Harvick

9.89

6

-1

8.

Chase Elliott

9.92

10

2

9.

Tyler Reddick

10.22

13

4

10.

Matt DiBenedetto

10.76

7

-3

 

11.

Brad Keselowski

12.34

9

-2

12.

Christopher Bell

12.50

15

3

13.

Austin Dillon

14.68

11

-2

14.

Kyle Larson

14.80

16

2

15.

Chris Buescher

15.25

14

-1

16.

Alex Bowman

15.46

12

-4

17.

Daniel Suarez

16.79

17

0

18.

Ryan Newman

17.24

19

1

19.

Kaz Grala

17.60

21

2

20.

Bubba Wallace

17.91

20

0

21.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

18.26

18

-3

22.

Ross Chastain

19.80

25

3

23.

Kurt Busch

19.81

23

0

24.

Harrison Burton

19.83

24

0

25.

Michael McDowell

20.47

22

-3

26.

Erik Jones

20.58

29

3

27.

Chase Briscoe

21.13

30

3

28.

Austin Cindric

21.20

27

-1

29.

Ryan Preece

21.88

26

-3

30.

Cole Custer

23.80

28

-2

31.

Aric Almirola

24.97

31

0

32.

Ty Dillon

28.33

33

1

33.

Anthony Alfredo

28.43

35

2

34.

Corey LaJoie

28.47

32

-2

35.

Stewart Friesen

29.00

34

-1

36.

JJ Yeley

29.75

36

0

37.

BJ McLeod

31.21

38

1

38.

Timmy Hill

31.40

46

8

39.

James Davison

32.14

40

1

40.

Garrett Smithley

32.40

43

3

41.

Quin Houff

32.73

39

-2

42.

Justin Haley

32.83

37

-5

43.

Mike Marlar

33.00

41

-2

44.

Shane Golobic

33.33

42

-2

45.

Cody Ware

34.03

44

-1

46.

Chris Windom

34.50

45

-1

47.

Josh Bilicki

35.07

47

0

48.

Joey Gase

35.50

48

0

49.

Matt Mills

37.00

49

0

 

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.