2022 NASCAR Power Rankings: How the field stacks up after Martinsville originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
It took eight weeks, but the NASCAR Cup Series finally has a repeat winner in 2022.
William Byron took command of the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday night, leading 212 of the final 218 laps to secure his second victory of the season. The triumph marked Byron’s fourth career victory, and first at the famed short track.
With Martinsville in the rearview mirror, the Cup Series will now turn to Bristol Motor Speedway for the only dirt track race of the season. The brand new Next Gen cars have yet to run on dirt, so we can expect the unexpected on Easter Sunday night when the green flag drops.
Is Byron the driver to beat through eight weeks? Here’s our power rankings with 18 regular season races remaining:
1. William Byron
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Last week: 2
Byron entered 2022 with two career wins. He now has two wins in his last four races, plus a race at Richmond where he lost the lead with five laps to go. The 24-year-old is on an absolute tear, leading a series-best 482 laps this year. Last season, he led 425 laps in 36 starts. Up to third in the points standings, Byron’s career year is just getting started.
2. Ryan Blaney
Last week: 1
For the third time this season, Blaney finished fourth. He relinquished the points lead, but he still sits in second place. Even though he only led five laps and wasn’t much of a factor to win at Martinsville, it was the continuation of a consistent season. Blaney has led a lap in all eight races and still owns a series-best 5.1 average start.
3. Ross Chastain
Last week: 3
Saturday marked Chastain’s fifth top-five finish in the last six years as his breakout season continued. The Melon Man didn’t score any stage points, but a timely caution and opportune overtime restart gave him the fifth-place run. He didn’t earn any stage points, and he sits fifth in the standings – 42 points behind leader Chase Elliott.
4. Chase Elliott
Last week: 4
Speaking of Elliott… he regained the points lead after winning two stages, leading 185 laps and finishing 10th at Martinsville. Once looking like the dominant car, Elliott faded in the final stage due to some questionable strategy. He’s been steady all season – finishing worse than 14th just once – but it’s fair to say this team is leaving better finishes on the table.
5. Joey Logano
Last week: 7
Logano had a chance to punt Byron out of the lead on the overtime restart. Instead, the veteran opted to play it clean. It was a change of pace for the driver who’s never shied away from controversy. Still, Logano brought his Team Penske machine home in second and moved up to fourth in the standings. Now he’ll visit Bristol – the site of his last win over one year ago.
6. Alex Bowman
Last week: 5
While Bryon and Elliott led 397 of 403 laps, Bowman was largely a non-factor. He ran just outside the top-10 for most of the night, which was surprising after he won at Martinsville last October. Still, he brought the No. 48 home in 12th for his sixth-straight top-15 finish. Bowman is sixth in the points standings with a 12.0 average finish – tied for second among all drivers.
7. Kyle Larson
Last week: 6
Larson was rarely the fourth wheel at Hendrick Motorsports during his title-winning 2021 season. But that was the case again at Martinsville, as Larson has now finished fourth among the four HMS drivers four times this season. Larson is 13th in the standings with 201 points; he had 276 points and was fourth after eight races last year.
8. Kevin Harvick
Last week: first four out
Outside a second-place finish at Richmond, the 45-year-old Harvick has been far from spectacular in 2022. But the wily veteran has limited the damage, with six top-15 finishes in eight races to put himself ninth in the standings. Harvick still needs to find another gear if he hopes to snap his 51-race winless streak, which dates back to 2020.
9. Kyle Busch
Last week: first four out
After pitting under the final caution, Busch charged up to finish seventh on a night where he was mostly outside the top 10. It was a heads-up strategy call by crew chief Ben Beshore to salvage a good finish on a day when Busch wasn’t as quick as usual. He remains 10th in the standings, but he’s tied for the series lead with five top-10 finishes.
10. Martin Truex Jr.
Last week: 8
Pretty much everyone expected Truex to compete for a win at Martinsville. The track is named after him, right? Not exactly, but it might as well be after he won there three times in the last five races. On Saturday, though, MTJ was off the pace all night and then cut a tire in the final stage before finishing 22nd.
First four out: Chase Briscoe, Tyler Reddick, Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon