NASCAR Power Rankings: Tyler Reddick becomes latest first-time winner originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
For the fifth time in 18 races this season, the NASCAR Cup Series crowned a new winner.
This time it was Tyler Reddick of Richard Childress Racing, scoring his first win in his 92nd career start. Reddick chased down, passed and held off Chase Elliott – NASCAR’s road course king – to seal the victory at Road America.
Looking ahead, the Cup Series will visit Atlanta Motor Speedway this Sunday for the second race of the season at the repaved, high-banked, 1.5-mile oval. William Byron won the first race at AMS in March, leading a race-high 111 laps.
So, who is the driver to beat as the 2022 season passes the halfway mark? Here’s our power rankings with eight races to go before the playoffs:
1. Chase Elliott
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Last week: 1
Elliott nearly won back-to-back races before finishing second at Road America. He led a race-high 36 laps, marking the sixth time in the last eight races that he’s led at least 10 laps. While Elliott hasn’t won on a road course this year, his average finish on the track type is 4.7. He finished sixth at his hometown track in Atlanta earlier this season.
2. Ross Chastain
Last week: 2
Another week, another top-five finish. Chastain leads all drivers with nine such finishes in 18 races this season after finishing fourth on Sunday. He hasn’t necessarily shown race-winning speed lately, like he did earlier in the year, but he’s still posting great results. The Melon Man finished second and led 42 laps at Atlanta in March.
3. Kyle Larson
Last week: 5
Larson finished third at Road America, though he was over 20 seconds behind the front two drivers. Still, he seems to be slowly regaining his championship form of last season. Larson is up to fourth in the standings after six straight top-15 finishes.
4. Ryan Blaney
Last week: 4
For every new race winner, Blaney’s fear level should go up a notch. He’s second in the standings, but without a victory he is potentially in danger of missing the playoffs if there are three more new winners. He used strategy to steal a stage win at Road America before finishing 11th.
5. Kyle Busch
Last week: 3
Road America was a miserable race for Busch. He started last due to an engine change, spun out while making his way through the field and then was penalized twice on pit road – which all added up to a 29th-place finish. That marks three straight finishes outside the top-20 as his chance at the regular season championship has all but evaporated.
6. Martin Truex Jr.
Last week: 6
Once a road course ace, Truex has struggled at the track type this season. Road America was another good but not great day (finishing 13th), and Reddick’s win had implications for Truex. Just three playoff spots remain for winless drivers (currently held by Blaney, Truex and Christopher Bell), so Truex needs a victory to avoid getting knocked out by any other new winners.
7. Joey Logano
Last week: 7
Outside of his two wins this season, Logano has been largely disappointing – and that continued with a 27th-place run on Sunday. He has just eight top-10 finishes through the first half, putting him on pace for his fewest top-10s since 2012. Logano has six finishes of 20th or worse compared to just five top-fives.
8. Kevin Harvick
Last week: 9
Sunday was a case of “good news, bad news” for Harvick. He finished 10th, giving him seven top-10s in his last nine starts. That’s good. But Reddick’s win bumped Harvick out of the playoffs, and he’s now 10 points behind Bell for the final spot. That’s bad. The hope for Harvick is that these top-10s can translate to a win before it’s too late.
9. Tyler Reddick
Last week: not ranked
Prior to Sunday, Reddick finished outside the top-15 in six of eight races. But it only takes one win to change a season, and the truth is that this was a long time coming for the 26-year-old Reddick. He had five second-place finishes in his first 91 starts before bringing the No. 8 to victory lane – the first driver to win in that number since Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2006.
10. Denny Hamlin
Last week: 10
The Toyota camp’s struggles at road courses continues to impact great drivers like Hamlin, Truex and Busch. Hamlin’s 17th-place finish at Road America was his best on a road course this season, so he’ll be happy to just turn left for the next three races.
First four out: William Byron, Christopher Bell, Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez