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NASCAR Power Rankings: Kyle Busch rises after Gateway win originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The longest NASCAR race, by mileage, happened in Charlotte last week.

Sunday’s race in St. Louis was scheduled to be half of the distance, but it suddenly became a marathon due to lightning strikes, car failures, power outages and track damages. In the end, Kyle Busch took the checkered flag at Gateway for his third win of the season and 63rd of his Hall of Fame career.

With just 11 races remaining in the regular season, the NASCAR playoff battle is heating up. The series heads to the Bay Area this weekend for a road course event at Sonoma Raceway, followed by a week off before NBC takes over broadcast coverage for the rest of the season.

So, who is the driver to beat right now? Here’s our latest NASCAR power rankings:

1. William Byron

Last week: 1

Byron was in contention to grab his fourth win of 2023, leading 30 laps, scoring 11 stage points and finishing eighth. It was an impressive run on a weekend where Hendrick Motorsports mostly lacked speed.

2. Kyle Larson

Last week: 2

For the second straight week, Larson’s crew chief, Cliff Daniels, saved the day by making significant changes to the car. Larson was nearly lapped in the first stage before utilizing the adjustments and pit strategy to finish fourth. He’s shined at his home track of Sonoma – five straight pole starts, victory in 2021 and led 83 of 202 laps there over the last two seasons.

3. Martin Truex Jr.

Last week: 3

After a slow start to the season, Truex is running better than anyone in the field. He’s scored six top-10s in his last eight starts, with one win and 311 laps led. MTJ was fifth at Gateway, his second straight top-five finish heading into Sonoma, where he’s a three-time winner.

4. Denny Hamlin

Last week: 7

Practice speeds indicated that Hamlin would have a race-winning car at Gateway. While he finished second in the race and third in both stages, the No. 11 could never get to the top spot. Still, it was a productive run after he was wrecked out of the Coca-Cola 600 last week.

5. Christopher Bell

Last week: 4

Truex and Hamlin spent their days inside the top five while their Joe Gibbs Racing teammate struggled. Bell was out of contention throughout the race and spun out in the final stage, yet still recovered to finish 11th. That makes four straight finishes outside the top-10.

6. Ross Chastain

Last week: 5

Is it time to worry about Chastain and Trackhouse Racing? The No. 1 team has finished outside the top-20 in three straight races, including uncompetitive efforts at Charlotte and Gateway. Chastain made another enemy when he hit Michael McDowell in Stage 2, then he faded to finish 22nd. If Chastain doesn’t perform at the road course, arguably his best track type, then we can officially hit the panic button.

7. Kyle Busch

Last week: 8

It seemed improbable before the season that Busch would have more success at Richard Childress Racing than he did with Joe Gibbs Racing. But that’s been the case through 15 races. He already has three wins, matching his combined total in his last 74 starts for JGR. The key going forward is finding more consistency from week to week.

8. Ryan Blaney

Last week: 10

Blaney followed up his Coca-Cola 600 victory with another strong run at Gateway. He led 83 laps, won Stage 2 and finished sixth. The final result looks disappointing when you consider how well he ran all day, but this team is definitely starting to click.

9. Tyler Reddick

Last week: 6

Gateway was a race to forget for Reddick. He spun in the opening laps, fought back to the front and then crashed out when he lost a brake rotor. Reddick should quickly forget about this result, though, as he heads to his home track. The Northern California native has three wins and five top-10s in his last five road course starts dating back to last July.

10. Kevin Harvick

Last week: 9

The 47-year-old veteran just keeps cranking out decent finishes. He was 10th at Gateway, making it four straight finishes of 11th or better. The No. 4 still seems to be lacking top-end speed to win races, but Harvick will comfortably make the playoffs in his final season if he maintains his current form.

First four out: Joey Logano, Chris Buescher, Bubba Wallace, Brad Keselowski

 

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