NASCAR Power Rankings: William Byron, Bubba Wallace enter the top five after late-race drama at Texas

1 Denny Hamlin — Right side door damage sustained in his pit road collision with Ty Gibbs kept Denny Hamlin’s car from having that extra edge it needed to contend for the win at Texas. That considered, it was still plenty fast enough to run well inside the top five for most of the day and finish there. 2 Kyle Larson — Kyle Larson really, really needed to leave Texas with a victory given the two crapshoots that are up next. He’s had four finishes of 33rd or worse at Talladega since 2019 (including a 37th in his championship year), and his 2021 Charlotte Roval win is his only finish there better than 13th. 3 William Byron I hope this doesn’t come across like I’m gassing William Byron up too much, but his race at Texas felt a lot like the ones that Jimmie Johnson would have during his run of five-straight championships. On days where he didn’t have the fastest car, Johnson would sneak up on everyone at the end, win, and put himself that much closer to winning the Cup title. 4 Chris Buescher — The two laps that Chris Buescher led at Texas were the first he’s ever led in a Cup race at his home track. It’s only about 35 miles north from Dallas to Buescher’s native Prosper, Texas. 5 Bubba Wallace I’m not going to be as hard on Bubba Wallace as he was on himself, but that’s twice now in 2023 that Wallace has given away a race he could’ve won. The first being at Talladega, where we last saw him take himself out on the final lap trying to block too aggressively for the lead and win. 6 Brad Keselowski Brad Keselowski has six career wins at Talladega, and one of his best ever came in the track’s fall race back in 2014. Facing a do-or-die scenario, Keselowski wrestled the lead from Ryan Newman on the final lap to score a walk-off victory that moved him on to the Round of 8. 7 Christopher Bell Christopher Bell didn’t run up front a lot during the course of the day in Texas, but the few laps he did spend in the top five were good enough to earn him a fourth-place finish. Talk about being there when it counts. 8 Tyler Reddick After using pit strategy to take the lead at the end of Stage 1, track position was seemingly against Tyler Reddick the entire rest of the race. Well before his late-race accident, the death knell for his day seemed to be when he got trapped one lap down by a caution that came out just after he had made a green flag stop. 9 Ross Chastain After suffering throttle issues, Chastain slid as far back as 30th in the final stage of the race. And somehow, at a track where it’s incredibly difficult to pass, he managed to work all the way back through the field and earn a second-place finish. Watch out for Chastain these next two races in the Round of 12. 10 Chase Elliott We’re about to come up on the wrong kind of one-year anniversary. Next week’s race at Talladega will mark one full year since the last time Chase Elliott won a Cup Series race. 11 Erik Jones A crash with 12 laps to go invalidated this, but Texas may have been Erik Jones’ very best run of the entire 2023 season. While he didn’t have the horsepower needed to challenge Kyle Larson, Erik Jones drove all the way up to second and ran there for much of the late stages of the day. 12 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. A top-10 finish at Texas is just the shot in the arm that Ricky Stenhouse Jr. needed entering Talladega, where he earned his first career victory back in 2017. Incidentally, that year was the last time Stenhouse won a Cup race prior to this year — and it also included a win at Daytona. 13 Kevin Harvick Despite being out of the playoffs, Texas showed Kevin Harvick isn’t about to go quietly into the good night of retirement. Harvick said farewell to Texas with a sixth-place finish. 14 Alex Bowman When the Cup Series left Talladega back in the spring, Alex Bowman was 10th in the standings and looking set to make the playoffs — until an injury in a sprint car race the next week put him out for three races and sent his 2023 into a tailspin. This coming weekend at Talladega will be one of the best opportunities Bowman gets to ease the sting. 15 Michael McDowell With he and his Front Row Motorsports team running the best they ever have, Michael McDowell should be included among the legitimate contenders to win at Talladega. He was third in the fall race one year ago, tying his best finish at that racetrack. 16 Ryan Blaney The bad news for Ryan Blaney is that a pit road speeding penalty and a late-race crash ruined his day at Texas and put him below the cut line. The good news? Talladega is up next, where Blaney has won twice and has two second-place finishes in a row. 17 Kyle Busch Statistically speaking, Kyle Busch winning Talladega next week and wiping the slate clean of his wreck and DNF at Texas seems improbable. But then, that’s what we said about Busch winning at Talladega in April before he got his first win there in 15 years. 18 Martin Truex Jr. Even though Martin Truex Jr. managed to survive Texas with a 17th-place finish, little that occurred Sunday did much to inspire faith that Truex is off the schneid after his disastrous Round of 16. If he can’t turn things around, he might not be so fortunate as to avoid elimination this time around. 19 Ty Gibbs Ty Gibbs took himself out at Texas, and he nearly ruined his own teammate’s day by doing something as simple as not getting over enough exiting his pit stall and running too close to traffic exiting their own stalls. Gibbs is still very young, but he’s raced enough in NASCAR by now that he should know better than to make simple mistakes like that. 20 Daniel Suarez Days like Texas on Sunday feel a lot more like the Trackhouse Racing we became acquainted with for much of 2022 and into 2023. Texas marked only the third time all season that both Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez finished in the top 10. 21 Joey Logano Joey Logano being eliminated from the playoffs is the tip of the iceberg for a larger issue: Team Penske just doesn’t have it as an organization right now, as evidenced by a pedestrian 21st-place run for Logano at Texas. 22 Chase Briscoe Very few people expected Chase Briscoe to factor into the race for the win at Texas, but that’s exactly what he did in the final few restarts. Briscoe faded to 10th at the checkered flag, but that’s a big boost for a team who could really use one after spending much of 2023 on the mat. 23 Aric Almirola The right side of Aric Almirola’s car got used up quite a bit during the weekend, first from contact with the wall in qualifying and then in a mid-race accident with Alex Bowman on Sunday. Despite that, Almirola was able to salvage an 18th-place finish. 24 Corey LaJoie Another week, another threat to Corey LaJoie’s streak of running at the finish in every race this season. A crash and blown tire put that streak in jeopardy, but it survives another week as LaJoie comes up on an opportunity to show off his superspeedway prowess at Talladega. 25 Justin Haley A 13th-place finish for Justin Haley was his first top-15 finish since all the way back in July, when he finished second at Chicago and eighth at Atlanta in the span of two weeks. He can start another such streak next week at Talladega, as Haley is one of the best young superspeedway racers NASCAR has. 26 AJ Allmendinger The one big positive that AJ Allmendinger can take away from his weekend was that his Kaulig Racing team brought him a fast car. Allmendinger started sixth after his best qualifying run of the season on a non-road course. 27 Harrison Burton Harrison Burton earned a quiet 20th-place finish at Texas, and he now gets the opportunity to make some noise at Talladega. When last NASCAR raced at Talladega, Burton led 11 laps before getting taken out in a late-race accident. 28 Ryan Preece Coming off of a 12th-place run at Bristol and on a day where two Stewart-Haas Racing cars finished in the top 10, it was disappointing that Ryan Preece didn’t have a better day at Texas. Despite the attrition throughout the field on Sunday, Preece was only able to muster a 23rd-place finish. 29 Todd Gilliland Playing musical chairs between Front Row Motorsports and Rick Ware Racing surely hasn’t been easy, but the good news for Todd Gilliland is that he only has to do it one more time. The Charlotte Roval will be Gilliland’s last start in the No. 51 Ford before he gets back behind the wheel of the No. 38 for the rest of the year and into 2024. 30 Ty Dillon Ty Dillon gets the nod in this week’s Power Rankings over big brother Austin, who falls out after a wheel failure and crash at Texas. That wreck came out while Ty was leading the race during a cycle of green flag stops, allowing the younger of the Dillon brothers to lead a couple more laps before finishing 19th.

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