NASCAR Power Ranking: Joey Logano punches a championship card 4 Originally appeared NBC Sports Chicago
The image of the once-mysterious NASCAR playoff is finally starting to clear.
Lugano’s win leaves just three places in the fourth championship, with seven drivers vying for those places in the next two races. Homestead-Miami Speedway will host the second race of the quarter-finals on Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC), while the tour ends at Martinsville Speedway the following week.
So, who is the driver to beat just three races before? Here are our latest strength rankings:
1. Denny Hamlin
Last week: 2
After finishing fifth in Las Vegas, Hamlin had an average finish of 6.6 in the first seven races. He has been more consistent than any other driver after the inconsistent regular season of his career. The 41-year-old Hamlin is six points off the cut-off as he seeks his fourth consecutive appearance in the fourth championship.
2. Joey Logano
Last week: 4
Since the current match format was adopted in 2014, Logano has achieved 4 championships in every doubles year. The trend continued after his Las Vegas win, where he drove 32 laps but had to come from seventh to win the last 25 laps. The pressure stops on Lugano for the next two weeks as he prepares for the title race.
3. Chase Elliot
Last week: 1
Elliott’s speed – or lack thereof – was the biggest shocker of the race. He started in 20th, ran there all day and finished in 21st. The regular season champ wasn’t an all-rounder, no matter how many changes they made to the car. Elliott is still 17 points ahead on the cut-off streak, but another performance like Sunday will put him in the bubble.
4. Ross Chastain
Last week: 7
If the race were five laps shorter, we’d be talking about Chastain earning a Championship 4 spot. Instead, he settled for second after driving 68 laps. Chastain has an 18-point lead on the cutting streak, navigating the first playoff of his career with a veteran-like calm.
5. Christopher Bell
Last week: 3
After his victory in Charlotte, Bell’s race in Vegas ended before it actually started. In the second stage, he was innocently collected in the crash of Bubba Wallace and Kyle Larson. That gave Bell a 34th place and a 23-point hole. For the second straight run, it looks like he’s going to need a win to advance.
6. Ryan Blaney
Last week: 5
For a moment, Sunday looked like Blaney’s day to take his first win in 2022. He drove 39 laps and won the second stage, but the 28-year-old lost control of his car late in the race before crashing into a wall and taking 28th place. Number 12 has enough speed to win the race, but time is running out fast.
7. William Byron
Last week: 6
Las Vegas was a solid, but unsurprising, race for Byron. He finished 13th and scored six stage points, enough to keep him just six points below the cut-off line. But Hendrick Motorsports doesn’t seem to be shooting all cylinders right now, as Byron and Elliott showed on Sunday.
8. Chase Briscoe
Last week: 10
As the lowest rating remaining in the playoffs, Briscoe continues to fight back. He was wrapped in the first stage before the fight again to start in the front row to resume the final. Along with crew chief Jonny Clausmayer, Briscoe continued to improve his car throughout the race for a long time before finishing fourth in the fourth place – his fourth Top 10 in a row. Briscoe is nine points below the cut-off line.
9. Tyler Riddick
Last week: 9
Although he will leave Richard Childress Racing after the season and not participate in the playoffs, Reddick continues to perform his impressive quests. He finished sixth in Las Vegas, driving 32 laps after starting first. The 26-year-old California native is in the midst of breakout season.
10. Kyle Larson
Last week: 8
It’s been a tough two weeks for Larson, who was eliminated from the playoffs in Charlotte before being intentionally destroyed by Wallace in Las Vegas. He took the blame for the accident after he punched Wallace into the wall, and Larson allowed him to get a few pushes afterward.
The first four out: Daniel SuarezAnd the Kyle Bush, Kevin Harvick and Justin Haley