William Byron leading the Hendrick parade in Las Vegas
The post NASCAR Power Rankings: William Byron leads Hendrick rally in Las Vegas appeared first on NBC Sports Bayarea
It was a rollercoaster weekend for Hendrick Motorsports, but it ended with a nearly perfect race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
On Friday, 2020 champion Chase Elliott suffered a broken tibia in a snowboarding accident, which will keep him out indefinitely. But in Sunday’s race, three Elliott players swept the podium positions: Alex Bowman finished third, Kyle Larson ran second and William Byron scored his fifth career victory.
Looking ahead, NASCAR’s annual “West Coast Swing” concludes this weekend at Phoenix Raceway. This race has been more important, as Phoenix will host the championship race in November.
So, who’s the driver to beat as the series heads to the desert? Here are our latest power rankings:
1. Ross Chattan
Last week: 3
Chastain did not get the finish he deserved after a busy time limit pushed him back to 12th place. He ran inside the top five for most of the race, scored 12 points, led 10 laps and held the points lead. He finished second and third in two races at Phoenix last season.
2. Kyle Busch
Last week: 2
After a big win at Fontana, Busch was quiet on his home track Sunday. He finished 14th and scored just two points while running outside the top-10 for much of the race. For a driver who entered Las Vegas as the betting favorite, it was certainly a disappointing result.
3. Kyle Larson
Last week: 9
If not for a late warning, Larson’s victory at Las Vegas would have been locked up. But after a slow stop, he had to settle for second place. Larson was clearly a second slower than Byron throughout the race, but he led 63 laps and held track position when he had it. With cars this fast, Larson is going to find a streak of victory soon.
4. Joey Logano
Last week: 1
Team Penske’s performance on Sunday was a real highlight. Logano qualified on the pole, with his teammates also in the top-10. But once the green flag dropped for the race, they all fell right back. Logano did not earn any stage points before crashing on lap 183, giving him a last place finish.
5. Alex Bowman
Last week: 8
Fifth, eighth and third – those are Bowman’s three finishes so far in 2023. He is one of only two drivers with three straight top-10 finishes. Las Vegas was his best race yet, running out front with his Hendrick teammates early and often. It was certainly a small step behind Larson and Byron, but it was another encouraging result for a driver who has lacked consistency in the past.
6. William Byron
Last week: unrated
After poor 34th and 25th finishes, Byron put together the best race of his career on Sunday. He won both stages, led 176 of 271 laps and, most importantly, went home with the grand prize (and a hat). Byron, 25, has now won a race in four consecutive seasons.
7. Christopher Bell
Last week: 7
Bell followed up a rough performance in California with a strong showing in Las Vegas. He finished fifth and looked like the best Toyota driver for most of the evening. Bell will look to keep things going in Phoenix, where he has a top-10 finish in three of his last four starts.
8. Denny Hamlin
Last week: 6
An overtime restart hurt Hamlin, who finished 11th after running in the top-10 all day. He restarted in fourth place with a real shot at the win, but went into the outside pit and couldn’t recover. Hamlin has two career wins at Phoenix as he tries to snap a 25-race winless streak dating back to last May.
9. Ryan Blaney
Last week: 4
Blaney was frustrated by Team Penske’s overall lack of speed. He struggled with tremors for much of the race and eventually finished 13th. Phoenix could be the place to snap his 49-race winless streak after posting three straight top fives at the track.
10. Kevin Harvick
Last week: 10
Harvick continued his strong start to the season at Las Vegas, finishing 9th despite a speed limited car. The 47-year-old veteran has finished no worse than 12th so far in 2023, which will be his final season. Phoenix is arguably Harvick’s best record with nine career wins and 29 top-10 finishes in 40 starts.
First four out: Martin Truex Jr., Daniel Suarez, Bubba Wallace, Brad Keselowski