NASCAR Power Rankings: Chris Buescher keeps climbing after Michigan win

Buescher has now won back-to-back races with the NASCAR playoffs just a few weeks away

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Chris Buescher and RFK Racing are on a roll.

The 30-year-old Texan won his second straight race on Monday after holding off a hard-charging Martin Truex Jr. in the closing laps.

RFK Racing, which was once a powerhouse organization before regressing over the past decade, is suddenly resurgent since Brad Keselowski became a co-owner last season. The team hadn’t won back-to-back races since 2010 (Carl Edwards) when it was known as Roush Fenway Racing – and it’s the team’s first season with multiple wins since 2017.

There are still four playoff spots unclaimed with just three races remaining in the regular season. Upcoming races at Indianapolis, Watkins Glen and Daytona will set the playoff field, with star drivers like Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Bubba Wallace and Chase Elliott still looking to lock themselves in.

Who’s the driver to beat after Michigan? Here’s our latest NASCAR power rankings before the next race at the Brickyard (Sunday, Aug. 13, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC,

1. Martin Truex Jr.

Last week: 1

Even though he came up short in the end, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that Truex is the championship favorite. MTJ is quick at all track types right now. He’s posted four straight top-10s at four drastically different venues – New Hampshire, Pocono, Richmond and now Michigan, amassing nine playoff points over that span (one race win, four stage wins).

2. Denny Hamlin

Last week: 2

Hamlin is on the same run as his teammate Truex, with four straight top-10s (including three top-fives and a win) after finishing third on Monday. The No. 11 was a step behind the leaders for most of the race, as Hamlin never seriously challenged for the win. He has to find some extra speed to keep pace with Truex in the upcoming playoffs.

3. Kyle Larson

Last week: 6

Monday was perhaps the quietest fifth-place run of Larson’s career. All three of his Hendrick teammates wrecked, but the 2021 champion slowly moved his way up the field and left the Irish Hills with his series-leading 10th top-five of the season.

4. Chris Buescher

Last week: 8

In the first 278 starts of Buescher’s career, he had two wins. He’s now doubled that total in the span of eight days. Buescher is a clear playoff threat – maybe not with the likes of Truex, Hamlin and Larson, but firmly in that second tier who could make the Round of 8. Next week, he’ll look to be the first driver to win three straight races since Larson in 2021.

5. Joey Logano

Last week: 5

Logano has been feast or famine for most of 2023, so a modest 14th-place run at Michigan was somewhat surprising. The No. 22 team has steadily improved its consistency throughout the summer as it gears up to defend the championship.

6. Kyle Busch

Last week: 3

On the bright side – I guess? – Busch wrecked early enough on Sunday that he didn’t have to wait out the rain delay to Monday. The No. 8 made it 14 laps before crashing out at Michigan to finish dead last for the second time in four weeks. Busch’s team won at Indianapolis last year with Tyler Reddick driving and he’s finished top-five in all three road course races this season so far, so things could change quickly for the two-time champion.

7. Ryan Blaney

Last week: 7

Blaney snapped a streak of three straight finishes outside the top 10 with his ninth-place run on Monday. Despite that, he fell to 10th in the overall points standings as the regular season winds down. Road courses haven’t been kind to Blaney this season, as he’s finished 21st, 31st and 33rd in three starts.

8. William Byron

Last week: 4

The summer slump continued for Byron at Michigan. He wrecked out at the end of Stage 1 and finished 35th. Over the last six races since the start of July, Byron has five finishes outside the top-10. The sixth race, of course, was a rain-shortened victory at Atlanta. He still leads all drivers with four wins this season, but the No. 24 has to turn things around soon.

9. Brad Keselowski

Last week: first four out

He’s been overshadowed by his teammate winning twice, but Keselowski has been just as good this season. The 2012 champion finished fourth at Michigan, giving him four top-six finishes in the last five races. Keselowski is nearly a lock to make the playoffs on points, but he certainly wants to win a race after seeing what Buescher has accomplished.

10. Kevin Harvick

Last week: 9

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Harvick struggled early in the race, battled throughout the 200 laps and still ended up with a top-10 finish. That’s just what the 47-year-old veteran does. Harvick was eighth at Michigan, his fourth straight top-10 finish.

First four out: Christopher Bell, Ross Chastain, Tyler Reddick, Chase Elliott

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