NASCAR Power Rankings: Talladega win sends Ryan Blaney into the top 10

There are just five races remaining in the 2023 NASCAR season as the race for the championship heats up

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Talladega Superspeedawy is always a wild card – and Sunday’s race was no different.

The usual big wrecks came with less frequency than normal, but there was still plenty of action. Playoff contender Ryan Blaney ultimately scored his third Talladega victory, edging out Kevin Harvick – who was later disqualified for failing post-race inspection – by just 0.012 seconds.

Blaney, 29, officially locked up the second spot in the Round of 8 by virtue of his win. There’s just one race left in the Round of 12, meaning four drivers will be eliminated from the playoffs next week while six others will join Blaney and William Byron for the next round.

Here’s our latest NASCAR power rankings heading into the Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte (Sunday, Oct. 8, 2 p.m. ET, NBC,

1. Denny Hamlin

Last week: 1

Everything seems to be going Hamlin’s way this season. He fell a lap down due to a pit road speeding penalty in Stage 2. But he maintained the draft, got his lap back and recovered to finish third. That puts him 50 points above the cut line, which all but guarantees him a spot in the Round of 8.

2. William Byron

Last week: 2

After winning at Texas, Byron faced no playoff pressure at Talladega. That didn’t stop him from battling for the win, though. He crossed the line in third but finished second after Harvick’s DQ. Byron is right there with Hamlin as the biggest title favorites.

3. Kyle Larson

Last week: 3

A wreck coming to the checkered flag cost Larson a top-10, but he still spun across the finish line in 15th. For a guy with just one top-15 in his last seven Talladega starts, that had to feel good. Larson is 15 points above the cut line heading into Charlotte – a decent, but certainly not secure, position. He won at the ROVAL in 2021 but has no other top-10s in four starts.

4. Chris Buescher

Last week: 4

After winning at Daytona in August, Buescher has established himself as one of NASCAR’s best superspeedway racers. But he was mostly out of the picture on Sunday, finishing 19th and scoring no stage points. Buescher is still 19 points above the cut line, putting him in the same boat as Larson where he’s feeling good but not great.

5. Christopher Bell

Last week: 6

Bell finished 14th at Talladega despite being involved in two accidents. The first came at the conclusion of Stage 1, when he suffered damage from a collision with Ross Chastain. The second, luckily for him, was coming to the checkered flag when his car was totally destroyed. Bell, who won at the ROVAL last year, is 22 points above the cut line.

6. Brad Keselowski

Last week: 5

As a six-time Talladega winner, Keselowski had winning aspirations on Sunday. He was on pace to do just that after claiming Stage 2, but he triggered an accident in the final stage and finished 32nd. Keselowski is now in a precarious position just two points above the cut line, and his recent road course runs (22.0 average finish in five races this season) don’t inspire much confidence.

7. Tyler Reddick

Last week: 7

The driver who is breathing down Keselowski’s neck in the standings? That would be Reddick, who finished 16th at Talladega and sits just two points behind BK. Reddick, though, is one of NASCAR’s best road course racers. He’s won three of the last nine road races and has a 7.3 average finish in three ROVAL starts.

8. Ryan Blaney

Last week: first four out

Blaney needed this win – badly. He was 11th in the standings entering Talladega and showed virtually no speed in the last month. Now, he has a care-free week where the No. 12 team can start preparing for the Round of 8. Blaney won the inaugural ROVAL race in 2018, but road courses have been a struggle this season (21.4 average finish in five starts).

9. Martin Truex Jr.

Last week: 8

Even though Truex is 17 points above the cut line, no one in the playoffs has been consistently running worse than the No. 19 team. Truex has playoff finishes of 18th, 36th, 19th, 17th and 18th. If it weren’t for his playoff points earned by winning the regular season title, he likely would’ve already been eliminated. That type of performance might carry him to the Round of 8, but expecting to make the Championship 4 with runs like that is unrealistic.

10. Bubba Wallace

Last week: 9

It’s not over – but it’s now looking less likely that Wallace advances to the Round of 8. Talladega has historically been a great track for him. That wasn’t the case on Sunday, when Wallace finished 23rd and scored no stage points. He’s just nine points below the cut line, but the schedule doesn’t favor him. Wallace has two top-10s and a 24.5 average finish in 26 career road course starts.

First four out: Chase Elliott, Ross Chastain, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick

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