Chase Elliott back on top after Nashville win

NASCAR Power Rankings: Chase Elliott Back on Top After Nashville Win originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

After hours of rain and lightning delays on Sunday, Nashville Superspeedway delivered a great finish in NBC’s First NASCAR Broadcast from 2022.

After a late warning, the field was piled up and put on various pit strategies. Up front, Chase Elliott held off Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney in a final four round shootout to take his 15th and second win of the season.

The Cup Series heads to Wisconsin next week for a race around Road America, a 14-turn course just north of Milwaukee. It marks the second consecutive visit to Road America for the weekend of July 4, following last year’s debut race that drew more than 100,000 fans.

So, who’s the driver to beat with only nine races left in the regular season? Here’s our power ranking after Nashville:

1. Chase Elliott

Last week: 2

After finishing outside the top-20 three times in his last four starts, Elliott found his form under the lights in Nashville. His car picked up speed after sunset and he overcame a pit lane problem early in the race to take another win. Elliott, 26, now has two or more wins in five consecutive seasons as he continues to lead the points and playoff standings. He is the defending winner at Road America, with a realistic chance of consecutive wins.

2. Ross Chastain

Last week: 1

Chastain was one of the few drivers to take advantage of pitting under the last caution, rallying for fifth place. He leads all drivers with eight top-fives in 17 races. Road America could be another opportunity for Chastain as Trackhouse Racing has won the first two road race races this season.

3. Kyle Busch

Last week: 3

Instead of restarting second with four laps to go, Busch pitted for two tires and restarted in 11th, only to finish 21st. The strategic decision was an odd one and it gave Busch a finish he didn’t deserve after spending most of the race in the top five. He dropped one spot to fourth in the points standings.

4. Ryan Blaney

Last week: 5

Blaney is still winless this season, but third place probably felt like a win after the night he had in Nashville. The No. 12 was fast early, scoring 10 stage points, before spinning and kissing the wall with less than 100 laps to go. Blaney recovered well, played the strategy card correctly and walked away with his best result of the season.

5. Kyle Larson

Last week: 4

I’m still waiting for Kyle Larson to arrive in 2021, but the defending champion is half a step behind. He finished fourth in Nashville, earning him five consecutive top-15 finishes. But last year at this point Larson had four wins and 1,426 laps ahead, compared to one win and 273 laps ahead in 2022.

6. Martin Truex Jr.

Last week: 8

Nashville was the best Truex looked all season — and he left with just 22nd place. MTJ led a season high of 82 laps and won both stages. However, the final pit decision doomed him as he is still winless for 17 weeks – the longest he’s started a season without a win since 2014 (when he went winless).

7. Joey Logano

Last week: 6

For the first time in over two months, Logano finished in the top-10 but did not win. That seven-race run with two wins and five times worse than 15th finish is over after finishing ninth in Nashville. While it wasn’t the finish he probably hoped for, it was reassuring to see this team finally put in a solid run in a race it didn’t win.

8. William Byron

Last week: 7

Byron’s miserable slump continued in Nashville after he had to go to the garage early due to steering problems. He finished 35th, finishing outside the top-10 eight times in the nine races since his win at Martinsville. Byron has only five top-10s this season, despite his two wins, and is now ninth in the standings.

9. Kevin Harvick

Last week: 9

Is Harvick finally about to win? The 46-year-old veteran, amid a 60-no win streak, finished 10th in Nashville but ran the front for most of the race. Before that, he was fourth in Sonoma, so maybe this team is onto something. Harvick currently holds the last spot in the play-offs, but his position is far from safe with nine races to go.

10. Denny Hamlin

Last week: first four out

Another Joe Gibbs Racing driver whose chance of a win was wasted with the final pit stop. Hamlin led a race-high 114 laps and rallied to finish sixth after a frantic final restart, but he didn’t accumulate any playoff points on the day – and that’s all that matters to him. With two wins this season, Hamlin’s only goal for the play-offs is to keep winning, and he clearly has the speed to do it.

First four out: Christopher Bell, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Daniel Suarez

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