NASCAR Power Rankings: Joey Logano leads after strong Daytona 500

NASCAR Power Rankings: Joey Logano leads after Daytona 500 originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season began with an upset.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., riding a 199-race winless streak, won his first career Daytona 500 after starting 31st and entering the race as a 33-1 underdog. It was a typical chaotic superspeedway race, where 16 of 40 drivers didn’t finish due to accidents, but Stenhouse has now three wins in his career at this track type.

Now it’s time for the traditional “West Coast Swing,” with upcoming races in Southern California (Fontana), Las Vegas and Phoenix. These three events are critical, as the true contenders typically emerge in this early portion of the season.

So, who’s the driver to beat as the series heads west? Here’s our first power rankings of 2023:

1. Joey Logano

End of last season: 1

The defending champion was one spot away from a perfect start to his title defense. Logano settled for second after the caution flew on the final lap, but he led 12 laps and sits atop the points standings after winning the first qualifying race on Thursday. The 32-year-old Team Penske driver looks poised for another strong season.

2. Christopher Bell

End of last season: 4

After a three-win breakout last year, Bell started his 2023 campaign with a solid third-place result – his first-ever top-15 (!) at the Daytona 500 in four starts. He led 20 laps while pacing the Toyota brigade. If history is any indication, Fontana could be a struggle for Bell after his first two races there resulted in finishes of 36th and 38th.

3. Ryan Blaney

End of last season: 5

Eighth-place certainly wasn’t Blaney’s goal after two previous Daytona 500 runner-up results, but it had to feel like a win after how his race started. He was involved in the first big wreck at lap 119. With the damage his car suffered, nobody would’ve been surprised if the team just called it a day. Instead, they repaired it as best they could and stole a top-10 with this hot rod:

4. Ross Chastain

End of last season: 2

It was a quiet run for one of NASCAR’s most aggressive drivers, leading six laps and finishing ninth. Chastain won the second stage but wasn’t a factor for the win in the closing laps. He finished dead last at Daytona last year and recovered to make the Championship 4, so this team should have plenty of confidence entering Fontana.

5. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

End of last season: not ranked

Stenhouse won at Daytona (summer race) and Talladega in 2017, but his victory on Sunday was still a major upset. His team – JTG Daugherty Racing, co-owned by former NBA star Brad Daugherty – only had one prior win in its history, way back in 2014. Now, the team can focus on finding some consistency throughout the season while knowing they are most likely heading to the playoffs.

6. Denny Hamlin

End of last season: 6

With three Daytona 500 wins to his name, anything besides a win is a disappointment for Hamlin. He finished 17th after being involved in the last-lap crash, but he was quiet for most of the race. Once a few other Toyota teammates were out of the race, it became difficult for Hamlin to compete with the Chevrolet and Ford packs.

7. Kyle Larson

End of last season: 7

Larson has never finished in the top five at Daytona, and he didn’t break that streak on Sunday. He was in the mix for most of the race, leading six laps after starting in second. The 2021 Cup champion made a three-wide move on the final lap to try and win the race, but he had no drafting help, fell back and was collected in a crash to finish 18th.

8. Chase Elliott

End of last season: 3

After winning the regular season title last year, Elliott slumped throughout most of the playoffs before crashing out in the Championship 4. His misfortune continued at Daytona, crashing out early to finish 38th. Elliott didn’t have the same qualifying speed as his Hendrick Motorsports teammates, either.

9. Alex Bowman

End of last season: not ranked

It was a productive trip to Daytona for Bowman – he signed a three-year contract extension with Hendrick, then qualified on the pole, scored nine stage points, led 12 laps and finished fifth. In six prior Daytona 500 starts, his best finish was 11th in 2019. Looking ahead to the West Coast Swing, Bowman won at Fontana in 2020 and Las Vegas in 2022, and Phoenix is his home track.

10. Kyle Busch

End of last season: not ranked

If the race ended after 200 laps as it was scheduled to, Busch would’ve won his first Daytona 500. Instead, a caution sent the race to overtime, Busch was shuffled out of the lead and a crash subjected him to a 19th-place finish. The two-time Cup champion is now 0-for-18 at the Daytona 500, as it remains the one big trophy missing from his case.

First four out: Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Tyler Reddick




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