NASCAR

NASCAR Power Rankings: Ryan Blaney rising, Tyler Reddick falling after Iowa

Here's how the field stacks up after the first ever Cup Series race at Iowa Speedway.

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Iowa Speedway made its NASCAR Cup Series debut on Sunday with a compelling race.

Nine different drivers led laps, there were eight cautions involving a dozen cars and the race ended with a natural long run to the finish. In the end, defending champion Ryan Blaney picked up his first victory of the season for Team Penske.

Blaney is the 10th driver to win in 2024, which leaves just six playoff spots unclaimed with nine races remaining in the regular season.

Next up is the series’ annual trip to New Hampshire Motor Speedway. How does the field stack up heading into the Granite State? Here’s our latest NASCAR power rankings:

1. Kyle Larson

Last week: 1

Blaney and Larson were the two cars to beat on Sunday, and an argument could be made that the No. 5 was a tick better than the eventual race winner. Larson was second in Stage 1 and won Stage 2 before troubles in the closing laps. He pitted with a tire problem and drove through the entire field only to get wrecked out in a three-wide pinch and finish 34th.

2. Chase Elliott

Last week: 4

NASCAR’s most consistent driver this season continues to post solid finishes. Elliott was third in Iowa, giving him as many top-fives this season (7) as he had all of last year in 12 fewer stats. The 2020 champion has a series-best 9.1 average finish, leads the points standings and still hasn’t finished worse than 19th in the first 17 races.

3. Denny Hamlin

Last week: 2

You don’t see off nights like this from Hamlin very often. He finished 24th, and that’s better than he was running for most of the race. Typically when Hamlin has bad finishes, it’s due to an accident or ill-timed caution. But the No. 11 car just didn’t have any speed on Sunday.

4. Christopher Bell

Last week: 6

Bell’s hot streak continued with a fourth-place run in Iowa, giving him four straight top-10s. Before crashing in practice on Friday, the No. 20 looked like the class of the field. To still finish top-five in a backup car shows how locked in this team is right now.

5. Ryan Blaney

Last week: 8

With dozens of family and friends in the crowd (his mother grew up in Iowa), Blaney led a career-high 201 laps in a truly dominant win. This performance is another sign the Ford camp is back on track after 12 winless races to start the season. The manufacturer has won three of the last five races, including two by Team Penske (Blaney and Austin Cindric).

6. William Byron

Last week: 7

Byron’s up-and-down season continued in Iowa with a second-place finish. He has three wins and six top-fives in 2024 to go along with four finishes of 23rd or worse. New Hampshire, where Byron hasn’t scored a top-10 in his career, could send him tumbling back down.

7. Brad Keselowski

Last week: 5

The No. 6 team was on alternate strategies for most of the race, a decision likely made because it wasn’t a race-winning car. Keselowski ended up finishing 10th, giving him six straight finishes of 13th or better. At New Hampshire, Keselowski will run a Red Sox-inspired car at the track where he has two wins.

8. Tyler Reddick

Last week: 3

The Hamburglar-sponsored driver was undetected throughout Sunday’s race. Reddick started eighth but finished 22nd and didn’t score any stage points. It was one of the few times this season where the No. 45 car just didn’t have any pace. At least he had some fun with it:

9. Martin Truex Jr.

Last week: 9

On Friday, the 43-year-old Truex announced this would be his final full-time season in NASCAR. He followed that up with a forgettable weekend in Iowa, starting 31st and finishing 15th with no stage points. It’s now been a year since Truex’s last win, which came at New Hampshire last season.

10. Ross Chastain

Last week: First four out

Chastain just keeps hammering out top-15 finishes. He was 11th in Iowa, which gives him 14 top-15s in 17 races this year. The problem is that eight of those 14 finishes have been outside the top-10. So while Chastain’s been consistent with the cars he has, the high-end speed clearly isn’t there yet.

First four out: Alex Bowman, Joey Logano, Ty Gibbs, Chris Buescher

The first race of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season kicks off Feb. 18. Here are the keys dates for the upcoming season.v
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