We are now 15 races into the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season. The Coca-Cola 600 this past weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway was certainly a memorable one for Hendrick Motorsports. All four of the team’s cars finished in the top-5, with Kyle Larson controlling virtually the entire race to earn his second win of the season. That victory also put HMS over the top and into first place on the all-time NASCAR Cup Series wins list with 269. The updated NASCAR power rankings certainly reflect what we’ve seen on the track in recent weeks: total Hendrick Motorsports domination.
NASCAR Cup Series Power Rankings | After Charlotte
1. Kyle Larson | Hendrick Motorsports #5
Last Week: 1
What can you even say about the run Kyle Larson just had in the Coca-Cola 600? His second victory of the year was long overdue given how well the No. 5 has been running. Larson left zero doubt at Charlotte, pulling away to win by over 10 whole seconds. Good luck seating him from the top spot in the NASCAR power rankings now.
2. William Byron | Hendrick Motorsports #24
Last Week: 3
William Byron was one of three Hendrick Motorsports cars to spend pretty much the entire race running in the top-5. He managed to get by Larson for the lead in the second half of the race, but got beaten badly on pit road and never challenged again. After having his streak of 11 consecutive top-10 finishes snapped by one position at Circuit of the Americas, Byron made clear that the No. 24 car isn’t going anywhere.
3. Chase Elliott | Hendrick Motorsports #9
Last Week: 5
After picking up his first win of the year at COTA, Chase Elliott arguably had the next best car to Larson at Charlotte on Sunday. He spent some time out front in the middle of the race, only to lose the lead on pit road just like Byron. Nonetheless, the No. 9 car is running as well as anyone in the NASCAR Cup Series. With a handful of road races still to come, Elliott probably isn’t done winning yet either.
4. Denny Hamlin | Joe Gibbs Racing #11
Last Week: 4
Denny Hamlin has the honor of being the highest-ranked non-Hendrick Motorsports driver in this week’s NASCAR power rankings. The No. 11 Camry finished seventh at Charlotte. That being said, Hamlin never truly threatened for the lead or even a top-5. A pit strategy to only take two tires saw him out front briefly, but even the driver himself was vocal about the car just not being good enough. He still leads in the points and in many statistical categories but is yet to find victory lane.
5. Martin Truex Jr. | Joe Gibbs Racing #19
Last Week: 2
He may still be the only driver with three wins on the season, but it’s been a rough few weeks for Martin Truex Jr. He was hardly heard from at Dover and got wrecked out of the rainy road race at COTA. Charlotte Motor Speedway has been a track that Truex has dominated in recent years, but the No. 19 Toyota had all it could do to run in the top-15 on the way to a 29th-place finish. Perhaps he can return to form at Sonoma this weekend.
6. Alex Bowman | Hendrick Motorsports #48
Last Week: 7
The Hendrick Motorsports quartet just continues to inch higher and higher up the NASCAR power rankings. At this rate, the whole foursome may occupy the top-4 spots eventually. Alex Bowman had a frustrating start to the Coca-Cola 600, but overcame his car and frustrations to finish fifth. That sort of resilience is great to see from the No. 48 team.
7. Kyle Busch | Joe Gibbs Racing #18
Last Week: 9
If it wasn’t for Kyle Busch, the Hendrick Camaros would’ve repeated their 1-2-3-4 finish from Dover in the Coca-Cola 600. We again saw how a week with practice and qualifying seems to always work in Busch’s favor. He surged through the field early on and wound up third. Outside of Team Hendrick, he was easily the best car on track Sunday.
8. Joey Logano | Team Penske #22
Last Week: 6
Joey Logano struggled a bit at Charlotte. He tried the same mid-race two-tire pit strategy as Hamlin but fell back even quicker than the No. 11. Team Penske just seems to have lost a step here over the past few weeks after all three drivers earned wins earlier in the year. Logano had to make an off-cycle stop late in the race and settled for 17th.
9. Kevin Harvick | Stewart-Haas Racing #4
Last Week: 8
For the majority of the Coca-Cola 600, Kevin Harvick held his own against the Hendrick Motorsports foursome. The No. 4 Mustang was driving in or around the top-5 for most of the 600 total miles. As night settled over Charlotte, Harvick faded and was lucky to hang onto a top-10 result. It’s hard to believe that there are just 11 races left in the regular season and Harvick still has not found victory lane.
10. Tyler Reddick | Richard Childress Racing #8
Last Week: 10
If it wasn’t for the dominant runs from Hendrick Motorsports of late, something tells me that the Richard Childress Racing Camaros would be drawing a whole lot more buzz. Tyler Reddick ran well yet again at Charlotte to earn his eighth top-10 finish of the year. With it, he also hangs onto his top-10 spot in the NASCAR power rankings. The No. 8 car may very well find victory lane sooner than many think.
11. Brad Keselowski | Team Penske #2
Last Week: 12
Brad Keselowski never threatened at Charlotte. Yes, he used a pit strategy to win the 2020 Coca-Cola 600, but it’s still hard to believe he was so quiet in a race he won just a year ago. The 11th-place finish almost feels fortunate.
12. Austin Dillon | Richard Childress Racing #3
Last Week: 13
There’s only room for one RCR car in the NASCAR power rankings top ten, but Austin Dillon is certainly knocking on the door. He qualified well at Charlotte, fell back in the middle of the race and rebounded to finish sixth. Dillon’s average finish of 13.0 ranks seventh among all NASCAR Cup Series drivers.
13. Ryan Blaney | Team Penske #12
Last Week: 11
Ryan Blaney was stuck running at the tail end of the lead lap for a lot of the Coca-Cola 600. He rallied to finish 13th, a respectable showing considering some of the challenges the No. 12 team faced on Sunday. That said, Blaney remains on a downward trajectory ever since his Atlanta win.
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14. Chris Buescher | Roush Fenway Racing #17
Last Week: 14
The Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 car continues to turn heads. Chris Buescher drove to his fourth top-10 of the season in the longest race of the year on Sunday. Does RFR have the juice to start turning these solid runs into top-5s? Or better yet, outright wins?
15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. | JTG Daugherty Racing #47
Last Week: 19
After turning the second-fastest lap in qualifying to start on the front row, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ran around the tenth position for much of the Coca-Cola 600. He wound up 12th and rises in the NASCAR power rankings on the heels of an impressive weekend overall.
16. Michael McDowell | Front Row Motorsports #34
Last Week: 15
Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell was actually the inferior Front Row Motorsports car for the majority of Sunday’s race at Charlotte. Somehow, he managed to steal a top-20 finish and even beat out his teammate, Anthony Alfredo, in the end too.
17. Matt DiBenedetto | Wood Brothers Racing #21
Last Week: 17
Considering Matt DiBenedetto’s wretched track record at Charlotte coming into last weekend, an 18th-place run is far from the worst thing that could’ve happened. The No. 21 team has fallen off ever since Talladega and will look to rebound on another road course this week.
18. Daniel Suarez | Trackhouse Racing #99
Last Week: 20
Even though they had to overcome a flat tire, Daniel Suarez and the first-year Trackhosue Racing Team salvaged a top-15 finish. As the Richard Childress Racing Camaros continue to run well, keep in mind that the No. 99 is an RCR affiliate when it comes to equipment.
19. Christopher Bell | Joe Gibbs Racing #20
Last Week: 18
The struggles continued for Christopher Bell at Charlotte. He got into the wall and finished 24th. Although he wasn’t the worst Joe Gibbs Racing finish on Sunday, he remains well below his teammates in the NASCAR power rankings.
20. Ross Chastain | Chip Ganassi Racing #42
Last Week: 16
What an awful weekend for Chip Ganassi Racing. After squandering the pole position with Scott Dixon in the Indianapolis 500 earlier in the day, both Ganassi stock cars had mechanical failures in the Coca-Cola 600. Ross Chastain was able to run to the finish after getting his oil line belt repaired but only finished better than his CGR teammate.
21. Erik Jones | Richard Petty Motorsports #43
Last Week: 25
Shoutout to Erik Jones for doing an amazing job as the pit road reporter for Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity race this weekend. He fought hard at the end of the lead lap for much of the Coca-Cola 600 and settled for 16th.
22. Bubba Wallace | 23XI Racing #23
Last Week: 26
Bubba Wallace is still yet to finish in the top-10 this season. However, a 14th-place run at Charlotte was a much-needed rebound for 23XI Racing after the COTA debacle. Could this be a sign of better things to come over the second half of the season?
23. Ryan Preece | JTG Daugherty Racing #37
Last Week: 21
Ryan Preece was nowhere near as fast as his teammate, Stenhouse, at Charlotte. A 26th-place finish was the end result of a race in which he barely sniffed the top-20.
24. Kurt Busch | Chip Ganassi Racing #1
Last Week: 22
After getting repairs for the same oil belt line failure that plagued his teammate, Chastain, Kurt Busch blew out his engine coming back out onto the track. Just the latest incident in what has been a miserable 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season for the No. 1.
25. Ryan Newman | Roush Fenway Racing #6
Last Week: 23
For most of the Coca-Cola 600, Newman was lurking just outside the top-10 and keeping pace with his RFR teammate, Buescher. A run-in with the wall prevented him from capitalizing on an otherwise strong run.
26. Chase Briscoe | Stewart-Haas Racing #14
Last Week: 24
Outside of Harvick, it was another brutal weekend for Stewart-Haas Racing and Chase Briscoe. At least he threw down a great run in Saturday’s Xfinity race.
27. Cole Custer | Stewart-Haas Racing #41
Last Week: 27
Cole Custer wound up 21st in the Coca-Cola 600, the second-best SHR finisher. This team has to just be looking ahead to the Next Gen Cars at this point, right?
28. Corey LaJoie | Spire Motorsports #7
Last Week: 29
Corey LaJoie may be in vastly inferior equipment, but he drove to his second consecutive top-20 finish at Charlotte. If we wanted to compare apples to oranges, the No. 7 Spire Motorsports team is outperforming the three Stewart-Haas Racing teams on either side of them in the NASCAR power rankings.
29. Aric Almirola | Stewart-Haas Racing #10
Last Week: 28
Aric Almirola settled for 22nd at Charlotte, a track where he has had many solid showings in the past. Honestly, just making it to the end of the race without a wreck could be considered a win for the No. 10 team.
30. Anthony Alfredo | Front Row Motorsports #38
Last Week: 30
Playing the long strategy on pit stops backfired for Anthony Alfredo in the end. He ran large portions of the Coca-Cola 600 in the top-20 but settled for 25th.
31. Quin Houff | StarCom Racing #00
Last Week: 31
With a 32nd-place finish at Charlotte, Quin Houff finished just three spots worse than the only three-time NASCAR Cup Series winner this season.
32. Josh Bilicki | Rick Ware Racing #52
Last Week: 32
Josh Bilicki not only finished 35th but he was the worst Rick Ware Racing car of all on Sunday. Not a good look when you’re the team’s only full-time driver.
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