NASCAR power rankings: Christopher Bell makes a leap after his first career Cup Series victory

Christopher Bell conquered rain and shine on route to his first NASCAR Cup Series victory. Here are the NASCAR power rankings leaving the Daytona Road Course.

By Austin Konenski
Feb 21, 2021; Daytona Beach, Florida, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Tyler Reddick (8) has his car set on fire during the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 season is underway as drivers look to compete for the NASCAR Cup Series championship. Some may say that this season could be the, “best season ever,” and if it is anything like it is hyped up to be, that could be true. Let’s take a look at some of the changes below.

NASCAR drivers entered this season with many new things ahead. They have a brand new schedule that sees the additions of Bristol on dirt, Nashville Speedway, Circuit of the Americas, Road America, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. There is also a higher abundance of seat movement with the notables of Kyle Larson going to Hendrick Motorsports and Bubba Wallace to 23XI Racing with Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin.

The NextGen car is also poised to come out after the conclusion of the 2021 season. It was supposed to come out this season, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was pushed back one year. The date for a new engine was also pushed back and is currently to be determined.

Let’s dive into our updated NASCAR power rankings after the second race of the season at the Daytona Road Course.

Updated: Feb. 22, 11:30 AM EST

NASCAR power rankings: Top-tier drivers looking for a championship run

1. Chase Elliott (Previous Ranking: 1)

NASCAR rankings: Chase Elliott
Chase Elliott celebrates after winning the Go Bowling 235 at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, August 16, 2020. Cup Win02
  • 2021 statistics: Zero wins, one top-5 finish, one top-10 finish, and an average finishing position of 11.5.

Chase Elliott was one of the best cars at the Daytona Road Course on Sunday evening when he led 44 laps during the race. Elliott passed Christopher Bell in the final stage but was unable to pull away. A caution for rain caused a poor pit stop for Elliott, which put him in a tough spot. Elliott mistimed a crossover and spun himself out for a disappointing 21st finishing position, however, he still showed he’s one of the best, even though Bell was better on Sunday.

  • 2021 ride: No. 9 Chevrolet (Hendrick Motorsports)

Read More: NASCAR releases stage lengths for 2021 season

2. Denny Hamlin (Previous Ranking: 2)

NASCAR Power Rankings: Denny Hamlin
Feb 14, 2021; Daytona Beach, Florida, USA; NASCAR Cup Series drivers Denny Hamlin (11), Kyle Busch (18), Martin Truex Jr. (19) and Bubba Wallace (23) during the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2021 statistics: Zero wins, two top-5 finishes, two top-10 finishes, and an average finishing position of 4.0.

Denny Hamlin had a good car on Sunday and won Stage 2, securing his third playoff point of the season. Hamlin faded in the Final Stage, but with help, he was able to turn in a third-place finish after Chase Elliott came across his nose in the final run. Hamlin has been the most consistent driver through the first two races as he is the only driver with two top-5 finishes.

  • 2021 ride: No. 11 Toyota (Joe Gibbs Racing)

3. Joey Logano (Previous Ranking: 5)

NASCAR drivers rankings: Joey Logano
Oct 18, 2020; Kansas City, Kansas, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Joey Logano (22) celebrates after winning the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2021 statistics: Zero wins, one top-5 finish one top-10 finish, and an average finishing position of 7.0.

Joey Logano had a 3.8 seconds lead on Christopher Bell when the 26-year-old driver made the pass around Kurt Busch with five laps to go. Logano was in a good spot and possibly had the race won, but Bell’s car was simply faster as he shaved down one second per lap. Logano had a good car, but his second chance at a Daytona victory this season was taken away due to not having enough at the end.

  • 2021 ride: No. 22 Ford (Team Penske)

4. Kevin Harvick (Previous Ranking: 3)

NASCAR drivers rankings: Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick celebrates after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Dover International Speedway, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020, in Dover, Del. ghows-MO-200829649-15772762.jpg
  • 2021 statistics: Zero wins, one top-5 finish, two top-10 finishes, and an average finishing position of 5.0.

Kevin Harvick did not have the greatest car Sunday evening, but he still managed to come away with a sixth-place finish. Harvick accumulated two stage points before the Final Stage, but the most important thing for the 45-year-old driver was keeping the car clean as he is not the greatest at road courses. Harvick goes into next week looking to be more dominant at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

  • 2021 ride: No. 4 Ford (Stewart-Haas Racing)

5. Brad Keselowski (Previous Ranking: 4)

NASCA Power Rankings: Brad Keselowski
Feb 21, 2021; Daytona Beach, Florida, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski (2) during the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2021 statistics: Zero wins, one top-5 finish, one top-10 finish, and an average finishing position of 9.0.

Brad Keselowski seemed to be in trouble all day, but he still managed to come home with his first top-5 finish of the season. Keselowski locked his tires on many occasions, spun out twice, went into grass, and was dumped by Kurt Busch going into Turn 1. No one other than Christopher Bell can be happier with their finishing position as Keselowski looks for a cleaner race next weekend.

  • 2021 ride: No. 2 Ford (Team Penske)

Read More: NASCAR’s iRacing series to return with 10 events

6. Christopher Bell (Previous Ranking: 8)

NASCA Power Rankings: Christopher Bell
Feb 21, 2021; Daytona Beach, Florida, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Christopher Bell (20) wins the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2021 statistics: One win, one top-5 finish, one top-10 finish, and an average finishing position of 8.5.

Christopher Bell captured his first career NASCAR Cup Series win in amazing fashion after reeling in Joey Logano from four seconds back with five laps to go. Bell was outstanding as he was able to close in on Chase Elliott before the final pit stops of the day. The 26-year-old driver is now a Cup Series winner and has booked his ticket into the NASCAR playoffs. What an impressive victory for Bell, with this win being the first of many.

  • 2021 ride: No. 20 Toyota (Joe Gibbs Racing)

7. Kyle Larson (Previous Ranking: 7)

NASCAR Power Rankings: Kyle Larson
Feb 14, 2021; Daytona Beach, Florida, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson (5) during the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2021 statistics: Zero wins, zero top-5 finishes, one top-10 finish, and an average finishing position of 20.0.

Kyle Larson might have had the race in his hands if he doesn’t wheel hop going into the turn trying to pass Kurt Busch for second-place. Larson would’ve run down Joey Logano and most likely passed him for the win in his second start with Hendrick Motorsports. Larson will be a force to reckoned with this season as we head to one of his best tracks at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

  • 2021 ride: No. 5 (Hendrick Motorsports)

8. Kyle Busch (Previous Ranking: 6)

NASCAR drivers rankings: Kyle Busch
Jul 18, 2020; Fort Worth, TX, USA; NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Kyle Busch (54) celebrates winning the My Bariatric Solutions 300 race at the Texas Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2021 statistics: Zero wins, zero top-5 finishes, zero top-10 finishes, and an average finishing position of 24.5.

Kyle Busch was involved in an incident on lap one of the race that affected his right front and splitter. It looked like Busch’s day as a competitive car may have been done early, but he drove up to fourth-place in the Final Stage before wrecking in the final run of the race. Busch had fast cars in both races at Daytona, but some bad luck has gotten him into a few accidents.

  • 2021 ride: No. 18 Toyota (Joe Gibbs Racing)

9. Martin Truex, Jr. (Previous Ranking: 10)

Nov 1, 2020; Martinsville, VA, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. (19) makes a pit stop during the Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 1, 2020; Martinsville, VA, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. (19) makes a pit stop during the Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2021 statistics: Zero wins, zero top-five finishes, zero top-10 finishes, and an average finishing position of 18.5.

Martin Truex Jr. had a good car on Sunday, but after he wheel hopped the car into Turn 1 on the second to final restart, his chances went out of the window. Truex wasn’t as fast as his teammate Christopher Bell, but he still would’ve secured a top-5 finish without an incident. Surprisingly, Truex has not placed in the top-10 finishing positions this season as he looks to find his first one next weekend.

  • 2021 ride: No. 19 Toyota (Joe Gibbs Racing)

10. Ryan Blaney (Previous Ranking: 9)

NASCA Power Rankings: Ryan Blaney
Feb 21, 2021; Daytona Beach, Florida, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Blaney (12) during the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2021 statistics: Zero wins, zero top-5 finishes, zero top-10 finishes, and an average finishing position of 22.5.

Ryan Blaney did not have a great day at Daytona after not winning any stage points and coming home with a 15th place finish. Blaney struggled throughout the day after having a good race at the Daytona Road Course during the Clash at Daytona. The 27-year-old driver looks to have a better race at Homestead-Miami Speedway to secure his first top-10 finish like other notable drivers in the field.

  • 2021 ride: No. 12 Ford (Team Penske)

Read More: NASCAR to limit qualifying runs to eight races in ’21

NASCAR power rankings: Second-tier drivers looking for a big year

11. Alex Bowman (Previous Ranking: 11)

NASCAR drivers rankings: Alex Bowman
Jun 10, 2020; Martinsville, VA, USA; NASCAR drive Alex Bowman (middle) walks to his car before the NASCAR Cup Series at Martinsville at Martinsville Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Steve Helber/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Network
  • 2021 statistics: Zero wins, zero top-five finishes, one top-10 finish, and an average finishing position of 22.5.

Alex Bowman struggled to do much on Sunday after starting near the back due to a wreck at the Daytona 500. Bowman managed to crawl his way up to a top-10 finish, but the speed was lacking on Sunday. Only two Hendrick Motorsports cars showed speed, but a lack of time at the Daytona Road Course may have factored into it. It’ll be interesting to see if Bowman can turn it around at Homestead after finishing in 18th place last year.

  • 2021 ride: No. 48 Chevrolet (Hendrick Motorsports)

12. Austin Dillon (Previous Ranking: 12)

NASCAR drivers rankings: Austin Dillon
Nov 8, 2020; Avondale, Arizona, USA; NASCAR driver Austin Dillon (3) during the NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2021 statistics: Zero wins, one top-5 finish, one top-10 finish, and an average finishing position of 18.5.

Austin Dillon was quiet on Sunday as he finished in the 34th position due to a wreck, but he did capture three stage points in Stage 1. Dillon went into the race as the point standings leader but dropped to ninth in the standings after a poor day. Dillon looks to have a breakout year in 2021 as we go to a track where he finished in the seventh position last year.

  • 2021 ride: No. 3 Chevrolet (Richard Childress Racing)

13. Kurt Busch (Previous Ranking: 15)

NASCA Power Rankings: Kurt Busch
Feb 14, 2021; Daytona Beach, Florida, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kurt Busch (1) waves to fans during driver introductions before the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2021 statistics: Zero wins, one top-five finish, one top-10 finish, and an average finishing position of 13.0.

Much like Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch had an eventful day but still came away with his first top-5 finishing position of the season. Busch lost control while leading at one point and got himself in the back. He accidentally spun Keselowski on his way back up the leaderboard, but his toughness prevailed as he held off race-winner Christopher Bell for a few laps before losing second place with five laps to go.

  • 2021 ride: No. 1 Chevrolet (Chip Ganassi Racing)

14. Michael McDowell (Previous Ranking: 16)

NASCA Power Rankings: Michael McDowell
Feb 14, 2021; Daytona Beach, Florida, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Michael McDowell (34) celebrates winning the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2021 statistics: One win, one top-5 finish, two top-10 finishes, and an average finishing position of 4.5.

After the best weekend of Michael McDowell’s racing career, he backed it up with another top-10 finish in seventh place. McDowell is good on road courses, but it may come as a surpise due to his struggles going into Turn 1 on lap one. McDowell already had a tire going down, which caused him to go straight into the turn. This is the first time in McDowell’s NASCAR Cup Series career that he had two straight top-10 finishes.

  • 2021 ride: No. 34 Ford (Front Row Motorsports)

15. William Byron (Previous Ranking: 13)

NASCAR drivers rankings: William Byron
Nov 8, 2020; Avondale, Arizona, USA; NASCAR driver William Byron (24) during the NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2021 statistics: Zero wins, four top-five finishes, zero top-10 finishes, and an average finishing position of 29.5.

William Byron has struggled on Sunday, but he did earn four stage points in Stage 2. Byron had an issue with two laps to go that caused him to fall off the pace and go slow on the apron. Byron’s first two races with crew chief Rudy Fugle have not gone according to plan, but it can only get better from here. Byron goes into next weekend to a track where he finished in 9th place last year.

  • 2021 ride: No. 24 Chevrolet (Hendrick Motorsports)

16. Cole Custer (Previous Ranking: 19)

NASCAR drivers rankings: Cole Custer
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Cole Custer (41) wears a mask as he celebrates in the winner’s circle after winning the NASCAR Cup Series 10th Annual Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Ky., on Sunday, July 12, 2020. Quaker State 400 Nascar
  • 2021 statistics: Zero wins, zero top-5 finishes, zero top-10 finishes, and an average finishing position of 12.0.

Cole Custer had a solid race Sunday after finishing the 13th position and gaining three stage points during Stage 2. Custer hasn’t been dominant this season, but his consistency has been good for the start of the season. Custer is the highest driver in the point standings without a top-10 finish through two races. The 23-year-old driver looks to improve next weekend and finish in the top-10 positions.

  • 2021 ride: No. 41 Ford (Stewart-Haas Racing)

NASCAR power rankings: Teams looking to make the playoffs

17. Bubba Wallace: (Previous Ranking: 14)

NASCA Power Rankings: Bubba Wallace
Feb 14, 2021; Daytona Beach, Florida, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace (23) during the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2021 statistics: Zero wins, zero top-five finishes, zero top-10 finishes, and an average finishing position of 21.5.

Bubba Wallace has not been the best at road courses in his NASCAR Cup Series career and that trend continued on Sunday evening. Wallace finished in 26th place after needing to make two unscheduled pit stops during the race. Wallace was running in 10th at one point during the race and showed he could have the speed to finish there. Wallace looks for his first top-10 finish with 23XI Racing next weekend.

  • 2021 ride: No. 23 Toyota (23XI Racing)

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18. Aric Almirola (Previous Ranking: 18)

NASCAR drivers: Aric Almirola
May 24, 2020, Concord, NC, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Aric Almirola (10) during qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Gerry Broome/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Network
  • 2021 statistics: Zero wins, zero top-five finishes, zero top-10 finishes, and an average finishing position of 25.5.

Aric Almirola hasn’t had the greatest start of the 2021 season after wrecking in the Daytona 500 and coming home with a 17th place finish at the Daytona Road Course. Almirola spun out during the final run before pit stops and put himself behind after an alright day. Almirola goes to a race track next weekend where he finished in the top-5 spots last season.

  • 2021 ride: No. 10 Ford (Stewart-Haas Racing)

Read More: President Donald Trump attacks Bubba Wallace, NASCAR: Calls noose ‘HOAX’ and rips ‘Flag decision’

19. Ryan Preece (Previous Ranking: Unranked)

NASCA Power Rankings
Feb 12, 2020; Daytona, FL, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Preece (37) addresses the media during NASCAR Media Day at the Daytona 500 Club.. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2021 statistics: Zero wins, zero top-5 finishes, two top-10 finishes, and an average finishing position of 7.5.

Ryan Preece may have the best story of any driver in the field right now. Preece does not have a charter this season after JTG Daugherty gave it to Spire Motorsports. Since then, Preece has finished in the top-10 in virtually every race he has driven. The 30-year-old driver finished in the 9th position, but more importantly, he may have some type of sponsorship to help him complete the season coming soon.

  • 2021 ride: No. 37 (JTG Daugherty Racing)

20. Matt DiBenedetto (Previous Ranking: 17)

NASCAR drivers: Matt DiBenedetto
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Matt DiBenedetto (21) before the Brickyard 400 on Sunday, July 5, 2020. Monster Energy Nascar Cup Series Brickyard 400 On July 5 2020 Return To Racing Since Coronavirus Covid 19 Pandemic
  • 2021 statistics: Zero wins, zero top-five finishes, zero top-10 finishes, and an average finishing position of 35.0.

There’s not a single driver in the field who has had a worst start than Matt DiBenedetto through the first two races of the 2021 season. DiBenedetto was involved in a wreck at the Daytona 500 and blew a tire, which ripped the right rear of the car apart on Sunday. DiBenedetto is the worst driver in the point standings with two races complete. There’s only one way to go from here and that is up.

  • 2021 ride: No. 21 Ford (Wood Brothers Racing)

No longer ranked

  • Tyler Reddick (Previous Ranking: 20)