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NASCAR power rankings: Busch Light Clash leaves little to change before Daytona

Check out Sportsnaut's NASCAR power rankings which will be updated throughout the entire 2023 season after every Cup Series event.

NASCAR power rankings

Who is the best driver in NASCAR? The return of our 2023 NASCAR power rankings takes a look at who will be the true competitors for the Cup Series championship and which drivers will be vying for a playoff spot come September.

Bookmark this page throughout the season for updates to our weekly NASCAR power rankings, as we look at how the best 30 full-time drivers perform each week and project what’s ahead for them.

Without further ado, here are Sportsnaut’s NASCAR power rankings as we look ahead to the 2023 campaign.

Related: NASCAR schedule during the 2023 season

30. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

  • Previously: Last in NASCAR power rankings

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. likely had higher aspirations entering the 2022 season but it only ended with one top-5 finish and five top-10 finishes. Stenhouse has enough talent to do much better so running clean and finishing races should be the goal. The driver of the No. 47 car needs to put together a solid season for the team.

29. Harrison Burton

  • Previously: No. 29 in NASCAR power rankings

Harrison Burton’s rookie season with Wood Brothers Racing had a cold start and a hot ending. Burton’s development over the course of the year was notable and he even led in a playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway. With one season under his belt in solid equipment, it will be interesting to see whether he takes a sizable jump.

28. Noah Gragson

  • Previously: No. 28 in NASCAR power rankings

Noah Gragson will drive the No. 42 car for Legacy Motor Club, previously Petty GMS Motorsports, after a breakout year in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with JR Motorsports. Now, Gragson has a full-time opportunity to build on his experience in the NASCAR Cup Series. Much like any other rookie, the expectations should not be too high for the Las Vegas native.

27. Ty Gibbs

  • Previously: No. 27 in NASCAR power rankings

Ty Gibbs ended the 2022 season as the NASCAR Xfinity Series champion with seven victories, including the finale at Phoenix Raceway. Gibbs, one of NASCAR’s best former prospects, now has an opportunity to shine in the No. 54 car for Joe Gibbs Racing. The expectations for the 20-year-old driver should not be high this season but the future is bright.

26. Michael McDowell

  • Previously: No. 25 in NASCAR power rankings

Michael McDowell had a career year and that was obvious with his stat line of two top-5 finishes and 12 top-10 finishes. If not for a 100-point penalty due to the modification of a NextGen car part, McDowell would have finished in the top 20 of the point standings. Now, the No. 34 team will look to build upon that career year.

Related: Adam Alexander to become the new lap-by-lap announcer for the Truck Series

25. Ryan Preece

  • Previously: No. 26 in NASCAR power rankings

Ryan Preece was one of the very few drivers who made a slight climb or descent after the 2023 Busch Light Clash. The event was a survival-type race and showed little to takeaway for the actual season. Preece was fast before having an issue within the car while competing for the lead. It will interesting to see if he carries over momentum to the Daytona 500.

24. Justin Haley

  • Previously: No. 24 in NASCAR power rankings

Justin Haley competed in many races before his first full-time season with Kaulig Racing but it still came with some growing pains. Despite that, Haley surged as the season continued and finished with three top-5 finishes and four top-10 finishes. The driver of the No. 31 car is bound to continue his growth and be a fringe playoff contender.

23. Aric Almirola

  • Previously: No. 23 in NASCAR power rankings

Aric Almirola was supposed to retire at the conclusion of the 2022 season; however, he changed his mind and will return to Stewart-Haas Racing. Almirola finished last year with two top-5 finishes and seven top-10 finishes, which is below expectations. In what could be his final year, Almirola will look to find victory lane again.

Related: Aric Almirola returns to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2023

22. Brad Keselowski

  • Previously: No. 22 in NASCAR power rankings

Brad Keselowski moved to RFK Racing for the 2022 season as a driver and owner after spending several seasons with Team Penske. The start of the year was rough; however, Keselowski really turned it around near the end of the year. The driver of the No. 6 car is fully capable of winning a race in 2023.

21. Austin Cindric

NASCAR: Dixie Vodka 400
Oct 23, 2022; Homestead, Florida, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Austin Cindric (2) waves to the race fans along the front stretch before the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 21 in NASCAR power rankings

Austin Cindric’s rookie campaign started off as well as possible with a victory in the 2022 Daytona 500. The rest of the season was solid as Cindric improved and even won a stage at World Wide Technology Raceway. The driver of the No. 2 car might be in line for another playoff-caliber season at the championship-winning organization.

20. Chris Buescher

  • Previously: No. 20 in NASCAR power rankings

Chris Buescher was one of many drivers who picked up a victory during the 2022 season with his win at Bristol Motor Speedway. Buescher finished with one win, three top-5 finishes, and 10 top-10 finishes. The driver of the No. 17 car finished the season out well and should be looked at as a possible playoff driver.

19. Erik Jones

  • Previously: No. 19 in NASCAR power rankings

Erik Jones had an incredible year with a victory at Darlington Raceway in the first race of the playoffs. Jones had a stat line of one win, three top-5 finishes, and 13 top-10 finishes; however, the improvement from the previous season was notable. The driver of the No. 43 will be among the favorites to make the playoffs from those who missed last year.

Related: 5 best NASCAR races in the sport’s modern history

18. Austin Dillon

  • Previously: No. 18 in NASCAR power rankings

Austin Dillon squeaked into the 2022 playoffs after winning the final race of the regular season at Daytona International Speedway. Despite the criticism of Dillon not deserving a playoff spot, he finished off the year strong with an 11th-place finish in the point standings. With a multi-time champion as his teammate, a jump in performance could be coming.

17. A.J. Allmendinger

  • Previously: No. 17 in NASCAR power rankings

A.J. Allmendinger is making his return to the NASCAR Cup Series with Kaulig Racing and the expectations are high after a very strong end to the 2022 playoffs. Allmendinger was one of the best drivers over the last five races in the Cup Series. Now, the driver of the No. 16 car is fully in the picture to win a race and make the 2023 playoffs.

NASCAR power rankings: Playoff caliber drivers

16. Bubba Wallace

NASCAR odds - Bubba Wallace
Nov 4, 2022; Avondale, Arizona, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace during qualifying for the NASCAR championship race at Phoenix Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 16 in NASCAR power rankings

Bubba Wallace performed very well during the 2022 season and capped it with a victory at Kansas Speedway in the playoffs. Wallace finished the year with one win, five top-5 finishes, and 10 top-10 finishes. With the speed that Wallace showed, it is perfectly acceptable to consider him a viable candidate to make the playoffs.

15. Tyler Reddick

NASCAR: Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500
Sep 25, 2022; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Tyler Reddick (8) before the AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 15 in NASCAR power rankings

Tyler Reddick will move to the No. 45 car for 23XI Racing during the 2023 season and he is a prime sleeper candidate for the championship. Reddick has enough talent to win multiple races for a second straight season after spending last year with Richard Childress Racing. For the new driver at 23XI Racing, the sky is truly the limit.

Related: Travis Pastrana to run the 2023 Daytona 500 with 23XI Racing

14. Daniel Suarez

NASCAR: Cup Qualifying
Nov 5, 2022; Avondale, Arizona, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Daniel Suarez (99) during qualifying at Phoenix Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 14 in NASCAR power rankings

Daniel Suarez did not advance far into the playoffs like his teammate but it was still a successful season after winning his first career race at Sonoma Raceway. Suarez proved he can win at the top level and that more victories will be on the way. Going into 2023, the driver of the No. 99 car should set his expectations for a Round of 8 appearance.

13. Alex Bowman

Sep 1, 2022; Charlotte, NC, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Alex Bowman (48) talks with the media during the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Media Day at Charlotte Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 13 in NASCAR power rankings

Alex Bowman had a very solid start to the 2022 season but then fell off as the summer months began. After those months of struggle, Bowman put it together in the Round of 16, only to be knocked out of the playoffs due to a concussion. Thankfully, the driver of the No. 48 car is fine to compete and should be expected to improve in 2023.

12. Chase Briscoe

NASCAR: Cup Qualifying
Nov 5, 2022; Avondale, Arizona, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Chase Briscoe (14) during qualifying at Phoenix Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 11 in NASCAR power rankings

Chase Briscoe was a few laps away from advancing to the Championship 4 at Martinsville Speedway but came up just short. Despite his close advancement, Briscoe had a lot to be proud of after struggling during the regular season. Going into his third year, the No. 14 team is primed for a big jump as the leader of Stewart-Haas Racing.

11. Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick
Nov 6, 2022; Avondale, Arizona, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick during the Cup Championship race at Phoenix Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 10 in NASCAR power rankings

Kevin Harvick’s 2023 season will be his last after announcing he would retire from full-time racing after the final race of the year. Going into the season, Harvick will look to compete for one more title after winning two races in 2022. The driver of the No. 4 car is fully capable of rebounding and having a storybook ending.

10. Martin Truex Jr.

Martin Truex Jr.
Nov 4, 2022; Avondale, Arizona, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr during qualifying for the NASCAR championship race at Phoenix Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 12 in NASCAR power rankings

Martin Truex Jr. won the 2023 Busch Light Clash and while he showed great speed during the overall weekend, it’s not enough for a major jump. Truex spent the 2022 season outside of the playoffs and without a victory so it is a good momentum boost going into the Daytona 500. It remains to be seen if the driver of the No. 19 car is back to form.

Related: Martin Truex Jr. gives update on retirement decision ahead of the 2023 season

9. Kyle Busch

NASCAR: Cup Qualifying
Nov 4, 2022; Avondale, Arizona, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch during qualifying for the NASCAR championship race at Phoenix Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 9 in NASCAR power rankings

Kyle Busch will drive the No. 8 car for Richard Childress Racing after leaving Joe Gibbs Racing due to his sponsor, Mars, departing NASCAR. Busch won a single race at Bristol Dirt but struggled the rest of the year. It was a very disappointing end for Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing; however, there are reasons to be excited for 2023.

Related: Richard Childress Racing discusses the rebrand of Kyle Busch’s No. 8 car

8. Ryan Blaney

NASCAR: Cup Qualifying
Nov 4, 2022; Avondale, Arizona, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Blaney during qualifying for the NASCAR championship race at Phoenix Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 8 in NASCAR power rankings

Ryan Blaney finished the 2022 season without a single victory but it was not an utter failure. Blaney made the Round of 8 but came up short of the Championship 4 after barely beating Truex for the final playoff spot. The driver of the No. 12 car has enough talent to win at least one race per season and he will look to return to that standard.

7. William Byron

NASCAR: Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500
Sep 25, 2022; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver William Byron (24) before the AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 7 in NASCAR power rankings

William Byron had a hot start to the 2022 season but quickly fell off following his victory at Martinsville Speedway during the spring months. However, Byron bounced back as the second-best driver during the playoffs behind the No. 11 team. The Hendrick Motorsports driver will now look to have a breakout year with full consistency in 2023.

6. Kyle Larson

NASCAR: Dixie Vodka 400
Oct 23, 2022; Homestead, Florida, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson (5) celebrates winning the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 6 in NASCAR power rankings

Kyle Larson’s task of defending his 2021 NASCAR Cup Series championship failed as he was knocked out of the playoffs at the Charlotte ROVAL. Larson still had a successful year with three wins but it is truly championship or bust. Now, the driver of the No. 5 car will strive to clean up his performance and go for a second title this year.

Related: Kyle Larson’s big future in the NASCAR Cup Series beyond 2022

NASCAR power rankings 2023: Championship contenders

5. Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott/Hendrick Motorsports
Nov 6, 2022; Avondale, Arizona, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Chase Elliott during the Cup Championship race at Phoenix Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 5 in NASCAR power rankings

Chase Elliott finished the season off the nose of the No. 1 car at Phoenix Raceway, which ended his hopes of a second title. Despite five wins and the regular season championship, Elliott’s playoff struggles left him lacking the final piece of the puzzle during the 2022 season. The Hendrick Motorsports driver will now look to redeem himself in 2023.

4. Denny Hamlin

NASCAR: South Point 400
Oct 16, 2022; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin (11) before the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 4 in NASCAR power rankings

Denny Hamlin was arguably NASCAR’s best driver in the 2022 playoffs after scoring the most points over the 10-race stretch. Despite his success, Hamlin was knocked out of the playoffs at Martinsville Speedway following the No. 1 car’s miraculous pass on the final lap. The driver of the No. 11 car has expectations of winning his first title this season.

3. Christopher Bell

NASCAR: Xfinity 500
Oct 30, 2022; Martinsville, Virginia, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Christopher Bell (20) celebrates winning the Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 3 in NASCAR power rankings

Christopher Bell broke out and made the Championship 4 for the first time in his NASCAR Cup Series career in 2022. Bell, who can be called NASCAR’s new closer, is the leader of Joe Gibbs Racing after Kyle Busch left the organization. Now, the driver of the No. 20 will look to carry that leadership into 2023 and break out even more.

Related: Christopher Bell is NASCAR’s new elite closer

2. Ross Chastain

NASCAR: Championship Media Day
Nov 3, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Ross Chastain speaks to the media during Championship Four Media Day at Phoenix Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 2 in NASCAR power rankings

Ross Chastain came up just short of his first NASCAR Cup Series championship but the overall season was a success. Chastain secured his first career Cup Series win at Circuit of the Americas and backed it up with another at Talladega Superspeedway. The expectations are clearly set as championship or bust for the No. 1 team this year.

1. Joey Logano

NASCAR power rankings
Joey Logano celebrates in a hail of confetti after winning the NASCAR Cup Series championship race at Phoenix Raceway. Syndication Arizona Republic
  • Previously: No. 1 in NASCAR power rankings

Joey Logano was the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series champion and it came in dominating fashion. Logano led the most laps and made it one of the most boring Championship 4 races yet. Now going into the 2023 season, Logano will look to find some magic while improving upon his four wins and going back-to-back for a third Cup Series title.