NASCAR Energy Ranking: Denny Hamlin takes No. 1 after Bubba Wallace’s win

The second race of the NASCAR 2022 Qualifiers resulted in another shock.

For the second week in a row, the race was won by an out-of-qualifying driver. This time it was Bubba Wallace, won his second and first career race at Kansas Speedway on Sunday. Wallace may not be in qualifying, but he leads all drivers with an average finish of 10.1 in his last 10 starts.

Once again, a number of playoff contenders got into trouble while an unbeaten driver ended up in the victory lane. Kevin Harvick, Tyler Reddick and Kyle Bush were among the biggest losers in Kansas, and they are all in danger of being eliminated in the final round of 16 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday.

So, which driver would he beat before a single race in the Round of 16? Here are our latest strength rankings:

1. Denny Hamlin

Last week: 3

For the entire season, Hamlin couldn’t find consistency from week to week. But with two playoff races, he has finished second twice and sits comfortably in third place in the points standings. Hamlin is not in danger of being disqualified in Bristol, as he looks like a real contender for the title.

2. Chase Elliot

Last week: 2

Elliott followed up his crash in Darlington with a quiet 11th-place finish in Kansas, which is exactly what I needed. Now above the cut-off line by 28 points, Elliott is in a strong position to advance to the round of 12. Once the points reset after Bristol, he will return to the top of the standings thanks to his strong regular season results – he just needs to avoid them. Saturday disaster.

3. Joey Logano

Last week: 1

Lugano finished 17th in Kansas after his team took a chance on strategy in the final stage. It didn’t work out without caution, but the 22nd could afford to risk the points they earned at Darlington. Lugano is still 40 points above the cut-off line, so he can rest this week before being reset for the Round of 12.

4. Christopher Bell

Last week: 5

The only driver to win a sports spot in the Round of 12? This will be Bill, who opened the playoffs with my fifth and third finish. He now has the points lead for the first time in his career, and it looks like the 20th team is peaking at the right time.

5. Kyle Larson

Last week: 4

It was an oddly quiet race for Larson after his win in Kansas last year. He finished eighth and scored four points, placing him 27 points above the cut-off line. This puts him in the same boat as Elliott, as they are not locked up but can easily advance in a respectable race in Bristol. Larson, of course, won in Bristol last year as part of his journey to the championship.

6. William Byron

Last week: the first four out

Byron went 10 races in a row without being in the top ten ahead of Darlington. Now, with two playoff races, he’s placed eighth and sixth. Not amazing, but enough to progress without too much trouble. Byron has a 48-point cushion on the trim line, the most of any driver besides Bill.

7. Ryan Blaney

Last week: 8

Kansas was a typical race for Blaney in 2022—he finished ninth and scored stage points, but he never competed for the win. He’s still looking for his first win of the year, but he doesn’t necessarily need to come in Bristol. Blaney is 36 points above the cut-off line, and is fifth in the standings.

8. Tyler Riddick

Last week: 7

Riddick prepared to battle for victory on Sunday before he blew out a tire while driving. Although he finished 35th, Riddick showed that he can win at any moment. He’s just two points above the cut-off line, so any mistake at Bristol could end his championship hopes.

9. Ross Chastain

Last week: 10

Chastain did what he had to do in Kansas, where he finished seventh and ran inside the top ten all day. He might be prone to revenge in Bristol, as he’s made a lot of enemies all season. With a 26-point cushion for the cutting line, Chastain remains well positioned to advance.

10. Kevin Harvick

Last week: 6

After consecutive bad endings, Harvick will enter Bristol facing a must-do situation. It’s 35 points below the cut-off line, which is nearly impossible to make up for in a single race unless a number of other drivers are having problems. A victory automatically advances you to the next round, so that’s what Harvick needs to go for on Saturday – a second place won’t cut it.

The first four out: Alex Bowman, Bubba Wallace, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr.

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