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NASCAR Cup Series

Ranking Cup Races Midway Through 2022

(Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

It’s hard to believe that we’re halfway through the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season! We’ve had no shortage of great racing and amazing finishes while debuting a new car. Most recently, Daniel Suarez picked up his maiden Cup victory at Sonoma Raceway!

Beginning this weekend at Nashville Superspeedway, television coverage shifts over to NBC. But, FOX carried 18 races up to this point, including 16 points-paying events. That being said, Dylan Nadwodny, Luis Torres, Kobe Lambeth, Rob Tiongson and I decided to rank all 18 events from favorite to least favorite.

Here are our official rankings below! Let us know what you think!

1. Charlotte

NASCAR continued its longtime tradition of the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend, and it didn’t disappoint. Denny Hamlin won from the pole after holding off teammate Kyle Busch on a late restart to finally claim his missing crown jewel event. But, it didn’t come easy. Hamlin avoided 18 cautions worth of carnage, including a Chris Buescher flip, to score his 48th Cup win.

(Photo: Cody Porter | The Podium Finish)

2. Auto Club

For the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic, NASCAR returned to Auto Club Speedway and it put on a show. Cars went slipping and sliding throughout the first intermediate track race of the season, and defending series champion Kyle Larson scored his first win of 2022. Tyler Reddick seemed destined for his maiden win before a late tire issue derailed him.

3. Daytona

For the second consecutive season, we saw a major upset in the Daytona 500. This time, instead of a veteran picking up his first win, rookie Austin Cindric scored the victory by edging Bubba Wallace on a green-white-checkered finish. It was the first superspeedway race with the Next Gen car and it raced well with double-file action.

(Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

4. Kansas

In another intermediate track race, Kansas featured no shortage of action. Kurt Busch fended off Kyle Larson and brother Kyle Busch late for his first win of the season and the 34th of his career. The Next Gen cars remained very difficult to drive with many drivers spinning throughout the race. But, several left rear tire issues headlined the event.

5. Talladega

The only thing Ross Chastain needed to do was hold it straight to the finish, and that’s exactly what he did. Running in third coming to the tri-oval on the final lap, Erik Jones and Kyle Larson slid out of the groove from the lead to hand Chastain his second career victory. Much like Daytona, Talladega featured exciting two-wide racing throughout the race that kept fans on edge.

6. Darlington

At Darlington, fans saw one of the more dramatic finishes of the early season. With two laps to go and a spot in the playoffs on the line, Joey Logano paid William Byron back from earlier contact by fencing while battling for the lead. Logano went on to win the race and he defended his move while Byron was understandably upset. Justin Haley, Michael McDowell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. all picked up top 10s, showing the parity with the Next Gen car.

7. Las Vegas

Just one week after a stellar show at Auto Club, NASCAR traveled to Las Vegas and put on a show. In a green-white-checkered finish, Alex Bowman held off teammate Kyle Larson to record his seventh career win and his first of the season. Drivers had their hands full throughout the race as loose conditions and left rear tire issues persisted.

8. LA Clash

In February, NASCAR did something they never had done before — racing in a football stadium. In an exhibition race, Joey Logano beat Kyle Busch in the Los Angeles Coliseum in front of a packed house. Many first-time fans came to the race and also enjoyed concerts from Pitbull, a co-owner of TrackHouse Racing, and Ice Cube. The event will return again next season in Los Angeles.

(Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

9. Circuit of the Americas

In exhilarating fashion, Ross Chastain moved road course ringer AJ Allmendinger on the final lap to score his maiden career Cup Series victory. Chastain also notched TrackHouse Racing’s first win. It was also the first road course race with the Next Gen car and the first at COTA in dry conditions. Though it was often tough for cars to pass, an all-time finish made the race memorable.

10. Sonoma

At the next road course race, Chastain’s teammate, Daniel Suarez, scored his first career Cup Series victory with a win at Sonoma. The race featured limited passing but a lot of parity as Michael McDowell and Chris Buescher ran up front for the majority of the race. Sonoma wasn’t the most exciting race, but Suarez’s win gave a feel-good ending and a story heard around the world with him becoming the first Mexican-born driver to win a NASCAR race.

11. Dover

After just 78 laps, rain set in at Dover Motor Speedway and postponed the conclusion of the race to a Monday. Upon return, tire chaos ensued. Denny Hamlin lost a tire on pit road and several drivers blew left-rear tires. But, in the end, Chase Elliott won for the first time on an oval since the 2020 championship race.

(Photo: Sam Draiss | The Podium Finish)

12. Gateway

The NASCAR Cup Series made its first trip to Gateway in June in front of a sold-out St. Louis crowd. Ross Chastain tangled with Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott early, and later, Joey Logano fended Kyle Busch off in a green-white-checkered finish. Once again, passing came at a premium with long straightaways and relatively flat corners. A good finish and drama made Gateway a memorable race.

13. Richmond

Richmond started off as more of a ho-hum race, but in the final stage, pit strategy shifted the running order. Denny Hamlin split the last stage into three pit stops while others split it into two, and it worked out. With four laps to go, Hamlin passed William Byron to win the race and turn his season around. Cold conditions certainly played a factor, but Richmond was about as average as you can get.

(Photo: Molly Gastineau | The Podium Finish)

14. Atlanta

For the first time, the NASCAR Cup Series took to a reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway with superspeedway-like conditions. Fans saw racing conditions similar to Daytona and Talladega, but in the end, William Byron survived for his first win of the season. While the race seemed fine, many preferred a traditional 1.5-mile track versus a mini-superspeedway.

15. Bristol Dirt

After an afternoon event last year, NASCAR moved this year’s Bristol Dirt race to primetime on Easter Sunday. Chase Briscoe slid into Tyler Reddick in the final corner while battling for the win, taking both out of contention and allowing Kyle Busch to snag a victory. However, many people wished for a concrete race in the spring instead of a dirt race at The Last Great Colosseum.

16. All-Star Race

Texas Motor Speedway put on average racing for the All-Star race, but it came with notable drama. Ross Chastain went flying through the air in an early crash and Ryan Blaney prematurely lowered his window net after seemingly winning the race. But, the caution flew before Blaney crossed the finish line, meaning the race would restart under the event’s special rule. Blaney did, however, win the race on the green-white-checkered.

(Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

17. Phoenix

Like Richmond, Phoenix was more of an average race with limited passing, a flaw on short tracks. But, a late caution resulted in a three-lap dash to the finish where Chase Briscoe notched his first Cup victory. His win turned a more forgettable race into an unforgettable victory.

18. Martinsville

Martinsville was hyped as one of the most entertaining races of the season and unfortunately, the race disappointed. Passing seemed impossible and only two incidents led to cautions. NASCAR will likely make changes to the Next Gen car before returning to short tracks in the second half of the season.

Nathan Solomon is a sophomore in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. He serves as the Sports Editor for his campus newspaper, The BonaVenture, and as the programming director for his campus radio station, WSBU 88.3FM. The station is rated the No. 4 college radio station in the country by Princeton Review. Solomon started his journalism career in 2018 when he began covering hometown Cornell basketball for IvyHoopsOnline. In 2019, Solomon joined Empire Sports Media to contribute New York Yankees' content and started covering NASCAR for the outlet in 2020. In 2021, he covered his first two NASCAR races with Empire Sports Media. Solomon joined TPF in September of 2021. He is also an NMPA journalist.

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