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NASCAR.com's Pat DeCola ranks the 20 hottest Cup Series drivers after the race at Circuit of The Americas and before Sunday's race at Richmond (3:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR).
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Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images
Season-high: 18Season-low: OutComment: Don't look now, but Gibbs just picked up the first two top 10s of his rookie campaign — in back-to-back weeks. Things are starting to click for him, with now more than half-a-season's worth of Cup starts under his belt. Gibbs cars typically perform well at Richmond, but his No. 45 Toyota had an engine issue there last summer — perhaps he has better luck this year in the No. 54.
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Season-high: 19Season-low: OutComment: McDowell was just short of his first top 10 of the season, but still showed why he's considered a road-course sleeper with his best finish of the season (12th). He'll face the exact opposite situation this weekend, though, with a truly unbelievable 31.5 average finish (no top 10s) in 23 Richmond starts.
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Season-high: 18 Season-low: OutComment: Not only did LaJoie make his first Power Rankings appearance — ever — last week, he went back out and turned in a strong P11 at COTA to hang around here another week. Richmond offers a test for him and the upstart No. 7 team, however, with no finishes inside the top 20 at Richmond for LaJoie to date.
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Season-high: 9 Season-low: OutComment: Rough day for Keselowski at COTA, who left Austin P35 with a broken driveshaft and just two points to show for it. Richmond has been kind to him in the past (two summer wins) but he has no top 10s there since his last victory there in 2020.
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Season-high: 15 Season-low: OutComment: Buescher's impressive season continued at COTA, where he landed his first top 10 since Daytona. Richmond could wind up being a sneaky track for him — he landed third there last summer.
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Season-high: 10 Season-low: 15Comment: Suarez clearly had a strong car at COTA, so to wind up P27 and on the lead lap while getting into it with a teammate is obviously frustrating for the No. 99 driver. He'll need to turn his focus quickly to Richmond, where he has no top 10s since 2019 and has yet to lead a lap in 11 starts.
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Season-high: 14Season-low: OutComment: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ... road ringer? Alright, maybe that's a bit too far, but the Daytona 500 winner and superspeedway maven had to feel good about getting his first road-course top 10 in his 32nd try. Hopefully for him he can keep that rolling at Richmond, where he has no top 10s since 2017 and just two total in 19 starts.
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Season-high: 7 Season-low: 14Comment: It's starting to really feel like the days of MTJ's road-course dominance are in the past after not landing in the top 10 on one since last year's COTA race. That said, one track he's still very good at is Richmond, where he has three wins and eight top 10s in the last eight races.
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Season-high: 6 Season-low: 12Comment: Of course, Truex isn't the only Toyota driver struggling on road courses, as Hamlin's no-top-10 streak on road courses extends all the way back to 2021. He's just like Truex as well, however, in that they both love racing at Richmond and Hamlin enters the weekend as the defending race winner.
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Season-high: 2 Season-low: 11Comment: It still feels a little too early to be anywhere remotely concerned about Larson just yet, but for what it's worth his average finish (16.3) is on pace to be his worst since a winless 2015 season. (He's already more than doubled his laps led count from that year, however, so really — no need to worry.) The former Richmond-2 race winner turned in a top five in this race last year.
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Season-high: 10Season-low: 19Comment: Cindric led at COTA from Laps 6-7 ... and in doing so became the third-highest laps leader of the day behind a dominant Tyler Reddick (41) and William Byron (28), landing a strong P6 when it was all over. His third-ever Cup start came at Richmond in 2021 and the sophomore has only gotten better there since.
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Season-high: 4 Season-low: 13Comment: Blaney unfortunately turned in his worst points day of the season at COTA and he likely isn't the most thrilled about where he'll look to rebound this weekend. Though he's finally now broken through in each of the past three races, Richmond gave Blaney fits for years with no top 10s in his first 10 starts there.
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Season-high: 6 Season-low: 11 Comment: Though he failed to land back in the top 10, a 31-point P13 is a nice rebound from a four-point P33 at Atlanta a week prior for Harvick. He was lights out at Richmond last year, finishing runner-up in the spring before leading 55 laps en route to victory there in August.
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Season-high: 2 Season-low: 10Comment: Bell seemingly had a car fast enough to compete at COTA but was caught up in a late OT wreck to finish 31st. A Richmond win for him feels like an eventuality, with four top 10s in his five starts there and all inside the top six.
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Season-high: 6Season-low: 15Comment: Well that didn't take long. Kyle Busch and Reddick essentially swapped places over the offseason — and they've now each both won with their respective teams in the first six races of 2023. Next up on the to-do list? Reddick's first top 10 at Richmond in his sixth start there.
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Season-high: 1 Season-low: 7Comment: Chastain walked out of Austin with another top five ... but also a teammate he's going to have to iron some things out with, as they're each locked up long-term at Trackhouse. He was shut out of the top 10 at Richmond in both races last year, though he did lead a strong 80 laps in the summer race.
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Season-high: 4Season-low: 15Comment: It's kind of surprising that, even though we're only six races in, Bowman hasn't won yet. He's on fire. The No. 48 driver won this Richmond race two seasons ago, so this could be his weekend ahead.
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Season-high: 1 Season-low: 5Comment: Tough break at COTA for the defending champ, who went the distance and walked away with just nine points. His cold snaps are often short, however, and the two-time spring winner at Richmond should be back in the swing of things this weekend.
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Season-high: 1 Season-low: 14Comment: One could make the argument that no driver has looked more consistently competitive this year so far than Byron, who again led a ton of laps at COTA, his third race this year with 28 or more paces out front. He's only led in one Richmond race ever, but it was this one last year — for 122 laps — en route to a top three.
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Season-high: 1Season-low: 5Comment: Then again, while Byron has two wins, Busch has a much better average finish so far (9.0 to Byron's 16.3). He also has 10 straight top 10s at Richmond, with two of his six total wins coming during that stretch. The only question — will that success translate over to his RCR equipment? All signs, quite clearly, point to yes.