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With 15 of 26 regular season races now in the books, there are two different long nterm races that are about to ratchet up in intensity: while winning a race and getting onto the playoff grid remains the paramount goal for most of the field, there's also a select several drivers who are now finding that a regular season championship is attainable.

The past several weeks have led to a massive swing in the dynamic of the race for the regular season title -- and the all-important bonus of 15 playoff points that comes with being the top performer over the first 26 weeks of the season before the playoffs.

After a sixth-place finish at Gateway, Ryan Blaney has taken the points lead with a 13 point advantage over William Byron, who is followed by Kevin Harvick (-22), Martin Truex Jr., (-23) and Ross Chastain (-29).

Though it's not quite enough to unseat William Byron from the top spot in this week's edition of the CBS Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, Blaney's finish (combined with his Coca-Cola 600 win) has moved him up to second. While Blaney was among the biggest movers in going from sixth to second, it was a bad week to be named Chase: Chase Elliott (suspension) and Chase Brisoce (34th place finish combined with a historically large penalty) both dropped out of the Power Rankings altogether.

Here's a look at our updated Power Rankings:

1William Byron--William Byron keeps piling them up: After leading 30 laps at Gateway, Byron now has 717 laps led on the 2023 season as he tries to translate that into a push for the regular season championship.
2Ryan Blaney
The only driver who was any match for Kyle Busch at Gateway was Ryan Blaney, whose 83 laps led were the second most of any driver on Sunday. A sixth place finish helped make Blaney the new Cup Series points leader.
3Martin Truex Jr.--A series of late-race restarts wasn't what Martin Truex Jr. needed, as he and his team were depending on the race going green in order to make their strategy to pit for fresher tires work. Truex's march through the field ultimately only got him up to fifth at the finish.
4Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch's victory in Gateway marked the second time in his career that he's won out in St. Louis. Busch won an Xfinity Series race at Gateway in 2009, and he went on to win the series title that same year.
5Kyle Larson
Kyle Larson broke his Checkers or Wreckers string at Gateway, as he was able both get a great finish and get to *the* finish. Larson battled Kyle Busch for the win late in the going and finished fourth.
6Bubba Wallace
Bubba Wallace's chances of extending his top 10 streak came to an end in the final laps when he suffered a brake rotor failure, sending him into the turn one wall and out of the race. However, the strong performance he was having shouldn't break the momentum he built up from a career-best string of runs in May.
7Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
You really had to feel for Ricky Stenhouse in the final laps at Gateway. Stenhouse was a fixture in the top 10 throughout the day, but his chances of yet another top 10 came to an end when he was collected as an innocent bystander in the Austin Dillon/Austin Cindric incident.
8Christopher Bell
A very nice recovery by Christopher Bell after getting spun in Turn 2. Even on a track where it was difficult to pass, Bell was able to overcome his late race spin and just missed out on a top 10 finish in 11th.
9Ross Chastain
Ross Chastain seemed like he was heading for a solid day inside the top 10, but he slid all the way back to 22nd by the finish. His third-straight finish outside the top 20 ended up costing him the Cup Series points lead.
10Kevin Harvick
Sunday marked Kevin Harvick's last trip to a special place for him, as he won his very first NASCAR Busch Series race at Gateway back in 2000. Harvick closed the book on racing by the arch with a 10th place run.
11Denny Hamlin
After all the drama that surrounded Denny Hamlin following the Coke 600, Gateway was exactly what he and his team needed to move forward. Hamlin had a very nice final restart that earned him a second place finish.
12Joey Logano
After several weeks of having good runs spoiled by late-race accidents, Joey Logano finally put it all together in Gateway. Logano followed up his win in the inaugural Cup race in St. Louis with a third-place finish.
13Chris Buescher
Chris Buescher continues to put solid runs together, as he just missed out on a top 10 finish by running 12th at Gateway. Next up is Sonoma, where Buescher finished second a year ago.
14Tyler Reddick
Turn one proved to be calamity corner at Gateway, and it got Reddick twice. Reddick got spun in that corner on lap 2, and his day came to an end later when he suffered a brake rotor failure entering the corner.
15Austin Dillon
I guess Austin Dillon's frustration with Austin Cindric stems from getting taken out of a top 10 run. But I'm still trying to piece together exactly what Cindric's motive would have been for taking Dillon out on purpose, as Dillon and Richard Childress claims he did.
16Brad Keselowski
Engine issues kept Brad Keselowski from ever being a factor, but he was able to stay in the race and get back on the lead lap by race's end. That perseverance also meant Jordan Dajani made money on his prop bet so good for him I guess.
17AJ Allmendinger
I guess we'll designate A.J. Allmendinger's column as a potential area of growth: Allmendinger has three finishes of 14th in the last four races. Now comes a trip to a road course, where Allmendinger is always a threat to win.
18Justin Haley--The arrow is starting to point up again for Justin Haley, who's putting together the sort of results that resemble what he did for much of 2022. Haley finished 16th at Gateway, just missing out on his third top 15 in a row.
19Daniel Suarez
Daniel Suarez's seventh place run at Gateway helped stem the tide of what's been a disappointing year for him since he began it with three-straight top 10 finishes. Now comes a return trip to Sonoma, where he earned his first career win last year.
20Ty Gibbs
One week after running almost 900 miles, Ty Gibbs had a bit of a quieter day in Gateway compared to his epic Monday of racing. Gibbs spent most of the day in midpack and finished 20th.
21Ryan Preece
After a lot of rotten luck over the first half of the regular season, Ryan Preece is starting to earn some better finishes. Preece had a quiet rally from 29th starting spot to finish 17th at Gateway.
22Corey LaJoie--Corey LaJoie's disappointing run in relief of Chase Elliott reminded me a bit of when Michael McDowell got tabbed to drive the No. 18 for Joe Gibbs Racing when Kyle Busch got parked at Texas in 2011. All the Gibbs cars were off that day and McDowell only finished 33rd, but that didn't mean he wasn't bound for better things.
23Todd Gilliland
Speaking of better things, Todd Gilliland is seemingly bound for them if car owners at larger teams are paying attention. With seven top 15 finishes this year, Gilliland has the No. 38 running the best it ever has.
24Michael McDowell
Michael McDowell looked like he might be in for a long day when he backed it into the turn two wall after contact with Ross Chastain. Instead, tire strategy kept McDowell at the front, allowing him to pick up his second top 10 of the year.
25Austin Cindric
With Rusty Wallace and his beloved old "Midnight" at the track, Austin Cindric and the No. 2 team enjoyed their best run in months at Gateway. Cindric's 13th place finish was his first top 15 since he finished sixth at Circuit of the Americas.
26Aric Almirola
It's not much, but it's something in an otherwise tough year: Aric Almirola's 19th place finish marked his first inside the top 20 since Kansas and only his fifth of the entire year.
27Alex Bowman--Alex Bowman was firmly in the mix for a top 10 finish at Gateway when he suffered what the team said was a transmission issue on the final restart. That knocked Bowman back to a disappointing 26th place outing.
28Harrison Burton
I feel bad putting Harrison Burton as deep as he is this week, because in all honesty he had a solid outing at Gateway. Burton was in the mix in an active scrum of cars in midpack, finishing 23rd by race's end.
29Erik Jones
An 18th place finish was as much as Erik Jones and his team could ask for considering the circumstances. Of greatest concern was front tire changer Thomas Hatcher, who was injured in what looked to be a frightening pit road accident late in the race.
30Ty Dillon
Going to give some love to Ty DIllon this weekend: His No. 77 team is now running Hendrick engines just like Corey LaJoie's team is, and it's starting to yield some better results like a 25th place run on the lead lap at Gateway.