NBC Sports Power Rankings heading to Bristol

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Kyle Busch’s reign as unanimous No. 1 pick in four of the previous five weeks in the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings came to an end this week – but it was close. Busch fell one point short of another sweep as voted by NBC sports writers. Denny Hamlin was the only other driver to be voted for the top spot.

Still, Busch remains No. 1 in the rankings as the Cup series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend, where he’s the defending winner of the Food City 500.

Making the biggest jump this week is Clint Bowyer (from outside last week’s top 10 to No. 7 this week), and Jimmie Johnson moves into the rankings for the first time this season at No. 10. The biggest drop in the rankings was Ryan Blaney, who fell from No. 5 last week to outside the top 10 this week.

Here’s how this week’s Power Rankings look:

1. Kyle Busch (39 points): He slipped up late in the Texas Cup race, but still managed to bring his car home 10th. No one else has finished in the top 10 in every race this year. He’s yet to have an outright bad race. Oh, and he won on Friday and Saturday, again. Last week: 1st.

2. Denny Hamlin (37 points): It was beyond impressive Hamlin was able to win in Texas after a multitude of issues on pit road, including two penalties. His win gives him three top fives in the last four races and he’s yet to finish worse than 11th. Last week: 4th.

(tie) 3. Kevin Harvick (23 points): He may have seemed dismal after finishing eighth at Texas, but he remains one of the most consistent drivers on the circuit this season: he hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since Daytona. That elusive win he’s been searching for will come soon enough – and many more are likely to follow. Last week: 3rd.

(tie) 3. Brad Keselowski (23 points): After an Xfinity DNF and Sunday’s mechanical issues, Keselowski probably wanted to leave Texas quickly. Regardless, he’s still one of the strongest drivers so far this year. Last week: 2nd.

5. Aric Almirola (19 points): Gets a bump up after earning a career-best sixth straight top 10 and doing so while fighting a stomach bug that had him vomiting all night before the race. Could the No. 10 Ford become the lead car for Stewart-Haas Racing? Last week: (tie) 7th.

6. Joey Logano (18 points): Won Stage 1 at Texas before being taken out of contention by a penalty and a bizarre hood malfunction. It’s now on to Bristol, where he has two wins. Last week: 6th.

7. Clint Bowyer (17 points): After starting 25th thanks to Friday’s qualifying controversy, Bowyer had a chance at the win late before his final pit stop. He placed a season-best second and now has consecutive top 10s. Last week: not in top 10

8. Kurt Busch (15 points): Bounced back from a 30th starting spot to place ninth for his fifth top 10 through seven races. Didn’t reach five top 10s in 2018 until race No. 11 at Dover. Is carrying the banner even more for Chip Ganassi Racing with Kyle Larson’s struggles. Last week: 10th.

(tie) 9. Martin Truex Jr. (10 points): Led 10 laps, his most this season, before placing 12th, his first finish outside the top 10 since Daytona. A notch below where he’s been lately, but a top 15 is still solid. Last week: (tie) 7th.

(tie) 9. Jimmie Johnson (10 points): Led most of the first stage and more laps than in his entire 2018 season. Johnson isn’t “back” yet, but he showed a good first step toward it with his first top five in 10 months. Rebounded so well from Martinsville, he gets the nod as this week’s top Hendrick driver. Last week: not in top 10.

Others receiving votes: Ryan Blaney (3 points), Daniel Suarez (3), Chase Elliott (2), William Byron (1).

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