After all three major series enjoyed Easter off, NASCAR is back this weekend with the Cup and Xfinity series both competing at the largest track on the circuit, the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway.
In this week’s NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, Kyle Busch remains a unanimous No. 1. He has now been No. 1 – either solely or tied for the lead – in the last eight weeks (not counting last week’s Power Rankings, which focused on the top organizations).
Making the biggest jump in this week’s rankings is Richmond winner Martin Truex Jr. He went from outside the rankings before Richmond to fourth. The two biggest drops in the rankings are Ryan Blaney and Kurt Busch. Blaney went from fifth to out of the rankings. Busch dropped from third to eighth.
Here’s how this week’s Power Rankings look:
1. Kyle Busch (40 points): We’d be talking about wins in four races if not for a speeding penalty at Richmond. Has finished top 10 in every race this season, only driver who can say that. Also has the most playoff points. Still the top dog. Last week: 1st.
2. Denny Hamlin (35 points): Overcame penalty in inspection at Richmond that forced him to start in the rear. On a night that it was tough to pass, he finished fifth for his sixth top five of the season, tying Kyle Busch for the most this year. Last week: 2nd.
3. Joey Logano (33 points): If he would have had a couple more laps, he may have been able to overtake Truex at Richmond. Has five top fives. He arguably had the car to win at both Bristol and Richmond and will likely have one of the cars to beat in Talladega. Last week: 4th.
4. Martin Truex Jr. (25 points): Put on the drive of his career in Richmond and got win No. 1 at Joe Gibbs Racing and his first on a short track (after 80 tries). Just in time with a superspeedway (not Truex’s strong suit) looming. Last week: not ranked
5. Clint Bowyer (23 points): Driver that has maybe shown the most improvement over nine races. He hasn’t finished worse than seventh in the last four races and has been in contention to win for the last three. He’s no slouch at Talladega. Last week: 7th.
6. Kevin Harvick (20 points): Steady progress but still looking for a win. All of Harvick’s four top fives this year have been in fourth place. The 30 laps he led in Richmond were his first since Las Vegas. Last week: 8th.
7. Brad Keselowski (17 points): Has had some struggles of late, with only one top 10 (seventh, Richmond) in the three races since his Martinsville win. Typically does well at ‘Dega. Can he survive the usual carnage and be the best to adapt to tapered spacers instead of restrictor plates? Last week: 6th.
8. Kurt Busch (15 points): Remains the most consistent Chevy driver through nine races, with just one finish outside 12th this year. Returns to Talladega looking for revenge: He was one lap away from winning there last year until he ran out of gas. Last week: 3rd.
9. Ryan Newman (8 points): Quietly outrunning teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at Roush Fenway Racing. Coming off season-best, back-to-back ninth-place finishes and heads to Talladega, where he’s always competitive (unless caught up in a wreck). Last week: Outside the top 10 (tied for 11th).
10. Jimmie Johnson (4 points): Team seems to have stabilized after Martinsville debacle. He’s been the top Hendrick driver in each of the past three races. But he’s still staring at a 68-race winless streak, the longest of his illustrious career. Can he finally snap it at ‘Dega, where he has two wins and seven top 10s? Last week: 10th.
Others receiving votes: None