Denny Hamlin had been ranked No. 1 in the last five NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings – but no more.
After Sunday’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, there’s a new No. 1 in this week’s Power Rankings. In fact, there are two new No. 1s – and they’re both named Kyle.
Former No. 1 Kyle Busch is back on top, tied for the lead spot with the other Kyle in Cup, Kyle Larson. In the last Power Rankings, two weeks ago after the race at Bristol, the younger Busch brother was ranked No. 4, while Larson was No. 5.
There are three ties among six drivers in the overall 10 drivers in this week’s rankings.
Suffering the biggest drop is Chase Elliott, who went from No. 3 (tied) to unranked this week. And in a surprising twist, even though he did well at Darlington, Matt DiBenedetto still plunged from No. 2 after Bristol to No. 7 this week.
Here’s how this week’s power rankings look:
1. Kyle Busch (36 points): Clinching regular season title and third at Darlington puts him back on top. Last week: third (tied).
1. Kyle Larson (36 points): Just needs a victory to validate his team’s playoff surge. Last week: fifth.
3. Erik Jones (31 points): Southern 500 win and clinched playoff spot caps off strong second half. Has five top fives in last seven races. Not bad when you can say your first two Cup wins came at Daytona and Darlington. Last week: Unranked.
4. Denny Hamlin (23 points): Was collected in crash at Darlington and finished 29th. Still, six top-five finishes in the last seven races, including two wins, isn’t too shabby. Last week: First.
4. Kevin Harvick (23 points): Fourth-place Darlington run was his sixth top 10 in the last seven races, including two wins. Last week: Seventh.
6. Brad Keselowski (20 points): Continues with workmanlike performances. It almost seems like he’s simply biding his time until the playoffs – and then watch out. Last week: Sixth.
7. Matt DiBenedetto (18 points): Man, will someone please hire the guy for next season? Last week: Second.
8. Kurt Busch (13 points): While he could be a major player in the playoffs, there’s still no official word on Busch’s status for next year. Last week: Unranked.
8. Clint Bowyer (13 points): Swung back to the positive side of the cutoff line with a hard-fought sixth-place finish. Has to stay out of trouble in Indy, lest he come up short and miss the playoffs. Last week: 10th.
10. Chris Buescher (3 points): 12th-place finish at Darlington gives him 14 straight finishes of 18th or better as JTG Daugherty shows steady improvement. Last week: Unranked.
Others receiving votes: Daniel Suarez (2 points).