But fear not Hamlin fans. Your driver didn’t fall far. He drops to second place, three points behind his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate in the weekly voting of NBC Sports’ NASCAR writers.
As for the other JGR driver still in the playoffs, Kyle Busch, he plummets from second to 10th this week. But at least he’s not like Chase Elliott, who fell out of this week’s rankings after being third last week.
The biggest gainer is William Byron (eighth last week to third this week).
Here are the power rankings ahead of Sunday’s Round of 8 playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN):
1. Martin Truex Jr. (39 points). Had never won a short track race in Cup before this year. Now has three wins. And also has three wins in the playoffs. 3 + 3 = No. 1 in the rankings. Last week: Fourth.
2. Denny Hamlin (36 points). Could the championship come down to a battle between the two Joe Gibbs Racing teammates? It’s sure starting to look like that. Last week: First.
3. William Byron (30 points). If he had just a couple more laps or a slightly faster car, Byron might have earned his first Cup career win at Martinsville. Don’t be surprised if he wins one of the three remaining races this season – he’s ready. Last week: Eighth.
4. Ryan Blaney (24 points). Fifth-place finish gave him three top fives at short tracks this season. Last week: Ninth (tied).
5. Kevin Harvick (23 points). Has been kind of quiet of late but could generate a lot of noise in the next two races at two of his favorite race tracks. Last week: Fifth.
6. Joey Logano (14 points). Given the number of confrontations with other drivers he’s had this season – as well as with Denny Hamlin throughout his career – karma may be harder to beat than all his rivals. Last week: Ninth (tied).
7. Brad Keselowski (13 points). Showed he still has a lot of gas left in his tank despite no longer being in contention for the championship. Could still be a dangerous spoiler for remaining title contenders. Last week: Unranked.
(tie) 8. Kurt Busch (11 points). Who would have thought he’d be ranked higher in this week’s rankings than his little brother? Even though he’s no longer in the playoffs, he’s driving like he still is. Like Keselowski, could be a dark horse in the remaining three races. Last week: Unranked.
(tie) 9. Kyle Larson (11 points). Scoring nine points in Stage 2 at Martinsville helped take the sting away from a rough race and ninth-place finish. Last week: Seventh.
10. Kyle Busch (8 points). Has he smiled once since the playoffs began? An even better question: Could anyone have expected that the regular season champ would fall this far? Last week: Second.
- Kyle Busch is scheduled to be on NASCAR America’s MotorMouths from 5-6 p.m. ET today on NBCSN.