No one was going to take the win away from Martin Truex Jr. last weekend at Darlington Raceway, and no one was going to knock him off the No. 1 spot in the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.
Might he be No. 1 for the next several weeks? Consider:
# The series goes to Dover this weekend. Truex has finished in the top two in each of the last four races there.
# The series races at Circuit of the Americas for the first time on May 23. Truex, who has four career road course wins, was among the three drivers who did the Goodyear tire test there in March.
# Cup races May 30 in the Coca-Cola 600. Truex has won three of the last eight oval races at Charlotte.
# The series races at Sonoma on June 6. Truex has won the last two Cup races there.
So, who will knock Truex off the top spot?
Power Rankings after Darlington
1. Martin Truex Jr. (Last week: No. 1) — Scores third win of the season and does it in dominating style, leading 84.6% of the laps. Said Truex after the race about his competitors: “There’s so much data and analysis available today, you can’t get away with anything. Like they’ll all be looking at what I did all day today throughout the summer until we come back here.” His three wins are all at playoff tracks: Darlington (playoff opener), Martinsville (sets Championship 4 field) and Phoenix (championship race).
2. William Byron (Last week: No. 2) — Finished fourth to score his 10th consecutive top-10 finish. The last time it happened at Hendrick Motorsports was 2007 and Byron would not turn 10 until after that season. He has an average finish of 5.2 in the last five races. He has three top-five finishes in the last five races.
3. Denny Hamlin (Last week: No. 3) — His fifth-place finish at Darlington is his ninth top five in 12 races this year, but he seeks his first win of the season. Hamlin describes not wining this way: “If you flip a coin like 50,000 times. Half the times it’s going to be tails. Half of it is going to be heads. For us, the first 11 races, we’ve had heads and its flipped tails. Eventually, the odds start coming back to you.”
4. Ryan Blaney (Last week: No. 4) — His eighth-place finish at Darlington is his sixth finish of 11th or better in the last seven races. He’s also scored points in 14 of the last 16 stages.
5. Kyle Larson (Last week: No. 6) — Darlington runner-up finish broke streak of three consecutive finishes outside the top 10. After not scoring points in seven of eight stages, Larson has had points in each of the last four stages.
6. Kyle Busch (Last week: No. 9) — His third-place finish gives him four top 10s in the last five races, including his Kansas win. He has led a lap in each of the last four races. He never led more than four races in a row last season.
7. Kevin Harvick (Last week: No. 8) — He finished sixth at Darlington for his ninth top 10 of the season. Harvick has finished sixth or better in each of the last three races
8. Joey Logano (Last week: No. 7) — Pit road speeding penalty ended any hope for a top-five finish at Darlington. He crossed the finish line 13th. After a stretch of three top 10s in a row, Logano has gone three consecutive races without a top 10.
9. Brad Keselowski (Last week: No. 5) — Rough day at Darlington. He finished three laps behind the leaders in 24th. He has two top-10 finishes in the last seven races. Keselowski does have five top-five finishes this season and that is tied for second this season, trailing only Denny Hamlin’s total of nine.
10. Chris Buescher (Last week: Unranked) — Climbs into the top 10 after back-to-back top-10 finishes. He placed eighth at Kansas and ninth at Darlington. He ran in the top 15 in 95.2% of the laps at Darlington. He had back-to-back top 10s only twice last season.
Dropped out: Christopher Bell (No. 10)