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NASCAR Power Rankings: Win moves Denny Hamlin to No. 1

Denny Hamlin holds off Kyle Larson down the stretch to win the NASCAR Cup Series playoff opener at Darlington Raceway to advance to the Round of 12.

Denny Hamlin’s win in the playoff opener last weekend vaults him to the No. 1 spot in this week’s NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.

There’s much movement in this week’s rankings because of the emphasis on playoff results. Last weekend’s race at Darlington Raceway saw several playoff drivers have poor finishes, shuffling the top 10.

NASCAR Power Rankings after Darlington

1. Denny Hamlin (Last week: No. 5) — To the winner go the spoils. After going winless in the regular season, he opens the playoffs by leading 146 laps to take the checkered flag in the Southern 500.

2. Kyle Larson (Last week: No. 1) — He made the last lap memorable with his “video game” move to try to pass Denny Hamlin for the win. Runner-up finish puts him in a comfortable spot to advance to the next round.

3. Martin Truex Jr. (Last week: No. 9) — Had a fast car but pit road speeding penalty proved to be his undoing. Still managed a top-five finish and showed how much of a title threat he can be.

4. Kurt Busch (Last week: No. 6) — Placed sixth at Darlington, giving him five finishes of sixth or better in the last eight races. Good start to the playoffs for this Chip Ganassi Racing team.

5. Kevin Harvick (Last week: Unranked) — Placed fifth at Darlington to snap a streak of three finishes outside the top 10. Team has struggled with the balance of the car much of the season but it was good at times in Sunday’s race. That could be a good sign for upcoming races

6. Ross Chastain (Last week: Unranked) — Placed third at Darlington. His three top-five finishes have all come in the last 14 races.

7. Chase Elliott (Last week: No. 2) — Saw his race end after hitting the wall. Had been a steady presence in the top 10 before the incident. Reigning Cup champion will look for a better result this weekend at Richmond

8. Joey Logano (Last week: Unranked) — Finished eighth at Darlington to snap a four-race streak of finishes outside the top 20.

9. Brad Keselowski (Last week: Unranked) — Didn’t run well much of the night but ran a clean race. With others having problems, Keselowski finished with a seventh-place result.

10. Ryan Blaney (Last week: No. 3) — Scored stage points but a pit road penalty and a spin led to a 22nd-place finish at Darlington.

Dropped out: Kyle Busch (No. 4), Christopher Bell (No. 7), Matt DiBenedetto (No. 8), AJ Allmendinger (No. 10)