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NASCAR Power Rankings: Race for No. 1 spot heating up

Brad Keselowski passes Matt DiBenedetto on the final lap of OT to win the NASCAR Cup race at Talladega. His 6th win at the track ties him with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon for second-most wins at the Superspeedway.

Denny Hamlin remains No. 1 in this week’s NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, but William Byron is closing the gap after finishing second last weekend at Talladega.

Talladega winner Brad Keselowski returns to the top 10, and Matt DiBenedetto makes his first appearance in this season’s NASCAR Power Rankings.

NASCAR Power Rankings after Talladega

1. Denny Hamlin (Last week: No. 1) — Retains No. 1 spot despite finishing 32nd at Talladega after two speeding penalties and damage in a crash. But Talladega was only the second time in 10 races he’s finished behind William Byron. Even with the Talladega finish, Hamlin’s average finish this year is 7.0; Byron’s average finish is 10.3. Hamlin has led a series-high 737 laps (26.5% of all the Cup laps run this year); Byron has led 150 laps. That’s why Hamlin remains No. 1 over Byron this week.

2. William Byron (Last week: No. 3) — Runner-up finish marked his eighth consecutive top 10 finish, something that hasn’t been done at Hendrick Motorsports since Dale Earnhardt Jr. did it between Oct. 2013 and March 2014.

3. Martin Truex Jr. (Last week: No. 2) — Finished 31st at Talladega. Has six top-10 finishes — including two wins — in the last eight races.

4. Ryan Blaney (Last week: No. 6) — Ninth-place Talladega result is his seven consecutive finish of 11th or better. The 42 points he scored Sunday tied for third highest in the race with Matt DiBenedetto, who won a stage.

5. Joey Logano (Last week: No. 4) — Hit from behind, triggering a crash that sent him in the air and upside down. Expressed his frustration with the racing after the accident. His 39th-place finish ended a streak of three finishes of sixth or better.

6. Christopher Bell (Last week: No. 8) — Finished 17th at Talladega. That was best result for a Toyota driver. Has scored points in five of the last six stages.

7. Brad Keselowski (Last week: Unranked) — Talladega victory snapped streak of four finishes outside the top 10.

8. Kyle Larson (Last week: No. 5) — Engine woes ended his race after three laps at Talladega. He has two finishes in the last four races outside the top 20. For the season, he has one win, four top fives and has led 379 laps.

9. Alex Bowman (Last week: No. 7) — Followed his Richmond victory by placing 38th because of crash damage at Talladega.

10. Kevin Harvick (Last week: No. 10) — Fourth-place finish is his seventh top 10 this season. It also ties his best finish of the year. He also placed fourth in the Daytona 500.

Dropped out: Kyle Busch (No. 9)