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NASCAR Power Rankings: Kyle Larson holds on to No. 1

After 26 races, it’s time to begin the Cup playoffs. Leading the way into Sunday’s Southern 500 playoff opener at Darlington Raceway (6 p.m. ET on NBCSN) will be Kyle Larson. He’s the regular season champ and retains the No. 1 spot in this week’s NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.

The action at Daytona International Speedway shuffled this week’s top 10. Daytona winner Ryan Blaney continues his climb and moves into the top three. New to this week’s top 10 is Kaulig Racing’s AJ Allmendinger.

NASCAR Power Rankings after Daytona

1. Kyle Larson (Last week: No. 1) — Finished 20th at Daytona but that was more than enough to clinch the title for the regular season. He has 52 playoff points, more than any driver. He enters the playoffs as the No. 1 seed and holds a 28-point lead on second place.

2. Chase Elliott (Last week: No. 3) — His eighth-place finish at Daytona is his sixth top 10 in the last seven races. He also has led laps in six of the last seven races.

3. Ryan Blaney (Last week: No. 5) — Won the last two races of the regular season, scoring 10 playoff points. He finished in the top two in the last three races. That surge helped him climb from eighth to sixth in the season standings, allowing him to collect two additional playoff points.

4. Kyle Busch (Last week: No. 4) — Ends regular season with nine top 10s in the last 13 races.

5. Denny Hamlin (Last week: No. 2) — Ends regular season winless. Placed 13th at Daytona. He’s finished 13th or worse in three of the last six races.

6. Kurt Busch (Last week: No. 7) — Placed 12th or better in five of the last seven races of the regular season.

7. Christopher Bell (Last week: No. 6) — Scored four top 10s in the last seven races of the regular season.

8. Matt DiBenedetto (Last week: No. 8) — Had six finishes of 11th or better in the last seven races of the regular season but still missed the playoffs.

9. Martin Truex Jr. (Last week: No. 9) — Scored three wins by Mother’s Day but had only four top 10s in the last 10 races of the regular season.

10. AJ Allmendinger (Last week: Unranked) — It has been quite a run for Allmendinger. He finished second in the Xfinity race on the Indy road course and then won the Cup race the next day. He followed that by winning the Xfinity race at Michigan. Last weekend at Daytona, he finished second to teammate Justin Haley.

Dropped out: William Byron (Last week: No. 10)