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NBC Sports Power Rankings heading to Las Vegas

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 61st Annual Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 17: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Chocolate Bar Toyota, during driver introductions before the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 61st Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2019 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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Denny Hamlin is out, and Kyle Busch is in – in first place for this week’s NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, that is – heading into Sunday’s race at Busch’s home track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Busch was unanimously selected by NBC Sports’ NASCAR Talk writers for the top spot, while Daytona 500 winner Hamlin dropped to fifth.

Brad Keselowski, who didn’t receive any votes in last week’s Power Rankings, vaults to the No. 2 spot after winning the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway -- and while battling flu-like symptoms, no less.

Other notable jumps: Kevin Harvick (from ninth to third this week), Kyle Larson (zero votes last week to fourth) and Martin Truex Jr. (zero votes to sixth this week).

Dropping out of this week’s Power Rankings: Jimmie Johnson, Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Preece, Ross Chastain and William Byron.

Here are this week’s Power Rankings:

1. Kyle Busch (40 points): One of two drivers to finish in the top 10 in this season’s first two races. At Atlanta, he overcame a cut tire and had to navigate through the field in the new rules package to finish sixth.

2. Brad Keselowski (33 points): Racing while sick is one thing; winning while sick – particularly with having to race 500 miles – is a major accomplishment.

3. Kevin Harvick (26 points): Take away a wreck that wasn’t his fault at Daytona, and the Stewart-Haas Racing driver would be in the top two.

4. Kyle Larson (25 points): Having the strongest car at Atlanta could bode well for the future, but Las Vegas will be a better indicator of his speed.

5. Denny Hamlin (21 points): With a win at Daytona and 11th at Atlanta, he’s off to a strong start for 2019. Can he continue his success during the three-race West Coast swing?

6. Martin Truex Jr. (19 points): In his second race with Joe Gibbs Racing, Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn showed they haven’t lost a step, at least when it comes to 1.5-mile tracks, placing second to Keselowski. Without lapped cars, maybe Truex is higher on this list.

7. Erik Jones (17 points): One of only two drivers (Kyle Busch is the other) to finish in the top 10 in each of the first two races: third at Daytona and seventh at Atlanta.

(tie) 8. Christopher Bell (10 points): With Daytona behind him, Bell picked up where he left off in 2018, leading all but 21 laps in the Xfinity race and sweeping every stage on his way to the win.

(tie) 8. Joey Logano (10 points): Mistakes and miscalculations held this team back at Atlanta.

10. Aric Almirola (8 points): Earned his first pole since 2012 and led 36 laps in the first stage before a speeding penalty dropped him deep into the field. Unlike Kyle Larson, he was able to get back into the top 10 before the end of the race, placing eighth.

Others receiving votes: Clint Bowyer (6 points), Chris Buescher (3 points), Kurt Busch (2 points) and Chase Elliott (1 point).