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NBC Sports Power Rankings heading to Richmond

NASCAR America looks at the playoff leaderboard before Richmond and wonders which teams can challenge Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske.

With his Cup series-leading third win Sunday at Bristol, it’s not surprising that Kyle Busch was a unanimous pick to remain No. 1 in the NBC Sports Power Rankings.

He heads to Richmond Raceway for Saturday night’s Cup race aiming for his third straight win at the .750-mile track and seventh Cup victory there.

The younger Busch brother has now been No. 1 -- either solely or tied for the lead -- the last seven weeks.

Making the biggest jump in this week’s rankings is Kurt Busch, who vaults to No. 3 from No. 8 last week. The biggest drop in the rankings was Aric Almirola, who fell out of the top 10 after being ranked No. 5 last week.

Here’s how this week’s Power Rankings look:

1. Kyle Busch (40 points): Who else are you going to put here? All he does is win, win, win. So cry him a river, OK? Last week: 1st.

2. Denny Hamlin (30 points): Hasn’t finished below seventh in the last five races. Imagine what we’d be saying if he and his team cleaned up their act on pit road? Last week: 2nd.

3. Kurt Busch (29 points): Busch keeps being overshadowed by his younger brother. But with the way he’s been finishing this year, including runner-up to Kyle at Bristol, a win of his own seems right around the corner for the older Busch brother. Last week: 8th.

4. Joey Logano (28 points): Bounced back from dismal outings at Martinsville and Texas to earn fourth top five of the season. The late caution probably robbed him of a win, but it doesn’t diminish how good his team was. Last week: 6th.

5. Ryan Blaney (27 points): Led the most laps in Bristol (158) and earned his fourth top five in the last five races. With tough luck finally fading, now just needs to close out a race for first win. Wins are coming soon. Very soon. Last week: not in top 10.

6. Brad Keselowski (18 points): If it wasn’t for the late restart penalty, he likely would have had a top five, maybe even another win. Last week: 3rd (tie).

7. Clint Bowyer (15 points): After a tough start to the season, the No. 14 seems to have stabilized in playoff territory. Hasn’t won at Richmond since 2012. He’s overdue – and ready. Last week: 7th.

8. Kevin Harvick (12 points): Was frustrated from before the race due to three failed inspections to pit road issues and a car that lacked speed. Still, managed to rally back to salvage a 13th-place finish (second worst showing of the season), when it could have been much worse. Kudos for his perseverance. Last week 3rd (tie)

9. Daniel Suarez (7 points): Bounced back from a mid-race penalty for pitting outside his box to earn his third straight top 10, and Stewart Haas Racing’s second-highest finishing driver at Bristol. Is really starting to fit in well at SHR. Last week: was not in top 10.

10. Jimmie Johnson (5 points): Placed 10th to give him consecutive top 10s for the first time this year. Could a win soon be in the offing (particularly since he’s mired in the longest winless streak of his career: 67 straight races, dating back to June 2017)? Last week: 9th (tie).

Others receiving votes: Aric Almirola (3 points), Ryan Newman (3 points), Christopher Bell (2 points), Chase Elliott (1 point).

Follow @JerryBonkowski