NASCAR Power Rankings: Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson rise after Kansas duel

NASCAR Power Rankings: Hamlin, Larson rise after Kansas duel originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Sunday’s AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway delivered the battle of the season so far – on and off the track.

Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin, two future Hall of Famers, duked it out for the final 30 laps with the Joe Gibbs Racing veteran outdueling the Hendrick Motorsports star on a last-lap bump and run for the win. It was the 49th victory of Hamlin’s career, but his first in 33 races.

Action heated up on pit road, too, as Ross Chastain punched Noah Gragson in a post-race fight.

After a hectic race at Kansas, the Cup Series will visit Darlington Raceway next Sunday for its annual throwback weekend. Before we move on to Darlington, here’s our latest NASCAR power rankings:

1. Kyle Larson

Last week: 2

He might not have consistent finishes from week to week this season, but no one is a bigger threat to win every Sunday than Larson. The 2021 champion masterfully held off Hamlin throughout the final run until the very last lap, when the No. 11 bumped the No. 5. Larson still held on to finish second after hitting the wall, but his team was obviously irritated with the move:

2. William Byron

Last week: 1

Byron went through it all on Sunday. He started on the pole, hit the wall in the early laps and sped on pit road to fall three laps down in a disaster Stage 1. Throughout the rest of the race, Byron methodically worked his way back into the mix and briefly led in the final stage before finishing third.

3. Ross Chastain

Last week: 4

Another week, another controversy for Chastain. After run-ins with nearly every driver in the field over the past few years, Gragson finally made things physical off the track. Once again, though, Chastain came out on the better end of things. He threw the only punch of the fight that connected after finishing fifth and extending his points standings lead.

4. Denny Hamlin

Last week: 6

A few weeks ago, Hamlin boasted about how he was about to turn things around. The season didn’t start off well, but there was a good stretch of tracks coming up for the No. 11 team, he claimed. Well, Hamlin’s now rattled off three top-fives in his last four races after Sunday’s win. And don’t look now, but Darlington is one of his best tracks (four wins, 7.5 average finish).

5. Christopher Bell

Last week: 3

While Hamlin is on an upward trajectory, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate has been scuffling a bit since he won at Bristol. In the last four races, Bell has a 16.5 average finish. He has two top-10s over that span, but he crashed out at Kansas. It’s been especially discouraging because his teammates have won the last two weeks while Bell’s been a step behind.

6. Martin Truex Jr.

Last week: 8

Truex is starting to heat up. The 42-year-old veteran followed up his Dover win by finishing eighth at Kansas. He led 79 laps and appeared to have a car capable of winning before he faded in the final stage. Still, it was Truex’s fourth top-10 in the last five races.

7. Tyler Reddick

Last week: 7

The fourth straight Toyota driver in the power rankings, Reddick had a productive day in Kansas. He finished ninth and led 23 laps while scoring seven stage points. Keep an eye on the No. 45 next week, as Reddick finished second and third in the two races at Darlington last year.

8. Kevin Harvick

Last week: 5

Make it four consecutive weeks finishing outside the top-10 for Harvick – his longest such streak since last summer. He was 11th at Kansas, but he ran slightly worse than that for most of the race. The 2014 champion needs a little bit more speed from his Stewart-Haas Racing cars if he hopes to win in his final season before retirement.

9. Joey Logano

Last week: 10

It took some strategy for Logano to secure the Stage 2 win at Kansas. Once he got the track position though, he was able to maintain it and finish sixth. The Fords are behind the Chevys and Toyotas, but Logano and his team made the most of the situation on Sunday.

10. Kyle Busch

Last week: 9

Outside of his two wins, Busch’s first season at Richard Childress Racing has quietly been a struggle. In his last six races, Busch has five finishes outside the top 10 and four finishes outside the top 20 – including 35th after wrecking at Kansas. The wins will put him in the playoffs, but it could be an early exit if RCR doesn’t find more consistency.

First four out: Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Chris Buescher