William Byron takes the top spot in the NASCAR Power Rankings after avoiding mistakes in the playoff-opening race at Darlington.
A Hendrick Motorsports teammate also moves up after scoring his 11th top-10 finish of the season.
NBC SPORTS NASCAR POWER RANKINGS
1. William Byron (Last week: 2nd) — On a night where the majority of playoff drivers had issues on the track or on pit road, he recovered from a poor qualifying session. Byron started 23rd and worked his way to a fourth-place finish after scoring points in stage 2. He was one of three Hendrick drivers in the top 10.
2. Martin Truex Jr. (1) — He entered the playoffs tied with Byron for the top spot in the standings. Truex showed speed but fell two laps down after an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel. He finished 18th after getting back on the lead lap but fell to sixth in the standings.
3. Denny Hamlin (3) — He swept two stages while leading 177 laps but fell off the lead lap after an unscheduled stop for a loose wheel. He later was collected in a multi-car incident. Hamlin finished 25th but remains 27 points above the cutline after scoring 20 stage points.
4. Chris Buescher (4) — He entered the playoffs with three wins in five races. He backed up his production by contending for the win at Darlington. Buescher didn’t have the same speed as Kyle Larson and Tyler Reddick at the end but scored a third-place finish. He gained 13 points on the playoff cutline.
5. Kyle Larson (5) — He accomplished a career goal on Sunday night by winning at Darlington Raceway. He added a crown jewel to his trophy collection and punched his ticket to the Round of 12.
6. Brad Keselowski (6) — He finished sixth after scoring seven stage points on an eventful night. A caution with 30 laps to go sent him down pit road and dropped him outside of the top 15. Keselowski used his fresher tires to return to the top 10 before the end of the race and put himself 18 points above the cutline.
7. Bubba Wallace (7) — He dealt with adversity early in the form of a mistake on pit road and a spin on the final lap of stage 1 after contact with Joey Logano. These incidents did not derail his night. Wallace finished seventh. He gained seven points and moved from 16th in the playoff standings to 13th. He is one point below the cutline heading to Kansas — where he won last September.
8. Chase Elliott (9) — He entered last weekend with the goal of moving the No. 9 through the owner championship. He took a step toward that. Elliott scored four stage points and finished eighth. The No. 9 is now 11th in the owner standings with two races remaining in the Round of 16.
9. Kyle Busch (8) — His eventful weekend began with practice when he hit the wall and bent the toe link. He started the playoff race from the rear of the field but scored five points in stage 2. Busch hit the wall again during the race and was involved in a multi-car incident that collected three other playoff drivers. He finished 11th but gained eight points on the cutline.
10. Christopher Bell (10) — The playoff opener was a race to forget for Bell. There were issues on pit stops, hard contact with the wall that led to repairs and a multi-car incident that further damaged the No. 20. Bell finished 23rd after starting from the pole and leading 40 laps. Next up is Kansas, a track where Toyota drivers have won six of the past eight races.