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(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

The 12: NASCAR Power Rankings Hollywood Casino 400 Edition

Denny Hamlin may be having his best year yet. After picking up another victory last weekend at Kansas Speedway, Hamlin has the second-most wins of any driver this season and currently sits third on the playoff grid. Often regarded as the best active driver to not win a championship, can Hamlin finally erase his “bridesmaid” status?

By the slimmest of margins, Chase Elliott somehow found a way to avoid elimination and advance to the Round of 8. Although it has been an up-and-down playoff campaign for Georgia’s favorite son, Elliott will likely need exceptionally solid finishes to advance him to the Championship 4. This may be tough – how many of his nine lives does Elliott have left?

While Elliott’s championship hopes were kept alive at Kansas, the hopes of four others came to an end. After a decent Round of 12, Brad Keselowski‘s came to a screeching halt. Keselowski lost six positions in the final two laps of the Kansas contest, which was the ultimate deciding factor that put his second championship run on hold until 2020. Despite the disappointment, can Keselowski win a race before the season concludes?

Although Kurt Busch finished higher than him, Erik Jones was arguably the best performing non-playoff driver at Kansas. After spending time in the top five for the majority of the event, Jones slipped to seventh on the finishing grid. With four races remaining and a glimmer of speed, can Jones find a way to get back to victory lane?

Questions are mounting as the stars of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series head to Martinsville Speedway this weekend. Before the cars roll onto the Paperclip, our panel of Frontstretch experts were tasked to determine the 12 best drivers in NASCAR currently. After much consideration and deliberation, here are Power Rankings: Kansas.

How the power rankings are calculated: Following the conclusion of each Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, members of a voting panel, including Frontstretch writers and members of accredited media outlets as well as writers from other sites and social media personalities, submit their top 12 drivers for the Power Rankings.

The drivers are then given points based on their ranking by our panelists, with first place getting 12 points, and each subsequent driver getting one fewer point until the 12th-place driver, who gets a single point. Points are then added together, and the rankings are subsequently produced.

Power Rankings: Hollywood Casino 400 Edition

1. Denny Hamlin – 128 Points

First place votes: 8

Last week’s ranking: 1st (No Change)

Although Hamlin led over half of Sunday’s (Oct. 20) Hollywood Casino 400, the 38-year-old had to hold off a tremendous throng of hungry competitors in overtime. With playoff chaos happening in his rearview mirror, Hamlin managed to hang on and claim the victory, and subsequently maintain the top spot of the Power Rankings. Will that continue after Martinsville Speedway?

2. Martin Truex Jr – 109 Points

First place votes: 2

Last week’s ranking: 2nd (No Change)

Although Truex fared much better at Kansas than he did at Talladega Superspeedway, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver had a relatively uneventful and mundane race, despite leading 33 laps. However, Truex has the opportunity to redeem himself this weekend at Martinsville. Yet, redemption may be on his mind as he was bumped out of the lead in the final corner of last year’s event.

3. Kyle Busch – 108 Points

First place votes: 1

Last week’s ranking: 3rd (No Change)

An 18-race winless streak may sound minuscule to most competitors on the MENCS circuit, but that’s not the case for Kyle Busch. Busch has not been to victory lane since his Pocono Raceway triumph in June. In the heat of the playoff battle, Busch needs to find a spark of momentum that can propel him back to victory lane. To make matters worse, he has led only a combined seven laps in the last four races, a season-low for any four-race streak this year. But don’t count out the Candyman. He generally seems to find a way.

4. Kevin Harvick 92 Points

Last week’s ranking: 5th (+1)

Harvick was quiet again this week. Despite starting in the back after being barred from posting a qualifying time due to inspection issues, Harvick slowly worked his way to the top 10, but could never muster up enough speed to get to the leaders. However, he continues to pile up top 10s. In the wise words of Corey Lajoie, it looks as if Harvick might just be stacking pennies and staying humble.

5. Chase Elliott – 88 Points

Last week’s ranking: 9th (+4)

If you are an Elliott fan, you can go ahead and exhale. Yes, the race is over. You can open your eyes.

With the hyperventilating behind him, Elliott looks to find his way back to victory lane at Martinsville. Oh, right, he still needs to find it, because of… well… Hamlin.

Now that all Chase fans are triggered, the son of Awesome Bill from Dawsonville is still alive in the playoffs. That’s good, right?

6. Kyle Larson 74 Points

Last week’s ranking: 4th (-2)

On Sunday, Brett Maher of the Dallas Cowboys became the first NFL kicker to kick three successful field goals from over 60 yards in their career. However, Larson gave Maher a run for his money after a tremendous boot of Joey Gase. Legend has it that Gase is still sailing through the air trying to find the uprights at this moment.

7. Joey Logano 63 Points

Last week’s ranking: 8th (+1)

Gase wasn’t the only one to get kicked at Kansas. Austin Dillon decided to give the kicking thing a try when he booted Logano out of line late in the contest. Logano went sailing through the grass like a 14.5 ounce (unless if you belong to the New England Patriots) pigskin flying through two yellow poles.

Despite the kick, Logano frantically held on to his playoff spot in the next round after some very tense moments.

8. Ryan Blaney – 56 Points

Last week’s ranking: 7th (-1)

Like his Penske teammates Logano and Keselowski, Blaney ran into trouble and finished outside the top 15. At least he had fun.

9. Brad Keselowski – 34 Points

Last week’s ranking: 6th (-3)

Is there anything more aggravating than a nice phisherman? Well, Keselowski seemed to enjoy it.

But that was pretty much all the enjoyment Keselowski experienced in Kansas. He held the final playoff spot for 275 of the 277 laps of the Kansas contest. Unfortunately, Keselowski was passed by Paul Menard, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ryan Preece, Chris Buescher, and Matt DiBenedetto in one single lap (276) before stuffing his Ford into the wall on the final lap. It was not a good day.

10. William Byron – 31 Points

Last week’s ranking: 10th (No Change)

The playoffs have come to an end for Byron. Time to gear up for the annual Hendrick Motorsports Daytona 500 pole celebration, which is scheduled next February. Time to unpack those party hats.

11. Clint Bowyer 25 Points

Last week’s ranking: 11th (No Change)

On this week’s edition of Bowyer’s social media chronicles: a combine, another combine and a brown-eyed race car.

Plus, a moving chicane, a cheap friend, and Bowyer gets beat by a girl in an elementary school wrestling match.

12. Erik Jones – 16 Points

Last week’s ranking: Not Ranked

That Jones boy is still making his presence known.

OTHER DRIVERS WHO RECEIVED VOTES

THIS WEEK’S VOTING PANEL

Adam Cheek@adamncheekFrontstretch
Bryan Davis Keith@bryandaviskeithFrontstretch
Rob Dutzar Jr@rob_dutzarRob’s NASCAR Blog
Zach Gillispie@gillispie_zachFrontstretch
Dan Greene@librarymonkFrontstretch
Godwin Kelly@godwinkellyThe Daytona Beach News-Journal
Mark Kristl@markkristlFrontstretch
Kobe Lambeth@kobelambethKobelambeth.com
Trey Normile@rawgatorytRawGator
Rob Tiongson@robtiongsonThe Podium Finish
Joy Tomlinson@jt_giantsfanFrontstretch

Do you agree with our rankings? Think someone was left out, or that one of the top drivers is overrated? Let us know in the comments, and tell others what your top 12 would be.

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About Zach Gillispie

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A lifelong race fan, Zach Gillispie joined Frontstretch fresh out of high school in the summer of 2018 as a news writer. In addition, Zach coordinates Frontstretch's industry-wide weekly power rankings column. Originally from Charlotte, NC, he resides in western PA with his family. He currently attends Grove City College and is a die-hard fan of the Atlanta Braves. Follow Zach on Twitter @gillispie_zach

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