Monday, February 25, 2013
By Ryan McGee
ESPN The Magazine
2013 Power Rankings: Phoenix
Each week of the Sprint Cup season, ESPN The Magazine's Ryan McGee ranks the top 20 drivers in the series. Last week's rankings are in parentheses, as are the top-10s.
Don't agree with McGee's list? Let him -- and the rest of the world -- know in the conversation section at the bottom of the page. But remember, make your mama proud.
New this week
Mark Martin, up 11 spots from 18th to seventh.
Kasey Kahne, down 10 spots, from third to 13th.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Michael McDowell, J.J. Yeley, Bobby Labonte, Tim Flock
No. 1. Jimmie Johnson
Throughout Speedweeks he quietly conducted a personal R&D session, figuring out what moves would work and when. We saw those moves materialize when it mattered most.
No. 2. Brad Keselowski
For my postrace Instant Analysis piece I had originally included BK in the list of guys who were knocked out of contention in the first big wreck. Then I looked up and he was leading with 10 laps to go!
No. 3. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Yes, Junior Nation is bummed after another Daytona runner-up finish. But yes, they should be excited about his feel for the new cars, the return of pack drafting, and the pep in his post-concussion step.
No. 4. Greg Biffle
If I was racing at Daytona I would find The Biff and stick him right on my back bumper. He is the pusher of champions. One of six drivers to post top-10s in both Phoenix races last year.
No. 5. Clint Bowyer
Lost the handle on what looked like sure a top-10 during the crazy final-lap scramble, but still hung onto 11th. Certainly did nothing during Speedweeks that would indicate a post-2012 letdown.
No. 6. Matt Kenseth
My prerace pick was the car to beat, leading 86 of 200 laps. Unfortunately for the defending 500 champ, the car beat itself. Finished an oddly generic 13th and 14th at Phoenix last year.
No. 7. Mark Martin
Let me repeat: Greatest. Part-time. Employee. Ever. That he hit it off so well with 50 Cent is just another load of kindling on an already raging bonfire of cool. Also had 2 PIR top-10s in '12.
No. 8. Denny Hamlin
Hambone's post-race Tweet to Keselowski: "I couldn't get close to you cuz your genius teammate was too busy messing up the inside line 1 move at a time". More on this shortly.
No. 9. Jeff Gordon
Dominated the first, long conga line stanza of the race, but vanished in the closing laps. Finished eighth at Phoenix one year ago, then had his little fender bender with Bowyer in the fall race.
No. 10. Danica Patrick
Do I expect this lofty ranking to last? No. But any rookie that wins the pole and posts the second-highest Driver Rating of the day -- no matter star power or gender -- deserves to be here.
No. 11. Ryan Newman
Trails only Keselowski in the Made Chicken Salad From You-Know-What standings. He's solid on the flat tracks, winning at Martinsville last spring and finishing fifth at Phoenix last fall.
No. 12. Kyle Busch
When the 18 car pulled off the track, was that not one of the strangest pit scenes ever? "What do we do now?" "Hell, I dunno." His Phoenix win came way back in '05, but he finished sixth and third in '12.
No. 13. Kasey Kahne
There was some serious prerace buzz in the garage on Sunday morning about Ol' Blue Eyes and his Daytona chances, but that was undone by the big wreck on lap 33.
No. 14. Kevin Harvick
CTL+C what I just said about Kahne right here.
No. 15. Tony Stewart
No. 16. Joey Logano
In case you were wondering exactly who it was that Hamlin was Tweeting about, here's JoLo's response: "I Remember when you were MY genius teammate. #LoveYouMeanIt"
No. 17. Aric Almirola
Starting just his second fulltime season, Almirola is becoming very good at quietly showing up inside the top 15 at race's end. Not surprisingly, last year's Phoenix finishes were 12th and 16th.
No. 18. Carl Edwards
This poor guy has had five Daytona wrecks since January, none his fault. I hope someone followed him from the racetrack over to the airport to make sure no one spun out his rental car.
No. 19. Martin Truex Jr.
After a very generic Speedweeks, expect a rebound at Phoenix. One year ago he led 29 laps and finished seventh, the run that kick-started a great first half of the season.
No. 20. Regan Smith
Smith makes the cut as the representative for all the "Little Guys" who had solid Daytona showings. The top 17 finishers included six such teams.