Monday, March 4, 2013
By Ryan McGee
ESPN The Magazine
2013 Power Rankings: Las Vegas
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
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jeff Burton, AJ Allmendinger
Martin Truex Jr., Danica Patrick, Regan Smith
Carl Edwards moved up 14 spots from 18th to fourth.
Kyle Busch moved down six spots from 12th to 18th.
Paul Menard, Juan Pablo Montoya, Marcos Ambrose, Lloyd Ruby
No. 1. Jimmie Johnson
Folks rolled their eyes when Five-Time said he'd entered Saturday's Nationwide race to see what he could learn for Sunday. But after a miserable experience on the new PIR last fall, he finished second.
No. 2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Memo to all green lizards in the desert around Phoenix: Don't expect Junior fans to swerve to keep from running you over this week. Forward all complaints to your cousin, the Geico gecko.
No. 3. Brad Keselowski
What kind of crazy upside-down world are we living in when Bad Brad is pushing Cousin Carl to a win?
No. 4. Carl Edwards
During his 70-race drought Cuz was passed for the lead in the race's final lead change three different times. You really think he wasn't going to pull out all the stops on those final restarts?
No. 5. Clint Bowyer
While his Toyota teammates have ridden a performance roller coaster, Bowyer has fielded two very strong cars two weeks in a row. After early Vegas struggles he has three top-10s over his past four starts.
No. 6. Denny Hamlin
To those fans who have expressed concern that Hambone will lose his edge because of his new fatherhood, let me present to you his banzai move on the white-flag lap.
No. 7. Matt Kenseth
If life were fair, Kenseth, who had the strongest car in the first half of the Daytona 500, would be the fourth driver with two top-10s. Then again, if life were fair, I'd be writing this from my Cessna Citation X.
No. 8. Greg Biffle
The Biff led 39 laps, but settled for 17th after a pair of Phoenix top-10s in 2012. Amazingly, he has never won at the Roush Fenway playground of Las Vegas, but did finish third there one year ago.
No. 9. Jeff Gordon
Was it a win? No. But considering how he left Phoenix last fall, he'll take his ninth-place finish and quietly head up to Vegas. He does have an LVMS win, but that was back in '01. He finished 12th in '12.
No. 10. Mark Martin
Another member of the Great Run That Looked Like It Was Going To Be Followed By Another Great Run But Wasn't Club. Won the inaugural Las Vegas race in 1998.
No. 11. Tony Stewart
Smoke is in the other big group, the Should Have Had A Better Daytona Finish Than He Did But Followed It Up With A Solid Phoenix Run Club. He's the defending Vegas race champ.
No. 12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Look who's ninth in points with finishes of 12th and 16th on the year. OK, actually he's tied for ninth ...
No. 13. Aric Almirola
... with this guy, who is bringing back Petty Blue in quiet style with finishes of 13th and 15th.
No. 14. Kevin Harvick
Had a car that could have won at Daytona, but was kept from giving it a shot because of a crash. Had a car that could have won at Phoenix, but faded to 13th. The Closer is having trouble, well, closing.
No. 15. Kasey Kahne
Why don't I feel the same level of concern about Kahne, ranked 31st in points, that I do about others in a similar slide? You do remember last year, don't you? He was 31st after two races then, too.
No. 16. Ryan Newman
Any missed win at a flat track feels like a huge loss for Newman. Pretty good chance for a rebound at Vegas, where he has finished fifth and fourth over the past two years.
No. 17. Joey Logano
Someone was bound to lose big when fuel mileage crept into the equation and indeed someone did. He's a good Vegas qualifier, with an average start of 10th, but has only one top-10 in four tries.
No. 18. Kyle Busch
It's becoming impossible not to bring up last year, when he started the season with three bad finishes in four races and missed the Chase. Since his hometown Vegas win in '09 he has finishes of 15th, 38th and 23rd.
No. 19. Jeff Burton
Burton's two-race '13 has been his two-race '12 in reverse. There was a time when he could drive Vegas with his eyes closed, but his past three finishes have been a so-so 11th, 21st and 14th.
No. 20. AJ Allmendinger
Last year it got to where every week I was just swapping out whatever driver had just been behind the wheel of the 55 car. Regan Smith was here last week. Now The Dinger. Is the 51 the new 55?