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Monday, March 18, 2013
Power Rankings

By Ryan McGee
ESPN The Magazine

2013 Power Rankings: California

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

Brian Vickers, Kurt Busch

Dropped out

Mark Martin, Aric Almirola

Biggest mover

Brian Vickers goes from unranked to 11th.

Biggest losers

Tony Stewart falls four spots, from eighth to 12th.

Also considered

Casey Mears, Marcos Ambrose, J.J. Yeley, Jack Smith

No. 1. Brad Keselowski

Again, no win. But he continues to punch out top-5 finishes -- he's the only guy with four in four races -- the wins will be inevitable.

No. 2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Battled hard to finish sixth. Moving up to second in points is important, but not as important as being 42 points ahead of 11th. As he said Friday: "Not having to worry about making the Chase all summer is huge."

No. 3. Jimmie Johnson

When it comes to bad days, a melted bead is hard to beat. Say that 48 times fast.

No. 4. Clint Bowyer

Late in the race, he rode behind Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin for a while because he thought they might get into it on track. Then he screamed to fans over the Jumbotron that they were. In the garage.

No. 5. Carl Edwards

Finished 18th and was never a factor. I wasn't surprised. I saw him that morning and he was sick. If super fitness dude looks sick, then he must really be sick. He won at Auto Club Speedway back in '08.

No. 6. Kasey Kahne

Jack man Trey Burklin played basketball at Miami. On Sunday the 'Canes won the ACC Tournament and Burklin's team won at Bristol. Coincidence? Let'say no.

No. 7. Kyle Busch

Got his 13th career Bristol win on Saturday and seemed destined for the 14th on Sunday, but was undone by a pit road speeding penalty. Still, second isn't bad at all. Won at Fontana way back in '05 with Hendrick.

No. 8. Matt Kenseth

Yes, he has the Vegas win. He also had cars that could've won at Daytona and Bristol and finished 37th and 35th. Neither was his fault, but this isn't an essay contest. He's a two-time Fontana winner.

No. 9. Greg Biffle

The Biff was bleh at Bristol. The time is now for him to make a statement on what this season is going to be. He won at Fontana in '05 and nearly won four more. The other 13 starts weren't so good.

No. 10. Denny Hamlin

You gotta give it up for Hambone. A guy with only one top-10 finish and no wins is lapping the field when it comes to making headlines.

No. 11. Brian Vickers

Wait, what? How can Vickers be in this spot when he wasn't even in this car last week? Because the car was here without him. He just managed to keep on keeping on where Mark Martin left off.

No. 12. Tony Stewart

During the lengthy prerace festivities he kept saying "When are we going to finally start the damn race?" Apparently some East Tennessee mountain man took offense to it and shot out one of his tires.

No. 13. Jeff Gordon

He swung and missed at Vegas. He swung and hit at Bristol. Then Bristol hit back. He won three of the first eight Fontana races, but is 0-for-15 since.

No. 14. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

He keeps slotting some-teen finishes, just as you'd want any solid rookie to do in the first half of a freshman campaign. His "close friend?" Not so much.

No. 15. Kevin Harvick

He ran much better than his 14th-place finish would suggest, a recurring theme this year. He's still stuck back in 17th in points. He's been money on his home track, with five straight top-10's.

No. 16. Paul Menard

The good news for Menard is that he was the leader of the RCR stable at Bristol. The bad news for RCR is that Menard was the leader of their stable at Bristol.

No. 17. Joey Logano

Don't look now, but Sliced Bread is getting tough. And he's also 12th in points.

No. 18. Martin Truex Jr.

After finishes of eighth and 12th, this 2012 Chaser is quietly recovering from a brutal start and sliding back up the standings. He'd been forgettable at Fontana for four years before finishing eighth last year.

No. 19. Jamie McMurray

I'll be honest. When Jamie Mac wrecked early, I quit paying attention to him. A few hours later I looked at the box score and went, "He finished 10th?!" Has five Fontana top-10's, but none since February '06.

No. 20. Kurt Busch

Kurt still knows his way around Thunder Valley. He went from mid-pack to the front, to the back, and then back to the front with a car and team that, in theory, shouldn't be able to do any of that.