Monday, April 8, 2013
Power Rankings: Texas
By Ryan McGee
ESPN The Magazine
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, Brian Vickers
Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr.
Jamie McMurray moves up six spots from 20th to 14th. Vickers, unranked last week, moves to 15th.
Kurt Busch falls eight spots from 12th to 20th.
Danica Patrick, Aric Almirola, Marcos Ambrose, Red Byron
No. 1. Jimmie Johnson
Won the pole with a track record, led 346 of 500 laps, never fell out of the top four and posted a near-perfect driver rating of 148.4. That's the statistical equivalent to Godzilla destroying Martinsville.
No. 2. Brad Keselowski
Were the officials from the Wichita State-Louisville game also assigned to Keselowski's pit box at Martinsville?
No. 3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
It's hard to win when your car is torn up. Now that I think about it, we could pretty much apply this to everyone on this list except for the 48 car.
No. 4. Kyle Busch
Edged Keselowski by .08 of a second to grab fifth, which means he has posted four consecutive top-5 finishes. He's never won at Texas, but led 80 laps and finished third this past November.
No. 5. Kasey Kahne
After a career of struggles at Martinsville, Ol' Blue Eyes has finished third and fourth in consecutive starts. His Texas numbers also have fluctuated, but he did win there in '06 and finished seventh one year ago.
No. 6. Clint Bowyer
If this racing thing doesn't work out, he could hit the stand-up comedy circuit. His postrace news conference alongside Danica Patrick was like a routine from the Chuckle Hut.
No. 7. Carl Edwards
You say a 15th-place finish is disappointing. Looking back on his career at Martinsville, Cuz says he'll kindly take it and move on to Texas, where he has won three times.
No. 8. Matt Kenseth
The good news for Kenseth? That was the strongest-looking car he's ever had at Martinsville, leading three times for 96 laps. The bad news? He still posted a so-so finish of 14th.
No. 9. Greg Biffle
Very quietly, The Biff is putting together a very nice 2013 resume. A ninth-place run was just his second single-digit finish in 21 Martinsville starts. He's a two-time Texas winner.
No. 10. Jeff Gordon
When I chatted with Jeff after the race, he admitted a feeling of "Oh no, here we go again" when he overshot his pit stall. But, finally, the team was able to rally, finishing an improbable third.
No. 11. Mark Martin
Officially, Martin wasn't ranked last week. But in reality, he's just taking over the spot Denny Hamlin occupied. At Texas, he goes back into the 55 car as Vickers slides into the 11.
No. 12. Joey Logano
Before the race, a Logano crewman told me the goal was "Get this controversy stuff behind us and move on." After the race, the same guy said to me, "Mission accomplished, see you in Texas."
No. 13. Paul Menard
Immediately following the race, a fight broke out next to me in the garage. It was between Menard and Regan Smith. They also happen to be best friends. Welcome to Martinsville.
No. 14. Jamie McMurray
Well, well. Look who has posted two top-10s in the past three races and jumped from 20th to 13th in points. A little Hendrick Motorsports horsepower never hurt anyone, did it?
No. 15. Brian Vickers
The Sheriff's two Cup finishes are an eighth at Bristol and 11th at Martinsville in a totally wrecked car. Now he's getting in Hamlin's ride. Unfortunately it's at Texas, where he has no top-10s in 14 tries.
No. 16. Kevin Harvick
I keep waiting on this team to get going. I'm still waiting.
No. 17. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
You could call his 25th-place Martinsville run his first real swing-and-a-miss of his rookie season. Visiting Texas might help. He has never made a TMS Cup start but won the Nationwide race one year ago.
No. 18. Tony Stewart
Speaking of swing-and-a-miss, if not for his tremendous Logano-centric media Q&A session Friday, you would've never even known Smoke was in Martinsville.
No. 19. Ryan Newman
On the flip side, we saw Stewart's teammate/employee plenty Sunday. Unfortunately, it was for all the wrong reasons. Who woulda thunk their rookie teammate would beat them both?
No. 20. Kurt Busch
Then again, Busch's day made Newman's look like an Up With People routine. On Saturday, I asked Kurt to describe his relationship with Martinsville. He said, "It's very complicated." Indeed.