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Sunday, April 21, 2013
Updated: April 29, 12:43 PM ET
Power Rankings: Talladega

By Ryan McGee
ESPN The Magazine

2013 Power Rankings: Talladega

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

Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch

Dropped out

Brian Vickers, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Biggest mover

Kevin Harvick jumps five spots, from 14th to ninth.

Biggest losers

Mark Martin and Jamie McMurray fall seven spots each.

Also considered

Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Stewart, AJ Allmendinger, Speedy Thompson

No. 1 Jimmie Johnson

When I remarked on Twitter about his massive 43-point lead in the standings, many people were quick to remind me that margin will be erased when the Chase starts. True. But it's still impressive.

No. 2 Matt Kenseth

Just go on and add an asterisk and "appeal pending" here. Still, for a notoriously bad qualifier and self-admitted Richmond struggler, his weekend was pretty amazing. He's not bad on plate tracks, either.

No. 3 Brad Keselowski

Throw another "appeal pending" in here, too. He appeared to be once again saving a good finish from a potentially horrible night, but was undone by an engine issue.

No. 4 Clint Bowyer

That's four top-5 finishes in six races and three of the last five, including a pair of runner-up efforts. He's also won two of the last five run at Talladega.

No. 5 Carl Edwards

Just exactly who is it that's second to Johnson in the championship standings? This guy. If you're looking for proof that the 2012 nightmare is officially over, look at his numbers from Martinsville and Richmond.

No. 6 Kyle Busch

For the first time in a bazillion years a team actually convinced NASCAR officials to reverse a call in the middle of a race ... and then a car that had been a monster all night went pffffft.

No. 7 Kasey Kahne

The top-10 machine finally hit a hiccup at Richmond. But he was very excited about his Seattle Seahawks trading down to get that big pile of extra late round picks.

No. 8 Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Junior finished 10th. But if you had to guess how he did based solely on the emails and Tweets I received from fans, you would've thought he wound up upside-down, on fire, and 156 laps down.

No. 9 Kevin Harvick

Standing in the garage Saturday night I was trying to remember the last time a guy pitted with three laps to go, took four tires, and went from 7th to 1st on the final restart. Then it hit me. Cole Trickle at Darlington.

No. 10 Greg Biffle

That's two straight weeks of irrelevancy for The Biff. After a decade of Talladega disasters, he's quietly become a contender with three finishes of seventh or better over the last four races.

No. 11 Aric Almirola

My buddy Dustin Long of MRN dropped this "Really?!" stat on Saturday night. Going back to the start of the '12 Chase, Almirola's average finish is 15.7. Tony Stewart's is 17.4.

No. 12 Paul Menard

Back-to-back 13th-place runs at Richmond is no small accomplishment. His previous career RIR numbers resembled the last 15 minutes of "The Evil Dead". Sadly, his Talladega resume is not much prettier.

No. 13 Jeff Gordon

If you ever wondered what it would've been like to stand with the people on the deck of the Titanic, surround yourselves with Gordon fans during his weekly midrace fade back into the field.

No. 14 Martin Truex Jr.

Every driver keeps a mental Post-It on his dashboard with the names of drivers who will not be receiving the benefit of the doubt for the foreseeable future. Scribbled on Truex's note is "Kurt Busch."

No. 15 Ryan Newman

Newman's seemingly always a threat at Richmond, but never got it going on Saturday night, flirting with the top 10 early, but finishing right where he started -- 15th.

No. 16 Joey Logano

I looked up at the post-race scoring pylon and went, "Wait, Logano finished third?" I'm pretty sure he said the same thing. Had four top-10s in his first five Talladega starts, but finished 24th or worse in the last three.

No. 17 Mark Martin

That long-elusive second Richmond win looked like a real possibility, but it's hard to get to Victory Lane when your hood is blocking your windshield.

No. 18 Jamie McMurray

In a hilarious old-school superstitious prerace sequence I watched Jamie Mac refuse to sign a woman's t-shirt because she had a green marker. Five minutes later she'd gotten a black marker. He gladly signed.

No. 19 Kurt Busch

You know how I know his confidence in his team is for real? Did you see how he raced Saturday night? Was once a near-automatic Talladega top-10 but hasn't finished higher than 18th since April '10.

No. 20 Jeff Burton

As he left the track Saturday night he said to me, "I didn't realistically think we had a shot to win. But then again, there wasn't a whole lot of realism going on there at the end, was there?"