Monday, April 22, 2013
Power Rankings: Richmond
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
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Matt Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr. and Paul Menard jump five spots each.
Joey Logano and Brian Vickers fall eight spots each.
Kurt Busch, Jim Roper
No. 1. Jimmie Johnson
Apparently there are a lot of rabbits at Kansas Speedway, because every time the 48 team goes there, they are pulling them out of hats, er, helmets. Has three Richmond wins, but none since '08.
No. 2. Brad Keselowski
Speaking of something out of nothing, that's what this team is beginning to specialize in. Horrible prerace inspection? Wrecked car? Going a lap down? Massive appeal looming? No problem.
No. 3. Kyle Busch
Wouldn't you think that when the M&M's car gets beat on like a pinata all day that at least some candy would fly out of it? He's ridonculous at Richmond, with four wins and a career average finish of 5.4.
No. 4. Matt Kenseth
Teams tell us all the time that the biggest indicator of a team's ability to contend for a championship is its ability to run well on 1.5-mile ovals. So, go on and pencil in Kenseth on that list.
No. 5. Kasey Kahne
If it had been the STP 403 ... or if the sun had ducked back behind a cloud ... then here's your winner.
No. 6. Carl Edwards
The sun came out and melted his handling. Then the caution came out and melted his pit strategy. But 19 laps led meant a $1,900 check to The One Fund Boston to help the marathon bombing relief effort.
No. 7. Clint Bowyer
After a solid fifth-place run in front of the home-state fans, it's off to Richmond, where he won just seven months ago.
No. 8. Greg Biffle
The Biff was never a factor at Kansas, which is something I never thought we'd see. Don't expect a rebound at Richmond, where he has one top-10 finish since 2006.
No. 9. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Let me repeat: Junior Nation, do not panic. Your cars are great. Your luck is not. Started to rediscover his Richmond mojo last year, finishing second in the spring and leading 67 laps in the fall.
No. 10. Mark Martin
Martin owns one Richmond win in 54 starts. I hear there's a great calotype photograph of him being congratulated in Victory Lane by Jefferson Davis.
No. 11. Jamie McMurray
We keep waiting on him to fade, but he's having none of it. Instead, he's getting stronger with each passing week. That reminds me of someone ... a 2012 Chaser ... let's see ... who was that?
No. 12. Martin Truex Jr.
Oh, yeah ... this guy!
No. 13. Paul Menard
One year ago Menard finished 13th at Richmond. That might not seem so great to you, but it did to Paul, whose previous career RIR numbers had looked like the altar scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
No. 14. Kevin Harvick
Meanwhile, Menard's teammate might hug the Richmond sign when he gets to the track this week. Going back to '05, Happy has posted 13 top-10s in 16 RIR races, including two wins.
No. 15. Aric Almirola
Time to state the obvious: That throwback STP paint scheme was niiiice.
No. 16. Jeff Gordon
Both of his Richmond wins came during the Clinton administration, but he's still solid at RIR. Sort of. His past seven finishes: third, second, 12th, 39th, third, 23rd and second. Whee!
No. 17. Ryan Newman
With each passing week, the 39 car is looking more and more like Stewart-Haas Racing's best shot at the Chase. That'd make it mighty tough to not keep him around for 2014, right?
No. 18. Joey Logano
So, if you're the AAA Insurance marketing boss, is there a little part of you that sees the photos of your wrecked car and says, "Wait, we can work with this!"
No. 19. Brian Vickers
The window on this great audition opportunity is about to close. Sunday was not how he wants to go out.
No. 20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
All year long I've said he could win at Richmond. If not for some bad yellow-flag luck, he nearly pulled it off one week earlier.