Sunday, June 2, 2013
Updated: June 3, 12:41 PM ET
Sprint Cup Power Rankings: Pocono
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
Tony Stewart, Juan Pablo Montoya
Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman
Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch move up three spots each, but Tony Stewart wins the honor for having leaped from unranked to No. 14.
Denny Hamlin drops seven spots from 12th to 19th.
Jeff Burton, Mark Martin, Jody Ridley
No. 1. Jimmie Johnson
Over the past few weeks, this points race has looked like when the U.S. Naval Academy plebes try to climb the greased Herndon Monument. Johnson retakes the top essentially by default.
No. 2. Kevin Harvick
In the season's first eight races, Happy managed just one top-10 finish. Now he has posted four in the past five weeks, including a pair of wins, and jumped from 12th to fourth in points.
No. 3. Matt Kenseth
Our ESPN NASCAR stats gurus tell me that Chevy has two Cup engine failures in '13. Ford has four. Toyota has 17. Until that's resolved, Kenseth might as well have an anchor chained to his ankles.
No. 4. Kyle Busch
Once again, Shrub had a car that looked like a monster early but didn't win. On the bright side, he still finished fourth. And nothing fell from the sky to attack his car.
No. 5. Carl Edwards
Anything less than a win for the guy they call Concrete Carl is a bummer. So finishing 14th is downright depressing. Chances for a Pocono rebound are 50-50, with eight top-10s in 16 career starts.
No. 6. Clint Bowyer
Another quiet top-10 finish. So why drop a spot? Because he still doesn't have what all the guys above him on this list do. A win. No, beating Willie in the "Duck Dynasty" camo limo race doesn't count.
No. 7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Speaking of quiet top-10 finishes, Junebug was in stealth mode all weekend. The three drivers ahead of him and the five behind him all changed their point positions, but he held steady at sixth.
No. 8. Kasey Kahne
There have been few shoulda-woulda-couldas as painful as Kahne's rookie year when he was running away with Dover and hit the wall late. Sunday's spin reminded me of that.
No. 9. Brad Keselowski
Paul Wolfe is back! Yay! And you got your first top-10 since April! Double yay! But you just failed postrace inspection. Boo!
No. 10. Jeff Gordon
So far, Gordon's 2013 feels a lot like 2012 all over again. So-so efforts punctuated by occasional flashes of top-5 brilliance. Last year, it was a Pocono win (the August race) that finally got him going.
No. 11. Martin Truex Jr.
Everything was timed perfectly. He had momentum swinging upward as he rolled into his home track, qualified second and led a couple of laps. Then he became that 17th Toyota engine failure.
No. 12. Kurt Busch
Busch had a nice but not spectacular day. The fact that he moves up three spots is more about all the guys around him who ended up with spectacularly bad days. Won at Pocono in '05 and '07.
No. 13. Paul Menard
When you think "Pocono fantasy," it probably involves a champagne-glass-shaped bathtub. But for a Pocono fantasy team sleeper, think clearance-rack-priced Menard, who finished ninth and 11th last year.
No. 14. Tony Stewart
Let's not get too carried away here. Yes, the win was huge. Yes, he's up to 16th in points. Yes, it was his first top-5 and his first back-to-back top-10s of the year. Wait ... let's do get carried away!
No. 15. Aric Almirola
Despite a disappointing month, he still hovers just below the top 10. On a positive note, anyone who works for "The King" should be glad he was at Dover on Sunday and not the "Game of Thrones" wedding.
No. 16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Another week, another rookie building block. If only someone would tell me who his girlfriend is.
No. 17. Greg Biffle
Statistically speaking, Pocono is one of The Biff's worst racetracks. But a win there in 2010 turned around a summer slide and boosted him into the Chase. He needs that again.
No. 18. Joey Logano
At Dover, I recorded an interview with JoLo that will run this Sunday morning on "NASCAR Now." At one point, he tells me that he's just happy to be talking about racing and not being a soap opera star.
No. 19. Denny Hamlin
As big as Stewart's win was for Smoke's Chase chances, it was equally staggering for Hambone's. Pocono, where Hamlin owns four wins and eight top-5s in just 14 starts, couldn't come at a better time.
No. 20. Juan Pablo Montoya
Do you watch drag racing? You ever seen a guy totally out-stage another guy at the starting line and make him take off early and look bad? Well ...