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Monday, August 12, 2013
Sprint Cup Power Rankings: Michigan

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

AJ Allmendinger, Juan Pablo Montoya

Dropped out

Mark Martin, Marcos Ambrose

Biggest movers

Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski jump five spots each.

Biggest loser

Tony Stewart falls nine spots from eighth to 17th.

Also considered

Casey Mears, Buck Baker

No. 1. Jimmie Johnson

Proof that racing isn't an essay contest: Johnson was largely invisible all day, led no laps, but in the end finished eighth and clinched a Chase spot. Michigan is a rare JJ Achilles' heel, with no wins in 23 starts.

No. 2. Kyle Busch

One year ago, his Glen near-miss cost him a Chase berth. This year his Glen win sets him up for a legit Cup title run. And he did it with more junk in his grille than Flavor Flav.

No. 3. Clint Bowyer

He's still surprisingly good on road courses. He's still second in points. He's still solid at Michigan (five straight finishes of seventh or eighth). And his pit stall was still packed with Duck Dynasty rednecks.

No. 4. Carl Edwards

Cuz did what Cuz does at The Glen. Practiced well, but didn't qualify great. Didn't lead a lap, but still earned a top-10. He'll take it. Why? Because he's a Michigan Man, with 14 top-10s in 18 starts.

No. 5. Kevin Harvick

Happy is quietly stalling out. After a spectacular run of nine consecutive top-10s, his past three finishes have been 19th, 17th and 13th. In June he finished second to Biffle at Michigan.

No. 6. Kasey Kahne

What a sport. One week ago, Ol' Blue Eyes was all smiles, having essentially clinched a Chase spot with his Pocono win. On Sunday his race car managed to hit two different walls ...

No. 7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

... not to mention his teammate.

No. 8. Matt Kenseth

Yes, he has four wins. That's great. But three of his past four finishes have been 22nd or worse and six of his past 10 have been 19th or worse. He needs a momentum shift soon or his Chase could fall flat.

No. 9. Ryan Newman

And so it comes to this: Stewart-Haas Racing's thinning postseason hopes rest on the rather large shoulders of the guy who doesn't have a job there next season.

No. 10. Brad Keselowski

Back-to-back top-5s might not seem like it would be a big deal to the defending champ, but when you haven't done it since March 17, then, yeah, it is. Finished second at Michigan one year ago. Who won?

No. 11. Greg Biffle

This guy. He also won there in June, his fourth victory at the Jack Roush Playground.

No. 12. Martin Truex Jr.

Martin Truex Jr., road course ace. Who knew?

No. 13. Kurt Busch

How does he get a top-10 but still drops? Because everyone above him has a win or is top 10 in points. Until he gets one of those two, the bouncer guarding the door isn't going to let him into the Chase club.

No. 14. Joey Logano

Don't look now, but JoLo has posted three consecutive top-10 finishes. If not for his back-to-back 40ths at Daytona and Loudon, he'd be in the top 10. Led 21 laps and finished ninth at Michigan in June.

No. 15. Jamie McMurray

Survived an early hip check from Keselowski and finished 11th. He's pretty awful at Michigan, despite his long stint with Roush Fenway. Look for Bristol to be his all-or-nothing shot at a pre-Chase win.

No. 16. Jeff Gordon

If the lost win at Pocono didn't hurt enough last week, it surely did this week as he tried to go off-road out of the esses and ripped his nose off. The last of his two Michigan wins came in 2001.

No. 17. Tony Stewart

First, let's say thanks that Smoke checked out of the hospital over the weekend. Second, let's wave goodbye. He's like Wile E. Coyote pausing in midair and waving just before falling into the canyon.

No. 18. Aric Almirola

The fact that he finished 37th in the tire wall and yet stayed 18th both here and in points is a testament to the fact that this region of the standings is like those zombies climbing all over one another in "World War Z."

No. 19. AJ Allmendinger

The Dinger's intermittent schedule has become pretty regular, starting eight of the past nine Cup races. His past three finishes, two with Phoenix and one with JTG Daugherty, have been 14th, 15th and fourth.

No. 20. Juan Pablo Montoya

A top-10 at Watkins Glen is always expected from this guy, but his three Michigan top-10s are punctuated by 10 pretty awful finishes. Just get me to Atlanta, just get me to Atlanta ...