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Sunday, August 18, 2013
Updated: August 19, 10:12 AM ET
Power Rankings: Bristol

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

Jeff Burton, Paul Menard, Marcos Ambrose

Dropped out

Tony Stewart, Aric Almirola, AJ Allmendinger

Biggest mover

Kurt Busch jumps four spots from 13th to ninth.

Biggest loser

Ryan Newman falls five spots from ninth to 14th.

Also considered

Austin Dillon, Ron Bouchard

No. 1. Jimmie Johnson

Saturday I did a "SportsCenter" report about JJ overcoming his Michigan ills. He wrecked in practice. On Sunday morning I interviewed him live on "NASCAR Now." He blew up. Beware the McGee Curse!

No. 2. Kevin Harvick

Finishing second at Michigan, that's just how Happy rolls. He's not as good at Bristol as you probably assume he is (or at least I assumed he is), with just one top-10 over his past nine starts.

No. 3. Clint Bowyer

I guess if you're going to wreck you should do it as soon as the race starts. Perhaps he was inspired by his Saturday visit to the National Tractor Pulling Championships and just wanted to play in the in dirt?

No. 4. Carl Edwards

A nice, quiet top-10 at The Glen. A nice, quiet top-10 at Michigan. At some point one of these nice, quiet top-10s needs to become a nasty, loud win. The last of his two Bristol wins came in 2008.

No. 5. Kyle Busch

One week your car is covered in champagne, the next week it's covered in duct tape. But he IS just as good at Bristol as we assume. A sixth Thunder Valley win would trail only The King, Rusty, Cale and Dale.

No. 6. Kasey Kahne

Finishing seventh might not seem like that big of a deal, but when you consider the day had by his Hendrick Motorsports teammates, it's like being those survivors from "Lost" standing alive in the wreckage.

No. 7. Brad Keselowski

During my postrace chat with the champ, he was like a caged animal. "I know we saved some points, but damn it, I wanted to win." Isn't that what you want to see in a racer? He has won at Bristol twice.

No. 8. Matt Kenseth

Meh. Again.

No. 9. Kurt Busch

Remember when Herbie would go run Monte Carlo against all those big fancy sports cars and inexplicably run up front? That's kind of what Furniture Row is doing. He's a five-time Bristol winner.

No. 10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

I also talked to this guy after the race. If I'd been a right-front tire, I think he might have kicked me.

No. 11. Joey Logano

His third career win boosted him to third in the wild-card hunt, a scant seven points out of the coveted second postseason spot. Who is feeling JoLo's breath on his rear decklid?

No. 12. Martin Truex Jr.

This guy.

No. 13. Greg Biffle

Then again, this guy's feeling the Logano heat, too. For The Biff, to come to Michigan as the two-time defending winner and still leave sitting on that dicey 10th-place Chase bubble has to be a bummer.

No. 14. Ryan Newman

But no one was a bigger loser in the Joey victory derby than Rocket Man, who fell from 14th to 15th in points and is now fourth in the wild-card fight, even with his Brickyard win.

No. 15. Jeff Gordon

Every time another would-be wild card wins, the fat lady starts to warm up in the 24 car's pits. His five Bristol wins came a while ago, but he has finished third in the past two Bristol night races.

No. 16. Jamie McMurray

He's still generic at Michigan. He used to be just as blah at Bristol, but has posted five top-10s over his past seven trips to East Tennessee.

No. 17. Juan Pablo Montoya

The headline is that he was just fired. The subheadline is that his past four races have included finishes of ninth, fifth and 11th.

No. 18. Jeff Burton

Baby Burton's eighth-place run ensured that all three RCR cars finished inside the top 10 -- four if you include Kurt Busch. Side note: If I'm a FOX or NBC executive I'm saving my money to hire him for '15.

No. 19. Paul Menard

The good news? Burton's teammate ran well all day and earned a fourth-place finish. The bad news? It was his first top-10 since April and his first top-5 since October 2012.

No. 20. Marcos Ambrose

If life were fair, he'd be celebrating his second consecutive top-10. Then again, if life were fair, I'd be writing this from my private airplane while being fed grapes by Wendy Peffercorn.