|ESPN.com: Sprint Cup||[Print without images]|
Each week of the Sprint Cup season, ESPN The Magazine's Ryan McGee ranks the top 20 drivers in the series. 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, Brian Vickers
Paul Menard, Mark Martin
Greg Biffle jumps six spots from 10th to fourth.
Kasey Kahne falls six spots from ninth to 15th.
Denny Hamlin, Marcos Ambrose, Pete Hamilton
No. 1. Matt Kenseth
So, if he keeps winning and this turns into a rout, are they going to change the entire points system like they did in 2004? Oh, by the way, he really loves Dover.
No. 2. Kyle Busch
The good news? Joe Gibbs Racing has won five of the past seven races and Shrub won two of them. The bad news? Neither of those was one of the past two.
No. 3. Jimmie Johnson
The Big Three haven't completely broken away from the pack, but they're getting awfully darn close. Over the past nine Dover races he's averaged 203 laps led per 400-lap event. That's insane.
No. 4. Greg Biffle
A nice late-race rally kept The Biff in title contention. If anyone knows that a guy can still be caught after winning the first two Chase races, it's him. That's exactly what he did in '08, but finished third.
No. 5. Carl Edwards
Like his Roush Fenway teammate, Cuz can still see the top three, but way off in the distance. He has just one Dover win, but his career average finish of 8.6 is tops among all active drivers.
No. 6. Kevin Harvick
A pit-road incident doomed Happy at Chicago. At Loudon the team simply swung and missed. He's never been great at Dover, but has posted top-10s in five of the past seven with no finish lower than 15th.
No. 7. Kurt Busch
Like Harvick, you have to wonder how many generic finishes it will take to make him mentally check out, thinking ahead to his new 2014 ride at Stewart-Haas.
No. 8. Jeff Gordon
The driver and his brain trust worked their hind parts off to stay up front via passing and strategy, only to have it all undone twice on pit road, a non-Chaser in the way and a few inches outside the pit box.
No. 9. Ryan Newman
Rocket Man appeared destined for a much better day, but fell flat and dropped to being essentially one full race's worth of points behind Kenseth. He does have three Dover wins.
No. 10. Clint Bowyer
All of that I just said about Newman you can plug right into this spot, too ... just not the part about the Dover wins.
No. 11. Brad Keselowski
His streak of New Hampshire top-6s ended at four, though after the past month an 11th-place run probably didn't feel as bad as it should have. He won Dover one year ago and finished fifth in June.
No. 12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
A solid top-10. But what he needs are solid top-5s. Oh, and he still needs for all those guys ahead of him to have at least one terrible weekend each.
No. 13. Martin Truex Jr.
At one point it looked as though the Clam Prince of New Jersey might run away with the race. If he had, would you have blamed him if he'd pulled a Will Power double-birds in Victory Lane?
No. 14. Joey Logano
If he hadn't had engine issues at Chicago he might be among the legit title contenders. That's a big if. Like saying that if I had spent more time in the weight room I might look more like Brad Pitt.
No. 15. Kasey Kahne
Speaking of ifs, Ole Blue Eyes has had a couple of big ifs the past two weeks, ifs that ended up with a pair of torn-up race cars. Still speaking of ifs, he should have three Dover wins, but he has zero.
No. 16. Jamie McMurray
Would you blame him if he came to the race shop Monday and started packing Juan Pablo Montoya's office for him? A great rally to finish fifth might keep him from doing it. That, and he's just a really, really nice guy.
No. 17. Aric Almirola
Over the past couple of weeks, Almirola has personally stood with a group of young Americans being sworn into the Air Force, and his boss, The King, has given a free house to an Afghanistan veteran.
No. 18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Do you think he'll go to the American Country Awards this December when Danica hosts? And if so, do you think there's a chance he might have the biggest cowboy hat there?
No. 19. Jeff Burton
If every Cup race was run at New Hampshire, then The Mayor would be a first-ballot NASCAR Hall of Famer.
No. 20. Brian Vickers
When Vickers signed on with MWR it was a team with three fully funded Cup cars and his crew chief was going to be Rodney Childers. Um ...