Commentary

Power Rankings: Las Vegas

Updated: March 6, 2014, 12:41 PM ET
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. 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

Jamie McMurray

Dropped out

Martin Truex Jr.

Biggest mover

McMurray jumps from unranked to 15th.

Biggest loser

Kurt Busch falls 8 spots, from 12th to 20th.

Also considered

Marcos Ambrose, Aric Almirola, A.J. Foyt

1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

He wasn't the best car on the track (Harvick). He wasn't even the second best (Logano). But he still found a way to finish second, his fifth consecutive top-5, dating back to last November.

2. Kevin Harvick

He pulled a cactus out of the dirt and beat everyone over the head with it. You know you're good when no one else is running in certain places on the racetrack until you blow by them and dare them to.

3. Jimmie Johnson

Only Six-Time could start a year with fifth- and sixth-place finishes and have zero people talking about him. They'll likely be talking about him after Vegas, where he has four wins over the last nine races.

4. Brad Keselowski

BK will always be the answer to the trivia question, who was the first driver to win a pole via knockout qualifying? He's off to a very fast start. Then again, he did that last year, too.

5. Jeff Gordon

Back-to-back top-5s tells us three things about Wonder Boy 2014. 1. He's a legit Cup contender. 2. His offseason work on restarts is paying off. 3. He can still drive like his ex-con cab driver alter ego.

6. Joey Logano

With finishes of 11th and fourth, paired with a Chase berth one year ago, the Sliced Bread bandwagon is picking up steam. Don't expect a derail at Vegas, but don't expect a win, either.

7. Matt Kenseth

Most weeks, finishing 12th would be a bummer. Not Phoenix, where Matt's always been blah. But if he does the same at Vegas, where he's a 3-time winner and the defending champ, expect bummage.

8. Denny Hamlin

He ran so well at Daytona with no radio maybe the team should do that fake "sorry xxxx my xxxx cell xxxx is xxxx lose xxxx reception" voice cutout thing and shut it down with 10 laps to go each week.

9. Kyle Busch

Shrub had a car that could have won at Daytona and finished 19th and then had a car that seemed so-so at Phoenix and finished ninth. He does have a win at his home track of Vegas and finished foiurth last year.

10. Carl Edwards

Cuz posted his first single-digit finish in eight races. Does he finally have it turned around? We'll know over the next two weeks. He has five top-six finishes, including two wins, over his last seven Vegas starts.

11. Greg Biffle

When you think of The Biff don't you think of 1.5-mile tri-ovals? I do. But though his Vegas numbers are solid -- six top-10s in 10 starts -- he's also winless and has three finishes of 10th or worse over his last four visits.

12. Ryan Newman

If every track was a flat track, he'd be Richard Petty.

13. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Speaking of flat tracks, I keep expecting this guy to finally hit his Cup spark on the pancakes after his flat oval success in the Nationwide Series. Speaking of that series, he won the Nationwide Vegas race in '12.

14. Casey Mears

Guess what day it is? Guess. What. Day. It. Is? It's the day that the GEICO ride actually moved up in the Power Rankings. That's as unusual as seeing a talking camel walk by your cubicle.

15. Jamie McMurray

The Nicest Guy In NASCAR has matched Mears' 10th- and 14th-place finishes with a 14th and 10th. He's not a bad cheapo addition to the tail end of your fantasy team. His last two Vegas finishes were eighth and 13th.

16. Austin Dillon

He started 24th and ended 24th. That finish was very much unlike his Daytona 500 run in that he didn't earn a top-10 and he also didn't put the chrome horn to every vehicle this side of the Air Titan.

17. Kasey Kahne

Once again, Ole Blue Eyes is off to a rough start, just as last year once again, he ended the year with a rough finish. He'll undoubtedly hit his annual spring hot streak. But will he ever put a full year together?

18. Tony Stewart

The good news? He won the race at Phoenix. The slightly less good news? He owned the car that won the race instead of driving it. The still-healing boss won at Vegas in 2012.

19. Clint Bowyer

I'm told my wording of last week's Bowyer comments were confusing. I didn't cheer when he blew up at Daytona, some fans did. For the record, I haven't cheered for or against anyone since Harry Gant retired.

20. Kurt Busch

We had The Outlaw on this week's Marty & McGee podcast. He's super fired-up about the 500/600 Memorial Day double. But when we brought up his first two finishes of the Cup season? Not so fired up.

Ryan McGee | email

ESPN The Magazine, NASCAR

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