Commentary

Power Rankings: Bristol

Updated: March 13, 2014, 1:42 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

Brian Vickers, Paul Menard, Marcos Ambrose

Dropped out

Tony Stewart, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Clint Bowyer

Biggest mover

Kasey Kahne jumps five spots from 17th to 12th.

Biggest loser

Greg Biffle falls four spots from 11th to 15th.

Also considered

AJ Allmendinger, Kyle Larson, Jeff Burton, Lucky Jackson

1. Brad Keselowski

Yeah, I know the hate mail's coming. But so far this year Bad Brad and his former boss have been 1A and 1B with everyone else fighting for third. Over the past two spring Bristol races he's finished first and third.

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

In case you didn't know "his former boss" is this guy. Despite "only" one win in 28 Bristol starts, his career average finish of 11.5 is second best among all active drivers.

3. Kevin Harvick

Happy looked destined for a second consecutive desert whipping of the field. Alas, he was undone by a bum hub ... which can also be said by many a divorced woman.

4. Jimmie Johnson

Remember in "The Avengers" when everyone tiptoed around Dr. Banner and it wasn't until like halfway through the movie before he turned into the Hulk?

5. Joey Logano

The Sliced Bread Express has had back-to-back front-row starts and fourth-place finishes. Lost amid his postrace slap-fight with Denny Hamlin last spring, he's posted two top-10s in his past three Bristol starts.

6. Jeff Gordon

You know it's tight at the top when you get a third straight top-10, one of only four drivers to do it, and lose two points positions. Yes, he has five Bristol wins, but the most recent came in '02. Consider yourself warned.

7. Matt Kenseth

A very quiet 10th-place run led a 10-11-12 Joe Gibbs Racing conga line. Of the teams that are in a bit of a funk -- JGR, Stewart-Haas and Roush Fenway -- this is the team I'd expect to snap out of it soonest.

8. Kyle Busch

Like Jeff Gordon, Shrub is also a five-time Bristol winner. Unlike Gordon, those five wins have come during the past decade, spanning '07-'11, and he finished second in last year's March race.

9. Denny Hamlin

We all know that Hambone is a short-track guy. But though he does have a Bristol win (August '11) and has led a lot of laps (210 over past three races), he also has just two top-10s over his past eight starts.

10. Ryan Newman

In years past, Rocket Man has used March Bristol trips to stop the bleeding of slow season starts, with four top-10s in the past five spring races. But this year, sitting ninth in points, he doesn't even need a Band-Aid.

11. Carl Edwards

Cuz fans shouldn't celebrate his fifth-place Vegas run, because he sure didn't, quickly writing it off to excellent pit strategy and admitting of Roush Fenway, "We've still got a lot of work to do."

12. Kasey Kahne

Why such a big jump for a guy who just now finally got a top-10 finish? Because he's the defending champ of this weekend's race and came within a bumper of a 2013 Bristol sweep. And he's pretty.

13. Jamie McMurray

Speaking of pretty, the garage hair products leader (at least the one not named Marty Smith), has been below-the-radar solid this year and also in recent years at Bristol, with five top-10s in eight races.

14. Austin Dillon

The Heir to the 3 makes his Bristol Cup debut this weekend. In the Nationwide Series he curiously struggled in the daylight of Thunder Valley springs, but ran great under the lights in August.

15. Greg Biffle

Over the past five years, The Biff has struggled in Vegas like Clark Griswold in Cousin Eddie's shady off-Strip casino. He's winless at Bristol, but his career average finish (12.0) trails only Kyle Busch and Dale Jr.

16. Casey Mears

Did you know GEICO is a Warren Buffett property? The Oracle of Omaha has offered up a billion to anyone with a perfect NCAA hoops bracket. How much is he offering to pick a Mears win at Bristol?

17. Brian Vickers

While we're on the subject of betting, don't wager against The Sheriff in Thunder Valley. It was his performance there over the past two seasons -- fifth, fourth, eighth, fourth -- that essentially saved his Cup career.

18. Paul Menard

Mr. Hey My Name's On The Hood made the family brand proud with his first top-10 of the year. Odds are pretty good for his second this weekend. He's riding a streak of four straight Bristol top-10s.

19. Marcos Ambrose

Speaking of guys who are better at Bristol than you realize, the Tasmanian Devil has led only one lap in his 10 career Bristol starts, but five of those starts have ended with a top-10 finish.

20. Kurt Busch

I'll be totally honest with you. I basically threw Busch, Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer all into my "you guys need to get going" hopper. I pulled out Busch simply because of his five career Bristol wins.

Ryan McGee | email

ESPN The Magazine, NASCAR

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