Commentary

Power Rankings: Martinsville

Updated: March 25, 2013, 11:29 AM 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. 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

Ryan Newman

Dropped out

Brian Vickers

Biggest mover

Kurt Busch moves up eight spots from 20th to 12th.

Biggest loser

Tony Stewart falls six spots from 12th to 18th.

Also considered

Aric Almirola, Casey Mears, AJ Allmendinger, Ivan Stewart

No. 1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Your new points leader is now a whopping 58 points ahead of 11th in the standings. That's huge. He has never won at Martinsville, but his 13.0 career average finish is fifth best among all drivers.

No. 2. Jimmie Johnson

Who is tops on that list? This guy, with a stunning career average finish of 5.5 in 22 starts. That's what seven wins will do for you.

No. 3. Brad Keselowski

So, it turns out he's human after all, finishing outside the top five (and top 10) for the first time this season. Finished ninth and sixth at Martinsville in '12 with a handful of laps led in each.

No. 4. Kyle Busch

One of the most amazing stats that I saw during the Fontana race was that Shrub had lost nine straight races where he'd also led the most laps. He ended that streak Sunday.

No. 5. Carl Edwards

Nice rebound from a bad Bristol outing, finishing fourth after racing for the lead with just a few laps remaining. Don't expect much at Martinsville, where his five top-10s are punctuated by 12 "others."

No. 6. Kasey Kahne

That's three straight top-10s for Ol' Blue Eyes. Will it be four? Um ... we'll see. He owns a scant three top-10s in 18 Martinsville starts, but one of those came last fall, when he led 12 laps and finished third.

No. 7. Clint Bowyer

The good news for Toyota Racing Development is that Kyle Busch won the race. The bad news for TRD is that it clearly still has some engine kinks to work out. Right, Clint?

No. 8. Matt Kenseth

The Wisconsin Roller Coaster continues. He has had finishes of 37th, seventh, first, 35th and seventh. His past five Martinsville finishes were 15th, sixth, 31st, fourth and 14th. Wheeee!

No. 9. Greg Biffle

The Biff bounced back from a blah Bristol by blasting back into a better berth. Which is a very alliterative way of saying he finished a solid sixth. He owns only one single-digit finish at Martinsville in 20 tries.

No. 10. Joey Logano

Overshadowed by two consecutive weeks of postrace fisticuffs have been two consecutive weeks of cars that could have won the race and a jump up to ninth in points. Nearly won Martinsville in 2010.

No. 11. Denny Hamlin

How in the hell, in 2013, can we have any concrete walls at a NASCAR Sprint Cup racetrack that aren't covered with a SAFER barrier? Outside wall, inside wall, doesn't matter. There's no excuse.

No. 12. Kurt Busch

You get a top-10 at Bristol, then I say you're a great wheelman who overcame a second-tier team. But you get a top-10 at Fontana? I say that team has progressed more than I'd realized.

No. 13. Paul Menard

Menard has as many top-10s as Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick combined.

No. 14. Jeff Gordon

Another car that looked like a contender that ended up falling out of the top 10. He's a seven-time Martinsville winner. If they figure out a way to stumble there, yeesh.

No. 15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Another week, another 15th- to 20th-place finish. You get the feeling he's just biding his time until Richmond.

No. 16. Ryan Newman

Tony Stewart has one top-10. Danica Patrick has one top-10. Their teammate now has three. And, oh, by the way, he's the defending spring race champion at Martinsville.

No. 17. Kevin Harvick

From the "Hunh?" department: In '12 it felt as though he ran much worse, but stayed in the top 10 in points. This year it feels as though he's had much better runs, but yet he's 15th.

No. 18. Tony Stewart

I had a lengthy chat with Smoke at Las Vegas three weeks ago when he said to me, "I just feel like, before too long, my head is going to explode." Ta-da!

No. 19. Martin Truex Jr.

On April 1, 2012, he stood on Martinsville's pit road and told me his fifth-place finish was proof that the 56 car was a Chase team. They were. He could use another one of those Martinsville signs this year.

No. 20. Jamie McMurray

From the "Hunh?" department, Part 2: Jamie Mac is 16th in points with a top-10. One year ago he was 22nd with two top-10s.

Ryan McGee | email

ESPN The Magazine, NASCAR