- Ryan McGee, ESPN Senior Writer
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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
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Kurt Busch jumps five spots from 11th to sixth.
Kasey Kahne falls three spots from eighth to 11th.
Aric Almirola, Brian Vickers, Chicago Black Sox
No. 1. Matt Kenseth
The good news? He enters the Chase as the points leader thanks to his series-best five wins. The better news? He also enters it with some momentum he didn't have just a few weeks ago.
No. 2. Kyle Busch
A big part of me is ready to declare that Shrub is the title favorite. But a bigger part of me needs to see proof that he can finally translate regular-season success into Chase success.
No. 3. Carl Edwards
I'm not saying the no-call on the final restart was fair, but there's something sorta karma-ish about Cuz winning a race when he didn't have the best car after suffering a couple of losses when he did.
No. 4. Jimmie Johnson
People keep telling me pre-Chase momentum is overrated. OK ... but this seems like an awfully hard way to go about this deal.
No. 5. Kevin Harvick
Happy is a legit title contender. How? He's the kind of guy who can get on a hot streak. And his record at Chicago -- two wins and six top-4 finishes in 12 starts -- is the kind of place to start one of those streaks.
No. 6. Kurt Busch
This week on the "Marty & McGee" podcast (ESPN.com/podcenter) we ask Kurt very pointed questions (What do you tell people who say you're just gonna blow up again?) and he gives very honest answers.
No. 7. Joey Logano
Well, that was quite a stressful way to make the Chase, but he still has six top-10s in the past seven races and finished seventh at Chicago one year ago.
No. 8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
I know he can be a bit polarizing, but you have to love a guy who speaks his mind about stuff as soon as the race is over. What stuff am I talking about?
No. 9. Clint Bowyer
This guy's stuff. When Earnhardt said we should all go back and look at the video and telemetry of Bowyer's spin, a lot of people did. And they found Bowyer behind the fence on the grassy knoll.
No. 10. Martin Truex Jr.
I feel like I have a pretty good handle on Truex. And I'm pretty sure the Truex I know wouldn't have signed off on what appears to have gone down with his teammates to help him make the Chase.
No. 11. Kasey Kahne
With an average finish of 19th the past five weeks, Kahne is hoping those people who say pre-Chase momentum isn't all that important are right.
No. 12. Greg Biffle
Is The Biff a real title contender? We'll know very quickly. Intermediate tracks are Roush's bread and butter and, starting with Chicago, make up half of the Chase.
No. 13. Jeff Gordon
Four-Time will remain Four-Time after missing the Chase by one measly point. He said he went to bed Saturday feeling bad for himself, but when we woke up Sunday he actually felt worse for ...
No. 14. Ryan Newman
... this guy, who likely has the sympathy of everyone in the sport except for his pit crew, whom he tossed under the bus with both hands in his postrace interview.
No. 15. Brad Keselowski
We can break it down every way possible, from rules infractions to the Dodge-to-Ford transition, but in the end the defending champ was just way too inconsistent to be a real Cup contender.
No. 16. Jamie McMurray
If you are putting down money on a driver to finish best out of the 12 non-Chasers, you should consider betting on this guy. And then you should consider seeking help for your gambling addiction.
No. 17. Juan Pablo Montoya
It's a long way from Miami to Denver, but that might be this guy's work commute next year.
No. 18. Paul Menard
About that final restart ... even as his crew chief, Slugger Labbe, was angrily tweeting about it, Menard himself explained it all by saying he "just couldn't take off very good." Not exactly digging in, is it?
No. 19. AJ Allmendinger
Beans, beans, good for your heart. The more you eat, the more you ... crank out top-15 finishes.
No. 20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
The soon-to-be rookie of the year finally got a top-10. If every race were held at Richmond and Iowa, he'd be David Pearson.