- Ryan McGee, ESPN The Magazine, NASCAR
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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
Aric Almirola, Mark Martin
Juan Pablo Montoya, AJ Allmendinger
Jeff Gordon jumps seven spots from 13th to sixth.
Joey Logano falls seven spots from seventh to 14th.
Marcos Ambrose, Jeff Burton, Kyle Weatherman
No. 1. Matt Kenseth
Mr. Stealth was the perfect winner to cap off a week full of too much noise. Oh, by the way, the past two champs started their Chase off with a win at Chicago. Finished ninth at New Hampshire in July.
No. 2. Kyle Busch
He was bummed to finish one spot off a Chicagoland weekend sweep, but I bet he was much more excited just to get off to a good start to the Chase. Finished second at NHMS earlier this year.
No. 3. Jimmie Johnson
So, they did "flip the switch" after all, even with a broken jack and a pit road official leaning on that switch as hard as he could. He's a three-time NHMS winner who finished sixth in July.
No. 4. Kevin Harvick
The only thing that kept Harvick from making a run at his long-elusive third Chicago win was Dave Blaney deciding to act like my great-aunt Mamie cutting across two lanes of traffic to pull into church.
No. 5. Kurt Busch
My man Ricky Craven tells me that Kurt's best friend is the team's David versus Goliath nothing-to-lose attitude. And my man Ricky Craven is usually spot-on. Led 102 of 302 laps at NHMS in July.
No. 6. Jeff Gordon
The 13th Man came back from a lap down to race like a guy who was jobbed out of a Chase spot twice before finally being let in at the last minute ... because that's exactly what he is.
No. 7. Carl Edwards
Not a great night, but not a terrible enough night to knock him out of Cup contention. Do me a favor and CTL+C this for later ...
No. 8. Ryan Newman
Talk about your good weeks. He announced his new ride with RCR, was put back into the Chase, and picked up a top-10 at Chicago. He's a three-time New Hampshire winner, the last coming in July 2011.
No. 9. Kasey Kahne
Ol' Blue Eyes was also caught up in Dave Blaney's pit road pinball impersonation, but he rallied to finish 12th. Still, he's already 31 points in arrears. His lone Loudon win came last year in the July race.
No. 10. Greg Biffle
Remember what I told you to CTL+C about Edwards? You can paste that here. The Biff is also 31 points back. If he's going to finally win a Cup, he can't fumble another 1.5-mile oval race.
No. 11. Clint Bowyer
After spending the week as a human pinata, he quietly finished ninth. He says he expects the SpinGate talk to go away. But if he wins New Hampshire -- where he's won twice before -- it will only get louder.
No. 12. Brad Keselowski
You get the feeling that the no-longer-defending champ could get on a Chase-busting run of wins, a la Tony Stewart 2006. He's on a streak of four straight top-6 finishes at NHMS.
No. 13. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Good news: The Time Warner cable man says he'll be by to fix Junior's car. Bad news: He says it'll be between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Thursday.
No. 14. Joey Logano
No. 15. Martin Truex Jr.
I still truly believe he had no idea what was happening at Richmond.
No. 16. Jamie McMurray
Jamie Mac is another guy who could spoil the Chase party with a win or two, but don't expect that to happen at New Hampshire, where he has four top-10s in 21 starts and only one since '04.
No. 17. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
It took the soon-to-be-Rookie of the Year seven months to get his first top-10 finish and now he's posted two in a row.
No. 18. Aric Almirola
The King's apprentice has just one top-5 finish this season ... and it came at New Hampshire nine weeks ago.
No. 19. Paul Menard
His last four finishes: sixth, 24th, fifth and 22nd. Reminds me of my ex-girlfriend. Make up your mind already.
No. 20. Mark Martin
Whenever Martin comes to Chicago, it reminds him of how he got started in racing: running liquor for Al Capone during Prohibition.