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2014 Sprint Cup Rankings UPDATE: Still King of the Hill

Mark Taylor

Mark Taylor

Taylor covers NASCAR for RotoWire. He is a three-time winner of the FSWA's Racing Writer of the Year award. He is also a military historian, specifically the World War II U.S. Navy in the Pacific.

This is the February update to our original 2014 driver rankings, which can be found here.

1. Jimmie Johnson - With six championships, including the most recent one, and 66 career victories, Johnson is the most dominant driver of the modern era of NASCAR. He's the king of the hill until someone knocks him off.

2. Kevin Harvick -
Top-3 Chase standings finishes in three of the last four seasons cements Harvick's excellence. The move to Stewart-Haas Racing may just be the nudge that it takes to make him a Sprint Cup champion.

3. Matt Kenseth -
Arguably the most dominant driver of last season, especially on the circuit's many intermediate ovals. Given that nothing is changing in the No. 20 team, it's difficult to see Kenseth falling far from his lofty perch.

4. Brad Keselowski -
The 2012 Sprint Cup champion had a terrible last season. He'll erase any concerns over his talent or potential to dominate this season. Crew chief Paul Wolfe recently inked by Penske to four more years with the No. 2 team.

5. Kyle Busch -
He's averaged 3 victories per season over his nine-year career. Busch has been a Chase driver five of those nine seasons, but with no championship to show for yet. Coming off a career-best season it seems Busch is reaching his prime.

6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. -
Consistency, consistency, consistency. Few drivers have matched him in that category the last two seasons. Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 team have averaged 10 Top-5 and 21 Top-10 finishes the last two years. That anchors his spot in the Top 10.

7. Denny Hamlin -
Comeback driver of the year candidate. Coming off an injury-plagued, lost season, the Joe Gibbs Racing star has nowhere to go but up in 2014. The only question is, how high will he go? Before the poor 2013 season, Hamlin had five straight Chase appearances and averaged 4 victories per year.

8. Clint Bowyer -
Has become a complete driver in his time at Michael Waltrip Racing. He's equally good on short tracks, road courses and super speedways. Bowyer has to do what it takes to get back into victory lane this season and restore some credibility to MWR.

9. Jeff Gordon -
Gordon's numbers have begun to taper off just a bit the last few seasons, but he's still solidly placed within the Top 10 drivers in the series. The Hendrick Motorsports star should be good for one or two victories and about 18 Top 10's in the upcoming season.

10. Kurt Busch -
Busch makes the move to Stewart-Haas Racing, and what should be an even better team than what he raced with in 2013. The bar is set pretty high for the driver of the No. 41 Chevrolet, but he shouldn't disappoint. In fact we expect to see him snap his two-season winless spell.

11. Carl Edwards -
He's a Top-5 driver who's been heading the wrong way the last couple seasons. Roush Fenway Racing has been in turmoil for some time now. Despite the potential to win and collect lots of Top 10's, we still see struggles in the No. 99 Ford team this year.

12. Kasey Kahne -
Kahne has taken full advantage of his time at Hendrick Motorsports, but he's still falling short of his potential. The ability to win races is dampened by his inconsistency at times during the season. Will Kahne overcome this in 2014? We'll have to see.

13. Joey Logano -
The driver of the No. 22 Ford is coming off a career-best season. Logano has finally reached the heights commensurate with his abilities. However, we expect to see just a tad off a downturn in 2014, but not by much. Logano is a driver with a lot of youth and upside.

14. Greg Biffle -
The Roush Fenway Racing veteran has been a Chase fixture for five of the last six seasons. However, Biffle enters a contract season in 2014. He'll either show his wares to potential suitors or he'll stagnate under the pressure of contract distractions with his current boss Jack Roush.

15. Austin Dillon -
The driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet will be the focus of a lot of attention in 2014, but he'll also be the total focus of Richard Childress Racing. The talent, plus the team support, plus a little black magic make for a very successful rookie campaign.

16. Tony Stewart -
It's certain that Stewart will race at Daytona, but it's not certain how close he'll be to 100 percent. In fact, it could take some time for the owner/driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet to get up to speed from being out of a race car for half a year. Rehab racing is a term that suits Stewart's situation in 2014.

17. Ryan Newman -
The new Richard Childress Racing driver may get lost in the Austin Dillon hype this season. Don't get us wrong, Newman will still be strong and consistent, but a little fall off in his performance with a new race team should be expected.

18. Jamie McMurray -
The veteran driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet had a pretty good season in 2013. McMurray's one win and nine Top-10 finishes were a three-season high. He should follow that up well in the coming season with this steadily improving race team.

19. Martin Truex Jr. -
The tough luck of this driver hopefully won't follow him to Furniture Row Racing. Truex left MWR in a cloud of controversy after his sponsor pulled out. However, the No. 78 Chevrolet team showed they're quite capable with a Chase berth in 2013. Truex will face some headwinds in the upcoming season.

20. Kyle Larson -
All eyes will be on Austin Dillon, but Larson could steal some of his rookie thunder. The Ganassi Racing driver has impressed from day one of stepping into a stock car. Larson should give Dillon a good challenge in the Rookie of the Year chase.

21. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -
The rookie season fell a bit short of expectations, but Stenhouse showed some remarkable consistency. The driver of the No. 17 Ford has no DNF's in 2013 and finished 98.7% of the laps raced. That added up to 11 Top-15 finishes. Some improvement is expected this season, but not much.

22. Paul Menard -
Menard has grown expectable in his ride at Richard Childress Racing. The 10-year NASCAR veteran has averaged nine Top-10 finishes and about 17th-place in the standings the last three years. The influx of multiple, young racing talents may push Menard down a couple notches in 2014.

23. Brian Vickers -
He's been medically cleared to race, but the blood clots that have plagued Vickers will remain a concern going forward. His big win at Loudon last year and excellence on short tracks are a real plus. Lots of question marks still surround this team and driver.

24. Marcos Ambrose -
The Richard Petty Motorsports driver is coming off his worst season in Sprint Cup Series racing. Ambrose was held out of victory lane for the first time in the last three years, and he posted a lowly six Top 10's for the season. He should rebound to around nine Top-10 finishes and get back to victory lane at one of the road courses.

25. A.J. Allmendinger -
The Dinger has successfully revived his NASCAR career. He'll get a chance to show what he can do with the No. 47 team of JTG Daugherty Racing. With the team's move to Chevrolet and RCR technical support, it's a situation that has five or six Top 10's written all over it.

26. Aric Almirola -
The driver of the No. 43 Ford has a lot to prove in 2014. He has to overcome another change in crew chiefs, and he has to overcome a 2013 season that fell short of expectations. Almirola recorded four of his six Top 10's in the first 10 races last season, but he muddled through the remaining two-thirds of the season. He could very easily start slowly in the new season.

27. Justin Allgaier -
This talented youngster could be the sleeper of the rookie class. Phoenix Racing lured proven crew chief Steve Addington into the fold. That could be the tipping point to give this upside driver and team a major amount of upside. Allgaier has the potential to climb these rankings several spots if the best case scenario comes together.

28. Danica Patrick -
Patrick has the team, crew chief and experience to climb these rankings greatly. The biggest obstacle to that potential success is the disappointment of the 2013 campaign that still looms large in the rear view mirror. Tony Gibson returns at crew chief for the No. 10 team, and we'll see how much she improves.

29. David Ragan -
His big victory at Talladega for Front Row Motorsports was a real eye-opener. Ragan has big racing potential if the No. 34 team can give him the cars. The latter seems to be the biggest obstacle at this point. Some improvement should occur for Ragan in 2014.

30. Casey Mears -
The move to Chevrolet and Earnhardt-Childress engines could be a boost for this single-car team. Mears showed glimpses of promise last season, punctuated by his first Top 10 in the last four years. However, improvement will come very slow for the No. 13 team and we shouldn't expect too much from Mears this season.

31. David Gilliland -
Gilliland possesses road course skills, super speedway skills and he's even improved on the short tracks. The Front Row Motorsports driver will be first and foremost an excellent performer on the super speedways. His performance elsewhere can be suspect at times.

32. J.J. Yeley -
The journeyman driver returns to the Tommy Baldwin Racing team in 2014 and the No. 36 Chevrolet. Yeley claimed a Top-10 finish in last season's Daytona 500, but it was an up-and-down battle from that point on. While the team raced competitively, Yeley had his lowlights trying to keep this team in the Top 35.

33. Ryan Truex -
BK Racing signed the younger brother of Cup veteran Martin Truex Jr. to a contract in January, 2014. Truex will pilot the team's No. 83 Toyota. Last year's driver for this team, David Reutimann, struggled to a Top-35 points finish with this team, but had nine DNF's. Truex should boost the team's performance a certain degree.

34. Alex Bowman -
Bowman turned his successful rookie season in the Nationwide Series last year into a quick ticket to the Sprint Cup Series. He'll compete again for Rookie of the Year at NASCAR's top level. Bowman will be limited by BK Racing's limited resources and funding. It should be a very educational experience for the 20-year-old.

35. Michael Annett -
Annett joins this eight-driver rookie class in 2014. He takes over for veteran Dave Blaney in the No. 7 Chevrolet of Tommy Baldwin Racing. The 27-year-old brings over 150 starts of Nationwide Series experience to NASCAR's top division. He's a seasoned driver and has an exciting opportunity in the Sprint Cup Series with a veteran crew chief in Kevin Manion.
36. Parker Kligerman - This seasoned driver of NASCAR's lower divisions will step into a growing team situation and contend for Rookie of the Year. What Swan Racing lacks in money and equipment could easily be offset by Kligerman's experience and skill. It's an interesting situation and this driver has a lot of potential to surprise and impress if given some opportunity.

37. Cole Whitt -
With the addition of Parker Kligerman to the Swan Racing lineup, Whitt slides into the team's new, second ride. He will be paired with crew chief Randy Cox and look to build on the performance Whitt registered in a part-time schedule in 2013.

38. Trevor Bayne -
Despite his diagnosis of multiple sclerosis last year, Bayne is one of the more valuable part-time drivers in the Sprint Cup Series. He now has 46 career Sprint Cup Series starts and at age 22 is becoming a seasoned Sprint Cup veteran. Bayne will get 12 starts in 2014 and seven or more of those should be Top-25 finishes.

39. Dave Blaney -
The veteran landed on his feet after the release from Tommy Baldwin Racing. Blaney will pilot the car of newly-formed team of owner Randy Humphrey. He will pilot the No. 77 Ford in what is believed to be a full-time schedule. Peter Sospenzo gives them instant credibility at crew chief, the rest is up to Blaney.

40. Michael McDowell -
The move to Leavine Family Racing was expected to be full-time but now it's been disclosed that they'll only run 20 races in the upcoming season. Despite that, the team will race competitively and not start-and-park like McDowell has been used to for much of his career. The No. 95 Ford should be competitive but the limited schedule mutes their value.

41. Joe Nemechek -
It was announced in late January that a joint-venture team was forming between Jay Robinson Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing. Nemechek will get the bulk of the starts (27+/-) in the No. 66 Toyota while Jeff Burton will get a handful of starts and Michael Waltrip will get a pair of super speedway starts. This may be the best car Nemechek has raced in several seasons.

42. Bobby Labonte -
Labonte will race in a second Phoenix Motorsports team in the Daytona 500 and in an undetermined part-time schedule this season. The team equipment should be good, and Labonte's skill and experience is well-known. However, it's the undetermined number of starts that clouds Labonte's upside.

43. Ryan Blaney -
The promising youngster will only get a couple starts in 2014, but they should be very intriguing glimpses of this talented driver. Blaney will start the strong Penske No. 12 Ford at Kansas in the spring and Talladega in the fall. We wouldn't be surprised at all to see both starts materialize in Top-20 finishes.

44. Jeff Burton -
Burton will make 6-8 starts in the three-driver No. 66 Toyota of MWR and Jay Robinson Racing. While his impact will be limited due to the very brief schedule, Burton has the experience and savvy to bring home good finishes in those starts. This is small slate is a part of his transition to the broadcast booth, but Burton still can bring home some good finishes.

45. Michael Waltrip -
The 29-year veteran returns for another season of part-time action on the super speedways. Waltrip is renowned for his skill on the big ovals and even his part-time schedule the last few years has been productive. With Top 10's in four of his last 11 starts, you can't overlook Waltrip in weekly lineup leagues.

46. Landon Cassill -
As of this writing we're still not sure how much Cassill will race in 2014. His associate with Circle Sport Racing appears to be intact, but the team's amount of participation in the upcoming season and their driver lineup is still in doubt. Cassill made 33 starts last year and it remains to be seen if he'll even race half that much in the upcoming season.

47. Josh Wise -
Wise moves to Phil Parsons Racing and will run a full-time schedule. However, that's where the good news stops. The No. 98 team switches to Chevrolets this season, but it doesn't mean they'll race competitively. PPR was a start-and-park team last year with Michael McDowell and they could be again with Wise.

48. Sam Hornish Jr. -
Hornish has a part-time ride in the Nationwide Series in 2014, and it remains to be seen if he'll do any Sprint Cup Racing part-time this season. Hornish has a lot to offer still and has obvious talent. He could make a couple spot starts this season.

49. Travis Kvapil -
Released by BK Racing, and looking for a ride entering the season. Kvapil's off-season troubles have affected his value and he may have a hard time getting back into a Sprint Cup ride.

50. David Reutimann -
Released by BK Racing in January. Reutimann is a veteran driver with some skills to offer, however opportunities are few. He'll have a difficult time finding seat time in the Sprint Cup Series this season.

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