Kyle Busch is turning dominant at the right time

Each month of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup season, ESPN's Ryan McGee ranks the top 20 drivers in the series.

Biggest mover: Jimmie Johnson jumps nine spots, from 14th to fifth.

Biggest loser: Kurt Busch falls eight spots, from ninth to 17th.

New this month: Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dropped out: Kasey Kahne, Trevor Bayne

Also considered: Paul Menard, Danica Patrick, Nelson Stacy

1. Kyle Busch

Last month: 2 | Top-10s: 18

Grab your bongo drums. D-D-D-D-DUH-DA-DUH ... the champ is here! During the four-plus weeks since our last Power Rankings, this is the only two-time race winner. Though his 0-for-life streak at Charlotte is NASCAR's most curious statistic.

2. Martin Truex Jr.

Last month: 1 | Top-10s: 20

Still your points leader and still the season leader in wins (5), top-10s (20), stage wins (19) and playoff points (59). He's with statistics like my grandma used to be with Sweet & Low packets. He's got a closet full of them.

3. Kyle Larson

Last month: 4 | Top-10s: 18

If Busch and Truex are ranked 1A and 1B, Larson has made a strong case for 1C. During the past five races, including the first three playoff events, he has actually out-pointed the other two.

4. Brad Keselowski

Last month: 6 | Top-10s: 17

After a forgettable August, he's racked up three straight top-11 finishes. And he hung out with Nick Saban. And he told his reps to shove it while making a statement on free speech. So, a pretty nice little September, eh?

5. Jimmie Johnson

Last month: 14 | Top-10s: 10

Yes, Johnson fans, I know you're mad at me now because I used "The champ is here!" for someone other than JJ. But after a maddening summer, he's finished eighth or better in three of the past four. Oh, and he's won Charlotte more than any driver ever.

6. Kevin Harvick

Last month: 5 | Top-10s: 17

Memo to all drivers still in the playoff: You're letting this guy keep hanging around. That's a bad plan.

7. Chase Elliott

Last month: 13 | Top-10s: 16

Don't worry, No. 24 fans, he's going to finally win one of these races one day. Then he'll win like six of the next 10. At least, I think he's going to finally win one of these races one day ... right?

8. Denny Hamlin

Last month: 3 | Top-10s: 16

After a summer-long climb to his Darlington victory, it's all been downhill, from being slapped with the dreaded "encumbered" to his last two finishes of 12th and 35th. So, downhill like the backside of a roller coaster.

9. Ryan Blaney

Last month: 12 | Top-10s: 10

Still alive in the playoffs. But honestly, at this point I think he's just sitting at home clicking "refresh" and hoping that the new Star Wars trailer pops up.

10. Matt Kenseth

Last month: 8 | Top-10s: 14

The good news? Matty Nice also has Jones' 2018 ride running great, with three top-6 finishes in the past four races and moving from 11th to eighth in points and relative playoff safety. The bad news? Still no ride for next year.

11. Jamie McMurray

Last month: 10 | Top-10s: 15

Made the playoffs without a win and made it to the second round of the playoffs without a win ... just as I continue to figure out how to make it through my day without the Egg White Delight McMuffin on the all-day breakfast menu.

12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Last month: 19 | Top-10s: 7

He's scored zero top-10s since the end of summer and has zero top-10s at Charlotte in 11 tries. But he made the cut to the second round of the playoffs (barely) and Talladega is next week for the reigning restrictor-plate king.

13. Ryan Newman

Last month: 11 | Top-10s: 11

OK Newman fans, I see how it is. For years you sent me hate mail because I kept saying he had no neck. Then after his confrontation with Jeff Gordon at Dover, Kyle Petty says on TV that Newman has no neck and you think that's just hilarious! Do I need to grow a ponytail?

14. Erik Jones

Last month: 7 | Top-10s: 12

If he'd managed to win a race in the summer he might be making some serious noise in the playoffs. Alas, he did not, so he is not.

15. Daniel Suarez

Last month: 16 | Top-10s: 8


16. Joey Logano

Last month: NR | Top-10s: 14

Same. Except, you know, he did win a race, except he didn't, but, oh never mind, look it up.

17. Kurt Busch

Last month: 9 | Top-10s: 13

His average finish in the first playoff round? 25.3. Thus, his absence from the second playoff round.

18. Austin Dillon

Last month: 15 | Top-10s: 4

His average finish in the first playoff round? 17th. Thus, his absence from the second playoff round.

19. Clint Bowyer

Last month: 17 | Top-10s: 12

His average finish in the first playoff round? 8.5. Wait, that's pretty good. So, why isn't he in the second playoff round? Oh yeah, he wasn't actually in the first playoff round, was he?

20. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Last month: NR | Top-10s: 5

A top-10! A top-10! He scored a top-10!