NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 17

NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 17

NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 17
By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.  ;D

1. Jeff Gordon — After a spirited battle with Martin Truex, Jr. for second place, Gordon was unable to overtake leader Denny Hamlin in Sunday's final laps at Dover. It was Gordon's first race without crew chief Steve Letarte, who was suspended six races for rules infractions at Sonoma.

"This couldn't have happened at a better time," says Gordon. "The timing was perfect. I need a babysitter, and Steve needs a job. For the next month, he need not worry about changing tires, only changing diapers. And Steve is under strict orders not to alter the baby stroller in any way."

2. Denny Hamlin — The No. 11 team's decision to take only two tires instead of four during the race's final caution was the catalyst for Hamlin's first win of the year. The time saved in the pits moved Hamlin from fourth to the lead, and he fought off the advances of Jeff Gordon to take the victory in what has been a season top-heavy with near-misses.

"Look, the logic was simple behind the decision to take only two tires," says Hamlin, who gave Joe Gibbs Racing its first win of the year. "By taking only two tires, we cut in half the possibility of my crew screwing up another pit stop. These clowns finally learned how to correctly handle lug nuts. It's just sad it took a cattle prodder to get the desired results."

3. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson, like teammate Gordon, seemingly suffered no ill effects from the absence of his crew chief, Chad Knaus, on NASCAR-imposed lockdown for six races for his role in illegal alterations to the No. 48 car two weeks ago in Sonoma. Johnson was fastest in Saturday's final practice, and went on to finish fifth, his 10th top-10 and first since Charlotte in late May.

"I think I proved last year that crew chiefs are like batteries ... replaceable," says Johnson. "As far as I'm concerned, they could put a mannequin in the crew chief's seat and I'd be happy, as long as the Lowe's logo and those of our many sponsors are displayed prominently. But we'll welcome Chad back with open arms and a subject-to-interpretation rule book in five weeks. His detractors may think he's holed up in a dungeon devising new ways to skirt the rule book. That's entirely not the case. He already knows how to cheat. He's holed up in his dungeon devising ways not to get caught."

4. Matt Kenseth — Kenseth was the only Ford in the top 10, finishing ninth and rebounding from two previous weeks of terrible results; he finished 42nd and 34th, at Michigan and Sonoma, respectively. He now sits third in the points, 365 points behind Jeff Gordon.

"They've got a name for the cars that finish in the 34th through 42nd slots," says Kenseth. "It's called a 'nine-team Michael Waltrip Racing operation.' But seriously, let's give Toyota credit. Dave Blaney did put his Toyota on the pole, which is impressive. Before that, the phrase 'putting a Toyota on the pole' had something to do with raising a Toyota flag."

5. Tony Stewart — Stewart's 12th in New Hampshire could have been better, but a slow pit stop during the race's final caution dropped him back. Stewart had trouble locating his pit stall and overshot it, forcing him to park at an awkward angle. He lost nine places during the stop, but fought back to regain seven positions in the final 45 laps.

"I take full responsibility for that error," says Stewart. "I blame no one but myself, but in my defense, my parking skill made it very difficult for Kurt Busch to pull up beside me. Anyway, at least Joe Gibbs Racing got its first win this year. I know we probably won't be able to match Hendrick's win total, but if we can get to four, I think we'll have more wins than the Redskins this year."

6. Carl Edwards — Edwards No. 99 Ford sported the logo of the Boston Red Sox to promote the Roush Fenway Racing partnership, but a huge error in the pits cost him any chance of a win in the Lenox Industrial Tools 300. On a lap 195 visit to the pits, the jack was dropped, resulting in a 47-second stop. Edwards battled back to finish 13th, and held on to seventh in the points, 465 out of first.

"It was a great weekend with the Red Sox family," says Edwards. "I got to toss out the first pitch at a Sox game, I took announcer Jerry Remy for a spin in my car, and I had an animated conversation with the frozen head of the 'Splendid Splinter,' Ted Williams. He's a man of few words, with the steely-eyed, determined glare of a man who's hit .400 before. Now, as far as Sunday's race goes, I've got only two words for the crewman who dropped the jack, and those two words can be found on my car next week, when it will feature a paint scheme modeled after the shirt worn by the classy wife of the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez."

7. Martin Truex, Jr. — Truex led 46 laps at Loudon, but lost the lead in the pits when Denny Hamlin gambled by taking only two tires. Truex then fought off Jeff Gordon, finally surrendering second place with about three laps remaining. Truex's third place was his fourth top-five finish in the last five races, and propelled him up one spot to tenth in the points.

"I guess you can attribute DEI's recent success to the merging of the engine programs of DEI and Richard Childress Racing," says Truex. "It was a decision that made a ton of sense in our business and competition arenas. Apparently, that's why Teresa Earnhardt knew nothing about it."

8. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. — Earnhardt, Jr. joined teammate Martin Truex, Jr. in the top five in New Hampshire with a fourth, Little E's sixth top-10 finish in the last six races, a feat equaled by Truex. Earnhardt holds on to the all-important 12th place in the points, with a comfortable 127 point lead over Ryan Newman in 13th.

"Isn't it nice to see me making news on the track instead of off?" says Earnhardt. "With that said, did you notice I also joined two future teammates in the top five, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson? And there's rumors that my Hendrick car may be sponsored by Monster Energy drink instead of Budweiser. I hear the folks at Anheuser-Busch think I'm getting too old to appeal to the target audience for Bud. That's ridiculous, but even if it's true, it's still not a wise move on their part. Having Bud on my car moves their product. Here's the kicker: you don't have to be 21 to wear Dale Earnhardt, Jr.-Budweiser apparel. Babies can't and shouldn't drink beer, but they can wear my gear. I've seen them. I just don't see fans getting behind Monster like they do Budweiser. And I don't get the popularity of these new energy drinks in their fancy cans, anyway. When I was a kid, we had our own energy drink. It was called Kool-Aid. Get me the Kool-Aid man on my car, pronto. Oh yeah!"

9. Jeff Burton — Burton posted a solid seventh in the Lenox Industrial Tools 300, but admitted that his No. 31 Richard Childress Chevy's COT package is slightly behind that of the top teams. He is fifth in the points, but right now, he doesn't seem like a driver that can compete with current championship favorites Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Denny Hamlin.

"The Car of Tommorrow is one tough concept to understand," says Burton, "much like the Rubik's Cube or Paris Hilton's fame. All this talk of front splitters and rear spoilers makes my head spin, like when I have a conversation with my brother, Wadd Button. Anyway, it's not quite time for drastic measures, but when it is, I have the perfect plan: to have my crew chief suspended for cheating."

10. Kevin Harvick — Harvick followed teammate Jeff Burton across the finish, as the two Richard Childress machines finished 7-8, the last of a parade of eight Chevrolets that shut Ford, Dodge, and Toyota out of the top eight. Harvick is eighth in the points, 248 ahead of Ryan Newman in 13th.

"Somebody get me the janitor," says Harvick, "'cause there's gonna be some sweeping this weekend at Daytona, just like I did in February."

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