NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 18

NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 18

NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 18
By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Jeff Gordon — Gordon started on the pole as rain washed out qualifying, and led on a restart with seven laps remaining. But, as is the nature of restrictor plate racing, he lost the lead in the shuffling and scrambling, but still finished fifth, ahead of teammate Jimmie Johnson in 10th, and well ahead of Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin. Gordon increased his points lead, and now leads Johnson by 277 points.

"So much for the 100 points I was docked for those supposed rules infractions at Sonoma," says Gordon. "My lead is right back where it was before the penalty. I hear NASCAR is supposedly going to get tougher with their penalties after Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s crew chief, Tony Eury, Jr. flaunted his presence by parking his motor home on a hill outside the track at Loudon. And, if you know Tony, you know he's visible from a distance. I say if crew chiefs get suspended, they should really be "suspended" — high above the track in a cage."

2. Denny Hamlin — Hamlin and Joe Gibbs teammate Tony Stewart, runinng 1-2 on lap 14, made contact, with Hamlin sliding low after a bump from Stewart. Hamlin came up the track and was slammed by Stewart. Hamlin went to the garage and he finished 43rd, 61 laps down, while Stewart's chances of a third consecutive Pepsi 400 win ended. Stewart finished 38th.

"I was surprised by Tony's comments," says Hamlin, "and even more surprised that TNT didn't break for a commercial in between. And even more surprised that Tony held back on his French, in which he's normally very fluent. But I was the better man and I took blame for the incident, in a statement that was oozing with the sincerity of a Kobe Bryant apology. But Tony's my veteran teammate, so I have to defer to him. It will be intersting to see what happens when I'm on Tony's tail doing 180 mph. Let's just hope it's on a racetrack."

3. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson was in the mix at the end, but never quite got the push he needed to challenge for the win. He crossed the line 10th, joining Hendrick teammates Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch in the top 10. Johnson moved up one spot in the points to second.

"I don't know how Busch lost that," says Johnson. "Maybe it's because his Hendrick teammates basically blacklisted him and refused to help him. But maybe, just maybe, if we wouldn't have been so stubborn, one of us could have won the race. Anyway, the Hendrick engines at Daytona are nearly unstoppable, much like Roger Federer on grass. I guess drug testing in tennis is pretty lax."

4. Tony Stewart — After lap 14's incident with teammate Denny Hamlin, Stewart had much time on his hands while his damaged No. 20 Home Depot Chevy sat in the garage under repair. So Stewart did what he does second-best, talk. An angry Stewart, on his team radio, accused Hamlin of checking up, then, live on TNT, sarcastically accused Hamlin of trying to wreck him in Thursday's practice, and questioned Hamlin's role as a teammate.

"Obviously, Denny won't be standing under my um-ba-rella, ella, ella, eh, eh, eh," says Stewart. "As you know, I don't hand out pardons as easily as the President of the United States. But I'm pretty darn liberal handing out blame, though. Denny's got to understand one thing: the line between friends and enemies of Tony Stewart is about as thin as the line between compliance and a penalty in any part of the car that NASCAR can measure."

5. Carl Edwards — Edwards tucked in behind teammate Jamie McMurray in the frantic final laps at Daytona, helping push McMurray to a wild finish in winning the Pepsi 400. Edwards finished fourth, his best finish ever at Daytona, and climbed one spot to sixth in the points, 465 out of first.

"Imagine that," says Edwards. "Teammates helping each other. What a concept. Usually, when you combine the Office Depot with Crown Royal, the result is a staple or two in a finger, or a Xerox'd copy of a middle finger. The Roush team has always been a harmonious bunch; that was true even when Kurt Busch was here."

6. Matt Kenseth — Ho hum. Kenseth logged another top-10 finish, his 12th of the year, with an eighth in the Pepsi 400. This time, however, Kenseth wasn't the first Roush Fenway member across the line; he was the fourth, behind teammates Jamie McMurray, who won, Carl Edwards (4th), and Greg Biffle (6th).

"Hey, there's no resentment or tension at Roush Fenway," says Kenseth, "unlike in other teams. I won't name names, but I'm not averse to giving clues. Here's one: the teams are owned by Rick Hendrick and Joe Gibbs. But enough about this silly disagreements between teammates. They just take away from the stories that we really should be talking about, like that involving my favorite American Idol Clay Aiken's scuffle with a woman on an airline flight. I hope she went easy on him. The only scuffle Clay's been in before is with his manhood. He lost that one, too."

7. Kevin Harvick — Harvick was another of the big names to be taken out in early wrecks at Daytona. He had led three laps early and was cruising inside the top 10 when Juan Pablo Montoya pressed him into the wall, causing severe right-side damage. Harvick's ended up 34th, 13 laps down, and later criticized Montoya's driving.

"No one's doubting Montoya's talent," says Harvick. "He's an expert on road courses, but someone needs to tell him the run-off areas on super speedways aren't sand. They're called walls, and are not as forgiving as sand. Luckily, JPM's not my teammate. Otherwise, I'd give him a real piece of my mind."

8. Kyle Busch — Busch made a run to the front, with no help from his Hendrick teammates, but fell short of winning his second race of the day when Jamie McMurray miraculously nudged him at the line. Busch had earlier in the day won the Busch Series Winn-Dixie 250. His second in the Pepsi 400 boosted his points standing from 10th to eight, where he trails leader Jeff Gordon by 583.

"I don't get it," says a flustered Busch. "First, I can't get a push from any of my two-faced teammates, then Gordon gives me the brush off after I try to congratulate him after the race. What did I do wrong? I started looking for a new team after it was announced that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. would join Hendrick in 2008, not the other way around. It's ridiculous. If they want to play hardball, nobody plays hardball like a Busch brother. Gordon can forget about me babysitting, Jimmie Johnson can forget about any ESPY votes from me, and Casey Mears, well, he can go about his usual business. Of course, I could be wrong about all this. Maybe I just need to take a lokk in the mirror."

9. Jeff Burton — Burton fought handling issues all day, and avoiding the numerous incidents that wiped out several contenders. Making up several positions in the race's last quarter, Burton ended up 16th, and remained fifth in the points.

"Maybe it's the heat," says Burton, "but there seemed to be an inordinate amount of spats between drivers this weekend, and I'm not talking just about NASCAR. I'm talking about the scrum between Indy Car drivers Tony Kanaan and Sam Hornish, Jr. that took place after the finish at Watkins Glen. Hornish's father, Sam, Sr. even got involved, and ended up on the pavement. If only race car drivers knew how silly they looked outside of their cars, with those huge helmet-heads, they wouldn't engage in such tomfoolery."

10. (tie) Clint Bowyer/Jamie McMurray — The number seven was wild for Bowyer, who finished seventh on 7/7/07 in his No. 07 Chevy at Daytona. Bowyer then relaxed with a 7 & 7 while watching the movie Seven, then later scratched a seven-year itch. Then, sadly, he was struck by lightning. Not really, but an electrical problem that hit while leading ruined his chances at the win.

"I guess my luck, like my battery, temporarily ran out," laments Bowyer. "And speaking of luck, doesn't Dale Earnhardt, Jr. have it working for him when it comes to endorsement deals. First Sony, now adidas. Those are two coveted deals, but not the pinnacle of desirability. That would have to be Git-R-Done, the new fragrance, I mean beer, from Larry The Cable Guy. Coming soon, and leaving soon thereafter, to a grocery store near you."

McMurray overcame a penalty for passing below the yellow line, ironically, to pass Kyle Busch, whom he would later edge at the stripe, to win for the first time since 2002. The win bumped him up to 13th in the points, only 49 behind Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who sits 13th.

"I feel kind of bad for Kyle," says McMurray. "He's like the red-headed stepchild of Hendrick Motorsports right now, getting dissed by his own teammates. It's bad enough he gets booed by the fans during driver introductions. I don't think Kyle was made to play the bad guy like his brother Kurt. That's why I'm appealing to all fans who don't have a favorite driver to make Kyle Busch your man. He's got just the right amount of talent and attitude to be a superstar. He just needs a sponsor that reflects that talent and attitude. It sure ain't Kellogg's Corn Flakes."

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