NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 20

NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 20

NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 20
By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Jeff Gordon — After a middling qualifying effort of 21st on Saturday, Gordon came out much faster on Sunday, quickly penetrating the top 10 on his way to third at Indianapolis. While handling issues handcuffed any ideas of winning the race, Gordon still extending his points lead over second place, and now has a massive 371-point cushion over Denny Hamlin.

"'And speaking of 'massive cushions,'" says Gordon, "there's nothing I like better than good grip on the tail end. I'm referring to the car, you understand. Anyway, it looks like Tony Stewart is getting hot, so I can expect him to be my main competition for the title. If he wants some, he can come get some. Here kitty, kitty, kitty. And, if Jimmie Johnson wants some, and can find a decent set of tires, then he can come get some, too."

2. Tony Stewart — Stewart battled good friend Kevin Harvick down the stretch at Indy, aggressively powering past the Richard Childress driver with 10 laps left to win his second Brickyard 400. Stewart then kissed the bricks, climbed the fence, and doused himself with wet cement, clearly a blatant attempt to advertise building materials available at the Home Depot.

"Now that's what I call racing," says Stewart, "as long as I come out on top. I know Kevin may be upset with the way I raced him, but I was desperate to win in Indy, not only for myself, but also for all my fans, which includes NBA official Tim Donaghy, who had a load of cash riding on me. And I apologize for the language after the race that cost me 25 points and $25,000. I can't promise it won't happen again. In fact, can I make a prepayment so I'll be covered when it does happen again?"

3. Denny Hamlin — Hamlin was penalized for speeding on pit lane early, then ran out of fuel coming down pit road for his final pit stop, and lost a lap trying to restart his engine. He entered the pits looking at a likely top-10 finish, but his troubles resulted in a 22nd-place result.

"I guess I'll have to bite the bullet and congratulate my teammate, Tony Stewart," says Hamlin. "After all, he won the race, and Joe Gibbs ordered me to, anyway. Tony's an interesting fellow. One minute, you hate him. The next minute, you hate him more. Whatever he does or says, no matter how controversial, Tony's got an uncanny ability to convince himself that it was the right thing to do. He'll make a great politician one day."

4. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson survived an early spin with Jamie McMurray, only to crash out in flames when tire rub on his fender resulted in a blown tire and a fiery slide down the turn two wall. Johnson emerged relatively unhurt, suffering only singed eyebrows, but he tumbled two more places in the points (he fell three places after finishing 30th at Chicagoland) to ninth, where he is 607 behind teammate Jeff Gordon.

"Man, I feel practically naked without my eyebrows," says Johnson, who cancelled his weekly tweeze. "It got pretty hot in that car, just like it did in that car occupied by Ray Evernham and Erin Crocker some time ago. Unlike Erin, I emerged with my career intact."

5. Matt Kenseth — As has often been the case, Kenseth and crew never quite found the ideal setup on Sunday, but constant tinkering and adjustments helped the No. 17 Roush Fenway Ford to its 14th top-10 finish of the year. Kenseth remained third in the points, 377 out of first.

"There was this unusual vibration in the car," says Kenseth, "but the Killer Bees couldn't figure it out. Turns out it was just me shaking a cup of popcorn chicken shakers from Arby's. I should watch what I say. Chicken shakers in the cockpit has to be a violation of some obscure NASCAR rule. Anyway, I also got to work the drive-thru at an Arby's in Indianapolis. You know, I felt as much as home there as I do at the track; no one recognized me at either place."

6. Kevin Harvick — Harvick blew past Tony Stewart on a restart with 20 laps left, but had the favor returned to him 10 laps later when Stewart overtook him after some hard racing that left Harvick's front fender damaged, causing him to fade to seventh by race's end. A perturbed Harvick gave Stewart's car a "bump" after the race, which was either congratulatory or retaliatory, depending on your affinity and/or loyalty to Shell gasoline/Reese's Peanut Butter Cups or the Home Depot.

"You know the saying," says Harvick, "'Where there's smoke, there's someone who's pissed off.' Tony's the first one to complain if someone does exactly what he did to me. If he's the one to benefit from an aggressive move, then it's all fine and dandy. His behavior reminds me of someone else in NASCAR: me."

7. Jeff Burton — Burton recorded his 11th top-10 of the year with a eighth in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. Afterwards, Burton met with Kyle Busch to discuss what Burton thought was some unnecessarily hard racing early in the race.

"I'm not really upset about Kyle's hard driving," explains NASCAR's unofficial ambassador of good will. "What really got my goat were those silly orange and blue flames from the ESPN Draft Track when Kyle got near me. How am I supposed to be able to see through all that? Didn't FOX use that same technology on a hockey puck a few years ago? As I recall, it wasn't a big success. And FOX isn't covering hockey anymore."

8. Carl Edwards — Edwards run of two-straight top-five's ended at Indy, as handling issues left him with an 18th-place finish. The previous week, Edwards dislocated his thumb in a dirt track accident in Greenwood, Nebraska, but he insisted that had nothing to do with his performance at Indianapolis.

"Actually, I got pinned thumb wrestling with this hobo who was at the halfway point in his quest to hitchhike across America," explains Edwards. "Boy, did he have a powerful thumb. Thumb wrestling could be ESPN's next great televised conquest."

9. Kyle Busch — Busch led 17 laps in the Allstate 400 and finished fourth, his best finish since his second at Daytona earlier this month. However, Busch's joy was tempered by humility, when he apologized to his Hendrick teammates for derogatory and unsubstantiated comments he made about their actions at Daytona.

"Hey, I'm a Busch brother," says Busch. "I speak, then I think. But at least I'm not as bad as Kurt. He speaks, then thinks, then gets slapped. But I've made up with my Hendrick teammates. I'm through criticizing them. At least until my new book, co-authored with Jose Canseco, comes out. I've got some 'stuff' on those guys."

10. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. — Earnhardt led 33 laps and appeared to have the engine to challenge Tony Stewart, but that same engine blew 24 laps from the end as Earnhardt ran fifth. He finished 34th but held on to 12th in the points, but is only 13 points ahead of Kurt Busch in 13th.

"Okay fans," says Earnhardt. "Say goodbye to all your Budweiser gear and say hello to National Guard and Mountain Dew gear. And say goodbye to being cool.

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