NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 20

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Tony Stewart — Stewart finished third at Indianapolis, his series-leading 12th top-five result of the year, and padded his lead atop the point standings. Stewart now leads Jimmie Johnson, who passed Jeff Gordon for the No. 2 spot in the standings, by 192 points.

"As an Indiana native," Stewart said, "this is the one race I really want to win. I've got two wins here already, but now that Jimmie Johnson has more, I can't say that I wasn't jealous watching him kiss the bricks."

"Not that I also didn't get a cheap, voyeuristic thrill watching, much like one would by viewing grainy footage of a naked ESPN reporter. But what Dr. Jerry Punch does in the privacy of his hotel room should be his business, and his business alone."

2. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson won his second consecutive Brickyard 400, and third in his career, in an eventful race at Indianapolis that was rendered wide open when Juan Montoya was ticketed for speeding on pit lane on lap 127. Montoya had led 116 of the first 124 laps before the fateful infraction.

"You could say NASCAR gift-wrapped that one for me," Johnson said. "And you could say the package came not with a 'Colombian necktie,' but with a 'Colombian bow tie.' Man, talk about a champion's provisional."

"Besides, Montoya's stepmother said he was speeding, so it must be true."

3. Jeff Gordon — Gordon finished a lackluster ninth at Indianapolis, collecting his 14th top-10 finish of the year at the track where he has four career victories. Gordon's No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet lacked the handling to challenge the cars of race winner Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, and Juan Montoya, but some timely passes as the laps dwindled salvaged the top 10. Gordon dropped to third in the points, 192 behind Tony Stewart and 15 behind Johnson.

"I'm happy for Jimmie and Mark," Gordon said, "and I'm happy for Rick Hendrick, as well. He spares no expense to provide this team with the best equipment. I wouldn't be surprised if Hendrick engineering played a part in the timing devices used to catch those pit lane speeders. But please don't buy into another one of Jeremy Mayfield's conspiracy theories."

"It looked like it was Montoya's race to win. The No. 42 Dodge was so dominant, I thought Juan would win going away. But things can change quickly in this sport. What was looking like a 'Juan-coup' finish became a '1-2' Hendrick finish."

4. Mark Martin — Martin won the pole for the Brickyard 400 on Saturday, becoming the oldest driver to accomplish that feat in NASCAR's history. He nearly cashed in for victory, but was unable to pass Jimmie Johnson after an exciting 20-lap duel to the finish. With his runner-up finish, Martin moved up two places in the point standings to ninth, and holds a 42-point cushion over the 12th spot.

"Jimmie got by me on that final restart," Martin said, "and that was all she wrote. I gave it everything the No. 5 Car Quest Chevrolet had, but I couldn't catch him. I think it was Jimmie's way of sending a message that he's still the man to beat. It's good that he cleared that up, because most drivers, Tony Stewart and Jimmy Spencer among them, have always recognized Kurt Busch as the man to 'beat.'"

"Honestly, though, there's really no secret to my longevity as a driver. If you're looking for a 'Fountain of Youth,' there's not one, although the talent at a Tony Stewart hauler party comes mighty close."

"No, I attribute my success to hard work, but mostly the credit is due to the competitive fire coursing through my veins. Now, if I could bottle that up and sell it, I'm sure Aaron Fike and Jeremy Mayfield would be first in line to try it."

5. Kasey Kahne — In his 200th career Sprint Cup start, Kahne finished seventh in the Brickyard 400, his second-straight top-10 and fifth-consecutive top-15. He held on to eighth place in the Sprint Cup point standings, and has a 53-point lead over Matt Kenseth in 12th.

"I'm really sympathetic to what Juan Montoya must be feeling," Kahne said. "He was pushing that car to the limit, with a 'checkered flag or bust' mentality. Well, he got 'bust'-ed all right, for speeding."

"Me? I can definitely relate to getting 'busted.' It happens to me quite often, actually, usually at meet-and-greets, when a comely female admirer 'busts' me. Luckily, it only costs me an autograph, and not a Brickyard 400 win."

"Anyway, I'm pleased with the team's performance. We've really come on strong in the second half of the season. I attribute that to hard work, a focused outlook, and some words of wisdom offered by 'The King' Richard Petty. He told me that there's no reason a driver with my talent should miss out on the Chase. I think his exact words were 'You know you don't have to be that guy, son.'"

"But right now, our Chase standing is in good shape. If I blow it and fall out of the top 12 in the next six races, it will be nothing less than a 'Kahne Mutiny.'"

6. Kurt Busch — Busch was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop under green to tend to a wheel vibration on lap 33, and incident which left him a lap down. And, with a scant three caution periods during the entire race, Busch was never in position for the "Lucky Dog" free pass. He finished 27th, one lap down, but held on to fourth in the Sprint Cup point standings.

"Jimmie Johnson had everything working in his favor," Busch said. "A great car, a Juan Montoya speeding penalty, a timely caution, and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge nowhere near him. That's a heck of a lot of ingredients, but a recipe for success nonetheless."

"I'm still waiting for a good time to talk to Jimmie about the run-ins we've had on the track recently. With the Chase looming and Jimmie coming into form, he's kind of hard to catch nowadays. I asked him when would be a good time to talk, and he told me he could be reached anytime at 867-5309/Jimmie."

"When we talk, I'll expect an apology. If Jimmie doesn't oblige, the No. 48 Lowe's car can expect to 'Ride the Lite-ning' into a wall pretty soon."

7. Carl Edwards — Hampered by a poor qualifying effort that gave him the 41st position of the starting grid, Edwards' prospects of success at Indianapolis were slim. But perseverance, determination, and a slew of other words used to indicate a slow car helped Edwards improve 26 positions and finish 15th in the Brickyard 400. He moved up one spot in the point standings to fifth, and trails Tony Stewart by 498.

"I think all of the guys are sympathetic to the plight of Jeremy Mayfield," Edwards said. "At Indianapolis, we all had an inkling of what he must be going through, because 'passing' was difficult out there."

"Now, if you're like me, you've had enough of the Mayfield versus NASCAR drug saga. I like my Sprint Cup filled with racing action, not urine. Lately, the Cup runneth over."

"And the drama shows no signs of slowing. NASCAR recently accused Mayfield of lying in federal court. It seems Mayfield said he didn't talk to a laboratory employee about submitting to a test when and audio recording indicated that he did. Is there a movie in the works? You bet. It's called Meth, Lies, and Audiotape."

8. Juan Montoya — On his way to what likely would have been the most dominating Brickyard 400 victory in history, Montoya was nabbed for speeding on pit lane with 35 laps to go. Montoya had led 116 of the previous 124 laps and had built leads as large as five seconds, but the drive-through penalty assessed rendered those statistics irrelevant. Montoya finished 11th and dropped one place to tenth in the point standings.

"Jeremy Mayfield would agree," Montoya said, "that NASCAR obviously has a vendetta against drivers with the initials 'J.M' and 'speed' problems. I feel even more 'Target-ed' than normal."

"I'm proud to be a Colombian, but all too often, I'm finding that misconceptions about people of my nationality are apparently affecting the decisions of NASCAR. There's a misguided assumption that all Colombians have a cocaine problem, but that's still no reason for NASCAR to give me a 'snow' job."

9. Denny Hamlin — Like his Joe Gibbs teammate Kyle Busch, Hamlin found the going tough at Indianapolis. Early in the race, a broken drive shaft forced the No. 11 Fed Ex Office Toyota to the garage. By the time repairs were completed, Hamlin was 16 laps down. He finished a game 34th, and fell one place in the points to sixth.

"Kyle and I both have been dealing with our share of adversity," Hamlin said, "most notably the fact that we're both being outdriven by an 19-year-old rookie."

"But that kid Logano is as talented as he is skinny. He has no shortage of talent, his greatest being the ability to exit his car without letting down his window netting."

10. Ryan Newman — Newman finished 14th in the Brickyard 400, behind Stewart Haas teammate and fellow Indiana native Tony Stewart, who finished third. Newman is seventh in the points, 548 behind Stewart.

"Hey, there's nothing wrong with controversy in NASCAR," Newman said. "At least it keeps people from talking about Kyle Busch."

"And controversy promotes discussion, and everyone's talking about Juan Montoya's speeding penalty. While it may not be of the magnitude of mysteries such as 'Who shot J.R.,?' the question on the minds of many in NASCAR circles is 'Who clocked J.M.?'"

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