Wednesday, August 8, 2012

NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 21

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson led heading to a lap 91 restart, but got loose upon accelerating and slid into the path of Matt Kenseth. Denny Hamlin slammed into Kenseth while Jeff Gordon took the lead. Ran ended the race two laps later, and Johnson was left with a disappointing 14th-place finish.

"I'll be thinking about this one for awhile," Johnson said. "Call it a 'Long Pond-er.'

"It was a mistake on my part. We knew the rain was coming; I just lost control when it counted. Obviously, I don't work as well under clouds of suspicion as Chad Knaus."

2. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. — Earnhardt was strong early at Pocono, leading 17 laps before transmission problems surfaced on lap 50. He eventually finished 32nd, 18 laps down to the leaders, but remained atop the Sprint Cup point standings, five ahead of Matt Kenseth.

"I'm still on top of the points," Earnhardt said, "thanks to a lengthy downpour. Ironically, the absence of a short-lived rain prevented a short-lived reign.

"In the business, we call a transmission a 'tranny.' We call a funny-sounding tranny 'Michael Waltrip.' And the No. 88 sounded a lot like Michael on Sunday."

3. Tony Stewart — Stewart posted his ninth top-five finish of the year with a fifth in the rain-shortened Pennsylvania 400. He is sixth in the points standings, 53 out of first.

"I can't complain," Stewart said. "I'll take this result and run with it, which is the only 'running' I plan to do. It's certainly not the first time I've said this, but I'll take what Mother Nature gave me."

4. Matt Kenseth — Kenseth saw a top-five result evaporate when he was clipped by Jimmie Johnson on a lap 91 restart. Kenseth's spinning No. 17 Zest car was nailed by Denny Hamlin in the aftermath. Rain ended the race early two laps later, and Kenseth finished 23rd.

"I joined an exclusive club," Kenseth said. "Now, much like Jimmie Johnson's wife, I can say I've been 'taken out' by a five-time champion."

5. Brad Keselowski — Keselowki finished fourth at Pocono, recording his ninth top-5 finish of the year. He moved up two places to seventh in the point standings, and trails Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by 54.

"The No. 2 Miller Lite car was fast," Keselowski said. "By the way, how is A.J. Allmendinger like Miller Lite? He's 'canned.'"

6. Greg Biffle — Biffle came home 15th in the rain-shortened Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono, seeing a top-five finish disappear due to Jimmie Johnson's late spin. He remained third in the Sprint Cup point standings where he trails Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by 6.

"I don't agree with NASCAR's scoring after Johnson's crash," Biffle said. "You could say that, like A.J. Allmendinger, I'm 'super-pissed."

7. Denny Hamlin — With rain approaching, Hamlin was victimized by the wreckage caused by a mad scramble on a lap 91 restart. Hamlin's No. 11 FedEx car plowed in to Matt Kenseth, who was spun by Jimmie Johnson. A thunderstorm minutes later officially ended the race, and Hamlin limped away with a 29th.

"Kenseth has been reluctant to announce his move to Joe Gibbs Racing," Hamlin said, "so I decided to put out the unofficial 'Welcome, Matt' for him.

"As you may have heard, I'm expecting my first child with my girlfriend. I'm excited, and so is FedEx, because it's a great opportunity for a 'delivery' promo."

8. Jeff Gordon — Gordon finally took his first win of the year, thanks to chaos on a late restart and a timely thunderstorm that ended the Pennsylvania 400 after just 98 of 160 laps. Gordon weaved his way to the lead when Jimmie Johnson spun on the lap 91 restart, which shuffled the front-runners.

"I'll take any good fortune that comes my way," Gordon said. "Take it from me, it's better to be smiled upon by Lady Luck than Miss Winston. And if 'Luck' runs out, it will cost me much less."

9. Kasey Kahne — Kahne took the runner-up spot to Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon at Pocono, finding fortune in Sunday's rain shortened race. Kahne sits 11th in the point standings, and would currently qualify for the Chase For the Cup as a wild card.

"I'm not sure what happened to Jimmie Johnson up front," Kahne said. "I've heard he had a flat tire. Or did he? Either way, the 'pressure' got to him."

10. Clint Bowyer — Bowyer finished eighth at Pocono, earning his tenth top-10 finish of the year. He is currently 10th in the Sprint Cup point standings, 65 out of first and 77 ahead of Kasey Kahne in 11th.

"Kevin Harvick and I sit ninth and 10th in the point standings," Bowyer said, "which places us in very tenuous positions for the Chase. It's possible RCR won't have a representative in the Chase, which is not very representative of RCR."

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