Wednesday, August 15, 2012

NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 22

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson finished third at Watkins Glen, posting his Sprint Cup series-best 11th top-five result. Johnson jumped three spots to the top of the points standings, and leads Greg Biffle by one.

"Wow! What a finish!" Johnson said. "That's what NASCAR racing is all about. Too bad it only happens once or twice a year.

"But I'm tickled by any race that ends with me on top in the points standings. Now, is Marcos Ambrose a threat to win the Sprint Cup? No way, and the thought of such is pure 'Tasmanian drivel.'"

2. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. — Earnhardt spun with seven laps to go, losing a likely top-10 finish and crossing the line 28th. He tumbled out of the Sprint Cup points lead, and is now fourth, 17 out of first.

"After two weeks atop the Sprint Cup point standings," Earnhardt said, "who didn't expect a tailspin.

"The track was a mess. It was as 'well-oiled' as the Junior Nation campground."

3. Brad Keselowski — Keselowski led with one lap to go in the Finger Lakes 355 at the Glen, but was passed by Marcos Ambrose near the finish in a wild final lap. Keselowski was denied his fourth win of the year, but moved up two places to fifth in the points standings, 44 out of first.

"I was so close to getting away with the win," Keselowski said, "but much like Roger Penske's other kids, I got 'caught.' If Roger's boys would have been as slippery as the Watkins Glen track, they'd never have been caught.

"As it is, Roger may have to pull another A.J. Allmendinger and disown them."

4. Greg Biffle — Biffle took sixth at Watkins Glen, as Roush Fenway Racing placed three cars in the top 14. Biffle moved up one spot to second in the point standings, and trails Jimmie Johnson by a single point.

"I did what I needed to do at The Glen," Biffle said. "Finish in the top 10 and steer clear of Boris Said. He finished 25th, which was nowhere near me. So, the answer to what Boris Said and Boris did is 'nothing.'"

5. Matt Kenseth — Kenseth finished a solid eight at Watkins Glen, earning his 14th top-10 of the year. He is now third in the point standings, trailing Greg Biffle by one and points-leader Jimmie Johnson by two.

"I am soooo close," Kenseth said, "…to announcing the details of my deal with Joe Gibbs Racing. Hopefully, my last races with Roush Fenway Racing will see me contending for the Cup championship. I definitely want to have a 'going away presence.'"

6. Tony Stewart — Stewart was running second when he spun in the final turn with 16 laps remaining. With extensive rear-end damage to the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil Chevy, he had to settle for 19th at The Glen.

"I was going for 'broke,'" Stewart said. "Unfortunately, I succeeded. It's not often I can say 'I lost it' and it not have anything to do with Kurt Busch."

7. Kasey Kahne — Kahne remained in the hunt for a Chase position with a respectable 13th-place finish at Watkins Glen. He is 11th in the Sprint Cup point standings, and currently holds the first wildcard spot for the Chase.

"I've never been to the Nantucket Yacht Club," Kahne said, "but I'm confident I'll fare better 'in the Chase' than Roger Penske's boys."

8. Martin Truex, Jr. — Truex posted his 12th top-10 finish of the year with a 10th in the Finger Lakes 355 at the Glen. He is now sixth in the point standings, but with no wins on the year, would likely start at the bottom of the Chase For the Cup field.

"You never know," Truex said. "I could get hot and win the Sprint Cup championship. I would say I need to 'Get in the Zone,' but I'm contractually forbidden to do so."

9. Denny Hamlin — A disastrous weekend at Watkins Glen started with a crash in Friday practice and ended with a 34th-place finish on Sunday. Hamlin's No. 11 FedEx Toyota suffered a fiery end when his engine blew and ignited on lap 57. Hamlin fell two places to tenth in the point standings, 84 out of first.

"Kyle Busch and I were both victimized by our respective old nemeses," Hamlin said. "For Kyle, it was Brad Keselowski. For me, it was a Toyota engine. Kyle and I were both left 'fuming.'"

10. Marcos Ambrose — Ambrose nipped Brad Keselowski at the wire to win for the second year in a row at Watkins Glen. Ambrose and Keselowski dueled on a wild final half-lap on a track made treacherous by leaked oil from the car of Bobby Labonte.

"There's only one way to describe this," Ambrose said, "and that's 'Finger Lake-ing good!' I gave Keselowski the slip. This more than makes up for Sonoma two years ago when I stalled my engine and let a sure win get away. There was only one way to describe that: 'Sonoma, bitch!'

"I think it's safe to say that I'm Tasmania's most famous citizen who's not a cartoon character."

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