Wednesday, October 3, 2012

NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 29

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Brad Keselowski — A bold fuel strategy boosted Keselowski to the driver's seat at Dover, and he held off Jeff Gordon to win the AAA 400. It was Keselowki's second win of the Chase, and put him in the lead of the Sprint Cup point standings, where he is 5 ahead of Jimmie Johnson.

"While many of my rivals needed fuel," Keselowski said, "the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge didn't. I guess it's true what they say: Miller Lite is less filling.'"

2. Denny Hamlin — Along with Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch, Hamlin dominated for much of Sunday's AAA 400, but was forced to pit with 10 laps remaining. Hamlin finished ninth and is now 16 points down to points leader Brad Keselowski.

"I say this with my eyes staring squarely at my gas-guzzling Toyota engine," Hamlin said. "'This sucks.' Ironically, a lack of gas took the air out of my race."

3. Jimmie Johnson — Forced into fuel conservation mode late in the race, Johnson held on and finished fourth after avoiding the late fuel stops that affected much of the field. He fell out of the points lead and now trails Brad Keselowski by 5.

"As a five-time Sprint Cup champion," Johnson said, "I feel qualified to say that I'm not the only driver that's 'five behind.'"

4. Clint Bowyer — Bowyer came home ninth at Dover, scoring his third consecutive top-10 finish of the Chase. He moved up one spot to fourth in the point standings and trails Brad Keselowski by 25.

"As the driver holding the fourth spot in the point standings," Bowyer said, "my task at hand is clear: to make sure this doesn't become just a three-man battle for the Sprint Cup."

5. Jeff Gordon — Gordon finished second in the AAA 400, his third runner-up finish in the last five races. He is now 10th in the point standings, 48 out of first.

"I was hoping that Brad Keselowski would run out of gas," Gordon said. "But once again, he proved that he's got a 'reserve' that no one else does."

6. Kasey Kahne — Kahne finished three laps down in 15th at Dover. He is fifth in the point standings, 32 out of first.

"Danica Patrick's coming to Sprint Cup full-time next year," Kahne said. "That's a reason to celebrate for womankind. I'd tell Danica to take a victory lap, but she'd likely end up a lap behind."

7. Tony Stewart — Stewart fell a lap down early at Dover and never recovered, finishing three laps down in 20th. He is now fifth in the Sprint Cup point standings, 32 out of first.

"It's not looking good for a defense of my 2011 Cup title," Stewart said. "It appears 'Smoke will be passing the torch,' words which are sure to raise the eyebrows of the enforcers of NASCAR's drug policy.

8. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. — Earnhardt finished two laps down and finished a disappointing 11th, losing further ground to the points leaders. In three Chase races, Earnhardt has yet to post a top-five result.

"Much like a bootleg screen print t-shirt of my likeness," Earnhardt said, "my chances at the Sprint Cup title are 'fading fast.' It seems the only 'miraculous comeback' you'll get from me is an incredibly clever retort to someone critical of my championship ability."

9. Martin Truex, Jr. — Truex remained solid in the Chase For The Cup, scoring his second top-10 finish with a sixth in the AAA 400. He improved two places in the point standings to eighth, 42 out of first.

"There are two 'Junior's' in the Chase," Truex said, "and it looks like neither has a chance to win the Cup. Junior should know better than anyone that it takes 'Seniority' to win a championship."

10. Kyle Busch — Busch led 302 of 400 laps at Dover, but relinquished the lead for a costly fuel stop late in the race. The stop cost him a lap and he finished seventh.

"While fuel mileage issues left of lot of us in 'neutral,'" Busch said, "Brad Keselowski must have been stuck in 'reverse,' because he surely 'backed' in to the win at Dover."

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