Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 33

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson started on the pole at Martinsville and captured a huge win, his sixth at the .526-mile track. Johnson passed Brad Keselowski with about 20 laps to go, and held off Kyle Busch down the stretch. He now leads the points standings with a 2-point edge over Brad Keselowski.

"I'll echo the sentiments of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.," Johnson said. "It's good to be back in the 'driver's seat.' Up to this point, Keselowski had a lock on the points lead. Well, that lock's been 'Jimmied.'"

2. Brad Keselowski — Keselowski opted to stay out on a late caution at Martinsville while the leaders pitted. He was quickly passed by Johnson and others on fresher tires. Still, Keselowski finished sixth, his best career finish at Martinsville, but lost the lead to Jimmie Johnson in the points standings.

"For refusing to play 'follow the leader,'" Keselowski said, "I was relegated to playing 'follow the leader.' I've lost my points lead, but not my spirit. Which is good, with it being Halloween. I may need a costume change, since I've been posing as a Sprint Cup champion."

3. Clint Bowyer — Bowyer finished fifth in the Tums Fast Relief 500, leading 154 of 500 laps, second only to Jimmie Johnson's 193. Bowyer moved up one spot in the point standings, and trails Jimmie Johnson by 26.

"I'll certainly need a boost," Bowyer said. "Luckily, as the driver of the 5-Hour Energy car, I've got that. Also, 5-Hour Energy helps you avoid the 'crash,' of which I'm hoping one will strike at Texas."

4. Denny Hamlin — Disaster struck at Martinsville for Hamlin, as electrical issues ruined his chances in the Tums Fast Relief 500, and likely the Cup championship. He finished 33rd, 34 laps down, and is now 49 points out of the lead in the point standings.

"I got 'clocked' at Kansas," Hamlin said. "I was hoping for the same at Martinsville by winning and receiving the grandfather clock trophy. As it was, I did get a clock, albeit one that struck midnight, which is obviously not our 'time.'"

5. Kasey Kahne — Kahne finished third at Martinsville, posting his 11th top-five finish of the year. He is up to fourth in the point standings, and is still alive in the Chase For the Cup, albeit as a decided long shot.

"I'm having a great Chase run," Kahne said. "Not good enough to win this year's Cup, but good enough to be the favorite for next year's Cup. That's not really a position I want to be in. I don't want to be 'next year's Carl Edwards,' or any year's Carl Edwards, for that matter."

6. Jeff Gordon — Gordon led 92 laps and finished seventh at Martinsville, as three Hendrick cars finished in the top seven. Gordon is now sixth in the point standings, 54 out of first.

"It's good to run up front again," Gordon said. "For several laps near the end, I was running second to Jimmie Johnson, which is also known as running 'interference.'"

7. Kyle Busch — Busch chased Jimmie Johnson to the finish line at Martinsville, but couldn't get close enough for the pass and settled for second. It was Busch's fourth top-five finish of the Chase.

"I'm usually good in the Chase," Busch said, "unless I qualify for it."

8. Martin Truex, Jr. — Truex struggled at Martinsville, finishing 23rd, one lap down. He is seventh in the point standings, 63 out of first.

"We know what we have to do in the last three races," Truex said. "How do we know? Because, in a winless season, it's the exact opposite of what we've done in the first 33 races."

9. Matt Kenseth — Kenseth finished 14th in the Tums Fast Relief 500. He is eighth in the Sprint Cup point standings, 65 behind Jimmie Johnson.

"I've got three more races with Roush Fenway," Kenseth said. "Hopefully, I can win one or more of those three contest. Or, I could, like many other drivers this year, announce that my wife and I are expecting another child. Either way, I would go out with a bang."

10. Greg Biffle — Biffle was the only Roush Fenway driver in the top 10 at Martinsville, his tenth besting the 14th of Matt Kenseth and 18th of Carl Edwards. Biffle is ninth in the point standings, 69 out of first.

"It's been a tough year for Jack Roush," Biffle said, "one that may require him to go back to the drawing board. For the man they call 'The Cat In The Hat,' I'm sure it won't be difficult to find a 'thinking cap.'"

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