Wednesday, November 7, 2012

NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 34

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson passed Brad Keselowski with two laps to go at Texas and pulled away to win at Texas, his second consecutive win in the Chase. Johnson extended his lead in the point standings, and now holds a 7-point edge on Keselowski.

"That may have been the second-best 'restart' of my career," Johnson said. "The best, of course, would be the 'restart' to another multi-Cup championship run.

"Of course, it was quite fitting that I fired the celebratory 'six-shooter' after the race, a sound which heralded my quest for my sixth Cup title. The bullets weren't real, mind you. Judging by the number of pregnant wives and girlfriends in NASCAR this year, I must have been the only one 'shooting blanks.'"

2. Brad Keselowski — Holding the lead with two laps to go at Texas, Keselowski was passed on the restart by Jimmie Johnson and finished second. After leading the championship standings with four races to go, Keselowski is now seven points back of Johnson.

"Seven points is not insurmountable," Keselowski said, "but Johnson may be. Unfortunately, I find myself behind the '48-ball.'"

3. Clint Bowyer — Bowyer finished sixth in the AAA Texas 500, earning his 21st top-10 result of the year. He is third in the point standings, 26 behind Jimmie Johnson.

"Until someone tells me otherwise," Bowyer said, "I'll keep racing like I have a chance to win the Cup. Keep in mind, I don't like people telling me things."

4. Denny Hamlin — After his disastrous result at Martinsville two weeks ago, Hamlin finished a disappointing 20th at Texas. Deemed a threat to win the Cup just three weeks ago, Hamlin is now well out of the championship picture, 49 out of first in the point standings.

"Our Sprint Cup championship hopes came 'unplugged' last week at Martinsville," Hamlin said. "At Texas, we didn't have electrical issues, but after finishing 20th, there was an 'outage' — I'm further 'out' of the championship picture."

5. Kyle Busch — Busch finished third at Texas, backing up his runner-up finish at Martinsville on October 27th. It was his fifth top 5 of the Chase, and tenth of the year.

"Just once," Busch said, "I'd like to be dangerous in a 'Chase' that doesn't involve a policeman."

6. Kasey Kahne — Kahne finished well out of contention at Texas, finishing 25th, one lap off the lead. He is now fourth in the point standings, 29 out of first.

"It's come down to a battle between Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski," Kahne said. "I'm sure Keselowski doesn't mind hearing, 'And then there were two.' But I think he'd much rather hear, 'And then there was '2.'"

7. Jeff Gordon — Gordon finished 14th in the AAA Texas 500, and is now sixth in the point standings, 54 out of first.

"Brad Keselowski is giving Jimmie Johnson all he can handle," Gordon said. "You could it's a 'handful, and then some.' You could also say that about Jimmie's soon-to-be growing Sprint Cup championship haul."

8. Matt Kenseth — Kenseth led one lap and came home fourth at Texas, posting his 12th top-five finish of the year. He is eighth in the point standings, 65 out of first.

"I was out of the title hunt early," Kenseth said, "but don't tell me I'm not a man of my word. I told Jack Roush I'd 'be there at the end' and I will be, because I've got two more races with Roush Fenway."

9. Tony Stewart — Stewart finished fifth in the AAA Texas 500, equaling his best finish of the Chase. He is 71 out of the lead in the point standings.

"We're mathematically still alive," Stewart said, "but there's no chance we'll win the Cup. And don't make me say it again. Believe me when I say there will be 'no repeating.'"

10. Greg Biffle — Biffle finished 10th at Texas, joining Roush Fenway teammate Matt Kenseth, who finished fourth, in the top 10. Biffle is 83 out of first in the point standings.

"I could be the next to 'go,'" Biffle said. "No, I'm not leaving Roush Fenway; I'm the next driver soon to be mathematically eliminated from Sprint Cup contention."

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