Wednesday, November 21, 2012

NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 36

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Brad Keselowski — Keselowski finished 15th at Homestead, well ahead of a faltering Jimmie Johnson, and earned his first Sprint Cup championship. Keselowski finished 39 points ahead of Clint Bowyer and 40 ahead of Johnson.

"We saw a blow out," Keselowski said, "and a bow out, all in the same race. This is likely the first of more titles to come. I've already coined a slogan for our quest for the 2013 Cup: '2 For 2.'

"Johnson tried to get into my head, and he did, easily. As a five-time Cup winner, he knew exactly what it took to get into the mind of a champion."

2. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson suffered a loose lug nut penalty, followed by mechanical issues at Homestead and finished 36th, unable to challenge Brad Keselowski for the championship. Johnson finished third in the final point standings, 40 points behind first-time champ Keselowski.

"When I said we needed the 'raise our game,'" Johnson said, "I wasn't referring to being 'jacked up' in the garage. But I'll take my misfortune and deal with it. That's life. Or, as a driver with five Cup titles would say, 'C'est la V.'

"Keselowski earned the title fair and square. But if not pit errors and mechanical issues that resulted in a 32nd and 36th to end the season, things would have been different. As it is, I've got to 'hand it' to Keselowski, which I did."

3. Clint Bowyer &mdash Bowyer finished second to Jeff Gordon in the Ford EcoBoost 400, posting his ninth top-five finish of the year. Bowyer finished second in the final Sprint Cup point standings, 39 out of first.

"Once again," Bowyer said, "I couldn't catch Gordon. That's okay. The offseason will give me ample time to plan my vengeance down to every detail. After all, I want to 'exact' revenge."

4. Kasey Kahne — Kahne finished 21st at Homestead on an up-and-down day for Hendrick Motorsports, as Jeff Gordon took the checkered flag and Jimmie Johnson finished 36th. Kahne ended the year fourth in the point standings, 55 behind Brad Keselowski.

"NASCAR wives and girlfriend were having babies right and left this year," Kahne said. "Even Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson got in on the act, because a rivalry was 'born.'"

5. Denny Hamlin — Hamlin finished 24th at Homestead, ending a disappointing Chase For the up in fifth, 62 out of first.

"Congratulations to Brad Keselowski," Hamlin said. "And congratulations to car owner Roger Penske. I'm not sure if Penske is on Twitter, but if he were, his message to Keselowski would have to be '@ a boy!"

6. Matt Kenseth — Kenseth finished 18th at Homestead, piloting the No. 17 Best Buy Ford in his final race for Roush Fenway Racing. He finished sixth in the point standings, 74 out of first.

"My car said 'Best Buy,'" Kenseth said, "but it should have said 'Good Bye.'"

7. Greg Biffle — Biffle finished fifth in the Ford EcoBoost 400, his 12th top-five finish of the year. He ended the year fifth in the point standings, 68 out of first.

"It was an eventful year at Roush Fenway Racing," Biffle said. "There was a lot of movement within the company. There's a perfectly good explanation for Matt Kenseth's departure; Carl Edward's 'disappearance' is another story."

8. Kyle Busch — Busch finished fourth in the Ford EcoBoost 400, posting his 12th top-five of the year and eighth of the Chase.

"One day," Busch said, "I'm going to put it all together. Actually, I often put it together for one day; it's one season I have trouble with."

9. Jeff Gordon — Gordon won for the second time this season, beating Clint Bowyer to the stripe to win the Ford EcoBoost 400. Gordon finished 10th in the point standings, 97 out of first.

"That's like adding insult to insult for Bowyer," Gordon said. "I didn't 'make his day,' but I did 'make his day worse.'"

10. Kevin Harvick — Harvick finished eighth at Homestead, following his win at Phoenix with his 14th top-10 result of the year. He finished eighth in the Sprint Cup point standings, 79 out of first.

"Brad Keselowski is a worthy champion," Harvick said, "and one that is popular among fellow drivers. I think I speak for everyone, especially my former teammate Clint Bowyer, when I say that Keselowski, unlike Jeff Gordon, got what was coming to him."

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