Wednesday, August 21, 2013

NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 23

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson's day ended when his engine blew on lap 55 and he eventually finished 40th, but still maintained a healthy lead in the Sprint Cup point standings. He leads Clint Bowyer by 41.

"We're not sure what broke," Johnson said, "but we tried to repair it. With a nod to all the conspiracy theorists who think NASCAR has handed me five Cups, you could say the 'fix' was on.'"

2. Clint Bowyer — Bowyer finished 5th in the Pure Michigan 400, posting his seventh top-five result of the year. He trails Jimmie Johnson by 41 in the points standings.

"How anxious am I to do a victory burnout?" Bowyer asked. "So anxious, I spun on the first lap."

3. Kyle Busch — One week after winning at Watkins Glen, Busch finished 31st, three laps down, at Michigan, ending a run of six consecutive races with finishes of 12th or better. He remained fifth in the point standings, and now trails Jimmie Johnson by 107.

"The handling of the No. 18 Toyota was off all day," Busch said. "Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 FedEx car were not much better. For those two Joe Gibbs Racing cars, you could say 'shipping and handling' was an issue.

"It's off to Bristol now, where I've won five times. I love Bristol, and not just because the tracks suits my style. It's the one place where people call me their 'favorite' and mean it."

4. Kevin Harvick — Harvick took the runner-up spot at Michigan, recording his best finish since a third at Charlotte in May. He is now fourth in the points standings, 64 behind Jimmie Johnson.

"Is Kurt Busch joining Stewart-Haas Racing?" Harvick said. "If he does, the SHR team will consist of Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick, Busch, and myself. I like the makeup of that team, especially the gender balance."

5. Matt Kenseth — Kenseth finished 15th in the Pure Michigan 400, posting the best finish among Joe Gibbs Racing cars. Since winning his fourth race at Kentucky in late June, Kenseth has only two top-10 results.

"NASCAR's Facebook page directed viewers to the wrong channel for the race," Kenseth said. "It appears the rule book isn't the only thing of NASCAR giving mixed signals.

"And speaking of Facebook, Carl Edwards is a very active user. It's just like old times for me, because that son of a gun won't stop 'poking' me."

6. Carl Edwards — Edwards posted his 12th top-10 finish of the year with a 10th at Michigan, joining teammate Greg Biffle, who finished ninth, in the top 10. Edwards is now 51 behind Jimmie Johnson in the Sprint Cup points standings.

"Roush Fenway Racing could very well have two drivers in the Chase," Edwards said. "That's got to make Jack Roush happy. They call Jack "The Cat in the Hat" because he's always wearing his trademark Panama hat. And when the Chase For the Cup is all said and done, we might all be wearing some form of headgear. Chances are, though, it won't be a crown."

7. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. — While leading on lap 136, Earnhardt blew his right front tire and slammed the wall, severely damaging his No. 88 Chevrolet. He eventually finished 36th, 29 laps down, and is now seventh in the points standings, 134 out of first.

"My car took a hard turn right, directly into the wall," Earnhardt said. "Usually, the fans of Junior Nation and their conservative political views love anything that's to the 'extreme right.' And my fans, much like my car after the wreck, won't 'turn left' for anything."

8. Kasey Kahne — Kahne was the top finisher for Hendrick Motorsports, piloting the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet to seventh at Michigan while Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished 40th and 36th, respectively.

"Who would have though Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch would be teammates?" Kahne said. "That could happen in 2014, and lead to an interesting situation: Stewart is Busch's car owner, responsible for getting Busch from race to race. Tony's never been accused of being slow, but in this case, he'll really have to haul 'ass.'"

9. Joey Logano — Starting from the pole, Logano led 51 laps at Michigan and assumed the lead when Mark Martin ran out of gas with three laps to go. Logano's win in the Pure Michigan 400 was his first win of the season, and moved him to 13th in the points standings, in sound position to challenge for a wildcard Chase spot.

"There are some who think Martin will never run out of gas," Logano said. "So it was a surprise when he did.

"Martin got the call to drive the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Chevy for Tony Stewart for the remainder of the year. It makes sense that Martin is there for the reinvention of "Smoke"; after all, he was there for the invention of fire."

10. Kurt Busch — Busch overcame a loose lug nut issue that cost him track position before a late dash moved him up to his sixth top-five finish of the year. He is ninth in the Sprint Cup points standings, two points ahead of Greg Biffle in 10th.

"This was huge for my Chase hopes," Busch said. "I'm in the top 10 now. There's a good chance there will be two Busch brothers in the Chase. That's good news for television ratings, and even better news for the other ten Chasers.

"There are reports that I have a formal offer to drive a fourth car for Stewart-Haas Racing next year. Tony and I have had our differences over the years, but with this contract, I guess we'll finally be 'on the same page.'"

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