NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 1
February 26, 2014 by Jeffrey Boswell • Print Story •
Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.
1. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. — Earnhardt withstood a long rain delay and held off numerous challenges to win his second Daytona 500, beating Denny Hamlin to the line. The win ended a 55-race winless streak and instantly qualified Earnhardt for the Chase For the Cup.
"That six-hour, 22-minute rain delay didn't bother me at all," Earnhardt said. "What's 6:22 when I'm used to waiting 55 races for a win? And what better way to celebrate such a huge win than to join Twitter. By the time you read this, I should have 750,000 followers, and the best thing is, none will require a restraining order."
2. Denny Hamlin — Hamlin topped off a successful Speedweeks with a runner-up finish in the 500, making a bold move at the front before finishing behind Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Hamlin won the first Gatorade Duel and led 16 laps in Sunday night's race.
"How about that piece of black plastic that clung to Dale, Jr.'s grill?" Hamlin said. "Some say it was the 'Man in Black,' Dale Earnhardt, Sr., making his presence known. NASCAR made an even more outlandish claim — that it was proof that their 'Drive For Diversity' program is actually working. Here's the most interesting part: ghosts are a lot like NASCAR drivers — mostly white."
3. Brad Keselowski — Keselowski, in the No. 2 car with the classic Miller Lite paint scheme, challenged for the win at Daytona and finished third behind Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Denny Hamlin.
"I hear that Danica Patrick exceeded 1,000,000 Twitter followers," Keselowski said. "That's a lot, maybe too many for one web site to handle. I can see this ending in one way only — with a 'crash.'"
4. Jeff Gordon: Gordon finished fourth at Daytona as Hendrick teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. powered to the win. Gordon gave Earnhardt a boost on the final lap, helping Junior hold off Denny Hamlin at the end.
"Dale deserved to win," Gordon said. "His No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet was by far the strongest. This could very well be the year Junior wins the Sprint Cup. In other words, it could finally be when 'A Little E Goes a Long Way.'"
5. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson started 39th after going to a backup car and finished fifth after leading 15 laps. Last year's Daytona 500 winner joined race winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jeff Gordon as Hendrick Motorsports took three of the top five spots.
"That rain just wouldn't stop," Johnson said. "And, trust me, I know long 'reigns.'
"I'm on a quest for my seventh Sprint Cup championship. It would be awesome to be mentioned in the same sentence with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Contrary to what Tony Stewart says, six titles give you the right to 'challenge' Petty, not two."
6. Matt Kenseth — Kenseth started third after winning Thursday's second Gatorade Duel and finished a long day at Daytona with a sixth-place finish. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch finished second and 19th, respectively.
"Did you see Kyle cross the finish line?" Kenseth said. "He did it in reverse. But that's really no surprise. Just look at the sponsors on the No. 18 car — it's got 'good backing.'"
7. Austin Dillon — Dillon survived involvement in three accidents at Daytona and put the Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevy in the top 10 in the return of the "3" made famous by Dale Earnhardt, Sr.
"That '3' on the side of my car means a lot," Dillon said. "At Daytona, it indicated the number of crashes I caused."
8. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. — Stenhouse led the way for Roush Fenway Racing with a seventh at Daytona, joining teammate Greg Biffle, who finished eighth, in the top 10. It was Stenhouse's best finish ever in the 500.
"That was one of the best Daytona 500's of all time," Stenhouse said. "I can't wait to catch a replay of the race, and neither can Dale Earnhardt, Jr. fans. That's the only way their favorite driver will have multiple wins this season."
9. Greg Biffle — Biffle battled Dale Earnhardt, Jr. over the final laps at Daytona before the mad scramble relegated him to a finish of eighth.
"How about Madison Rising's performance of the national anthem before Saturday's Nationwide race?" Biffle said. "They claim to be America's most patriotic band. I certainly agree. Their music is best listened to with a hand over the heart, and two over the ears."
10. Kevin Harvick — Harvick finished 13th at Daytona in the No. 4 Chevrolet, the highest finisher among the Stewart-Haas Racing stable.
"Tony Stewart challenged Richard Petty to race Danica Patrick," Harvick said, "and the 'King' accepted. But really, what does King Richard stand to gain with a win? The last thing he needs is another feather in his cap."