Wednesday, April 16, 2014

NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 8

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Jeff Gordon — Gordon finished seventh in the Bojangle's Southern 500 and held on to the lead in the Sprint Cup points standings. He leads Matt Kenseth by 1 point.

"I'm surprised Kenseth didn't win a race sponsored by Bojangles," Gordon said, "because he knows chicken better than anyone.

"But the 'Drive For Five' is still alive. And if I win the Sprint Cup title, you can best believe I'll ride off into the sunset. If not, I might call it a day, anyway."

2. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. — Earnhardt took second at Darlington, posting his fifth top-three finish of the season. Earnhardt is fourth in the points standings, 26 behind Jeff Gordon.

"I'm sponsored by the National Guard," Earnhardt said. "Is Kevin Harvick sponsored by the Navy? Because his wife curses like a sailor.

"As Harvick proved, tires were the most important factor in winning. Maybe we should have put on those extra two tires. I guess you could say we failed. Of course, it's surely not the first case of 'blown' tires this year."

3. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson took the lead with a two-tire pit stop on a caution with ten laps to go at Darlington. Harvick eventually chased down Johnson and passed Dale Earnhardt, Jr. for the lead on the final lap. Johnson finished third and is now fourth in the points standings, 27 behind Jeff Gordon.

"I'm still winless on the year," Johnson said. "But winning isn't everything. Otherwise, I'd have everything. Harvick can have his four tires; I'll take my six Cups. Unlike those tires, those Cups will last forever."

4. Kevin Harvick — Harvick's four tire pit stop on the final caution at Darlington proved the difference. Harvick, restarting fifth, chased down Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt, Jr, to secure the win in the Bojangle's Southern 500.

"We were 'great' in 'Darlington,'" Harvick said. "Taking four tires was a 'good decision.' Those weren't the only 'G.D.'s' heard at Darlington.

"Gene Haas of Stewart-Haas Racing is planning to field a Formula 1 team in 2015. Gene's got the money to make it work. He's loaded. He has to be. Reportedly, he couldn't pay Tony Stewart enough to have Kurt Busch as a teammate."

5. Matt Kenseth — Kenseth claimed fourth at Darlington, posting his sixth top-10 result of the year. He is second in the points standings, trailing Jeff Gordon by a single point.

"The call Darlington Raceway the 'Lady In Black,'" Kenseth said. "They call Delana Harvick the 'Lady in Blue' because of her language. Harvick may be the best driver never to win a Cup championship. Maybe he's cursed."

6. Carl Edwards — Edwards finished 13th at Darlington, as Roush Fenway teammate Greg Biffle was the only Ford in the top 10. Edwards is third in the points standings, 19 behind Jeff Gordon.

"How is Delana Harvick like the Aflac duck?" Edwards said. "They're both 'fowl-mouthed.'"

7. Kyle Busch — Busch finished sixth at Darlington, joining Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth, who finished fourth, in the top 10. Busch is sixth in the Sprint Cup points standings, 28 out of first.

"My brother Kurt was wrecked by Clint Bowyer," Busch said. "Rest assured, Kurt won't take that lying down. Or at least not before an open-handed slap takes him off his feet."

8. Joey Logano — Logano blew an engine with 10 laps to go at Darlington and finished 35th, 15 laps down. He fell four spots in the points standings to eighth, 52 out of first.

"Hey," Logano said, "I wasn't the only one cursing my blown engine."

9. Brad Keselowski — Keselowski finished 17th at Darlington on a disappointing day for Penske Racing. Teammate Joey Logano suffered an engine failure, while Keselowski dealt with handling issues late in the race.

"With no top-10 finishes in the last five races," Keselowski said, "I haven't looked like a Cup contender. We're heading to Easter for a much needed break, and hopefully I'll be a lot better upon returning. I'll call it a 'Kes-urrection.'"

10. Kyle Larson — Rookie of the Year candidate Larson finished seventh in the Bojangle's Southern 500, scoring his second straight top 10 and fourth of the year.

"I earned my Darlington stripe," Larson said. "The 'Lady in Black' always leaves an impression. But I think I did the same. Hopefully, this driver of the No. 42 Target car will leave a mark, and not just leave."

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