Wednesday, May 28, 2014

NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 12

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Jeff Gordon — Gordon overcame back spasms to post a seventh in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. He remains atop the Sprint Cup points standings, 11 ahead of Matt Kenseth.

"Back problems have been an ongoing issue for me," Gordon said, "as has the quest to win my fifth Cup championship. That's why the latter part of my career can be described as 'back and fourth.'

"We had Regan Smith on standby just in case I couldn't go. Turns out, we didn't need him, which certainly isn't the first time Regan's heard that."

2. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson started on pole and led a race-high 164 on his way to the win in the Coca-Cola 600. It was Johnson's first win of the year, and all but ensured his chance to defend his Sprint Cup championship.

"The No. 48 Chevrolet with the special Memorial Day paint scheme was awesome," Johnson said. "Matt Kenseth was no match for me. You could say I 'red, white, and blew' right past him.

"You've probably heard that I completed a triathlon last Saturday. I'm proud to call myself a 'triathlete.' The great Tim Richmond was NASCAR's original triathlete, because he'd 'tri' anything."

3. Matt Kenseth — Kenseth held the lead on the final restart, but was easily passed by Jimmie Johnson, who went on for win for his first victory of the year. Kenseth eventually finished third, and is second in the points standings, 11 behind Jeff Gordon.

"Johnson went by me like I wasn't even there," Kenseth said. "I could say the same about most NASCAR fans. I may be the most unrecognizable athlete in professional sports today."

4. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. — Earnhardt finished two laps down in 19th at Charlotte after engines problems soured his day. He is fourth in the Sprint Cup points standings, 38 behind Jeff Gordon.

"I raced Charles Barkley head-to-head a couple of weeks ago," Earnhardt said. "Charles can really drive. The last time he went that fast, there was a prostitute waiting on him. Where was she waiting, you ask? Well, let's just say Sir Charles' car is good at 'cornering.'"

5. Carl Edwards — Edwards posted his third top-five finish of the year with a fourth in the Coca-Cola 600. He is third in the points standings, 24 out of first.

"Trevor Bayne's joining the Roush Fenway Racing family in 2015," Edwards said. "That means a current driver at Roush is likely to say goodbye. Could that be me? If it is, I guess you could call me 'Cousin It.'"

6. Joey Logano — Logano finished 12th at Charlotte as Penske teammate Brad Keselowski finished tenth. Logano is now sixth in the points, 54 behind Jeff Gordon.

"What a run by Kurt Busch at Indianapolis," Logano said. "And what a run by race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay. Not only does he lead the Indy Car points standings, he's the most sought-after driver on the talk show circuit now. I guess that's what happens when the Hunter becomes the hunted."

7. Kyle Busch — Busch finished ninth at Charlotte, recording his sixth top-10 result of the year. He is now third in the points standings, 24 out of first.

"My brother Kurt didn't complete the Indianapolis-Charlotte 'double,'" Busch said, "but he did finish sixth. I think all NASCAR drivers would agree that's an incredible accomplishment. And I'm sure all NASCAR drivers would agree Kurt should become a full-time open-wheel driver."

8. Kevin Harvick — Harvick led 100 laps and finished second at Charlotte to Jimmie Johnson. Harvick was going for his third win this season, but couldn't chase down Johnson.

"Where's one of those phantom cautions when you need one?" Harvick said. "I guess that's what happens on Memorial Day weekend — there's plenty of red, white, and blue flags, but no yellow."

9. Brian Vickers — Vickers finished sixth in the Coca-Cola 600, earning his second straight top-10 and fifth of the year. He is now eighth in the Sprint Cup points standings, 67 behind Jeff Gordon.

"It's great driving for Michael Waltrip," Vickers said. "And it's great driving the Aaron's Dream Machine. I like to think my alter ego, who's a fierce competitor talented enough to contend for the Cup, would drive a car called the 'Rude Awakening.' Here's to dreaming."

10. Brad Keselowski — Keselowski's attempt at fuel mileage strategy was derailed by a late-race pit stop for a right-wheel vibration. Still, the driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford finished tenth, his fifth top-10 of the year, and is now ninth in the points standings, 71 out of first.

"We just didn't get the wheel on tight enough," Keselowski said. "If that would have happened to the No. 48 car, it would have been called a 'Shimmy Johnson.'"

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