Wednesday, June 25, 2014

NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 16

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson, winner of three of the last four races, posted a seventh at Sonoma, his 11th top-10 of the year. He is second in the points standings, 20 behind Jeff Gordon.

"I didn't win," Johnson said, "but my rivals are nervous nonetheless. Anytime you say 'Jimmie Johnson' and 'seventh' in the same sentence, people are intimidated, or should I say 'inJimmiedated."

2. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. — Two weeks after winning at Michigan, Earnhardt posted a third-place finish in the Toyota/SaveMart 350, as Hendrick Motorsports placed all four drivers in the top seven.

"I have to apologize for wrecking Matt Kenseth," Earnhardt said. "I'm pretty sure Matt will accept an apology. Why? Because he's used to 'taking' it."

3. Jeff Gordon — Gordon finished second to Carl Edwards at Sonoma, as Hendrick Motorsports five-race winning streak ended. Gordon leads the Sprint Cup points standings with a 20-point cushion on Jimmie Johnson.

"'I let Edwards get away,'" Gordon said. "That's my Jack Roush impression, not my take on the final lap at Sonoma.

"You may have noticed our new sponsor, Panasonic, on the No. 24 car. For once, a driver can say he's got an 'electronic issue' and it's not a bad thing. Joe Gibbs may put Japanese in the car; Hendrick puts it on it."

4. Carl Edwards — Edwards took the lead with 25 laps to go at Sonoma and held off Jeff Gordon to claim his first road course victory.

"Roush Fenway was shut out at Michigan," Edwards said. "Who would have thought we'd turn things around on a road course. But you can always count on Jack Roush to have something up his sleeve, except new contracts."

5. Brad Keselowski — Keselowski struggled in the Toyota SavMart 350, fighting handling issues all day on his way to a 22nd. He is fifth in the points standings, 68 out of first.

"It was a tough day for the No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford," Keselowski said. "Sadly, though, we needed car parts, not truck parts.

"The car's handling was a nightmare. Nothing we tried worked. One of my pit crewmen made so many wedge adjustments, he developed a wrist injury. Aerodynamically, he's fine, but he will need some carpal tunnel testing."

6. Matt Kenseth — Kenseth was wrecked on lap 74 when Dale Earnhardt, Jr. jumped a curb and rammed the back of Kenseth's No. 20 Home Depot Toyota. Kenseth is currently fourth in the Sprint Cup points standings, 65 out of first.

"When you're surrounded by a pile of useless tires," Kenseth said, "you know you're in trouble, or Hoosier is your tire manufacturer.

"We're losing Home Depot as a sponsor at season's end. I guess that makes them the 'Away Depot.'"

7. Joey Logano — Logano finished 16th at Sonoma on a tough day for Penske Motorsports, as teammate Brad Keselowski managed only a 22nd. Logano is now seventh in the points standings, 97 behind Jeff Gordon.

"Our boss won't be happy," Logano said. "Ask him his opinion of our performance, and he certainly won't 'Roger' that.

"They say Sonoma is wine country, but they also drink beer in this road course haven. I think they make it from 'wheel hops.'"

8. Kevin Harvick — Harvick finished 20th at Sonoma after the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Chevy was collected when Clint Bowyer suffered a flat tire and stopped in the middle of the track.

"I'm not surprised," Harvick said. "From what I hear, 'parking' is an issue at all NASCAR races."

9. Paul Menard — Menard finished fifth at Sonoma, posting his third top-five result of the year.

"In the absence of Kevin Harvick," Menard said, "I've taken over as a leader for Richard Childress Racing. And we haven't missed a beat. That's because we get 'beat' every week."

10. Ryan Newman — Newman finished 11th at Sonoma as Richard Childress Racing teammate Paul Menard took fifth. Newman is eighth in the points standings, 107 out of first.

"Our highest finish this year is a seventh," Newman said, "which we've accomplished three times. I'm not sure if we can win with this car. We lack the speed of the Hendrick engines. It says 'Caterpillar' on my car; it also says 'Caterpillar' on the speedometer."

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