Wednesday, February 25, 2015

NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 1

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Joey Logano — Logano surged to the lead late at Daytona and held off Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Denny Hamlin to win his first 500.

"Oh what a feeling," Logano said. "I feel like this win validates my nickname. So, this is the greatest thing,hence 'Sliced Bread.' And enrollment in my fan club, 'Flour Power,' is growing exponentially.

"I guess I have to thank my father, Tom Logano, for much of my success. I fondly remember fondly being strapped unwillingly to the seat of a midget car at a very young age. I guess that was my introduction to racing 'restraint' systems."

2. Kevin Harvick — Harvick finished second in a tightly-contested Daytona 500, taking the runner-up spot behind Joey Logano.

"Logano is lucky I couldn't get close to his bumper," Harvick said. "After what he did to me in the Sprint Unlimited, I owed him. But I'm sure Joey doesn't want to mess with me. To Logano, I'm like a weight scale to Tony Stewart — he wants no part of it. If you're gonna tell Tony to 'step on it,' you might want to be very specific."

3. Denny Hamlin — Hamlin started 42nd and methodically worked his way to the front and into position for a last-lap run at Joey Logano. Hamlin came up short for the win, but posted a solid fourth as Toyota's top finisher.

"I tangled with Danica Patrick in the second Gatorade Duel," Hamlin said. "I found out that there's only one thing worse than racing with Danica, and that's talking to her."

4. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. — Earnhardt led 32 laps and fell back late before a strong, final charge gave him a third-place finish. On a restart with 19 laps to go, Earnhardt lot the draft and was shuffled back to 19th before charging back to the front.

"I let down the fans of Junior Nation," Earnhardt said. "When I fell back, you could hear the collective gasp emanate from the mouths of the Nation. What's worse, you could smell it."

5. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson overcame an early drive-through penalty, charging from the back of the field to claim fifth, joining Hendrick teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who finished third, in the top 5.

"At first," Johnson said, "NASCAR officials wouldn't tell us why we were being penalized. Usually, they can't wait to tell us what we did wrong.

"We were penalized for having too many men over the wall. As we found out, it's easier to get over the wall than get over the hump."

6. Jeff Gordon — Gordon won the pole and dominated early, leading 87 laps at Daytona, but found himself mired in traffic late and vulnerable to the inevitable accident. It happened on the final lap, when the No. 24 was clipped and spun by Austin Dillon. Gordon finished 33rd.

"That's certainly not what I meant when I said this would be my last 'go-round,'" Gordon said.

"But let's be serious. Do you really think I'll never race in a 500 again? I just got a retirement gift from Mark Martin. It's a shirt that says, 'Retirement is for quitters.'"

7. Clint Bowyer — Bowyer gave Joey Logano a push to the front late at Daytona, a lead Logano maintained while Bowyer finished seventh.

"Penske drivers are always getting a 'push' when they least expect it," Bowyer said. "I don't think Logano's been pushed that hard by anyone except his father. Tom Logano is the Joe Jackson of NASCAR."

8. Casey Mears — Mears finished sixth at Daytona after starting 41st, giving Germain Racing a huge boost to start the season.

"The No. 13 car is sponsored by Geico," Mears said. "Usually, when you see a reptile in NASCAR, you're looking at one of the repulsive track owners.

"A good showing for me at Daytona always draws comparisons to my more famous uncle, Indy car great Rick Mears. I like to tell myself I'm just like him, and I am — he never won a Daytona 500, either."

9. Greg Biffle — Biffle quietly finished 10th at Daytona after qualifying eighth and avoiding trouble throughout the day. Biffle was the top finisher for Roush Fenway Racing, as Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Trevor Bayne finished 29th and 30th, respectively.

"With Carl Edwards gone," Biffle said, "I'm now the face of RFR. And that's scary."

10. Martin Truex, Jr. — Truex finished eighth at Daytona, giving Furniture Row Racing a strong start to the 2015 season.

"We had a great run," Truex said, "and it was great publicity for Furniture Row. By the way, Furniture Row has some of the best furnishings in the business, especially our tables, which are varnished to a brilliant sheen. You could say they all come with a 'top-10 finish.'"

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