Wednesday, April 1, 2015

NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 6

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Kevin Harvick — Harvick finished eighth at Martinsville, ending his streak of eight consecutive results of second or better. He remains atop the Sprint Cup points standings, 24 ahead of Joey Logano.

"It was a disappointing finish," Harvick said. "Not that eighth is bad, but I finished behind Danica Patrick. I guess my son Keelan's cries of 'Go, Daddy!' were heard by Danica and not me."

2. Joey Logano — Logano started on the pole at Martinsville and came home third, leading 108 laps in the STP 500. He is second in the points standings, 24 behind Kevin Harvick.

"That race had it all," Logano said. "Action, intrigue, fake cautions, you name it. Plus, there was controversy, because track management dumped Jesse Jones hot dogs for Valleydale. How could they? I've been called one, but this takes the term 'undeserving weiner' to a new level."

3. Brad Keselowski — Keselowski stalked Denny Hamlin over the final laps at Martinsville, but couldn't make the pass. Hamlin took the checkered while Keselowski settled for second.

"The No. 2 Miller Lite was fast," Keselowski said, "and I almost pulled it out. And that would have been nice. Had I won, you could have said the race itself, much like Kyle Larson, was 'Lite-headed.'"

4. Martin Truex, Jr. — Truex led 23 laps and finished sixth at Martinsville, posting his sixth top 10 of the year. He is third in the points standings, 32 behind Kevin Harvick.

"Kyle Larson missed the race after fainting Saturday at an autograph session," Truex said. "Apparently, he signed 'out.' Don't ask me what his condition is, because I don't have the faintest. Somebody told me Fall Out Boy was signing autographs on Saturday. Turns out it was just Kyle Larson."

5. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. — Earnhardt suffered a broken shifter early at Martinsville and was involved in a multi-car wreck on lap 228 that smashed the front end of the No. 88 Chevrolet. He eventually finished 36th, 47 laps behind.

"Obviously," Earnhardt said, "you can't do shift without a shifter. And if you can't change gears, a sorry finish becomes, well, 'automatic.'

"After a lengthy stint in the garage, the No. 88 returned to the track without a hood. That is, of course, bad news, but it comes with a silver lining. Trust me, when anything Earnhardt-related goes topless, I thank the lucky starts it's the car and not one of my fans."

6. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson, an eight-time winner at Martinsville, suffered numerous issues at Martinsville on his way to a 35th-place finish.

"My day at Martinsville had a lot in common with Chad Knaus' history with the NASCAR rule book," Johnson said. "There were 'multiple issues.'

"I've won eight times at Martinsville. Normally, when I race there, I say "Hot dog.' Not on Sunday. I spent so much time with the hood up, there was no 'hot dog,' just 'all the fixings.'"

7. Kasey Kahne — Kahne finished 11th in the STP 500 as Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon took ninth, while Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. struggled mightily. Kahne is now fifth in the points standings, 70 out of first.

"Rick Hendrick had two cars in the top 11," Kahne said, "and two cars finish 35th or worse. So you can understand why Martinsville's half-mile left him with a 'half-smile.'"

8. Jeff Gordon — Gordon let a potential win slip away at Martinsville after a pit road speeding penalty cost him the lead with about 40 laps to go. Forced to the end of the lead lap, Gordon passed enough cars to salvage a ninth.

"It's never pleasant when you hear the words, 'You've made a terrible mistake,'" Gordon said. "But I'd rather hear it from my crew chief than my divorce lawyer."

9. Denny Hamlin — Hamlin overcame an early penalty in the pits and held off Brad Keselowski to win the STP 500. Hamlin led the final 28 laps and is now eighth in the points standings, 91 behind Kevin Harvick.

"We had a tire get away from us on pit road," Hamlin said. "The same thing happened at California. We have a fast car, but instead of burning rubber, we keep getting burned by rubber.

"But, I bounced back and kept Keselowski at bay, winning my fifth grandfather clock. He gave me a little nudge in the final turn. Had I wrecked, you can best believe, with a clock in mind, you would have seen 'one hand on the 2.'"

10. Matt Kenseth — Kenseth led 11 laps and finished fourth on a strong day for Joe Gibbs Racing. Denny Hamlin won the STP 500, while David Ragan took fifth.

"Denny ended a 31-race winless streak for Joe Gibbs Racing," Kenseth said. "What better place than Martinsville to end that streak. I think Denny said it best after being awarded the grandfather clock when he said, 'It's about time.' To all of those who thought JGR was slipping, that's just 'Gibb-erish.'"

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