Wednesday, July 8, 2015

NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 17

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson finished third at Daytona as a massive crash developed back in the field as the leaders crossed the finish line. Hendrick teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won the race, while HMS cohort Jeff Gordon took sixth.

"I don't think you can necessarily blame anyone for the carnage on the last lap," Johnson said, "so I don't think anyone should be punished for it. But Austin Dillon should certainly be 'grounded.'"

2. Kevin Harvick — Harvick took fourth at Daytona, but not before making contact with Denny Hamlin, who hit Austin Dillon's No. 3 and sent it airborne into the fence. Dillon was not hurt, and Harvick remained atop the Sprint Cup points standings.

"Dillon's No. 3 car went flying in the air," Harvick said. "I know exactly what it's like to be a Richard Childress Racing driver and feel like things are 'up in the air.' But I knew he'd be okay, because I'm an optimist, not a pessimist, and certainly not a nepotist."

3. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. — After qualifying was rained out, Earnhardt started on the pole at Daytona and won the rain-delayed Coke Zero 400, which ended at well past midnight.

"That race ended at 2:41 on Monday morning," Earnhardt said, "and it ended with a scary crash that really freaked me out. So, the night ended with an 'A.M.' on the clock and a 'B.M.' in my pants.

"I'm up to second in the points standings. And my two wins puts me in great position in the Chase For The Cup. But if I don't win the championship, I'll be all right. I'm in love with the idea of winning the Sprint Cup title, but I'm not married to it."

4. Martin Truex, Jr. — One week after a miserable day at Sonoma, Truex was collected in a crash triggered by Kasey Kahne that left Truex with a 38th-place finish.

"My accident was nothing compared to the last-lap incident," Truex said. "That was frightening. You've heard of 'three-wide' racing. Austin Dillon went 'three-high.'"

5. Joey Logano — Logano, who won the Daytona 500 in February to open the season, finished 22nd despite falling four laps down early in the race.

"It was a grueling day at Daytona," Logano said. "The race didn't go green until 11:42 Sunday night, and ended at 2:41 Monday morning. So, like most NASCAR races, fans were asleep by the end."

6. Kurt Busch — Busch, seeking his third win of the season, brought home a fifth-place finish in the Coke Zero 400, the culmination of a crash-filled weekend at Daytona International Speedway.

"Brad Keselowski wrecked my brother Kyle in Friday's practice," Busch said. "And NBC, back covering NASCAR, was there to broadcast it. They're proud as a peacock, while Keselowski is still a chicken."

7. Brad Keselowski — Keselowski's No. 2 Alliance Truck parts Ford was damaged in a mid-race pileup that eventually left him with a 29th-place finish in the Coke Zero 400. He is now seventh in the Sprint Cup points standings, 136 out of first.

"It was a tough day for Penske Racing," Keselowski said. "Both Joey Logano and I found our fair share of trouble on the track, plus we didn't have the speed anyway to match the Hendrick cars. On the plus side, it's a good time not to be considered 'race-ist.'"

8. Matt Kenseth — Kenseth finished 23rd at Daytona while Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin spun across the finish line in third after contact sent Austin Dillon's car rocketing over three lanes of traffic in a spectacular final lap crash.

"Dillon went airborne and slammed into the catchfence," Kenseth said. "Carl Edwards knows exactly what it feels like to be Dillon, because Carl's never won a championship either.

"Daytona offered a 'flag exchange' in which you could turn in your Confederate flag for an American flag. It's just too bad Alan Kulwicki can't be there to provide a 'Pole.'"

9. Jamie McMurray — McMurray finished 15th at Daytona and moved up one spot in the points standings to sixth, 130 out of first.

"Thank goodness everyone's okay following that huge last-lap crash," McMurray said. "As it was, the race itself was the only thing that was 'in morning.'"

10. Jeff Gordon — Gordon finished sixth in the Coke Zero 400 on a strong day for Hendrick Motorsports, as teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jimmie Johnson finished 1-2, respectively.

"What a great race by Dale and Jimmie," Gordon said. "I'm proud to call those guys my teammates. I can also call them business partners, associates, and friends. Heck, I could even call them my confederates. Now all that remains to be seen is what will fly longer, the Confederate flag or our race cars themselves."

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