Wednesday, September 30, 2015

NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 28

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Matt Kenseth — Kenseth took advantage of Kevin Harvick's fuel misfortune to take the Sylvania 300 at Loudon. The win kept Kenseth atop the points standings and guaranteed his spot in the next round of the Chase.

"Harvick clearly had the best car," Kenseth said. "To lead 216 of 300 laps and not win? That has to be the ultimate feeling of coming up 'empty.'"

2. Denny Hamlin — Hamlin backed up his Chicagoland win with a strong second-place finish at New Hampshire, following Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth across the line.

"These Gibbs cars have speed," Hamlin said, "and they're fuel mileage is so good it borders on the mysterious. With apologies to Kevin Harvick, you could say they're 'freaky fast.'

3. Carl Edwards — Edwards started on the pole at Loudon and finished fifth as Joe Gibbs Racing driver took three of the top five positions, including Matt Kenseth's victory.

"There were no punches to the chest after this race," Edwards said. "But if Kevin Harvick felt the need to punish someone, he would definitely kick himself."

4. Joey Logano — Logano finished third in the Sylvania 300 and now sits third in the Sprint Cup points standings.

"I'm in great position to advance to the next round of the Chase," Logano said. "There's only one driver that needs to drive like a maniac at Dover, and that's Kevin Harvick. But he put himself in this position. Of all people, Harvick should know how to 'baby' a gas pedal."

5. Jimmie Johnson — Jimmie rallied from a flat tire, which left him a lap down, to finish a solid sixth at Loudon.

"I went to see Kevin Harvick's gas tank after the race. Instead of emerging calmly from its hauler, it 'ran out.'

"Jeff Gordon broke the NASCAR record for consecutive starts. That makes him the sport's 'Iron Man,' but it sure as heck doesn't make him the most hard-headed."

6. Brad Keselowski — Keselowski was penalized for jumping a restart and dropped to 25th before rallying to finish 12th.

"Usually," Keselowski said, "when somebody says 'punch it,' I duck instead of getting on the gas.

"Jumping a restart is something that Matt Kenseth can do and get away with. Apparently, Matt is sneaky. You saw it last year — he attacked me in between our team transporters before I even knew it. And even when Matt punches you, you don't even know it."

7. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. — Earnhardt ran out of gas on the final lap and finished 25th at New Hampshire. He is 12th in the points standings, one point ahead of Kyle Busch.

"The race at Dover is an elimination race," Earnhardt said. "And you can't spell 'elimination' without 'E Nation.' Of course, the Chase isn't a spelling bee. Hopefully, I can maintain my spot of 12th or improve on it. Otherwise, I'll be like an Earnhardt fan in a spelling bee — I won't make it out of the first round."

8. Kyle Busch — Busch blew a tire on lap 159 and slammed the wall, leading to a 37th-place finish. He is 13th in the points standings, one point behind Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in 12th place.

"I've got my work cut out for me," Busch said. "I've been behind the 8-Ball before, which is usually because there's a state trooper behind me."

9. Ryan Newman — Newman finished 10th at Loudon, posting his 14th top 10 of the year. Newman is sixth in the points standings, 25 behind Matt Kenseth.

"I'm the Chase driver no one's talking about," Newman said. "That's because I drive for the team no one's talking about. That would be Richard Childress Racing. Unless I advance to the next round, RCR will have no chance to win the Cup, so our four teams will figuratively pack it in for the season. That's when 'RCR' becomes 'RCR&R.'"

10. Kevin Harvick — Harvick started second in the Sylvania 300 and led 216 of 300 laps, but ran out of gas with three laps remaining, losing the lead and finishing 21st.

"Our calculations said we had plenty of gas to finish the race," Harvick said. "Am I in serious danger of not advancing to the next round? Well, you do the math, because you're probably better at it than we are."

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