Wednesday, February 24, 2016
NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 1
Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.
1. Denny Hamlin — Hamlin powered his way past Matt Kenseth on the final lap, then edged Martin Truex, Jr. at the line by .010 seconds, the closest finish in Daytona 500 history, to win his first 500.
"It was a bold move to leave the draft and go high," Hamlin said. "Joe Gibbs' drivers are known for getting 'out of line,' notably Matt Kenseth anytime Joey Logano's in front of him, or Kyle Busch anytime he's behind the wheel of a street car.
"I'm just glad I was able to end Joe Gibbs' 23-year Daytona draught. Joe said this felt like winning the Super Bowl. Speaking of football, maybe NASCAR should follow the NFL's lead and make it much easier to pass."
2. Martin Truex, Jr. — Truex took the runner-up spot at Daytona, falling .010 seconds short to Denny Hamlin in the closest finish in Daytona 500 history.
"I'm disappointed," Truex said, "but it was a great result for Furniture Row Racing. To celebrate, Furniture Row is throwing in a free 'photo finish' on all products purchased this week.
"I can't be too unhappy about finishing second. I think I made a name for myself at Daytona. Unfortunately, that name is 'Martin Truex II.'"
3. Kyle Busch — Busch started defense of his 2015 Sprint Cup championship with a strong third in the Daytona 500, as Joe Gibbs Racing placed three cars in the top 5.
"These Gibbs Toyotas were strong all day long," Busch said. "We knew if we remained grouped together in the low line, we'd be there at the end. It may not have worked out so well for Tim Richmond, but running a train sure did for JGR."
4. Matt Kenseth — Leading on the final lap, Kenseth was passed on a daring move to the high line by Denny Hamlin, who sailed past Kenseth's failed attempt to block. Hamlin went on to edge Martin Truex, Jr. as Kenseth slid back to 14th.
"Maybe I should have held my line," Kenseth said. "But it's hard to remain disciplined when you think you may get passed. Trust me, last year taught me how hard it was to 'be disciplined.'
"But congratulations to Hamlin. He predicted his Daytona 500 win as a second-grader. Speaking of school, maybe I should have paid more attention in drafting class."
5. Kevin Harvick — Harvick finished fourth, and generated the momentum that propelled Denny Hamlin past Matt Kenseth on the final turn to resulted in Hamlin's win.
"That's the second-most famous push in the back I'm known for," Harvick said. "The first was in Texas in 2014 when I shoved Brad Keselowski. Hamlin's post-race fist pump was the only punch thrown in either situation."
6. Joey Logano — Logano, last year's Daytona 500 winner, took sixth in this year's race after starting fifth on the grid.
"I can't be too sad for Matt Kenseth," Logano said. "You could say he got what was coming to him.
"As for the race itself, it was a pretty boring affair save for the last lap. Maybe NASCAR needs to institute a 'repetition' caution before fans revolt in a 'Mutiny on Monotony.'"
7. Kyle Larson — Larson finished seventh in the Daytona 500, his best result ever in the season's inaugural race.
"How about Scottish actor Gerard Butler's role as Grand Marshal?" Larson said. "Nothing says 'The Great American Race' like a Scottish accent."
8. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson led 18 laps and was poised for a strong finish until a pit road penalty with 45 laps to go. Johnson was issued a drive-through penalty after NASCAR deemed his pit crew were over the wall too soon.
"Too many men over the wall?" Johnson said. "Who called this penalty, Donald Trump?
"Pole sitter and Hendrick teammate Chase Elliott took a spin through the Daytona infield, as did Danica Patrick. For some drivers, like Chase, it's a 'spin in the grass;' for others, like Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., it's a 'roll in the hay.'"
9. Regan Smith — Smith, in the No. 7 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet, finished eighth in the Daytona 500.
"Hamlin wrote a letter in the second grade saying his dream was to win the Daytona 500," Smith said. "Most NASCAR fans would respond to that by saying, 'Dreams do come true.' The remaining NASCAR fans would say, 'Hamlin could write in the second grade?'"
10. Kurt Busch — Busch started eighth and finished 10th at Daytona.
"Brian France promised lots of changes for the 2016 NASCAR season," Busch said. "I guess lead changes wasn't one of them. There were only four lead changes that didn't happen as a result of pit stops.
"But what would you expect from NASCAR's CEO and Chairman? Maybe 'CFO' would be a better title, because he's a 'Chubby-Faced Oaf.' France wants to be omnipresent. He should start by just being present. Just to clarify, I took those words right out of Tony Stewart's mouth. As long as it's not food, Tony doesn't mind."