Thursday, March 3, 2016

NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 2

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Kyle Busch — One day after winning the Xfinity Series race, Busch finished third in the Folds of Honor 500. He now stands third in the points standings, eight behind Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin.

"I originally won the pole," Busch said, "but my car failed inspection. That gave the pole to my brother Kurt. You could say Kurt backed into the pole. That 'pole' at Atlanta caused no damage to Kurt's car, unlike that 'wall' at Dover last October, which damaged Kevin Harvick's car not only beyond recognition, but beyond inspection."

2. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson short-pitted with about 40 laps to go in Atlanta, and held off the charging Kevin Harvick down the stretch to capture the Folds of Honor 500. With the win, Johnson matched Dale Earnhardt with his 76th career win.

"That's why I held three fingers out of the window," Johnson said. "Not because I was three times as pissed off as Martin Truex, Jr. was at Regan Smith, but because I wanted to honor Dale Earnhardt. Just call me the 'InJimidator.'

"I have to give it up to Chad Knaus for making a bold strategy call. Chad firmly believes in staying one step ahead of the competition, and two steps ahead of the rule book."

3. Martin Truex, Jr. — Truex led 34 laps and finished seventh in Atlanta, and is now fourth in the Sprint Cup points standings.

"You may have seen me give Regan Smith the finger," Truex said. "You may not know this, but the Sunday before 'Leap Day' is 'Flip Day.'"

4. Denny Hamlin — Hamlin fell a lap down early at Atlanta and never recovered, finishing 16th, two laps down.

"I call it the 'Daytona Hangover,'" Hamlin said. "The thrill of victory at Daytona is often determined by less than a tenth of a second. The agony of defeat is often marked by more than a fifth of liquor."

5. Kevin Harvick — Harvick led a race-high 131 laps but was outsmarted in the pits by Jimmie Johnson, who short-pitted to build a big lead, then held on after a late caution.

"That race was mine to lose," Harvick said. "But I'll let my crew chief, Rodney Childers, take ownership of it, though, because he was outsmarted by Chad Knaus. It was a contest to see who was going to pit first. You could say it was a game of 'cat and Knaus.'"

6. Matt Kenseth — Kenseth finished 19th at Atlanta after a mid-race penalty left him two laps down.

"That's called an 'improper fueling' penalty," Kenseth said. "Apparently, my gas man placed a wrench on the back of the car. That's a no-no. But not as big a no-no as me placing my front bumper on the back of Joey Logano's car."

7. Carl Edwards — Edwards finished fifth in the Folds of Honor 500 to score his second top-five result of the year.

"There were 327 laps of green flag racing," Edwards said. "We haven't seen this much green flag racing since 2015. Or, should I say, 'We didn't see this much green flag racing in 2015.'"

8. Kurt Busch — Busch started on the pole and took fourth at Atlanta, one spot behind younger brother Kyle. Kurt is seventh in the points standings, nine out of first.

"Did you hear?" Busch said. "Brian France endorsed Donald Trump for President. That's interesting, because in July, NASCAR said it would not hold its Camping World and Xfinity banquets at Trump's National Doral Resort after Trump made racist and disparaging remarks about immigrants. Apparently, France puts the 'race' in 'racism.' I can see Trump spin this to even greater advantage: he'll say he was endorsed by France, and his supporters will believe it's the country. Viva Le Trump!"

9. Brad Keselowski — Keselowski finished ninth at Atlanta, plagued by handling issues that likely prevented a top-five result.

"In light of Brian France's endorsement of Donald trump," Keselowski said, "this is certainly not the first time someone has looked at France and said, 'What is he doing?'

"But enough about a pudgy-faced clown who is clueless as to how to run a race. France needs to mind his own business. He can't even handle the politics of his own sport, much less those of a nation."

10. Austin Dillon — Dillon started eighth and finished 11th in the Folds of Honor 500. He is ninth in the Sprint Cup points standings, 15 out of first.

"My younger brother Ty subbed for Tony Stewart in the No. 14 car," Dillon said. "Tony is out for a few weeks, mostly to rehab a back injury, but also to work on his new cookbook, '50 Shades of Gravy.'

"While Tony is out, Stewart-Haas Racing wants someone in that car. They certainly don't want that ride empty. Ty is more than happy to occupy that spot. So, with or without Tony, you know there will be an ass in the seat."

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