Thursday, June 22, 2017

NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 15

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Kyle Larson — Larson started on the pole at Michigan and led 96 laps on his way to the win at Michigan. Larson pulled away from Chase Elliott on a restart with five laps to go to claim his second win of the year.

"That's my third pole this season," Larson said. "And it's the second time I've won from the pole this year. I honor of the great Alan Kulwicki, I call doing that a 'pole-ish victory lap.'"

2. Martin Truex, Jr. — Truex won the first two stages at Michigan and finished sixth, posting his 11th top-10 of the year.

"I've made it a habit of winning two stages in a race but failing to win the race," Truex said. "As someone who's never won a Cup championship, I guess that's called underperforming on the big stage. Maybe I just have a case of stage fright."

3. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson started at the rear after a spin in Saturday's practice ruined his primary car and pulled out a tenth in the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan.

"I signed a contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports through 2020," Johnson said. "That was definitely a 'signature' win for HMS. Hendrick now has me under contract for three more years. The last time a NASCAR driver said he was 'locked up for three years,' it was Jeremy Mayfield."

4. Kevin Harvick — Harvick took 14th in the Firekeepers Casino 400, and is fourth in the points standings, 132 out of first.

"I was anything but freaky fast in the No. 4 Jimmy Johns car," Harvick said. "Unless we're better in the future, there's no way we deliver, a sandwich or a win."

5. Brad Keselowski — Keselowski finished 16th at Michigan and is now sixth in the Monster Energy Cup points standings.

"I tangled with Kyle Busch on the first lap of the Xfinity Series race on Saturday," Keselowski said. "Of course, that's not the first time that's happened. I'm not sure what's clashed more, our cars or our personalities."

6. Kyle Busch — Busch led late at Michigan but faded to seventh after a late caution did away with his sizable lead. Busch is third in the Monster Energy Cup points standings, 130 out of first.

"Once again," Busch said, "a late caution cost me a chance at the win. I'm beginning to think I'm just cursed. And for that reason, I just cursed."

7. Chase Elliott — Elliott finished second to Kyle Larson for the second consecutive race at Michigan. In August, Larson bested Elliott to win his first career Cup race.

"I just can't seem to get past Larson at Michigan," Elliott said. "It seems he has 'MI' number."

8. Jamie McMurray — McMurray bounced back from a 37th at Pocono with a fifth in the FireKeepers Casino 400, scoring his second top-five of the season.

"Fifth place was impressive," McMurray said, "but it certainly wasn't the biggest story in what was a fairly uneventful race. The big story was Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Not necessarily his ninth-place finish, but anytime his crew chief Greg Ives called him in for fresh rubber, or, in other words, when he announced Junior's 're-tire-ment.'"

9. Denny Hamlin — Hamlin finished fourth at Michigan as Joe Gibbs Racing placed three drivers in the top 11.

"Once again," Hamlin said, "a debris caution affected the outcome of the race. Was their actually debris on the track? If you were watching on television, you probably didn't see any. Trust me, though, there is garbage on the track. It's called 'NASCAR's product.'"

10. Joey Logano — Logano posted his first top-five finish since taking the win at Richmond on April 30.

"Of course," Logano said, "that win at Richmond didn't really count, because due to a rules violation, it won't automatically get me into the Chase. You could also say I cheated out a win. You could also say I got cheated out of a win.

"NASCAR calls that an 'encumbered' win. 'Encumbered' means 'to restrict or burden (someone or something) in such a way that free action or movement is difficult.' If you look that word up in the dictionary, you'll find a picture of my dad."

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