NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 26

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Kyle Busch — In an incident quite similar to their Richmond spin in May, Busch and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. got together on Sunday on lap 212. This time, Busch was on the short end, and spun into the wall, damaging the red and blue M&Ms on the No. 18 Toyota. Busch battled back from a lap down and eventually finished 15th. He will begin the Chase with 5,080 points, 30 more than Carl Edwards.

"I guess that's what you call 'car-ma,'" says Busch. "I don't think Little E meant to wreck me anyway. Unlike Carl Edwards, Dale's got a conscious, and fans. Of course, I had no intentions of retaliating against Junior. Those Earnhardt fans are deadly from long range with Amp cans, not to mention M80s. Edwards fans? They can't throw an oil lid straight to save their lives. You see, in or out of the car, the oil lid is affected by aerodynamics."

2. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson held off Tony Stewart down the stretch in a battle of two-time Cup champions to win in Richmond for his second-straight win. Johnson led 32 laps in capturing his fourth win of the year, and will start the Chase 40 points behind Kyle Busch.

"40 points?" says Johnson. "That's known to Chad Knaus as a minor rules infraction. To me, I call it 'striking distance.' You know, it was only fitting that in Richmond I battled with Tony Stewart for the win. That's two (2) two-time Cup champions going at it, as opposed to what took place in Bristol, when two (2) no-time Cup champions, Busch and Edwards, battled like two bullies on the playground. Tony and I have too much respect for each other to end a race with that kind of bumping and crashing. I would never intentionally wreck Tony. First of all, Tony's quite unstable, and may retaliate. Second, I want to stay in Tony's good graces and not risk losing an invitation to one of his post-race degenerate parties."

3. Carl Edwards — A right rear flat tire forced Edwards to pit under green on lap 74, sending him a lap down early in the Chevy Rock & Roll 400. He battled to regain the lost lap, but was victimized on lap 314 when he was collected in a spin involving Bobby Labonte and Bill Elliott. Edwards' final 80 laps were uneventful, and he was able to advance and finish 13th. He begins the 10-race Chase 30 points behind Kyle Busch.

"It definitely was a race full of adversity," says Edwards. "But I've battled much larger evils than 'adversity' this year, namely Kyle Busch. I'd have liked to have ended the regular season with a better result, but I'm still confident heading into the Chase. In fact, I'm very confident. I'd even say I'm the favorite. Just like flat tires, egos can be inflated, as well."

4. Tony Stewart — With 40 laps to go, Stewart led Johnson into the pits as the two pitted for the final time. With a quicker stop, Johnson came out ahead of Stewart, and held off the No. 20 Home Depot car as the two staged a neck-and-neck battle to the end. Stewart, with a 40-race winless streak weighing on him, was visibly frustrated at race's end.

"That's the fourth time this year I've finished second," says Stewart. "Normally, I'm pretty happy with seconds, especially when they come at the dinner table. But when you're so close to victory, it's frustrating. Sure, I may have blasted my crew for not being faster, but I demand quick service, whether it's in the pits, at a restaurant, or at a massage parlor."

5. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. — As the two jockeyed for position on lap 212, Earnhardt spun Kyle Busch in what must have been a case of unintentional retribution for Busch's unintentional spin of Earnhardt at Richmond in May. Earnhardt led 90 of the first 235 laps in Richmond, but as has become commonplace, he faded from win contention late in the race. As the handling on his car became worse, Earnhardt voiced his displeasure with some salty language over the team radio.

"Come on," says Earnhardt. "Is what I said any worse than the words used in the Tony Stewart story in Rolling Stone? Look, I was raised in the country by my father and a catalog of four-letter words. I don't abuse them, and they've come in quite handy in dealings with Teresa Earnhardt."

6. Kevin Harvick — Harvick ran strong early, leading 80 of the first 185 laps, but the handling on the No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevy faltered later in the race. Still, Harvick finished seventh, his sixth consecutive top-10 result, and enters the Chase as a driver without a win who could make a run for the Cup.

"I'm just happy Richard Childress got three cars in the Chase," says Harvick. "There's four teams with three drivers each in the field, and three Michael Waltrip Racing cars not in the field. So we know for a fact that the Chase format works, and allows only the best driver to compete for the Cup."

7. Denny Hamlin — With his third consecutive third-place finish, Hamlin and the No. 11 FedEx team seem to have found the cure to a series of inconsistent results leading up to Hamlin's three-race surge. With a win at Martinsville earlier this year under his belt, Hamlin will start the Chase 70 points behind Kyle Busch.

"I think I've finally learned that you can't badmouth your crew and still have them perform their best for you," says Hamlin. "Unless you're Dale Earnhardt or Tony Stewart. Then you can call out anybody on the team and get away with it. And the May race in Richmond taught me that you can't park on the track and not get penalized. I think rule 2.(c), section 4 (aa) states: 'No parking, baby, no parking on the dance floor.' Or something to that effect."

8. Jeff Gordon — Gordon finished eighth in Richmond for his 12th top-10 result of the year. Again, Gordon piloted a capable car, but the No. 24 Dupont Chevy was never really a threat to win. Winless so far this year, four-time Cup champion Gordon will start the Chase at the bottom, eighty points behind Kyle Busch's 5,080 start total.

"So I'm down there with the common folk, huh?" says Gordon. "Maybe we'll have a wine tasting to get acquainted."

9. Greg Biffle — Biffle clinched a spot in the Chase by simply starting the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 in Richmond, and bravely continued to race when he could just have easily parked the No. 16 Roush Fenway Ford and enjoyed an afternoon of NFL football in the comfort of his hauler.

"Trust me," says Biffle. "That's what I wanted to do. But you know NASCAR. It's all about keeping up appearances, isn't it? If I do that, I guarantee NASCAR would have a hissy fit. But God forbid somebody expose themselves to a NASCAR official, or curse up a storm on the radio, or publicize their degenerate lifestyle in Rolling Stone. Then NASCAR acts like it didn't even happen. Oh the humanity!"

10. Matt Kenseth — Kenseth tangled with Roush Fenway teammate David Ragan on lap 122, essentially ending Ragan's slim hopes of making the Chase, and foiling Jack Roush's sinister plan to overload the Chase with four Roush Fenway vehicles, with three earmarked for the duty of running interference for Roush golden boy Carl Edwards.

"Hey, at least I know I have a purpose in the Chase," says Kenseth. "But don't count me out of this just yet. There's only four drivers in the Chase who already have a Cup title. I'm one of them. I may not strike fear into the hearts of the other 11 competitors, or anyone for that matter, but I can win this."

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