Wednesday, September 24, 2008

NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 28

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Greg Biffle — After a furious late-race shootout with Roush Fenway Racing teammates Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth, Biffle won for the second-straight race and has his guns blazing in search of the Sprint Cup title.

"It only took me 26 races to prove it," says Biffle, "but I'm finally able to live up to what I've been saying all year: 'Nobody beats the Biff,' nobody beats the Biff.' I can really get used to spending time in victory lane. Sure, the wins are nice, but it's even sweeter cozying up to Miss Sprint Cup and hearing her tell me that 'I'm the greatest.' I bet she says that to all the guys. That's perfectly okay with me, as long as her definition of 'all the guys' does not include Tony Stewart."

2. Carl Edwards — Edwards may have lost any chance to win Sunday at Dover when crew chief Bob Osborne called for two tires instead of four during a late pit stop. Edwards was unable to hold off Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth, who each took four tires, down the stretch and finished third. Still, Edwards took sole possession of the point standing, and now leads Biffle and Jimmie Johnson by ten points.

"I can't fault Osborne for his decision," says Edwards. "He was only doing what he thought best for this team. It failed, but at least it didn't cost us 100 points, like the last time he had some brilliant idea. But we're in first, and if you would have asked me two weeks ago where I wanted to be after two Chase races, I would have said 'in first.' And to be 210 points ahead of Kyle Busch makes it all that much sweeter."

3. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson finished fifth at Dover, unable to challenge the Roush Fenway juggernaut that swept the top three, but his second top-five finish of the Chase kept him well within the hunt for his third consecutive Cup title. Johnson is tied with Greg Biffle, 10 points behind points leader Carl Edwards.

"It looks like it may be me against the Roush Fenway empire," says Johnson. "Those guys were strong all day, fittingly on the day when Fenway rival the New York Yankees played their last game in Yankee Stadium. With several 1.5-mile tracks upcoming on the schedule, the Roush cars should continue to do well. And that could be their downfall. I hear Jack Roush couldn't quite decide in which pit stall he should be present when the winner took the checkers. You know he wanted to be in Edwards' stall, but that didn't quite work out. The point is, with Biffle's success, Jack's allegiances are split in two, and with Kenseth running up front, he could be pulled in three directions. Luckily, I'm Hendrick Motorsports only hope, so I can expect Rick Hendrick's full attention. That is, when he's not talking Dale Earnhardt, Jr. down from a ledge."

4. Jeff Burton — Burton finished ninth at Dover and moved up one place in the points to fourth, where he is 82 behind leader Carl Edwards. Burton overcame a mediocre qualifying effort of 21st, then had to return to the pits to correct some loose lug-nuts, but otherwise turned in a solid effort.

"Given a better qualifying effort and no pit errors," says Burton, "I'm still not sure we could have challenged for the win. I don't think the No. 31 AT&T Chevy was good enough to win, but then again, has it ever been?"

5. Kevin Harvick — Harvick recorded his eighth consecutive top-10 finish, the longest current streak among all drivers, with a sixth in the Camping World RV 400. Harvick leapt five places in the standings, from 10th to fifth, and is 101 out of first.

"That was some mighty fine racing there at the end," says Harvick. "I just wish I could have been a part of it. With NASCAR's new testing policy, in which there is no list of banned substances, we might as well get used to the fact that there will be more 'passing' on the track than 'passing' of drug tests. No list of banned substances? How the heck will guys like Aaron Fike know which drugs they are forbidden to drive a Craftsman truck under the influence of? It's ridiculous. Do you mean to tell me the 'King,' Richard Petty, might have to think twice before inhaling a packet of BC Powder through a straw?"

6. Matt Kenseth — Kenseth led a race-high 136 laps, but succumbed to the charge of Roush Fenway teammate Greg Biffle, who passed Kenseth for the lead on lap 392. Kenseth finished second, rebounding from a 40th last week in New Hampshire that left him last in the Chase standings. Kenseth is now 10th, 167 out of first.

"After registering such as dismal finish in New Hampshire," says Kenseth, "I knew Dover was a 'do or die' situation for me. A good finish was imperative. I really felt like I was running for my life there at the end, and with Carl Edwards chasing me, I got such an uneasy feeling a déjà vu that I think it made me go faster."

7. Jeff Gordon — Gordon started on the pole for Sunday's Camping World RV 400 at Dover and led the first 30 laps, but was never a threat to win thereafter. Once again, handling issues victimized the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, and despite racing in the top 10 for most of the day, Gordon was fated to remain winless this year. He is now eighth in the point standings, 118 behind Carl Edwards.

"We're not ready to throw in the towel just yet," says Gordon. "But we do have in laundered and folded nicely, just in case. You may have heard that the No. 24 team will have a new paint scheme in 2009. I'm excited about that. I'm hoping that the No. 24 DuPont car will look drastically different from its current incarnation. That way, maybe Steve Letarte won't recognize it and will leave it alone."

8. Clint Bowyer — Bowyer finished eighth at Dover, joining Richard Childress Racing teammates Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton in the top 10. Bowyer is sixth in the points, 106 out of first, and RCR drivers occupy 4-6 in the standings.

"Testosterone. A new drug policy. Banned substances," says Bowyer. "Who says NASCAR drivers aren't legitimate athletes? If drivers want something to put a little hair on their chests, then the simplest, and only legal, remedy, is multiple shots of Jack Daniels. I'm fairly certain Jack is not on NASCAR's 'nonexistent list of banned substances.' Or is that a 'list of nonexistent banned substances.' I'm sure I'm not the only one confused."

9. Tony Stewart — Stewart was the lone bright spot for Joe Gibbs Racing, bringing an 11th while teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch finished 38th and 43rd respectively. Stewart is now 113 points out of first in seventh place.

"Experience matters," says Stewart. "Whether it's driving in the Chase or sweet-talking an apprehensive 22-year-old groupie into your hauler, it always helps to have done it before. I've done both lots, with mixed results, and often with someone getting slapped."

10. (tie) Kyle Busch/Dale Earnhardt, Jr. — Busch's blown engine left him last at Dover and last in the Chase field, and all but ended his hopes for the Sprint Cup title. Busch is 210 points out of first, and now has eight races to think about the tragic end to such a promising season. Earnhardt blew a tire on lap 141, spun and hit the wall. He finished 24th, three laps down, and is ninth in the point standings, 129 out of first.

"It's always tough racing here anyway," says Earnhardt, "even without mechanical failures. 'Miles the Monster' takes no prisoners, nor does the track's secondary mascot, 'Ben Dover,' which perfectly describes what Kyle and I were relegated to doing. When your tire or engines goes, you've got no choice but to bend over and take it."

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