NASCAR Power Rankings: Las Vegas
Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.
1. Kyle Busch— Hometown hero Busch won the Shelby 427 at Las Vegas Speedway, starting from the rear after an engine change rendered his pole win on Friday null. Busch wrested the lead from Clint Bowyer on lap 269, and held on through two restarts to collect his first win of the year.
The driver of the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota celebrated with his customary bow, and added a kiss of the Vegas asphalt, which, he added, tasted like a Roush Fenway engine.
"I don't answer to anyone but myself," says Busch, "so it has to be an extremely important situation for me to kiss some as'.
"It's always a huge occasion to win on your home track, especially in front of fans who watched me and my brother grow up. For me, it was the return of the native son. For Kurt, though, it was the return of the native S.O.B."
"As for a jump to Formula One someday, I am seriously considering it. I welcome new challenges. Besides, who wouldn't want to race in a series in which qualifying actually matters, and one caution is a rarity, much less 14? They don't have debris cautions in F1, except for the occasional streaker, or Nazi sex orgy."
2. Jeff Gordon— Gordon locked his brakes trying to hit pit road late in the race, and his left front tire blew on the subsequent lap. Damage was heavy to the left front of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, but heady work in the pits kept Gordon in the thick of things. He finished a solid sixth and took over the points lead from Matt Kenseth.
"It's hard to pinpoint what caused me to miss pit lane," says Gordon. "It could have been lack of concentration, or possibly lack of sleep. Or it could have been because of one too many viewings of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s instructional video on pit stops, called 'Pit Happens.'"
"I feel like this team is ready to break that winless streak. Not winning a race in 44 tries seems like an eternity, which is slightly less than the length of a FOX pre-race show."
3. Clint Bowyer — Bowyer survived contact with Juan Montoya early in the race, then gambled to stay on the track during a late-race caution. The move allowed Bowyer to lead nine laps, but he couldn't hold off the charging Kyle Busch in the end. Bowyer moves up four places in the point standings to second, 18 behind Jeff Gordon.
"When push comes to shove," says Bowyer, "neither Montoya nor I will give any quarter. I'm a strong-willed Kansas native; he's a feisty Colombian. I'm not willing to give an inch; he's not willing to give a kilo. If that comparison sounds forced, it is.
"It was a lot easier when I drove the Jack Daniels car to describe contact with Montoya, when 'Jack and Coke' neatly summed it up."
"As far as our decision not to pit late, this is Las Vegas; how can you not gamble? When you say 'double down' and 'all in' in Vegas, you're not only describing some of the stranger acts that occur in Tony Stewart's hauler, you're also referencing our pit strategy. Sometimes, you have to throw 'caution' to the wind."
4. Greg Biffle—While in the pits late in the race on a green flag stop, Biffle was victimized when the caution flew, dropping him from sixth to 15th on the restart. With the fastest car on the track, Biffle was able to reclaim eight positions in the final 23 laps for a seventh-place finish.
"In light of the engine trouble that afflicted three of my Roush Fenway teammates," says Biffle, "I'm delighted with our result. It's very uncommon for engine failures to strike this team with such magnitude. As most Roush Fenway drivers can tell you, when we say 'this thing could blow any minute now,' we're usually referring to Carl Edwards' temper."
5. Matt Kenseth—Kenseth's quest for history, winning the first three races of the season, ended abruptly on lap six when his engine expired amidst a cloud of smoke, the first of three Roush Fenway engines to suffer that fate. Kenseth finished dead-last in the Shelby 427, and tumbled two spots in the points to third.
"I've made shorter appearances on The David Letterman Show," says Kenseth. "When I said before the race that 'it looks like we're in for a long day,' I guess I was totally off the mark. I went from making history in Daytona and Fontana to being history in Las Vegas. I've made faster exits in some of my nightmares involving Carl Edwards."
6. Carl Edwards—Edwards' engine blew as the white flag dropped, spoiling a sure top-five finish in Las Vegas, site of the first of his eight Sprint Cup wins last year. He finished 17th, the last car on the lead lap, and holds on to the ninth spot in the point standings.
"I was quite confident I would defend my win here from last season," says Edwards. "That is, until Roush Fenway engines started dropping like me in Kevin Harvick's garage. In the end, I got very little for my effort, except for this t-shirt that reads 'I Ran a Fair Race in Las Vegas, and All I Got Was a Lousy 17th-Place Finish.'"
"As for our engine problems, it's hard to get a straight answer from anyone about what the problem was. I asked our engineering department about it, and they told me to check with our technical support team, which is based in Calcutta, India."
7. David Reutimann—Reutimann leapt into the top 10 of the Sprint Cup point standings, finishing fourth to match his qualifying effort as he took the Aaron's Dream Machine to his first top-five for Michael Waltrip Racing. Reutimann is now fifth in the points, 51 out of first.
"Hey, if you give a Toyota driver two engines," says Reutimann, "he can work wonders with it. I'll drink to Kyle Busch's victory with a 'Kamikaze,' because Japanese engines were going down at an alarming rate."
"Anyway, it's great to take MWR to places it's never been, because who else is going to do it? Michael can't stop talking about my race in Vegas. In fact, Michael can't stop talking ever. You should hear him on the radio during races—he doesn't shut up. That's why the guys on the team call him the 'driver's side air bag.'"
8. Kevin Harvick—Harvick was on pit row when Jeff Gordon's blown tire resulted in a caution flag, leaving Harvick a lap down. In addition, Harvick was busted for speeding while exiting the pits, but was able to battle his way to a finish of 12th in Las Vegas.
"That's what you call a 'double whammy,'" says Harvick. "But I've got to hand it to Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton, who represented Richard Childress Racing well on the track. I must say that I'm envious of Jeff Burton's appearance on General Hospital. That's why my wife Delana and I have decided to expand our empire into the world of daytime dramas. We're going to call it All My Childress."
9. Tony Stewart—Stewart finished out of the top 10 for the first time this year with a 26th in Las Vegas, his day soured by an ill-timed pit stop and a loose left rear lug nut that combined to leave him two laps down. Stewart dropped four spots in the points, but still sits solidly in eighth place, 80 points out of first.
"We just didn't have Lady Luck on our side on Sunday," says Stewart. "Fortunately, she made it to the hauler just in time for the party, though. She's from Russia. The funny thing is, I'm the one that woke up the next morning with pasties on my nipples."
10. Bobby Labonte—Labonte finished fifth in the Shelby 427, as the No. 96 Hall of Fame Racing entry was the top Ford finisher in the field. Labonte, the 2000 Sprint Cup champion, moved up 10 places in the points to 10th, and is 99 out of first.
"I would be remiss, and in contempt of contractual obligations," says Labonte, "if I didn't mention our sponsor, Ask.com, a leading internet search engine, not to be confused with a similar sponsor of Randy Moss Motorsports, Ax.com."
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