NASCAR Power Rankings: Bristol

Jeffrey BoswellAnalyst IMarch 26, 2009

BRISTOL, TN - MARCH 22:  Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Snickers Toyota, celebrates winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 22, 2009 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Jeff Gordon

While handling problems on long green flag runs rendered winning in Bristol nearly impossible, Gordon still had a capable car and hammered out a fourth-place finish, his series-leading fourth top 10 of the year. He maintained the top spot in the point standings, and leads Kurt Busch by 76 points.

“Even when I’m bad, I’m good,” says Gordon. “No, that’s not some provocative Mae West quote from the 1920’s that only Darrel Waltrip would remember. It describes my season thus far. Although I haven’t won a race, the car’s been competitive in each race. It’s great to lead the points. I like it on top. Now, I’m sure Mae West uttered that line quite often.

“I’m intrigued by Formula 1’s proposed championship format, in which the driver with the most wins is declared the champion. Theoretically, that means I could be in last place under the F1 format, which makes sense, because isn’t that where most Americans in F1 end up?”

2. Kyle Busch

Busch led 378 of 503 laps at Bristol to capture his second win of the year. He took the lead on lap 445 and held it until the end, using a timely pit stop during the race’s final caution to maintain his edge and bring the No. 18 Snickers Toyota to victory lane.

But in Saturday’s Nationwide race, Busch’s pit team fumbled a tire on their last stop and cost the driver the win. He admonished his team by parking his car in turn three, near the track’s exit tunnel, and leaving the track.

“Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go,” says Busch. “For years, everyone’s been questioning 'Busch’s' exit strategy. Well, there it was.

“As for my pit crew, I was beginning to lose confidence in them. My crew chief, Steve Addington, kept telling me to 'keep the faith,' but all I could do was ‘snicker.’ Luckily, they came through when it counted, keeping me in the lead on that last pit stop.

"My crew team hates it when I question their manhood, but my reminder to them of the old adage 'ladies first’ right before seemed to be the right motivator.

“Now, in a Bristol race with an unusual lack of controversy, it was up to me to create some. And I did so by criticizing Dale Earnhardt, Jr., when in fact I was asked about being compared to his father. If people are going to boo me at races, I might as well give them a reason.

"What do we see more often than Junior in the Winner’s Circle? Halley’s Comet.”

3. Jimmie Johnson

Johnson led 88 laps and finished third in Bristol for his first top-five finish of the year. It moved him into the top 10 of the Sprint Cup point standings. He credited his strong placing to a meeting with crew chief Chad Knaus and the Lowe’s team two weeks ago, in which he indicated what he needed for his car to be competitive at Bristol.

“Chad’s great,” says Johnson. “When I say ‘Jump,’ he says ‘How high?’ He does whatever it takes to make the No. 48 car fast.

"Chad’s a pro at pushing the envelope, whether that means stretching the rule book to find a competitive edge, or actually pushing an envelope filled with fine money across the table to a NASCAR official.”

4. Clint Bowyer

Bowyer, last year’s winner at Bristol’s spring race, was unable to defend his crown as he was hampered by a slow start and a loose-handling No. 33 BB&T Chevrolet. He eventually scrambled his way into the top 15 by nabbing the 13th spot. He dropped one spot in the point standings to third, 79 behind Jeff Gordon.

“It was the thrill of my career last year to take the Jack Daniels car to a win in the home state of the Jack distillery,” says Bowyer. “This year, it would have even been a bigger thrill to drive the BB&T Chevy to victory at a track with ‘banking.’ But it was not to be.

“But, after the mystery surrounding the announced attendance at the Kobalt Tools 500 in Atlanta, it was great to see a full house at Bristol. You know, 160,000 fans in the stands in Bristol translates to about 8,000,000 in Atlanta.

"It doesn’t take a pessimist or an optimist to see that the stands at Atlanta were half-full, or half-empty. Even a blind man could see that.”

5. Carl Edwards

Edwards and the No. 99 Aflac team struggled to find speed all weekend, putting up practice times near the slowest and a disappointing qualifying effort of 38th. However, steady work on pit road and patience on the track resulted in a 15th-place finish, the lone bright spot for Roush Fenway Racing.

“I’m puzzled as to why we couldn’t get the setup right,” says Edwards. “Normally, here, we’re fast and competitive. Our performance was odd and unusual. It is allergy season, so I guess you could say we were Claritin ‘queer.’

“As for my teammates, things couldn’t have been much worse. Greg Biffle had engine trouble and finished 39th. Matt Kenseth broke his splitter and finished 33rd. And Jamie McMurray got roughed up by Juan Montoya and finished 37th.

"Personally, I think Montoya got off easy with just a warning. He’s lucky this didn’t happen under the George Bush administration, otherwise he would have been declared an ‘enemy combatant’ and detained in the NASCAR hauler, which for these purposes, would have been called ‘Juan-tanamo Bay.’”

6. Kurt Busch:

Busch started 32nd and was running in 30th when a spin by Todd Bodine forced the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge into the back of Kevin Harvick’s No. 29 Chevy. But Busch suffered only moderate front-end damage, and, after repairs in the pits, steadily charged to the front. He finished 11th as younger brother Kyle took the win, which gave the Busch brothers the last three Sprint Cup wins.

“I’ve got to hand it to crew chief Pat Tryson and the Miller Lite team for getting me back out there,” says Busch. “Sometimes, minor cosmetic changes make vast improvements. And sometimes they don’t. But that’s between me and my plastic surgeon.

“Luckily, though, my incident with Harvick was an unavoidable racing incident and no one’s fault. Trust me, I’m the last person that wants to tangle with Harvick, especially at Bristol. For me, that would be a dance called the ‘Tennessee Welts.’”

7. Denny Hamlin

Hamlin chased Joe Gibbs teammate Kyle Busch across the finish line in Bristol, earning the runner-up spot at the track affectionately known as the “Bull Ring.” Hamlin moves up six spots in the point standings, to eighth, and is 163 out of first.

“Hey, I thought a ‘bull ring’ was a phone call from Bruton Smith,” says Hamlin. “Anyway, Smith’s got major pull in the business of NASCAR. The man owns so much that he even claims Aaron Fike’s forearms as one of his ‘tracks.’

“He even claims he’s one of the ‘Fantastic Four,’ the one they call ‘The Thing.’ I have my doubts. If Smith’s a superhero, then Randy Lajoie is a character in an Austin Powers movie.”

8. Tony Stewart

Stewart fell a lap down just past the midway point of the Food City 500, but was never able to snatch the “Lucky Dog” free pass, mainly due to a race short on cautions and heavy on long green flag runs. His disappointment with his 17th-place finish was somewhat placated by teammate Ryan Newman’s weekend at Bristol, which included a front-row start and a top-10 finish for the Army-sponsored No. 39 car.

“It’s quite fitting that Newman drove to a top-10 finish,” says Stewart. “Especially after my visit to the Army base at Fort Knox, Kentucky last week, where I completed two of my lifelong goals: driving a simulated Army tank, and visiting a strip club, pawn shop, and liquor store all in a one-block radius.

“The tank was quite an experience. The technology is amazing.

"And speaking of ‘technology,’ I’m entering the Twitter age, and will be updating my fans with quick messages of my daily routine. In addition, I’ll also be using the service to send invitations to my wild, uninhibited hauler parties, with messages I like to call ‘Twit For Twat.’”

9. Kasey Kahne

Kahne started fifth on the grid and matched his qualifying effort with a fifth-place in Bristol, his first top-five placing of the year and second consecutive top-10. He moves up three spots in the points and is now sixth, 155 out of first.

“After two-straight top-10 finishes,” says Kahne, “I feel like this team is headed in the right direction. Finally, there is some joy in ‘Bud-ville.’

"Good finish or no, Kasey Kahne never strikes out, especially with the 37- to 48-year-old, undersexed, dissatisfied housewife-stalker demographic. It’s great to always be able to count on your fans.”

10. David Reutimann

Reutimann finished 12th in the Food City 500, just missing out on his second top-10 finish of the year. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver has only one finish worse than 14th this year, and is 11th in the Sprint Cup point standings, 187 out of first.

“In conjunction with the NAPA Cap Exchange,” says Reutimann, “in which you can bring your old cap to a NAPA Auto Parts dealer and receive a new NAPA Racing cap, we here at Aaron’s have decided to implement a similar promotion.

"You can bring that brand new NAPA cap and exchange it for a new Aaron’s cap. I call it the ‘Don’t Be Like Mike’ Cap Exchange.”


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