NASCAR Power Rankings: Richmond

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NASCAR Power Rankings: Richmond
(Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Jeff Gordon

During a caution on lap 299, Gordon stayed on the track while the leaders pitted, gambling that track position would be enough to carry him to victory.

However, as the grip of his tires faded, so did his lead, and he finished eighth at Richmond.

Gordon reclaimed the Sprint Cup points lead from Kurt Busch, who finished 12th, and now leads by 10.

"It just wasn't our day. We tried several adjustments, and while they did nothing to improve the car, my back is feeling great."

"Well, I see that all the NASCAR experts are jumping back on the Kyle Busch bandwagon. I've got to hand it to the fans, though. They're consistent—they hate Busch no matter what he does. However, Busch wins one race, and many of the so-called experts are talking about 200 wins. That's a very big 'if,' and an even bigger 'win.'"

 

2. Tony Stewart

Stewart posted a second at Richmond, his second runner-up finish in the last three races. Stewart opted for four tires on his final pit stop, and that keyed his ability to vault from 17th to second in the race's final 50 laps. Stewart moved up one spot in the Sprint Cup point standings to third, 39 behind Jeff Gordon.

"Never in my wildest dreams," says Stewart, "did I envision this team would be this strong this soon. And never in my wildest dreams did I think my wildest dreams would be about something as family friendly as a race team.

"Don't get me wrong. My dreams are racy, but not that kind of 'race-y.' Heck, usually when I wake up from a dream, I get fined by the Federal Communications Commission.

"This team is bound for even greater things. I feel a win is just around the corner. Where there's 'Smoke,' there's bound to be a fire. And where there's a fire, there's bound to be some 'Smoke' barbecue sauce. As you see, where there's talk of NASCAR, there's bound to be a sponsor or merchandise plug just around the corner."

 

3. Kurt Busch

Busch finished a disappointing 12th at Richmond in the Miller Lite No. 2 Dodge that he felt was capable of a top-five finish at the very least. A late track bar adjustment failed to render the desired effect, and Busch dropped from among the front-runners to the middle of the pack.

Consequently, Busch then sacrificed new tires for track position, and regained positions only to lose them later to cars with fresher tires. Busch dropped out of the top spot in the points, and now trails Jeff Gordon by 10 points.

"Our finish was disappointing," says Busch, "but not as disheartening as the news that Chrysler, Dodge's parent company, is filing for bankruptcy. It was like a slap in the face. Trust me, the news of my car company going under slaps harder than Jimmy Spencer and Tony Stewart combined.

"As for my little brother Kyle's assertion that he's going for 200 wins, well, that's just unreasonable. What kind of idiot tells the world he's going for 200 wins without first telling the world he's going to win a Sprint Cup championship? Kyle, that's who.

"Doesn't Kyle know that 200 is simply out of reach? Anyway, his 200 won't match King Richard Petty's 200. Kyle simply comparing himself to Petty is an affront to NASCAR royalty. Heck, Kyle doesn't even know 'STP' is motor oil. He thinks it's the Stone Temple Pilots.

"Kyle has always been a big talker. I guess he was born with the big mouth, and I got stuck with the big ears."

 

4. Kyle Busch

Busch passed Jeff Gordon on lap 352 and held the lead for the final 48 laps to win the Crown Royal 400 in Richmond, celebrating his 24th birthday with his 50th win in NASCAR's top three series. Busch also became the first driver to win on his birthday since Cale Yarborough, who did it twice.

"The nerve of the fans to 'boo' me on my birthday," says Busch. "Luckily, I've got a spotter, Jeff Dickerson, who's great at keeping me positive. He told me the fans were saying 'Bu,' not 'boo.' And those middle fingers? Jeff said the fans were just telling me I was number one. And those beer cans coming towards me? Obviously, a shout out to my catch can man, Jason Hinson.

"Now, I've made it known that I'm gunning for 200 career victories in NASCAR. Most people think I'm crazy to even try for such a hallowed mark, that it will happen only when 'pigs fly.' Well, I keep hearing all this talk about 'swine flew,' so, apparently, pigs are flying."

 

5. Jimmie Johnson

Johnson suffered his worst finish of the year, a 36th, with brake-line issues plaguing his Richmond endeavors. Johnson also rear-ended Joey Logano trying to avoid an accident triggered by David Stremme on lap 180, further crippling the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet.

Johnson finished 32 laps down, and fell three places to sixth in the point standings.

"Who did David Stremme not hit on Saturday night?" asks Johnson. "I think he hit everything but his marks.

"Between brake problems, spins, and penalties, nothing went right for us. We couldn't catch a break, or a brake. You know, it's never good to have an empty master cylinder, especially if you're a race car driver, or a rapper."

 

6. Jeff Burton

Burton parlayed a qualifying position of fifth into a third-place finish in the Crown Royal 400, equaling his best result of the year, in what will surely be a confidence builder for the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team.

Burton recovered from a spin, initiated by contact from Dale Earnhardt, Jr., midway through the race and methodically fought his way back to the front. He moved up two places in the Sprint Cup point standings, and is now seventh, 184 out of first.

"You know, this was the first time this year we sported the Prilosec paint scheme," says Burton. "Our traveling billboard for heartburn and acid reflux relief was really fast on Saturday and handled like a dream. You could say it was the best 'acid' trip I've ever been on."

 

7. Carl Edwards

Edwards struggled mightily in Richmond, failing to find the proper setup in practice and qualifying 37th.

On lap 164, Edwards' No. 99 Ford was clipped by David Stremme, sending Edwards sliding backwards. Although the car saw little damage, the team had little luck with numerous adjustments, and Edwards slid back in the field during the waning laps, finishing 26th.

"As you've probably heard," says Edwards, "I spent last week making the rounds on the talk show circuit. I appeared on Larry King, Ellen DeGeneres, and did countless other TV and radio interviews. Then I had a chat with NASCAR. I guess you could say everybody wants a piece of Carl Edwards, except for a few injured fans at Talladega.

"While I've been outspoken on the perils of restrictor plate racing, I also understand the appeal and excitement of massive, life-threatening wrecks. Race attendance has been down this year, but I think my wreck at Talladega will, in the future, result in fans running to the stands, and not from the stands.

"Finally, I'd like to wish Kyle Busch a very special birthday. So, I'm sending him a very special cake, beefcake, in fact, in the form of a shirtless photo of yours truly."

 

8. Denny Hamlin

For the second-straight spring race in Richmond, Hamlin led the most laps, but had nary a win to show for it. This time, though, it wasn't a slow tire leak that derailed potential victory, but dropped lug nuts that cost him the lead on a crucial pit stop.

Hamlin still finished a respectable 14th, but the frustration of another missed opportunity at his home track in Richmond left him crestfallen.

"Once again," says Hamlin, "we had the car to beat, but came up short because of a mistake. It's hard to keep your foot on the gas when you keep shooting it.

"But I can't let myself get down. A great American once said you gotta 'keep ya head up.' I'm not a religious man, but the words of Tupac Shakur have guided me through some tough times.

"Consequently, so I'll never forget the pain that dropped lug nuts have caused, I'm having the words 'Lug Life' tattooed across my abdomen."

 

9. Ryan Newman

Newman finished fourth at Richmond, his second-consecutive top-five result, joining runner-up Tony Stewart to mark the first time Stewart-Haas Racing placed both drivers in the top five.

Newman also jumped three places in the points to tenth, 243 out of first.

"This team has quickly become a force to be reckoned with," says Newman. "When Tony asked me to be a part of this team, it was the second-best day of my life—the first being the day of my first invitation to one of his hauler parties.

"With Tony, my wishes have been answered. I couldn't have asked for a better teammate, which reminds me of my days with Penske racing, when I asked for a better teammate practically on a daily basis and still was stuck with Rusty Wallace.

"Tony's often said to me, 'We're on the verge of something great here.' Usually, it's in reference to some buxom beauties auditioning for a hauler party. You think it's hard keeping our minds on racing with all that going on? It is, but not as hard as keeping the chrome on the trailer hitches around here."

 

10. Clint Bowyer

Weakened by flu-like symptoms and handicapped by an ill-handling car, Bowyer was unable to come close to defending his Richmond win from a year ago. After a good start, changing track conditions and numerous adjustments that fell flat relegated the No. 33 BB&T Chevy to a mid-pack finish of 18th.

Bowyer remained eighth in the point standings, and is now 229 out of first.

"After a good start to the season," says Bowyer, "we've fallen flat. Earlier in the season, good results were drumming up a lot of publicity for the No. 33 team. But, in out last four races, we've finished 22nd, 26th, 39th, and 18th. Right now, not many people even care about the BB&T team.

"So, in other words, no one's listening when I give an 'interest-free account' of the BB&T car's performance."

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