NASCAR Power Rankings: Charlotte

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NASCAR Power Rankings: Charlotte
(Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

 

1. Jeff Gordon

After a slow start to Monday's rain-delayed Coca-Cola 600, Gordon was making headway towards the front, and was up to 14th when the skies opened once again, this time stopping the race for good.

Still, Gordon's finish lengthened his points lead on second-place Tony Stewart, who finished 19th, to 44 points.

"Unlike fans in attendance and television viewers," says Gordon, "I can't complain about the finish."

"And, unlike fans, my concerns and opinions can be heard by NASCAR, and they were in a special 'town meeting' held Tuesday at NASCAR research and development center in Charlotte.

"NASCAR's drug policy was a hot topic, and NASCAR officials answered most of our questions, although when pressed for a copy of the list of banned substances, NASCAR officials wryly claimed that their copy machine was shooting blanks.'"

"As for double-file restarts, I am all for that. Most other drivers would agree. There's no reason that the cars on the lead lap should be impeded by those pesky lapped cars, whose drivers are likely to be suspended for drug usage or fined for using an oversized engine."

 

2. Tony Stewart

Stewart played it safe when the final caution for rain flew, pitting for four tires while others, including eventual race winner David Reutimann, stayed on the track.

That left Stewart in 19th, and that's where he finished when NASCAR made the race official. Stewart remained in the No. 2 spot in the points, and now trails Jeff Gordon by 44.

"Rain may have spoiled the finish of the race," says Stewart, "but there was a lot going on during those rain delays. I like to call rain 'nature's wet T-shirt contest.' Thank heavens Bruton Smith wasn't wearing a T-shirt."

"And there was some excitement in the pits when I got up in Reutimann's face and asked him why he was racing me so hard. Then, one of his crewmen, whom I like to call 'Billy Bad Butt,' had to stick his nose and his bald head into the discussion.

"That made it 'bald head' versus 'hard head.' Luckily, cooler heads prevailed, and I didn't have to resort to dishing out a 'Butt'-whupping."

"I guess in hindsight, which is often my favorite view, I could understand Reutimann's zealousness to race me so hard early in the race. As it turned out, he was racing so hard for the win, so I guess I really had no reason to criticize him."

 

3. Jimmie Johnson

Johnson finished 13th at Charlotte, a solid finish on a wildly unpredictable day of racing in the Coca-Cola 600, which was shortened from 400 to 227 laps because of weather.

Johnson ran up front early, then experienced handling issues before the weather relegated race strategy to one single pit stop. Johnson held on to the fourth position in the point standings, 128 out of first.

"Rain delays often make for anticlimactic finishes," says Johnson. "As they say, when it rains, it 'bores.'"

 

4. Kyle Busch

Busch was the frontrunner at Charlotte, leading a race-high 173 of 227 laps, but was denied victory by persistent showers at the track.

Busch was leading when the final caution for rain came out, and, with limited fuel, was forced to pit and relinquish the lead.

Rain continued to fall, and NASCAR called the race about two hours later. Busch finished sixth, and is now sixth in the Sprint Cup point standings, 182 out of first.

"That's practically the same thing that happened in the Nationwide race," says Busch. "The rain screwed me out of two wins. I guess you could say the headline for my long weekend in Charlotte would be 'Rain Befallen.' Or 'Reign Delay.'"

"Mother Nature hasn't been very good to the Busch family. She cost me two wins, and she cost my brother Kurt the money it took to correct a case of hideously malformed ears."

 

5. Denny Hamlin

Hamlin finished 11th in the Coca-Cola 600, as all three Joe Gibbs Racing members finished inside the top 11. Hamlin has not finished worse than 26th this year, and is currently fifth in the Sprint Cup point standings.

"There's nothing wrong with being defined by your consistency," says Hamlin. "Heck, NASCAR would be overjoyed if anyone described anything NASCAR does with the word 'consistency.'"

"Now, I have to commend NASCAR for initiating an open discussion to address the growing list of what's wrong with NASCAR. We all like to think we put on a show each and every week for the fans. But all to often, we're seeing that the show is nothing more than a 'put-on.'"

 

6. Ryan Newman

Newman followed Stewart-Haas teammate Tony Stewart's All-Star win by capturing the pole for the Coca-Cola 600 on Thursday.

In Monday's race, Newman suffered an early lug nut problem, but recovered and gambled correctly with the weather, finishing second when rain finally ended the race.

With his runner-up result, Newman moved up one spot to seventh in the points, and is 184 out of first.

"I was really impressed with NASCAR's 'town hall' meeting on Tuesday," says Newman. "We all have our concerns with the state of NASCAR, whether it be the car, fan interest, drug testing, or the economy. I, for one, was particularly interested in the details of the drug policy.

"And my concerns were clarified by NASCAR, most notably in section IV, article 17b of NASCAR's drug policy, which states that 'any driver who displays an interest in NASCAR's drug policy can himself expect to be "randomly" drug tested at NASCAR's discretion.' It's great to know NASCAR cares."

 

7. Kurt Busch

Busch, driving the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge sporting the "Taste Protector" paint scheme, ran up front early at Charlotte and was on his way to a solid finish.

However, a worrisome vibration in the right front tire forced a green flag pit stop, dropping Busch a lap down, and he finished 34th.

He is still third in the Sprint Cup point standings, and trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 115.

"Let me just clarify," says Busch, "that Miller Lite's new 'Taste Protector' cap is in no way a knock-off of existing 'flavor saver' technology, although, in many cases, one may lead to the other."

"As for the race, I can think of several things I would rather have spent two days doing, and I'm sure most, if not all, of the fans would say the same thing."

 

8. Carl Edwards

Edwards took only two tires on the race's final caution, gaining the track position that left him in fourth when NASCAR finally called Monday's Coca-Cola 600 official after 227 laps.

Edwards' fourth was his second-best finish of the year, and only his fifth top-10 result of the year as he continues to look for the momentum that carried him to nine wins last year. He is now 11th in the point standings, 291 out of first.

"This is one of the few times things have gone right for us," says Edwards. "Lately, nothing's been going right. First, I take flight at Talladega and lose a race I could have won, while littering the grandstand with lethal flying projectiles.

"Then, Jeremy Mayfield claims he tested positive for drugs due to a mix of a prescription medication and Claritin, which happens to be a sponsor of my No. 99 car.

"I don't know what Jeremy's growing in his May field of dreams, but my Claritin prevents your eyes from watering; it doesn't cause it."

 

9. Matt Kenseth

Kenseth finished 10th in Charlotte, only his fifth top-10 result of the year, in the rain-marred Coca-Cola 600.

Had the rain stayed away after the final caution, Kenseth likely would have recorded a better result, as he took four tires and would have probably picked off those that stayed out or took only two tires.

"Two of my four top-10 finishes this year," says Kenseth, "including my win at Daytona, have come in rain-shortened races. So you'll never see me cower in fear at the threat of rain hitting me."

 

10. David Reutimann

Reutimann outlasted the field at Charlotte, patiently waiting out one final rain delay after foregoing a pit stop during the final caution.

It was Reutimann's first Sprint Cup win, as well as the first for Michael Waltrip Racing, and moved Reutimann to within one spot of the top 12 in the point standings.

"Hey, it just goes to show you that nice guys can finish first," says Reutimann. "And it also goes to show you that you can argue with Tony Stewart and not get slapped."

"Boy, was it agonizing waiting out that final rain delay, knowing that a restart would have been the end of my short-lived lead. That lead was about as precarious as Tony Eury Jr.'s job.

"I played the 'waiting game' and won. Stewart, by complaining about my driving, played the 'crying game.'

"And for you movie fans, The Crying Game is about a man who falls for a woman who turns out to be a man. I'm sure, amongst Tony's numerous relationships, that's happened to him once or twice."

 

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