NASCAR Power Rankings: Sonoma (Satire)

Jeffrey BoswellAnalyst IJune 25, 2009

SONOMA, CA - JUNE 21: Kasey Kahne, driver of the #9 Budweiser Dodge, leads the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at the Infineon Raceway on June 21, 2009 in Sonoma, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Tony Stewart

Stewart stalked Kasey Kahne for the final 23 laps of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 but never could get around Kahne's No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Dodge, despite a number of restarts. Stewart settled for the runner-up spot and extended his lead in the Sprint Cup point standings to 84 over Jeff Gordon, who finished ninth.

"I just couldn't get around Kahne," Stewart said. "That No. 19 Budweiser Dodge was just too fast on the restarts. Talk about a 'hard' Charger. I've had an easier time passing kidney stones.

"Obviously, NASCAR wanted to prove that the new double-file restarts would indeed make for more exciting racing. I think a lot of drivers were worried that the restarts would create dangerous situations on road courses. That wasn't the case. I think fans would have only one complaint with double-file restarts, and that's having to hear the TNT announcing crew incessantly reminding viewers that the restarts are 'shootout style.'

"To hear more of my opinions, read my bi-weekly column in The Sporting News, a column which was tentatively set to be titled 'Diary of a Madman' before I became a team owner and lost my psychotic sensibilities."


2. Jeff Gordon

Gordon suffered a pit road speeding penalty on lap 53 that sent him back to the 32nd position before he rallied in the final 20 laps. He improved 15 spots in the closing laps to post a ninth, his 11th top-10 finish of the year. Gordon remained second in the points and now trails Tony Stewart by 84 points.

"NASCAR's lone visit to California's wine country is always something different for drivers and fans alike," Gordon said. "Infineon offers one of two chances for drivers to run a road course, where braking and downshifting skills are put to the test, not necessarily to navigate the various twists and turns, but mainly in order to abide by the ridiculous 35 miles per hour pit lane speed limit.

"As for the fans, the Infineon infield is a far cry from the infields and campgrounds of a typical NASCAR stop. Only at Sonoma can you find a Port-A-Potty equipped with a bidet, an apparatus that would almost always be mistaken for a water fountain at any other track."


3. Jimmie Johnson

Johnson overcame a pit road speeding penalty, as well as a late brush with Kurt Busch's No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, to post a strong fourth-place finish at Infineon Raceway. Johnson solidified his hold on third place in the point standings and trails points leader Tony Stewart by 157.

"The contact with Busch was totally my fault," Johnson said, "and I quickly apologized. That's called a 'noble' gesture. 'Noble' not because it was morally the right thing to do, but 'noble' because it came from nobility, a three-time Sprint Cup champion. You could say I 'championed' the effort.

"Kurt graciously accepted my apology, although I believe he was a bit offended by my opening line, in which I said, 'Hey Kurt, let me bend your ear for a bit.'"


4. Kurt Busch

Busch was running fourth on lap 90 when his No. 2 Penske Dodge was knocked for a spin by Jimmie Johnson, when momentum from a turn on a curb launched the No. 148 into the side of Busch. Busch dropped back to 38th, but some frantic racing in the final laps salvaged a 15th-place finish and allowed Busch to maintain the fourth position in the point standings.

"I appreciate Jimmie's apology," Busch said. "It's not often a fellow competitor approaches me and says 'I'm sorry.' It's usually 'You're sorry.'

"It's great to see Kasey Kahne's Dodge in victory lane, not only for Dodge, but for Richard Petty as well. So far this year, the news for Dodge has been anything but good, painful even, so Kasey's win brought a bit of 'nova-Kahne' to the issue.

"Now, I'm a realist, not an idealist, which means I can't get married in 42 states, but I don't see Kahne's win as a harbinger of more good things to come. So, Petty should enjoy this while he can, because he'll only be 'King' for a day, at most."


5. Denny Hamlin

Hamlin led 33 laps at Sonoma, second only to winner Kasey Kahne's 37, and finished a strong fifth in the Toyota/Save Mart 350. After disastrous results at Dover and Pocono, Hamlin has now registered two consecutive top-five results and made the biggest leap in the point standings, moving from 10th to seventh.

"Sonoma was a real confidence boost for me," Hamlin said. "Not only am I now the highest-ranked Joe Gibbs driver in the point standings, but the No. 11 FedEx Toyota outraced David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 Ford sponsored by UPS. So, for the time being, I'm going to call myself the 'Alpha Mail.'"


6. Carl Edwards

Edwards finished 13th in the Toyota/Save Mart 350, surviving several restarts and an incident with teammate David Ragan during the always unpredictable race at Sonoma's Infineon Raceway. Edwards moved up one place to fifth in the point standings and trails Tony Stewart by 313.

"Obviously, Ragan's got a lot to learn," Edwards said. "Not about road course driving—he did very well—but about conflict resolution. He didn't even talk to me about the incident. Had I been the driver of the No. 6 UPS Ford and a teammate would have spun me from behind, I would have gone 'UPS'-side said teammate's head.

"Although we didn't win at Sonoma, I did win the Nationwide race in Milwaukee, my first win of the year. Finally, I was able to perform my celebratory back flip. Prior to Saturday's win in Milwaukee, the only 'flipping off' of cars I had done was on the highway in various stages of road rage."


7. Ryan Newman

Newman was well on his way to a top-10 finish in Sonoma before a spin on lap 81 halted his chances. Newman finished 17th and fell one spot in the point standing to sixth, where he is 318 behind Tony Stewart.

"There's talk of Stewart-Haas Racing expanding to three teams next year," Newman said. "I think Danica Patrick is a perfect fit for this team. She's opinionated, brash, and has a history of not getting along with teammates. I think Tony should get on the horn and make an offer. Heck, what woman turns down a booty 'call' from Tony?

"In any case, it looks like we'll have Hendrick engines in that third car. And with Red Bull Racing likely to switch from Toyota to Chevrolet, Hendrick is in line to supply their engines. So, it looks like Rick Hendrick will have his hands full building engines. Is there an offer he won't consider? Just call the man 'Hendrick the Entertainer.'"


8. Matt Kenseth

Kenseth's day was nearly ruined on lap 58 when he lost control on a restart as the field bunched up heading into Turn 1. Kenseth was third on the restart, but after regrouping he emerged in 36th, one lap down. However, quick repair work in the pits gave Kenseth a fast car for a final surge, and after starting 39th late, he picked off 21 competitors to post a respectable 18th-place result.

Kenseth is now 10th in the points, 43 ahead of Kasey Kahne in 13th.

"It must be humbling for Carl Edwards to wreck a teammate," Kenseth said, "and not have that teammate confront him in a threatening manner. Jack Roush doesn't tolerate that type of behavior, unless it's his golden boy Carl doing the threatening. Jack usually doesn't condone raising a hand to anyone, unless it's raising his hand to pat Carl on the back for another job semi-well done.

"You know, Carl won nine races last year, so many people, Jack included, said before the season that this was Carl's year to win the Cup. Well, another week has passed, and Carl still hasn't won a Cup race. So, Jack, instead of sipping wine in Victory Circle, you're eating crow."


9. Kasey Kahne

Kahne took the lead on lap 80 and controlled the final 23 laps at Infineon Raceway, winning the Toyota/Save Mart 350 and giving Richard Petty his first win as a car owner in 10 years. With the victory, Kahne jumped two places in the point standings to 13th and trails 12th-place Juan Montoya by a mere three points.

"No longer does the 'Petty' in 'Petty Motorsports' refer to the team's relevance," Kahne said. "This could be the shot in the arm this team needs. But we can't let this win overshadow the real issue here at Richard Petty Motorsports. So, instead of celebrating by raising 'Kahne,' we're going to relish this victory by raising cash.

"I have to give my team credit for preparing the No. 9 Dodge car for me. It handled superbly, and was so fast, no one could touch it. We called it 'Dodge the Bullet.'"


10. Kyle Busch

Busch, last year's winner at Sonoma, finished well back this year with a 22nd-place finish, his fourth consecutive result outside the top 10. Busch started well, qualifying second and leading 10 early laps. But mishaps on laps 61 and 100 hastened his downfall. Busch maintained the ninth position in the Sprint Cup point standings but is a distant 402 points behind Tony Stewart and only 48 ahead of Kasey Kahne in 13th.

"At this point last year," Busch said, "I was leading the points and already had five victories. Obviously, we're nowhere near that pace this year, but we're confident our 'regression' testing program will provide us with answers.

"But I'm not concerned. The rest of the field should be worried, though. As you may have noticed, my car at Sonoma was adorned with the paint scheme for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Obviously, it's there to promote the movie, as well as to encourage more egotistical, movie star behavior from Shia LaBeouf. But also let it be a vicarious warning to everyone that although I've fallen, I'm still capable of revenge."