NASCAR Power Rankings: New Hampshire

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NASCAR Power Rankings: New Hampshire
(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

 

1. Tony Stewart

Stewart's No. 14 Toyota was strong out front, opening a sizable lead during his long, 40-lap stint in the lead from laps 196-235.

However, rain shot down Stewart's chance at the win, as Joey Logano, who took over the No. 20 Home Depot car when Stewart departed Joe Gibbs Racing, took the win. Stewart finished fifth, his series-best 13th top-10 finish of the year.

"It's ironic," Stewart said. "Some of my best memories took place in that No. 20 Home Depot car, with 19-year-olds."

"Once again, though, fans were robbed of an exciting finish by rain. I think Michael Jackson would agree that the end of this race was anything but a 'Thriller.'"

"But I'm extremely happy for Joey. I think I left him with a good program over at Gibbs, and I hope I've been a good role model for him. With a few more wins and pounds under his belt, I'm confident he'll soon become a racing 'heavy' just like me."

 

2. Jeff Gordon

Gordon finished second in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301, settling for the runner-up position behind Joey Logano, who, at age 19, became the youngest driver ever to win a Sprint Cup race.

Logano gambled successfully that rain was imminent, staying on the track while others pitted and conserving enough fuel until the rain arrived. Gordon's second place was his ninth top-five of the year, and he now trails Tony Stewart by 69 in the point standings.

"Heck, I didn't even know Logano was old enough togamble," Gordon said. "In addition, he's not old enough to remember Michael Jackson's best work, but he's still young enough to be invited to Neverland Ranch."

"Logano has to be incredibly lucky to come away with a win after a spin which left him with two flat tires. Talk about 'wheels of fortune.'"

 

3. Jimmie Johnson

Johnson led a race-high 93 of 273 laps at New Hampshire, but his charge for the win was waylaid on lap 188 when contact from Kurt Busch knocked Johnson from third to ninth.

It was a setback that Johnson couldn't overcome, and he settled for a ninth-place finish when rain forced an early end.

"Kurt and I have certainly had our run-ins the last few weeks," Johnson said. "I'm not sure if Kurt was retaliating for last week's incident at Sonoma. In any case, I think jealously plays a role.

"I'm a three-time Cup champion, while Kurt is a mere one-time champ. So, with the knowledge of the 'King of Pop' Michael Jackson's untimely passing, you could say Kurt is a 'Wanna-be' starting something."

"And, with that being said, there are two schools of thought on Chad Knaus' prowess as a crew chief. Either he's 'The Wiz,' or he's a 'Smooth Criminal.'"

 

4. Kurt Busch

Busch led 28 laps on the day, and was one of a handful of cars that would have likely been involved in an exciting race to the checkered flag had rain held off, allowing the race to go the distance.

As it was, Joey Logano had luck on his side, and was the leader as the cars sat parked on pit lane when NASCAR officially called the race after 273 laps.

"Hey, I won the race last year in exactly the same fashion," Busch said, "so I know exactly what Joey Logano is feeling. I can only describe it as a mix of elation and luck, much like the feeling one would get when he marries a beautiful woman, but only because he's a race car driver. But what would I know about that?"

"But what can I say? 'The Girl is Mine.'"

 

5. Denny Hamlin

While his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates were making headlines (good and bad), it was business as usual for Hamlin. Hamlin improved his position in the points for the third straight week, with his 15th at Loudon moving him up a spot to sixth.

"Joey's performance was definitely something to shout about," Hamlin said, "while Kyle's was surely something to shout at."

"But what do I have to do to get some attention here at Joe Gibbs Racing? Well, I guess I either have to win a race, wreck the field, or bleach my skin an ivory white and wear a single sequined glove. Doing the latter would probably raise fewer eyebrows than the actions of Kyle Busch."

6. Carl Edwards

Edwards' No. 99 Aflac Fusion was quick throughout the duration of the Lenox Industrial Tools 301, but an out-of-sequence pit stop for a loose wheel thwarted any chance of a top-10 finish. After the fateful pit stop, Edwards resumed racing in the 29th spot, but made up 10 positions before rain ended the race, and finished 19th.

"That was a frustrating finish in what has been a frustrating year," Edwards said. "I'm still winless after 17 races. But I can't be discouraged. While my 'Victory Tour' has yet to bear the success of the Jackson's 1984 mega-tour, I plan to keep plugging away."

"After nine wins last year, I sure do miss the thrill of victory. But I predict a win soon. As for visiting Victory Circle, I'm fully confident that 'I'll Be There.'"

 

7. Kyle Busch

Busch was involved in a lap 175 crash that started when Dale Earnhardt, Jr. spun his tires on a restart. As cars in front checked up, Busch's No. 18 Interstate Battery Toyota hit the rear of Martin Truex, Jr.s No. 1 car, which spun into traffic, collecting eight cars, including three Richard Childress Racing cars.

As the field circled under caution, Truex feigned a helmet toss at Busch's No. 18 car, while others affected by the crash grumbled their disapproval. Busch went on to finish seventh, his first top-10 finish since Charlotte, and improved one spot in the standings to eighth.

"I guess Truex though better of committing 'Interstate Battery,'" Busch said. "Heck, I'd be angry too if I was heading to Michael Waltrip Racing and it was considered a promotion. Obviously, I have a problem with 'Junior's.'"

"To anyone that's mad at me, Michael Jackson would surely sing 'You Are Not Alone.' I've got 75 percent of RCR, 20 percent of all drivers, and 100 percent of Junior Nation mad at me.

"But I've apologized for my part in the incident at Loudon, which is an admission that I've been 'Bad.' Of course, that was an apology staged by my public relations team, who dislike me about as much as most drivers dislike me. Had it been solely up to me, the apology would have consisted of a 'crotch grab.'"

"But people can 'Say, Say, Say,' what they want, because I'm not going to change my style of driving. The Busch boys have hard heads. We all know Kurt can take a punch. Me? I'm just incredibly stubborn."

 

8. Ryan Newman

Along with Joey Logano, Newman gambled when rain threatened, staying on the track while the leaders pitted during green flag stops with about 65 laps remaining. Newman ran out of fuel before the rains came and was forced to pit on lap 264, giving Logano the lead and eventually the win when rain halted the race nine laps later.

Newman finished 29th and is now seventh in the Sprint Cup point standings, 397 out of first.

"I think we showed a lot of heart gambling for the win," Newman said. "Too often, drivers race for points instead of going for the win. There's nothing wrong with making a bold push for the win. Unfortunately, in my case, push came to shove when I ran out of gas and my crew had to shove me to my pit stall."

"But that's not very important when compared to the death of Michael Jackson. Not many people realized this, but Kyle Busch graciously honored Jackson when he plowed Martin Truex's No. 1 car. That paid homage to Jackson's numerous No. 1'hits.'"

"And, if I'm not mistaken, one of those chart toppers was 'Rock(et) With You.'"

 

9. Kasey Kahne

Following up his win at Sonoma, Kahne finished 10th at Loudon, the third time this year he has posted back-to-back top 10's. He also inched closer to cracking the top 12 in the Sprint Cup point standings, where he trails Juan Montoya in 12th by a single point.

"Let's not all get caught up in 'Logano-mania,'" Kahne said. "Logano's win was basically a fluke. Usually, when you spin, puncture two tires, and fall a lap down on two occasions, you don't get a win; you get a drug test."

"Don't forget, while I'm no spring chicken, I'm still a youthful 29 years of age. And the Richard Petty Motorsports team is hot right now. Were Michael Jackson still alive, he'd no doubt call me a 'P.Y.T.,' 'Petty Young Thing.' And with the right amount of 'T.L.C.,' tender loving care,' I'll take me there, to the Chase For the Cup.'"

 

10. Juan Montoya

Montoya started 12th and finished 12th in the Lenox Indistrial Tools 301. More importantly, he led six laps, and was rewarded with five bonus points, which allowed him to hold off Kasey Kahne for 12th in the point standings. Montoya leads Kahne by a single point.

"As a native of the country of Colombia," Montoya said, "I'm well aware of the importance of drug tests. I passed all of mine, which was why I was forced to leave the country."

"And here in NASCAR, Jeremy Mayfield's drug saga continues. Mayfield has reiterated that he did not take methamphetamines. He also adamantly denies that he inhaled, or had sex with that woman."

"But with a mountain of evidence against him, and NASCAR's high-priced lawyers refuting his every defense, it looks like Mayfield's chances for redemption are slim. So, as for the rap against him, I don't think he'll 'Beat It.'"

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