NASCAR Power Rankings: Pocono

Jeffrey BoswellAnalyst IAugust 5, 2009

LONG POND, PA - AUGUST 03:  Denny Hamlin races the #11 FedEx Express Toyota during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at the Pocono Raceway on August 3, 2009 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.


1. Tony Stewart: Stewart wrecked in Saturday’s practice, just as he did in June’s Pocono race, and started at the back of the field in a back-up car. After struggling with handling early, Stewart and crew got the No. 14 Old Spice Swagger Chevrolet in tune, and he finished 10th. Stewart increased his points lead over Jimmie Johnson to 197 points.

“Obviously, the wreck in practice didn’t lead to the previous outcome,” Stewart said. “You know, NBA star Allen Iverson has spent a career searching for proof, and I finally confirmed it—practice means nothing.”

“But ‘swagger’ means everything, whether on the hood of your car, under your arm, or in your step. As the points leader, I’ve got ‘swagger.’ And, despite what the Old Spice Swagger commercial may indicate, I didn’t get it by just putting on some deodorant. I’ve got a theory about Old Spice Swagger—if you attract women simply by applying deodorant, you must have been one stinking son of a gun beforehand.”


2. Jimmie Johnson: After leading the first 22 laps at Pocono, Johnson’s day took a turn for the worse when the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet lost power on lap 104.

Ongoing repairs left Johnson three laps down and running perilously close to NASCAR’s minimum speed requirement, but Chad Knaus and crew finally got Johnson up to speed with new spark plugs.

Johnson recovered 12 positions in the final thirteen laps and finished 13th. He remained second in the points, and trails Tony Stewart by 197.

“Hey, I guess I have something in common with Jeremy Mayfield,” Johnson said. “Apparently, we’re both above NASCAR’s minimum ‘speed’ requirement.”

“I had some harrowing moments in that race. No, not falling three laps down, but racing close to Kurt Busch near the end. I thought for sure there would be contact. But I think it’s time we put an end to this feud. We’ll likely do so when we head to the White House, where President Obama will mediate our little version of ‘white cop-black professor.’ There’s nothing better than getting liquored up and talking ‘race.’ NASCAR fans do it all the time. That situation started with an arrest; maybe Obama can help give our feud ‘a rest.’”


3. Jeff Gordon: Gordon finished eighth at Pocono, making up ground late after a four-tire pit stop left him facing traffic ahead. Mounting a charge after the final restart, Gordon posted his 15th top-10 finish of the year. He holds the third spot in the points, and is 199 behind Tony Stewart.

“The car was good,” said Gordon, “but not good enough to win. That seems to be a popular refrain for the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet this year. It seems that we’re making progress, but only towards increasing our winless streak.”

“But Jimmie Johnson’s performance has to be an inspiration to all drivers. Not necessarily because he came from three laps down to finish 13th, but because he got three ‘Lucky Dog’ free passes. I’m surprised Jimmie didn’t get a lap back when the piece of the caution light tumbled to the track, because everything always seems to ‘fall’ into place for him.”


4. Mark Martin: Martin led 10 laps at Pocono and finished seventh, his 11th top-10 finish of the year. Despite his solid finish, Martin actually fell one spot in the standings to 10th, as Juan Montoya and Kasey Kahne, drivers jockeying for Chase position, finished ahead of him.

“Most experts contend I’m the ‘Cinderella’ story of the season,” Martin said. “I disagree. Jeremy Mayfield is clearly the ‘Cinderella’ story of the year—he’s the one with the evil stepmother.”

“But I can’t tell you how proud I am to be driving for Hendrick Motorsports. Now, if championships were based on how many times I’ve said that, I’d be kissing the Cup right now.”


5. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin, in the No. 11 Fed Ex Toyota, passed Clint Bowyer with 10 laps to go at Pocono and held off Juan Montoya for the win in the Sunoco Red Cross 500. It was Hamlin’s first win of the year and third victory at Pocono. He moved up one spot to fifth in the Sprint Cup point standings, and trails Tony Stewart by 475 points.

“It’s about time someone stepped up here at Joe Gibbs racing,” Hamlin said. “I’m just trying to lead by ‘Fed Ex-ample.’ Our unofficial leader, Kyle Busch, has dropped the ball, so I felt it necessary to drop the ‘Ham’-mer on the field. Kyle was leading the points at this point last year; frankly, he should be ‘M & M’-barrassed with his performance so far this year.”


6. Kasey Kahne: Kahne was running third on a lap 187 restart when he made contact with Juan Montoya’s No. 42 car, dropping Kahne to seventh. He eventually finished fifth, his third-consecutive top 10, and moved up one spot in the points to fifth.

“I expect Juan and I will tangle again at Watkins Glen,” Kahne said. “Sure that rhymes, but I’m nowhere near ‘rapping’ up a Chase berth. There’s still work to do. As the winner at the last road course race, at Sonoma, I’ll be battling for the win. And I expect Juan, a road course master, to be up there with me. If we make contact, one of us will be ‘pretty bitter,’ because one of us will be in the ‘kitty litter.’”

“I’m just glad we put on a good show for the fans who stuck around at Pocono. But let’s not forget about the fans watching on television. Sunday had to be grueling, what with nearly four hours of coverage before the race was officially postponed. Talk about unnecessary coverage. Some of the pieces were just plain uninteresting. It’s bad enough spending time with Marty Smith in a bar, but then to have it televised! Yikes!”

“You know ESPN’s digging into the bottom of the barrel when they show the Reed Sorenson interview.”


7. Kurt Busch: Busch recorded his 11th top-10 finish of the year, taking a ninth in the Sunoco Red Cross 500. In the final frantic laps, Busch battled track rival Jimmie Johnson for position, and also scrapped with Johnson’s Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon. Busch maintained the fourth position in the Sprint Cup point standings, and trails Tony Stewart by 437.

“I’ve learned that in dealing with these reckless Hendrick drivers,” Busch said, “you have to turn the other cheek. And I’m good at that—it’s easy to turn the other cheek when someone slaps the other cheek.”

“And I’ve also learned my lesson about seeking justice on the track, something my teammate, David Stremme, knows nothing about. If experience has taught me one thing, it’s never to engage a rival on the track, or in the NASCAR hauler, for that matter. Someone always gets hurt.”


8. Juan Montoya: Montoya eased some of the disappointment from Indianapolis with a runner-up finish at Pocono. Montoya chased Denny Hamlin for the final 10 laps, but never was close enough to make a move. Montoya’s seventh top-10 finish in the last 10 races placed him 10th in the points, 100 ahead of David Reutimann in 13th.

“I’m not sure I’ll ever get over the disappointment of Indy,” Montoya said. “There’s only one thing worse than ‘highway’ robbery and that’s ‘Speedway’ robbery.”

“But I can’t dwell on the past. Sure, getting caught speeding on pit road at Indy may have raised my ire and helped confirm the notion that I’m a hotheaded Colombian, but please, don’t label me as a pit ‘rogue.’”

“On the contrary, I’ve learned to slow down and enjoy the scenery, like other cars passing me on pit road.”


9. Carl Edwards: Edwards was in 17th position with 30 laps to go, and with four fresh tires he was gaining ground towards a likely top-10 finish. But the race’s final caution spoiled Edwards’ momentum, and on the final restart, the No. 99 was shuffled back. He finished 18th and dropped one place in the points to sixth, 523 out of first.

“There’s been a lot going on with Roush Fenway Racing lately,” Edwards said. “Just not with me.”

“Jamie McMurray is out, and Matt Kenseth will carry the Crown Royal banner with Dewalt Tools ending its sponsorship. That’s quite a surprise. I’ve always considered Matt a ‘tool,’ but not a marketing ‘tool.’”


10. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth finished 11th at Pocono, improving one spot in the point standings to 11th, where he is one point ahead of teammate Greg Biffle in 12th.

“It was quite a hectic week for me,” Kenseth said. “First, I lose a sponsor, DeWalt, then gain a sponsor, Crown Royal. I think that’s called ‘Robbing Jamie to pay Matt.”