NASCAR Power Rankings: Watkins Glen

Jeffrey BoswellAnalyst IAugust 12, 2009

Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Tony Stewart—Stewart took charge midway through the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen and held off Marcos Ambrose, as well as fuel uncertainty, to win for the fifth time at Watkins Glen. With his closest points pursuers, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, finishing 12th and 37th, respectively, Stewart now has commanding 260 and 342-point leads over the Hendrick duo.

"I think it's only fitting that I won the first NASCAR race with an obscenity in the name," Stewart said. "What's next in this sport? The F'NA 500?"

"But I'm most proud of my NASCAR record five wins here at the Glen. That's a number worth celebrating. If I had the athletic ability, not to mention the desire, to perform a Carl Edwards-like victory celebration to plunge head over heels from my car to the ground, you could call it the 'Five-Finger Dismount.'"

2. Jimmie Johnson
—Johnson, seeking his first road course victory of his career, started from the pole at Watkins Glen, but his lead was quite short-lived as Kurt Busch passed the No. 48 Lowe's Chevy in Turn One.

Johnson raced up front for over half of the race, but a spin on lap 54 sidetracked his run for a top-10 finish. The three-time Cup champ finished 12th and now trails points leader Tony Stewart by 260.

"If there's anything this last month or so of racing has taught me," Johnson said, "it's that anytime you line up beside Kurt Busch, it's all downhill from there."

"We were hoping for better things here," Johnson said. "I was really looking forward to my first road course win. But, as anyone can tell you, a spin on a road course makes it a road 'coarse.' But there are no worries. The 'first' will have to wait; now, we can concentrate solely on the 'fourth.'"

3. Kurt Busch
—Busch was fast early, seizing the lead in turn one of the first lap from pole-sitter Jimmie Johnson. Busch led 23 laps, second to Tony Stewart's 34, but subpar fuel mileage in the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge forced an extra pit stop and ended Busch's victory hopes.

Still, Busch produced his best ever finish, a seventh, at Watkins Glen, and solidified his fourth position in the point standings.

"I think we had the fastest car out there," Busch said. "So our finish is a real disappointment. We pitted for fuel on lap 29, which was only nine laps after a regular stop on lap 20. I'm not sure whose stupid idea that was, but, as our seventh-place finish indicates, and, as Robby Gordon proves on a weekly basis, you can't fix stupid."

"I think Joey Logano has shown driving skill beyond his years. Now, it seems he's beyond his years in clever put-downs of fellow drivers."

4. Jeff Gordon
—Gordon's Watkins Glen fortunes went dramatically sour when on lap 62 he violently smashed the No. 77 car of Sam Hornish, which was spun after contact from Kasey Kahne. Gordon's No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet was totaled, and he suffered his first DNF of the year, finishing 37th and falling 342 points behind race winner and points leader Tony Stewart.

"Sometimes," Gordon said, "it's best just to close your eyes and pray for the best. That worked like a charm on my second marriage, but not so well on Monday at The Glen."

"Impacts like that are apt to induce a cringe," Gordon said, "especially from my chiropractor. Many more crashes like that, and I may find myself experiencing the same fate as the tire barrier that Hornish slammed into—being 're-tired.'"

5. Juan Montoya
— Montoya posted his eighth top-10 in his last 11 races with a sixth at Watkins Glen. The Earnhardt Ganassi Racing driver moved up one slot in the point standings to seventh, with a 96-point cushion over Matt Kenseth in 12th.

"I'm pleased with the direction this team is headed," Montoya said. "Although it was mostly a financial necessity, uniting the Chip Ganassi Racing and Dale Earnhardt Incorporated enterprises has really paid dividends. I attribute that to a tireless attitude, a seamless transition, quality information, but mostly to Teresa Earnhardt's new 'hands off' approach."

"And, with Australia's Marcos Ambrose finishing second, and Italy's Max Papis eighth, the top 10 at Watkins Glen had a nice international flavor. It's great for the sport to have four nations represented in the top 10. Now, if only a driver from Junior Nation could score a top 10, then NASCAR's diversity would skyrocket."

6. Carl Edwards
—Edwards scored his best Sprint Cup road course result ever in the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen with a third, his sixth top-five finish this year. Edwards just missed damage in a lap 23 incident, then edged past Kyle Busch on lap 79 before running out of fuel as he crossed the finish line.

"Although we didn't win," Edwards said, "we're still making progress towards the season's first Cup victory. We're trying to pinpoint exactly why, after nine wins last season, we've seen Victory Circle not once this year. Whether luck, happenstance, coincidence, or the complete lack of a loose oil lid, we're baffled as to where our speed went, although I'm sure Jeremy Mayfield has an idea."

"Maybe it's just an off-year for Roush Fenway Racing. After two wins to start the season, this organization began a figurative 'disappearing act' and hasn't won since. And, with the organization dropping Jamie McMurray from the mix, it looks as though the literal 'disappearing act' has begun."

"Hopefully, next year, with just four cars in the garage, we'll get back to our winning ways. That would be considered 'addition by contraction.'"

7. Kasey Kahne
—Kahne triggered a massive accident on lap 62 when he sent Sam Hornish sliding into the tire barrier in turn nine. Hornish bounced off the tire barrier and flew into the path of Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton. Kahne emerged relatively unscathed and finished 17th, and is now eighth in the point standings, 69 ahead of Matt Kenseth in 12th.

"I totally accept blame for the accident," Kahne said, "but I honestly didn't know they were going to use Flubber in the tire barriers."

"I sincerely apologize to Hornish, Gordon, and Burton. I'm responsible for the destruction of three cars that were specially fabricated just for this race. I can't replace those, so the best I can do is listen graciously while the drivers involved tear me a 'new one.'"

8. Denny Hamlin
—Hamlin overcame a pit road speeding penalty after the first caution to finish 10th at Watkins Glen, his 10th top-10 this year and fourth in the last five races. Hamlin maintained the fifth spot in the point standings and trails Tony Stewart by 536 points.

"After my win at Pocono and Tony's win at Watkins Glen," Hamlin said, "I believe the theory of 'Hendrick domination' needs some more consideration. So, with a little Hendrick rumination, let's reconsider before we officially anoint them as the team to beat."

9. Mark Martin
—Martin finished 23rd at Watkins Glen on an eventful, albeit unsuccessful day for Hendrick Motorsports. After three consecutive top-seven finishes, Martin's Chase standing took a mild hit, as he dropped one place to 11th. He is 31 ahead of Matt Kenseth in 12th, and 89 clear of Kyle Busch in 13th.

"Consistency has been an issue with this team this year," Martin said. "And, at my age, consistency is very important. And while the sound of a flushing toilet at home is a welcome sound, it's not what you want to hear at the finish line."

"And, as the Chase For the Cup rules clearly state, you can't sit on the throne as Cup champion without first qualifying for the Chase. I've suffered many championship disappointments, and failing to qualify for the Chase despite having the most wins would be another great disappointment.

"As Richard Petty is so fond of saying, 'You know you don't want to be that guy, son.'"

10. Kyle Busch
: Busch, in the face of assertions that he won't qualify for the Chase, responded with his best race since a seventh at New Hampshire. Busch's third at Watkins Glen left him 13th in the Sprint Cup point standings, 58 points behind 12th.

"There's no reason to believe I can't make up one place in the points in four races," Busch said. "Heck, I tried roaring into the Chase last year as the top seed, and we all know how that turned out. This year, I've decided to try something different — whimpering into the Chase."

"But Tony Stewart deserves congratulations. He ran one heck of a race, and is proving to be one heck of an owner-driver. Tony referred to Watkins Glen as 'my house,' and with five wins here, it would be difficult to argue against that statement.

"However, if I were to argue against that point, I would start by asking Tony 'If this is truly 'your house,' then where are the strippers and alcohol?'"


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