NASCAR Power Rankings: Bristol
Note: The quotes in this article are fictional
1. Tony Stewart
Stewart fell off the pace early as a faulty radio necessitated several pit stops, taking the No. 14 Office Depot Chevrolet out of contention soon after the green flag dropped.
Then, after the radio issue was resolved, Stewart was struck by an electrical problem that caused his engine to lose power.
The end result was Stewart’s worst finish of the year and first outside the top 30.
"Not only is '10-4' my car number,” said Stewart, "it’s also a useless term over a dead radio.
"It’s not often I find myself reciting Queen lyrics during a race, but for a while there, all I could hear was radio ga-ga. Luckily, radio problems don’t strike with great frequency.
"And speaking of radio, those lucky listeners who tuned in to the right frequency were treated to some fascinating dialogue. It was neither AM nor FM, but ‘MF’ band.”
2. Jimmie Johnson
Johnson, winless at Bristol, had victory at the famed Tennessee track in sight, but a botched pit stop late in Saturday’s race likely cost him the win.
Johnson relinquished the lead during a stop under caution on lap 423, but a loose lug nut forced a return to the pits and Johnson fell to 21st when green flag racing resumed.
He still finished eighth, and rose from third to second in the Sprint Cup point standings.
"We absolutely can not have those kinds of errors in the pits,” Johnson said. "Heck, I’ve had better service parked on the White House lawn.
"In this business, mistakes can cost people races, championships, jobs, even $100,000.
“Of course, our bad luck was everyone else’s good luck. Had I won this race, I think it would have even more apparent that I’m the man to beat in the Chase. As Walter Brennan often said in The Guns Of Will Sonnett, 'No brag, just fact.' However, since we screwed up and lost the race, I have to curb my confidence. In other words, trade my 'high hat' for a Lowe’s hat.”
3. Denny Hamlin
Hamlin was Bristol Motor Speedway’s biggest mover, improving 36 positions from his qualifying start of 41st to finish fifth, his eighth top five of the year.
Hamlin fell a lap down when he shredded a tire on lap 64, but quickly recovered, boasting one of the fastest cars on the track as Joe Gibbs teammate Kyle Busch took the victory.
Hamlin moved up one spot to fourth in the points, 423 behind Stewart.
"I guess my fifth is outdone by Kyle’s first,” Hamlin said. “Just when it looks like I’m becoming Joe Gibbs Racing’s 'ace in the hole,' I’m overshadowed by JGR’s 'acehole.'
"I'll be the first to admit that congratulations are in order for Kyle. And I’ll be the last to admit to actually congratulating him. But Joe Gibbs insists I need to be a good teammate. You know, they say there are no 'team orders' in NASCAR, but in this case, I beg to differ."
4. Jeff Gordon
After an awful qualifying effort, starting 33rd, Gordon and the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet showed promise early as they cracked the top 10 by lap 200.
However, an unsuccessful adjustment left the car terribly loose and Gordon struggled over the final half of the race.
He finished 23rd, the lone Hendrick driver outside the top 10.
"It was a tough day for the top 3 in the points," Gordon said. "After a visit to the White House, Jimmie Johnson lost the race in the pits. Word is the guy who dropped the jack too soon has been impeached.
"And Tony Stewart had some radio issues. I’m not sure who couldn’t hear who, but suffice it to say the No. 14 team’s favorite rapper is not Mos Def.
“Of course, we can’t forget Dale Earnhardt, Jr. I know the people of Junior Nation love coming to Bristol, especially when Dale cashes in a top-10 finish. I think I even heard his fans chanting ‘Hooray for Valley, Dale.’”
5. Mark Martin
Martin started from the pole and led a race-high 207 laps at Bristol, but his quest for his fifth win was foiled by NASCAR bad guy Kyle Busch, who held off Martin over the closing laps, including an exciting three-lap duel to close the race.
Martin firmed his Chase chances by improving two spots in the Sprint Cup point standings to 10th, 60 points ahead of Kyle Busch in 13th.
"Kyle may not be the most popular guy in NASCAR," Martin said, "nor a good human being in general, but he deserves to be raced fairly. That’s why, instead of sending him into the wall, I attempted to 'pass the douche-y on the left-hand side.'
"So, in essence, I took the 'high road' by taking the 'low road.'
"But many may ask whether such clean racing amounts to 'Bristol blasphemy'. Not in my book. I may live more purely than Jesus himself, but Kyle is no devil, despite Brian Vickers' assertion that 'If Red Bull gives you wings, then M&M’s must give you horns.'"
6. Kurt Busch
Busch, a five-time winner at Bristol, overcame some late setbacks to post a solid seventh at Thunder Valley, his 13th top-10 finish of the year. After a loose lug nut caused a serious vibration, Busch was later collected in a crash initiated by contact between Richard Childress teammates Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer.
Quick repairs to the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge gave Busch ample time to work his way through the field.
“We had a car good enough to win," Busch said, "but circumstances forced us to impress instead with our damage control. Luckily, we’re much better at damage control than Jeremy Mayfield’s public relations team, which I believe consists solely of a stepmother and a megaphone.
“Frankly, I’m stunned that Harvick would be so careless as to wreck Bowyer, RCR’s only hope for making the Chase. When Richard Childress asked that his underperforming team 'come together,' I’m sure that’s not what he had in mind. Of course, Harvick’s helped choke Carl Edwards before; why not help Bowyer 'choke in his attempt to make the Chase?"
7. Carl Edwards
Edwards battled handling problems throughout the night, as well as an overheating car to salvage a 16th-place finish at Bristol.
Starting 32nd in the No. 99 Aflac Ford, Edwards fell a lap down at one point, but got the “Lucky Dog” free pass with 60 laps to go before rallying.
He fell one place in the point standings to fifth.
"I think the Aflac mascot would agree," Edwards said, "that Saturday night was one big 'cluster duck.'
"But with a spot in the Chase practically secured, we can go all out for the win in these last two races with the hopes of improving our seeding. It’s simple, the No. 99 Roush Fenway Aflac team can either rise to the challenge, or 'duck and run.'"
8. Kyle Busch
Busch snapped a 13-race winless streak with a much-needed win at Bristol, giving him a sweep of the season’s races at Thunder Valley.
Busch held off Mark Martin over the final laps of the Sharpie 500 for his fourth win of the year and vaulted two spots in the point standings to 13th, only 34 points behind 12th.
"I’m always amazed at how one win can magically change the entire media’s perception of me," Busch said. "I pull out the win in Bristol, and the headlines go from 'Busch Blows' to 'Busch Bows.' The media’s skill at criticism is only outdone by their ability to forget.
"To be honest, I’m surprised Mark Martin didn’t shove me out of the way and take the win. If the tables were turned, I would have pounced on the win with a maneuver that surely would have 'left a Mark.'"
9. Ryan Newman
Newman posted his first top-10 finish in the past five races with a sixth-place finish at Bristol, capping a busy weekend at Thunder Valley in which he raced in four events over four days.
Newman improved two places in the point standings to seventh, 94 clear of Kyle Busch in 13th.
"Fortunately, we didn’t have the electrical issues that plagued Tony," Newman said. "The car ran great. Not only were we dialed in, we were also plugged in.
"I know Tony’s tore up about the No. 14 team’s performance. In fact, he seems to be in a deep depression over the electrical mishaps that ruined his day. But he’s got to snap out of it soon; the Chase begins in less than a month. Hopefully, he won’t need to seek professional help, although it wouldn’t be the first time someone’s suggested 'shock' therapy for Tony."
10. Greg Biffle
Biffle qualified second, behind pole-sitter Mark Martin, and passed the No. 5 on the first lap to take charge early in the Sharpie 500.
Biffle kept the No. 16 3M Ford out front for the first 76 laps until handling issues arose, allowing Martin to reclaim the lead. Biffle stayed close to the front until late adjustment remedied the handling issues, and he charged to his eighth top-five finish this year.
He is now eighth in the points, 75 ahead of Kyle Busch in 13th.
"With no wins and a low Chase seeding staring me in the face," Biffle said, "I find myself in the same boat with Carl Edwards—a 'woe' boat. They call me the 'Biff,' and, in our quest for wins this year, we’ve whiffed. And that leaves me miffed. When it comes time for Chase seedings, we’ll be stiffed. That’s assuming we make the Chase, which is still a big 'if'."
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