Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.
1. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson completed the season sweep at Dover, leading 271 of 400 laps on his way to victory in the AAA 400. Johnson trimmed 25 points off of Mark Martin's points lead and trails his Hendrick teammate by only 10.
"That's two races in Dover," Johnson said, "and two wins for the sweep. The No. 48 was exceptional. If you listened closely, you could hear the purr of the engine say 'V-room, b-room!'"
"But I'm not one to count my Cups before they're snatched. But I can take comfort in knowing that my win sent a message that I'll have a say in the championship. As if they needed proof. Haven't the last three years shown everyone that with the Lowe's come the 'highs?'"
2. Mark Martin — Martin finished second in Dover to Jimmie Johnson, who was so dominant in the AAA 400 that Martin compared him to Superman. Martin still leads the points, with a 10-point advantage over Johnson.
"If Jimmie's 'Superman,'" Martin said, "and Jeff Gordon was known as 'Boy Wonder,' then what does that make me? Well, I'm 50, so you could call me 'Captain Numerical.' And, since Jimmie and I seem to be the only two drivers with a chance to win the Cup, does that make us members of the 'Just Us League?'"
3. Juan Montoya — Montoya came home fourth in Dover, his second-consecutive top-five finish and only his third of the year. He moved up one spot in the standings to third, and trails Mark Martin by 65 points.
"I didn't finish the race directly behind Mark Martin," says Montoya, "but I was close enough to get a glimpse of his Yosemite Sam 'Back Off!' mud flaps."
"As you probably noticed, I was in the No. 42 car with the special Polaroid sponsorship and paint scheme. And I hope my finish let Martin and Johnson know that I plan to be on their tails throughout the duration of the Chase. I would have told them to their face, but I figure a 'picture' is worth a thousand words."
4. Kurt Busch — Busch led 99 laps in the AAA 400, second to Jimmie Johnson's 271, and finished fifth, recording his eighth top-five of the year. Busch remained fourth in the points, and now trails Mark Martin by 75 points.
"Maybe Pat Tryson should announce his departure more often," Busch said. "It seems the less I see of him, the better off I am."
"Besides Jimmie Johnson, I'm the highest ranked former Cup champion in the Chase. I feel like I'm still in the running, so let's end this premature infatuation with Johnson as champion. I've still got a chance, so at least give me that common 'Kurt-esy.' If I'm wrong, and Jimmie wins his fourth Cup, I'll graciously 'Kurt-sy' before him as a loyal subject."
5. Jeff Gordon — Gordon had a potential runner-up finish foiled when an air gun broke on a late pit stop, costing him several positions on the way to an eventual sixth in the AAA 400 in Dover.
Gordon also battled handling conditions throughout the race, at one point radioing his crew that it felt like he was "driving on ice." He rose two spots in the point standings to eighth, but is 122 behind Mark Martin.
"Two of my Hendrick teammates are running away from the field," Gordon said, "while another, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is running in the opposite direction. The thing is, Junior's not racing for anything, but he's being chased by way more people than Mark and Jimmie. I believe that kind of mass fanaticism is known as the 'Nation of is Lame.'"
6. Denny Hamlin — Hamlin battled a temperamental car throughout a long day in Dover, never finding the proper adjustments on his way to a 22nd that ended a streak of seven straight top-10 finishes. Hamlin fell three places to sixth in the point standings, 108 behind Jimmie Johnson.
"You absolutely cannot afford one slip up in the Chase," Hamlin said. "We had 'great expectations' for the Chase, but darned if we didn't have a 'dickens' of a time in Dover. Now, we may be in a (uriah) heap of trouble."
7. Tony Stewart— Stewart's No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevy suffered serious damage when he rammed Joey Logano's No. 20 Home Depot Toyota on lap 30.
The accident started when Logano slowed to avoid a logjam of cars ahead of him. Repairs to Stewart's car left him as far down as 37th, but he salvaged a ninth out of what could have been a catastrophic result to his Chase hopes.
"I'm still 106 points out of first," Stewart said. "Some may say I'm too far out to win the Cup, but I'm not ready to say the 'Smoke' has cleared from contention."
"As for Logano, I'm glad he's okay. I'm just glad I was never in the Home Depot car when it rolled like that. Now, I have been a part of some rolls in the hayinside the No. 20 Home Depot car, and, like Logano, I walked away shaken up but glad to be alive."
8. Ryan Newman — Newman finished 10th, right behind Stewart Haas Racing teammate Tony Stewart in ninth, Newman's 14th top-10 of the year. The result kept him in the seventh slot in the Sprint Cup point standings, 110 out of first.
"Sure, it was a dominating win for Jimmie Johnson," Newman said. "And nearly everyone's handing him his fourth Cup before all is said and done. This sport is much too unpredictable for that. There's a lot that can happen between now and Homestead. You just never know whether you'll be in a big wreck, or lose a tire, or blow an engine, or have your car fail inspection, or wake up to find your name mysteriously linked to Jeremy Mayfield's."
9. Kasey Kahne — After his 37th in New Hampshire all but ended his Cup hopes, Kahne rebounded in Dover with an eighth, putting his No. 9 Budweiser in the top 10 for the 11th time this year. Kahne is still last in the point standings, 189 behind Mark Martin.
"With the departure of Jim Beam and Jack Daniels sponsorships," says Kahne, "it looks like beer is the only alcoholic beverage left in the sport. It seems that prohibition has hit NASCAR. And that's sad. Don't people realize that this sport's foundation was running moonshine?"
"There's only one way to get hard liquor back in this sport — somebody give Junior Johnson a call."
10. Greg Biffle — Biffle finished 13th in the AAA 400 in Dover, as he and the No. 16 3M crew were never able to find the adjustments necessary to drive him to the front. Biffle remained ninth in the point standings, 138 out of first.
"While several teams are off to great starts in the Chase," says Biffle, "it appears that the Roush Fenway contingent is practically out of the hunt. Some drivers have turned on the afterburners; we're merely an afterthought."