NASCAR Power Rankings: Kansas
Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.
1. Mark Martin — Martin started on the pole in Kansas, his seventh pole this year, and raced in the top 10 for most of the day. Handling issues prevented a win, but Martin finished seventh, two spots ahead of Jimmie Johnson, and lengthened his points lead from 10 to 18 over his Hendrick teammate.
"From here on out," Martin said, "we'll be amending all of our public communications with the phrase 'assuming we pass inspection.' I imagine NASCAR we'll be keeping a close eye on the No. 5 and No. 48 cars from now on."
"For now, I guess my car will be like my hair — it will be gone over with a fine-toothed comb."
2. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson opted for two tires on the crucial pit stop with 41 laps to go, leaving the pits in third, but finding his car somewhat unresponsive. Johnson fell back to ninth, and now trails Mark Martin by 18 points.
"Maybe it was the dirty air," Johnson said. "Or it could have been the dirty looks I was getting from NASCAR slowing the No. 48 Chevrolet."
"But only a mere week after many were saying the Chase was a two-man race between Mark Martin and I, suddenly, upon closer inspection, it's become wide open. I guess, in NASCAR, 'jumping to conclusions' is just as prevalent as 'jumping on bandwagons."
3. Juan Montoya— Montoya finished fourth in Kansas, his third consecutive top-five, and moved up one spot to third in the Sprint Cup point standings. Montoya gained ground on both Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson, besting their respective finishes of seventh and ninth.
"They fear me," Montoya said. "If it's not my fiery Latino temperament, then it's my hot breath breathing down their necks."
"By now, Americans should be well aware that whether it's a race car driver or a drug cartel, Colombians don't go way easily."
4. Denny Hamlin — Hamlin finished fifth in the Price Chopper 400 at Dover International Raceway, leading one lap on his way to a successful points day. Despite dropping one spot in the Sprint Cup point standings, Hamlin cut into Mark Martin's points lead, and now trails by 99.
"It's times like these when I have to ask myself," Hamlin said, "'What do I want more—a piece of the Cup or a piece of Brad Keselowski?' Is it wise for a driver in the Chase to be feuding with a driver out of the Chase?
5. Tony Stewart— Stewart bounced back from a lethargic start to the Chase with a win in the Price Chopper 400 in Kansas. Crew chief Darian Grubb called for two tires on the race's final pit stop, allowing Stewart to restart in the lead. Stewart held off a hard-charging Jeff Gordon for his fourth win of the year.
"Hey, let this be a warning to Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson," Stewart said. "Gosh, when have they heard that before?"
"After his win in Dover, people were quick to anoint Jimmie Johnson the king. I'm sure, with a victory in Kansas, Johnson would likely have been the subject of a headline reading 'Kansas City Royal.'"
"But I put a stop to that, at least until Johnson's or Martin's next victory. I expect the empire to strike back soon."
6. Kurt Busch — Busch started 39th on Sunday in Kansas, facing an uphill battle to make up ground on his Chase competitors. However, Busch was only able to best two of the eleven other Chase drivers with his 11th-place finish, and now trails Mark Martin by 91 points.
"You heard of cars 'unloading fast,'" Busch said. "Well, we 'unloaded slow.' And believe me, I know what it's like to get 'unloaded' upon."
"Finishing 11th and still losing ground to most of my Chase competitors? Now that's a slap in the face."
7. Jeff Gordon — Gordon took four tires on his final pit stop, and carved his way through the field, nearly catching Tony Stewart for the win. But Gordon ran out of time, settling for a runner-up finish that offered him hope in a Chase bereft of it so far. He moved up one spot in the point standings to seventh, 103 out of first.
"I think I could have caught Tony given five more laps," Gordon said, "or seven more Whoppers on Tony's part."
"Although I only improved one spot in the standings, it's great to close the distance between myself and my Hendrick teammates, Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson. However, in light of recent developments involving inspections and NASCAR's watchful eye, I prefer to keep my distance from Mark and Jimmie."
8. Greg Biffle — While crew chief Greg Erwin called for two tires, Biffle insisted on four, and the decision cost him a chance at the win in Kansas. Entering pit road as the leader, Biffle restarted fourth, and finished there.
"That's right," Biffle said. "I overruled Erwin. In hindsight, he should have objected. Now, my chances for the Cup are right where they were before the race — slim to none. In other words, they were sustained."
9. Carl Edwards — Edwards fell a lap down early due to a pit road speeding penalty, which practically ended his hopes for a win at his home track in Kansas. He did rally to finish 10th, and moved up one spot to 10th in the point standings, 165 out of first.
"There were a lot of people in the stands whom I wanted to impress," said Edwards. "But there's only so much you can do with a toothy grin."
"But we showed promise. And NASCAR did too, promising to keep a keen set of eyes on the cars of Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson. But is this simply the equivalent of a phantom 'debris caution,' meant to bunch the field or at least give the backmarkers hope? Probably."
"I, of all people, know what it's like to be targeted by NASCAR just because my car is faster than the others. I think this is NASCAR's way of saying, 'While we'll be vigilant in regards to the No. 48 and No. 5 cars, it's a good time for the rest of you to cheat and make up some ground.' So, while NASCAR has one eye on Martin and Johnson, their other eye is winking at the other 10 Chasers."
10. Kasey Kahne — After a 38th to start the Chase, Kahne has now reeled off two consecutive top-10 finishes after a sixth in Kansas. Kahne is 11th in the point standings, a distant 190 out of first.
"Rightly so," Kahne said, "the Chase is not the biggest story for Richard Petty Motorsports. It's the talk of a commercial deal between RPM and a prince in the Saudi royal family. I'm really not sure I want to deal with such a change.
"Heck, I already face Level Cross, NC five times a day and pray. Does this mean I'll have to do the same facing Mecca? Holy crap, that's asking a lot."
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