NASCAR Power Rankings: Michigan

Jeffrey BoswellAnalyst IJune 18, 2008

Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Kyle Busch:During another three-race weekend, Busch needed to travel to only two states to experience another disappointing weekend. Busch finished 13th in the Life Lock 400 on Sunday, crashed out of the Nationwide race Saturday night, and feuded with Ron Hornaday, Jr. and truck owner Kevin Harvick after Busch spun Hornaday with a lap to go in the Cool City Customs 200 on Saturday afternoon.

“Look, I’m no one’s race buddy,” says Busch. “Least not Kevin Harvick’s or Ron Hornaday, Jr.’s. Heck, I despise Ron Hornaday, Sr., and I don’t even know him. If Harvick wants a war of words, I’m game. He can call me a ‘punk,’ I can call him a ‘big mouth.’ And, we can both pray we don’t live in glass houses. Of course, we’ll never say any of that to each other’s face. This feud has the potential to spill out on the track, and if that happens, I’m more than willing to dance. And when I say ‘dance,’ I mean it literally. You recall Harvick’s last on-the-track incident? It was his two-step with Juan Montoya last year at Watkins Glen. If that’s fighting, then there was a battle royal at Joey Logano’s senior prom.”

“Now, I have no interest in meeting with Harvick face-to-face. The Busch brothers don’t do face-to-face meetings. As my brother Kurt has shown, we will, however, do fist-to-face meetings.”

“As you may have heard, I’m cutting back on my Nationwide and Craftsman schedules. So don’t expect to see me this weekend as much as you did last weekend. Television viewers only saw two other athletes more than me last weekend---Tiger Woods, during live action, and Tiger Woods on replay. It’s funny how Tiger only limps after a bad shot.”

2. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.:Ending a winless streak of 76 races, Earnhardt used a daring fuel gamble to win the Life Lock 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Earnhardt last pitted on lap 148, and, as the laps wound down, he displayed a fuel conservation strategy that all Americans should emulate, and all Saudi Arabians should fear. His efforts were almost rendered fruitless when Sam Hornish, Jr. spun two laps from the end, setting up a green-white-checkered finish that extended the race by three laps. Earnhardt professed at feeling “sick” upon that development, but his worries were allayed when Patrick Carpentier spun on the final lap.

“You can always count on those former open-wheelers for an untimely spin," says Earnhardt. "Who knew they were good for timelyspins as well? I’m often ‘fuming’ after most of Tony Eury, Jr.’s decisions. Not this time. It’s poetic justice that we completed this race on fumes. Tony's proved before that 'passed gas' is a powerful tool; now, he's also verified the benefits of 'past gas.' Victory never smelled so sweet."

"I'd like to thank all my fans for sticking with me through this winless drought. I just want to remind them all to keep the celebrations civil and safe. Contrary to internet rumors, my win does not give members of Earnhardt Nation diplomatic immunity in cases of unlawful burning of front porch furniture. And, since this win took place in Michigan, home of the Stanley Cup champions, the Detroit Red Wings, I encourage all of my fans, male and female alike, to do as the members of the Red Wings did with their playoff beards and shave that facial hair you've been growing since my last win."

3. Jeff Burton: Burton started second, as rain canceled qualifying, and quickly found himself at the mercy of handling issues that continued throughout the day. Despite those troubles, Burton managed a finish of 15th, and maintained his streak of top-15 results or better in each of the 15 races this year. Finishing only two places behind points leader Kyle Busch, Burton lost little ground, and only trails Busch by 32 points.

"I've still got Busch in my sights," says Burton. "If I were a sniper, that might mean something. But I’m no killing machine; I wouldn’t hurt a flea, allthough I would like to slap the bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. If I keep pulling top 15’s out of my tailpipe, then I’ll be within striking distance once the Chase starts."

"But let's hear it for parity in NASCAR. All four manurfacturers were represented in the top 4 at Michigan. Now, if some femaleNASCAR employees would start flashing some male employees, then we would have total and absolute parity."

4. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson sported one of the stronger cars all day, leading a race-high 65 laps, but his victory aspirations were hindered by the game of chance known as fuel mileage. Johnson surrendered the lead on lap 182, and charged from 24th to 6th in the final 21 laps to post his seventh top-10 finish of the year. He moves up one place in the points to fifth, 254 out of first.

“Fuel strategy is not an exact science,” says Johnson. “Nor are NASCAR inspection procedures. That's what motivates Chad Knaus. Ultimately, our goals are the same. We both want the #48 car to go places. I want to drive it to Victory Circle. Chad wants to drive it through a loophole in the rules.”

5. Carl Edwards:Edwards joined Roush Fenway teammates Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray in the top 10 as Edwards finished seventh in Michigan, his sixth-straight top-10 result at the Brooklyn two-mile oval. Edwards remains fourth in the Sprint Cup point standings, 206 off the lead.

"We had a car capable of winning," says Edwards. "So I'm disappointed that we didn't. Many experts predicted this race would come down to fuel strategy, and they were right. I guess we misinterpreted exactly what ‘fuel strategy’ entails. Apparently, it has everything to do with mileage, and nothing to do with whether or not the fuel tank lid is on.”

“And congratulations to Matt Kenseth for his third-place finish. Matt’s really begun to assert himself on the track lately. I tried to congratulate Matt in person with a high five, but he slapped me---with a harassment lawsuit.”

6. Kasey Kahne: Kahne nearly pulled off his second consecutive victory, instead settling for the runner-up spot in Michigan behind the magically-fueled car of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Kahne last pitted during a caution on lap 152, four laps after Earnhardt, and was in position for the win should Earnhardt's tank run dry.

"I don’t know what’s more impressive,” says Kahne. “Jesus walking on water, or Junior running on fumes? Jesus can turn water into wine, but Junior can turn a cheap Mountain Dew mesh cap into $50! Hallelujah! Seriously, though, Junior must have had divine intervention to get his car to go that far on that amount of gas. Talk about a 'holy roller.' And, I believe he got a little help from some forgiving NASCAR officials, who chose not to penalize him for passing the pace car, which is illegal. That rules interpretation will forever be known as the 'Immaculate Exception.'"

"And, honestly, I haven't seen that kind of mileage since Fred Flintstone drove from home to work on foot power alone. Obviously, Fred would be a terror on NASCAR tracks since, on wheels of stone, he'd never have to worry about tire wear."

7. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin finished a mediocre 14th in Michigan after a third at Pocono two weeks ago. The driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing Fed Ex Toyota falls one spot in the Sprint Cup standings to sixth, 287 out of first.

"All the talk in the Joe Gibbs garage," says Hamlin, "is either about Joey Logano coming, Tony Stewart going, or Kyle Busch doing too much of both between the three NASCAR series. All the talk everywhere else is off lawsuits, harassment, and men exposing themselves to women. That said, it's a good time to mention that in addition to regular packages, large and small, Fed Ex also delivers subpoenas."

8. Tony Stewart: Constant adjustments, as well as a bold pit call on lap 186, allowed Stewart to record his fist top-5 finish in four points races. While many cars stayed on the track or took just two tires during a lap 186 caution, Stewart’s #20 Home Depot Toyota received four fresh tires. With plenty a fuel, Stewart passed his way into the top 5 in the race's final laps.

"I was impressed by NASCAR's decision to meet with drivers on Friday an advise us that we need to stop complaining so much. There’s no place for whining in professional sports, except inside the Los Angeles Lakers’ locker room. In light of recent harassment allegations, I think NASCAR president Mike Helton could have chosen his words just a little better when he said this sport needs to be ‘bitch-free.’”

“It’s ironic that Helton urged us to stopcomplaining, while Brian France, in his comments on Mauricia Grant’s lawsuit, cited a lack of complaints. NASCAR's trying to send a message on their policies, and that message is clear: that their harassment policy is quite unclear. That's the kind of ambiguity you can expect from NASCAR, and from me, if you ask of my intentions of staying with Joe Gibbs or moving to a new team. So, don't ask me. All you'll get is a 'Smoke' screen."

9. Matt Kenseth:Kenseth recorded his best finish of the year with a third at Michigan in a race that was decided on fuel strategy. Kenseth led 41 laps, and was leading on lap 188 when he was forced to reliquish the lead for fuel and two tires. He finished behind the two drivers whose fuel gambles paid off, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Kasey Kahne.

"I feel I was cheated out of this win," says Kenseth. "First, I had to stop in the pits to miss a NASCAR official loitering on pit lane. And, I'm fairly certain he exposed himself to me. He’s lucky. I almost gave him a ‘drive-over’ penalty. However, I used a little discretion and chose not to penalize him. Apparently, NASCAR officials have a lot more discretion to offer. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was so far ahead of the pace car, I think the pace car qualified for the 'Lucky Dog' free pass."

10. Brian Vickers:With his second top-5 finish in as many races, Vickers and Red Bull Racing announced that they will be factors in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. With his fourth at Michigan, Vickers is now 16th in the points, only 97 out of 12th, and charging.

"Ole. It was a great day for Red Bull Racing," says Vickers. "And, with Dale Earnhardt's victory in the #88 Amp Chevrolet, it was a glorious day for energy drinks in general. This team is so happy, we’re bouncing off walls. I'm still coming down from a sugar and caffeine high as we speak."

"But I still can’t understand why NASCAR officials placed me behind the #8 Dale Earnhardt, Inc. car of Mark Martin on the race’s final restart. I know Mark’s NASCAR ‘DEI’-ty, but NASCAR’s decision cost me a chance at the win. If those NASCAR officials would have been watching the race and not fumbling to get their pants back on, this never would have happened.”


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