NASCAR Power Rankings: Phoenix
Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.
1. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson opted for four tires on the final caution at Phoenix, foregoing a quicker two-tire stop in lieu of better handling for the final sprint to the finish. Alas, Johnson's decision proved wrong, as Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon, on two fresh tires, battled for the win while Johnson was rendered an observer with a third-place result.
Still, Johnson lengthened his lead in the point standings, and enjoys a 36 point cushion over Matt Kenseth.
"As you know," Johnson said, "I made the call for four tires. And even though my 'Cups' runneth over, Chad Knaus is no bartender. But that doesn't mean he doesn't reserve the right to say 'last ' call.
"But let's face it. My growing lead in the points proves that I am again championship material. And making the wrong call in the pits doesn't dampen my status as Cup favorite at all. On the contrary, it's championship immaterial ."
2. Matt Kenseth — Kenseth rolled to a solid sixth-place finish at Phoenix, capturing his sixth top-10 finish of the series. After a weak qualifying effort of 27th, Kenseth and the No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford used timely adjustments to steadily ascend the leaderboard, and a two-tire stop during the race's final caution solidified the finish. Kenseth is now second in the Sprint Cup point standings, only 36 behind Jimmie Johnson.
"I'm certainly pleased with a sixth-place finish," Kenseth said, "if for no other reason than I was far enough away from Jeff Gordon not to be blamed for his miscue on the start. He was good at making sure I didn't win at Martinsville; he's even better at making sure he doesn't win anywhere ."
"Now, the good folks at Diageo distillery have already given us Crown Royal in a purple bag. Now, they've made it possible to 'brown bag' a 'black bag.'"
"Furthermore, while in the Crown Royal Black car, if I exact my revenge on Gordon, you can call it being 'Black bagged.'"
3. Jeff Gordon — Gordon took the lead with a quick two-tire pit stop on the final caution, and took the green flag needing only to hold his position for two laps to secure his first win of the year. But Gordon spun his tires on the restart, and the error allowed Ryan Newman, in the No. 39 Tornados Chevy, to pass underneath, and Gordon settled for a disappointing second.
"That's two races in succession in which a late lead has vanished before my eyes," Gordon said. "So I guess it's only appropriate that I lost in Phoenix to Newman's Tornados car, because another lead was 'blown.'"
"If Tiger Woods had to describe my restart on the Fujita tornado measurement scale, he would no doubt call it an 'FU .' I believe that means the 'wins' are at 0."
4. Kevin Harvick — Harvick finished 13th in the Subway Fresh Fit 600 in Phoenix, with handling issues hindering a top-10 run. Harvick raced as high as fifth on Saturday, but with his cornering ability compromised, he could only manage to crack the top 15 by race's end. He stands fourth in the Sprint Cup point standings, 112 out of first.
"We've struggled somewhat as of late," Harvick said. "On Saturday, we just couldn't find the right measure of adjustments. We've got no one to blame but ourselves. Often, people have marveled at my ability to 'get inside the heads of my competitors.' Well, now I know exactly what they must be thinking, because I feel like my own worst enemy."
5. Clint Bowyer — Bowyer finished ninth in the Subway Fresh Fit 600, posting his second consecutive top-10 after disappointing runs in Atlanta and Bristol allayed a strong start to the season. Bowyer improved three places in the point standings to sixth, and is 188 out of first.
"It's great to be back in the top 10," Bowyer explained. "We had a few missteps in Atlanta and Bristol, but we were back where we belong in Phoenix, with the No. 33 Hamburger Helper/Cheerios Chevy cooking up another solid finish. Call me 'Chef Bowyer Ardee.'"
"And speaking of food sponsors, Ryan Newman's win really puts Tornado's foods in the public eye. Tornados are a delicious mix of meat and cheeses wrapped in a tortilla shell, quite similar to a familiar microwaveable product manufactured by Nestle. It's a marketing deal Newman couldn't pass up if offered, because it would be the perfect opportunity to call him not the 'Rocketman,' but the 'Hot Pocket-Man.'"
6. Carl Edwards — Edwards came home seventh at Phoenix, his fourth top-10 finish of the year and third in a row. Edwards jumped six spots in the Sprint Cup point standings to eighth, and is 200 out of first.
"That's called good points racing," Edwards said, "as opposed to racing to make a point."
"The No. 99 Subway Ford was solid all day. And it felt great to represent Subway in a race they sponsored. 'The $5 Dollar Foot Long' sounds like a great deal. But is it? Usually, when a sub costs five dollars more than someone was fined for wrecking a rival competitor, you're looking at a sandwich costing well in excess of $100,000."
7. Greg Biffle — Biffle suffered his first finish outside the top 10 with a 22nd in the Subway Fresh Fit 600 in Phoenix. With handling problems prevalent all day, Biffle and the No. 16 3M Ford struggled with grip, and numerous adjustments did little, if anything, to correct the problems. Biffle fell one spot in the point standings to third, 92 out of first.
"Nothing seemed to work," Biffle said. "The word of the day was 'futility,' not to be confused with 'fertility,' which obviously applies to the many drivers expecting children this year."
"I'm childless and Cup-less, so if that's to change, I'll need to 'get busy' in both respects."
8. Joey Logano — Logano raced to his fourth top-10 finish of the season, posting a 10th in Phoenix and validating a stellar qualifying effort of sixth. Cooling track conditions late in the race made handling difficult, but Logano held on to join Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch, who finished eighth, in the top 10. Logano is now 11th in the points, 211 out of first.
"Some may say I lack the 'killer instinct' necessary to be a force in this sport," Logano said. "That's wrong. Denny Hamlin may be weak in the knee, but I'm not weak in the cojones ."
9. Kyle Busch — Busch's charge to the win in the Subway Fresh Fit 600 was derailed by a caution with three laps remaining, forcing the No. 18 M&Ms team to make the crucial two-tire or four-tire pit-stop decision that has been the difference in several races this year. Busch, along with Jimmie Johnson, went with four, and Busch restarted in eighth, but could manage no improvement to finish eighth.
"It was a good finish," Busch said. "Relatively speaking, it was a great finish, because my brother Kurt finished 35th."
"Leave it to a bad pit decision to stop a Toyota, because the brakes surely can't do it. But you see how quickly a massive two-second lead can vanish because of a caution. I think the G.I. Joe Gibbs action figure put it best when he said, 'One for all, and all for naught .'
10. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. — Earnhardt finished 12th in the Subway Fresh Fit 600, as all four Hendrick Motorsports drivers scored top-12 results. Earnhardt holds steady at 10th in the Sprint Cup point standings, 207 out of first.
"It's not the result we were looking for," said Earnhardt, "but we'll keep plugging away, and hopefully, our efforts, as well as our fans, will be rewarded. You know me, it's all about the fans. And, if I can't give them wins, I can at least give them hope. Or a t-shirt, a hat, a die-cast collectible, or some flatware. Correction. I can't give them those. They'll have to pay for those items. Plus shipping and handling."
"You've probably heard that Kasey Kahne is coming to Hendrick in 2012, which I believe the Mayan prophesied centuries ago. The situation is sure to leave Budweiser with an interesting dilemma. In a twist of their well-known catchphrase, I think you'll be hearing them ask 'This Bud's For Who ?'"
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