NASCAR Power Rankings: Richmond

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NASCAR Power Rankings: Richmond
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Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Jeff Gordon: For the fourth time this year, Gordon lost a late lead, this time watching as Kyle Busch passed him on the last restart at Richmond and drove away for the win. Gordon led all but five of the race’s final 127 laps, his dominance interrupted by three late cautions that set the stage for Busch’s comeback.

“If this season has taught me anything,” Gordon said, “it’s to ‘quit while I’m ahead.’ And, if there’s anything my boss Rick Hendrick could teach me, it’s how to ‘close the deal.’”

“It’s not a conservative estimate to say that untimely yellow flags have cost me four wins this year. It seems that late in races that I’m leading, there’s an urge to ‘throw caution to the win .’

“But I can’t dwell on the ‘passed’ any more than I can predict the future. There may be crystal meth in NASCAR, but there are no crystal balls.”

2. Kyle Busch: Busch, buoyed by several late cautions that bunched the leaders, dove underneath Jeff Gordon on the final restart at Richmond and held on for the win in the Heath Calhoun 400. It was Busch’s first win in 21 Sprint Cup races and vaulted him two places in the point standings to third, where he trails Kevin Harvick by 109.

“What’s the opposite of being ‘behind the eight-ball?’” Busch said. “Being ‘behind the 24.’ Historically, starting in second on a race’s final restart has not been an enviable position. But I had a good feeling about that final restart. I think a lot of that had to do with the good omen I saw that foretold the outcome. What was that omen? Jeff Gordon’s rear bumper.”

“I think it’s safe to say I can be classified as a contender for the Sprint Cup. And many observers think I’m a threat to match Richard Petty’s 200 wins in NASCAR. Right now, I’m on 67. The King’s 200 is a lofty number, and it really gives new meaning to the term ‘his highness .’”

3. Kevin Harvick: Despite an early misplay on pit road, Harvick finished third in the Heath Calhoun 400 at Richmond, grabbing his fourth top-five finish of the year and assuming the Sprint Cup points lead. Harvick now leads Jimmie Johnson, who finished 10th, by 10 points.

“Now, you can add my pit crew to the long list of people I’ve called ‘buffoons,’” Harvick said. “But my crew more than made up for it with good stops the rest of the way, which put me in position to challenge up front. So, that just goes to show that sometimes, it takes ‘clowns’ to keep me ‘Happy.’”

4. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson fought handling conditions throughout the night in Richmond, but was able to battle his way to a tenth in the Heath Calhoun 400, spinning across the line after the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevy made contact with Clint Bowyer’s No. 33 Chevy. Johnson lost the lead in the Sprint Cup point standings, and now trails Kevin Harvick, who finished third, by 10.

“You probably noticed that Jeff Gordon and I started side-by-side on the second row,” Johnson stated. “Our well-publicized disagreements have lately been the leading topic of recent conversation, making it the ‘front row .’”

“Jeff and I had a little conference call with Rick Hendrick to discuss our disagreements. The tension is still there, but we’ll tell you everything is hunky-dory. That’s called a ‘unified front .’”

“As my three wins already this year can attest, I don’t share Gordon’s problem of closing out races. Maybe the pressure of leading a race is too much for him, and mental errors are allowing competitors to snatch the win. That’s an affliction known as ‘pass tense.’”

5. Denny Hamlin: Starting 30th at Richmond, Hamlin patiently and methodically worked his way to the front, eventually taking 11th in the Heath Calhoun 400, just missing his fourth top-10 finish of the year. Hamlin improved two places to seventh in the point standings, and trails Kevin Harvick by 199.

“After winning at Martinsville,” Hamlin said, “I felt confident that I could win at Richmond and complete the Virginia sweep. But it was not to be. In my injured state , that’s understandable, because the ‘second leg’ is a bit more difficult to manage than the first.”

“Congratulations to Kyle Busch on his win. That’s three this year for Joe Gibbs Racing, which has to make Joe happy. Joe hasn’t won a Cup since 2005, and like everyone else, I’m sure he’s sick of Jimmie Johnson’s reign.

"Joe may have three Super Bowl championships, but capturing that third Sprint Cup championship has resulted in no ‘finger-ringing,’ but lots of ‘hand-wringing.’”

6. Jeff Burton: Burton finished fourth at Richmond, following Richard Childress Racing teammate Kevin Harvick, in third, across the line as RCR took three of the top 12 spots. Burton moved up three places in the point standings to ninth, and is 220 out of first.

“The RCR short-track program is making progress,” Burton said. “And after our success at Talladega last week, it’s apparent that RCR cars can be competitive anywhere, except in negotiations to retain Shell/Pennzoil as sponsors. In that respect, RCR was guilty of an oil ‘spill’ to rival BP’s mess in the Gulf of Mexico.”

7. Matt Kenseth: Despite persistent loose conditions that spoiled any chance for victory, Kenseth salvaged a respectable 13th-place finish at Richmond, piloting the No. 17 Roush Fenway Ford from his qualifying start of 21st. Kenseth remained fourth in the point standings, where he trails Kevin Harvick by 119.

“That kind of result is one that is hard to be excited about,” Kenseth said. “Of course, who can tell when I’m excited anyway?”

“Many of you probably noticed the special purple camouflage paint scheme courtesy of Crown Royal. I’m not sure of the effectiveness of purple camouflage, but it definitely kept us hidden from the top 10. Our mediocrity proved that you can ‘stand out’ and not be a ‘standout.’”

8. Greg Biffle: Biffle finished a lap down at Richmond, coming home 22nd as ongoing loose handling conditions hindered any progress. After starting the season with six top-10’s, Biffle has cracked the top 10 in only one of his last four races. He is now fifth in the Sprint Cup point standings, 133 out of first.

“The No. 16 3M Ford was unresponsive to our adjustments,” Biffle said. “Like Tim Richmond, we tried everything. And, we did more 'tweaking' than Jeremy Mayfield.”

“It’s one thing to win. It’s another thing to be in position to win. We can’t do either. What I wouldn’t give to be Jeff Gordon, or at least Jeff Gordon without the killer instinct. Has Gordon lost his mental edge on late restarts? Instead of ‘Boy Wonder,’ maybe we should call him ‘Boy Wander .’”

9. Carl Edwards: Edwards posted his first top-5 finish of the year, leading two laps on his way to a fifth at Richmond, his No. 99 Scotts EZ Seed the only Ford representative in the top 10. Edwards jumped two places in the Sprint Cup point standings to 11th, and trails Kevin Harvick by 240.

“For those of you not familiar with my Richmond car sponsor, ‘EZ Seed’ is not a fertility clinic. ‘EZ Seed’ is a turf builder. Here’s how it works: just sprinkle it in your garage, and should a rogue driver enter that garage to confront you, ‘EZ Seed’ will ensure that he’s summarily taken care of, say, for example, by being slammed on the hood of a car. Hence, turf builder. Take it from me, it works!”

10. Kurt Busch: Busch and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge struggled to find grip all night on Richmond’s tricky surface, with numerous adjustments failing to remedy the situation. Forced to pit under green on lap 141, Busch fell a lap down, but a caution with ten laps to go put him back on the lead lap. He eventually finished 18th, the last car on the lead lap, and dropped one spot in the standings to eighth.

“Sponsor changes have been the talk here at Penske Racing,” Busch said. “Shell/Pennzoil will adorn my No. 22 car next year, while Brad Keselowski gets Miller Lite in the No. 2. As of now, no one knows who will be sponsoring Sam Hornish, Jr., because like ‘The Who,’ Mobil is ‘goin ’ mobile.’”

“But Roger Penske is a master of procuring finances, and if he can’t find a sponsor, he’ll just steal one. If all else fails, Penske can just field an unsponsored car for Hornish. That way, maybe Sam’s performance will improve, seeing that the pressure of racing for a sponsor will be lifted. He’ll be racing for himself, in a car emblazoned with the words ‘Me So Hornish’ on the hood.”

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