NASCAR Power Rankings: Pocono

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

1. Kyle Busch: Unable to catch teammate Denny Hamlin, Busch settled for second at Pocono, his fifth top-5 finish of the year and fourth in the last five races. Busch inched closer to the Sprint Cup points lead, chipping ten points from Kevin Harvick’s leading margin, and now trails by only 19.

“If I was any closer to Harvick,” Busch said, “I’d be Joey Logano. Joe Gibbs must be extremely proud. Just weeks after one of his drivers threatened to kill someone, Logano went out and nearly did .”

“I’m glad to see Joey sticking up for himself. Apparently, too many run-ins with Harvick have changed Joey. I should know. People have speculated about the 'new Kyle' and the 'old Kyle.' In this case, however, the 'new Logano' is Joey, and the 'old Logano' is his psychotic father.”

“Now, finishing second to Hamlin really irks me. So, it’s really Denny’s fault, and no fault of mine, that I’m so irksome .”

2. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin led 88 laps on his way to victory in the Fusion ProGlide 500 at Pocono, his fourth win this year, tops in the Sprint Cup series, and his fourth career win at the Long Pond, Pennsylvania tri-oval. Hamlin had a huge lead wiped out when a crash behind him necessitated a green-white-checkered finish, but a solid restart gave the No. 11 the jump on teammate Kyle Busch and preserved the win. Hamlin vaulted two places in the Sprint Cup point standings to third, 136 behind Kevin Harvick.

“There was bad news behind me,” Hamlin said, “then there was the crash. It’s really no big deal outrunning Kyle. I just tell myself, ‘If he catches me, he’ll kill me.’ ”

“But how about our teammate Joey Logano? He’s feuding with Kevin Harvick. Throw in Logano’s dad, Tom, and Harvick’s wife, DeLana, and you’ve got yourself a ‘family feud’ that Richard Dawson would be proud of. Survey says: ‘Joey is the most mature one of the bunch.’”

“In this business, it’s important to know your enemy. Joey does. Personally, I feel it’s important to know your enemy as well as you know your teammate. And I know Kyle better than anyone.”

3. Kevin Harvick: Harvick made contact with Joey Logano on lap 198 as the two were battling for the fourth position, sending the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota sliding out of control, while Harvick’s No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevy continued no worse for wear. Harvick eventually finished fourth, while Logano’s near top-5 turned into a 13th-place result. Afterwards, a furious Logano confronted Harvick.

“So, Logano says my wife wears the fire suit in this family,” Harvick said. “That’s just little Joey’s inexperience showing. It’s no surprise he can recognize a fully-clothed woman; he’s probably never seen anything else.”

“Now, TNT pit road reporter Phil Parson’s obviously doesn’t ‘wear the pants’ in a journalistic sense, because he did nothing but ‘skirt’ the issue in his post-race interview with me.”

4. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson scored his first top-5 finish since Texas on April 19th with a fifth in the Fusion ProGlide 500. After a mediocre qualifying effort of 25th, Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevy team bounced back with two of the fastest times in practice sessions. Johnson improved one spot in the point standings to sixth, but is still winless in the last nine races.

“Considering our recent slide,” Johnson said, “I consider a fifth a ‘fantastic finish.’ And speaking of ‘fantastic finishes,’ the last-lap wreck and the Kevin Harvick-Joey Logano incident added excitement to an otherwise boring affair. That wreck wiped out Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin, two of my Hendrick Motorsports teammates. That’s a change. Gordon insists I’m usually the one responsible for taking out two HMS drivers.”

“As for Logano, I haven’t seen that much ‘smoke’ come out of the No. 20 Home Depot car since Tony Stewart left to run his own team.”

“But I’m glad my skid is over, as it only fueled the notion that I was losing my edge and there would soon be an end to my four-year reign as champion. As in most cases, you can’t have a ‘dethroning’ without skid ‘marks.’”

5. Kurt Busch: An early mishap on pit road put Busch in 41st after 18 laps, and he soon thereafter found himself a lap down after race leader Clint Bowyer passed him. But Busch and the No. 2 Miller Lite/Vortex Dodge team battled back, regaining the lead lap by the mid-way point of the race. He eventually finished sixth, his eighth top-10 of the year, and moved up one spot to fifth, 182 out of first.

“That’s called ‘doing a lot with a little,” Busch said. “As opposed to ‘doing a little with a lot ,’ which is how my cosmetic ear surgery of 2006 would be described.”

6. Jeff Burton: Burton finished seventh at Pocono, his sixth top-10 effort of the year, despite running the final laps with a broken left-front shock. Burton remained eighth in the point standings, and trails Richard Childress teammate Kevin Harvick by 260.

“Am I surprised that Kevin Harvick has another enemy?” Burton asked. “To answer that, I’ll tell you the same thing I told my team after the Pocono race: ‘I’m not shocked .’”

“As for Harvick’s emerging feud with Joey Logano, I see it getting more explosive in the future. Luckily for Joey, Harvick’s pit crew didn’t allow Logano to get close. I think Kevin showed great restraint by not trying to get at Logano. I believe that would be called a choke ‘hold.’”

8. Matt Kenseth: After a pit road speeding penalty put him a lap down after 47 laps, Kenseth spent the remainder of his day vying for track position, a tall order on Pocono’s 2.5 mile tri-oval. Kenseth eventually finished 17th, avoiding the wreckage in a last-lap pileup that collected several cars, including Roush Fenway teammate Greg Biffle’s No. 16. Kenseth fell one spot to fourth in the point standings, and trails Kevin Harvick by 170.

“Hey, a pit road speeding penalty isn’t all bad news,” Kenseth said. “Even though it’s a NASCAR official, at least someone’s saying a Ford is going too fast. I think if Henry Ford himself were alive today, he’d even be amazed at how slow the Fords are.”

8. Jeff Gordon: Gordon struggled with handling issues at Pocono, running most of the day outside the top 20, before being terminated in a final lap crash triggered when A.J. Allmendinger blocked Kasey Kahne. Kahne’s No. 9 Budweiser Ford, forced into the infield grass, slid up the track and into and nearly over the outside wall. The No. 24 DuPont Chevy smashed Kahne’s car, as wreckage from several other cars littered the scene. Gordon finished 32nd, and tumbled three places in the point standings to seventh, 236 out of first.

“A.J. certainly puts the ‘ding’ in ‘Allmendinger,’” Gordon said. “Football training camps must be fast approaching, because the first ‘blocking dummy’ of the year just made an appearance.”

9. Tony Stewart: Stewart used a bold fuel mileage gamble, topping off his tank under caution on lap 160, to post a third in the Fusion ProGlide 500. Stewart was able to go the distance on fuel and survived a hectic finish, then harshly criticized some of the racing, which he categorized as some of the “worse driving” he’s seen in a professional series.

“Trust me,” Stewart said. “You can count on me to up the ante in the upcoming weeks, when I plan to exact my vengeance on these no-driving clowns with my own form of irresponsible driving. I guess that would make my current criticisms of them a ‘Prelude To A Ream .’”

10. Carl Edwards: Edwards finished 12th at Pocono, leading the charge for Ford and Roush Fenway Racing. He jumped two places in the Sprint Cup point standings to ninth, 334 out of first.

“I know from experience that it’s hard to get at Kevin Harvick without his goons stepping in,” Edwards said. “If the Shell/Pennzoil pit crew tended to the No. 29 car as fast as they tend to Harvick himself, they’d be masters of the 3.7 second, four-tire pit stop.”

"NASCAR is willing to let the boys 'have at it.' Harvick's pit crew, on the other hand, are un willing to let their boy 'have at it.'"

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