NASCAR Power Rankings: Indianapolis

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

1. Kevin Harvick: Harvick posted his Sprint Cup-series best 14th top-10 finish of the year by claiming the runner-up spot in the Brickyard 400. It was Harvick’s third second-place result this year, and it boosted his lead in the Sprint Cup point standings to 184 over Jeff Gordon.

“A lot of people think I can win the Sprint Cup championship,” Harvick said. “I ‘second’ that. Snapping Jimmie Johnson’s title reign is certainly a challenge, and I’ve never met a challenge I didn’t accept, or at least one that my pit crew didn’t accept, and/or take care of, on my behalf.

“Now, I still don’t have a sponsor for 2011. As you know, Shell is moving to Penske in 2011. I never been called shy, but next year, I will certainly be considered an ‘extrovert,’ because I’ll be out of my Shell.”

2. Jimmie Johnson: After a promising start, loose-handling conditions struck the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevy, hindering Johnson’s quest for his third-straight Brickyard 400 win. Despite crew chief Chad Knaus’ best efforts, the handling never improved, and Johnson finished 22nd. He dropped to fourth in the point standings, and trails Kevin Harvick by 261.

“We’re not quite in championship form,” Johnson said. “But, as four consecutive Sprint Cup titles can attest, ultimate victory is merely a championship form ality. With three straight finishes outside the top 21, we may be in the midst of a cold spell, but as a new parent, I can tell you that a hot flash can happen in an instant.”

“Keep in mind, I am not the Jimmy Johnson who endorses ExtenZe male enhancement product, nor am I the Jimmy Johnson who will be a contestant on CBS’ Survivor: Nicaragua show. I understand that appearing on Survivor can be a life-changing phenomenon for some. Many, win or lose, have found enlightenment through the show’s challenges. With a month’s supply of ExtenZe down there in Central America, Johnson can achieve growth, both figuratively and literally.”

3. Kyle Busch: Busch’s No. 18 M&M’s Toyota found trouble early at Indianapolis, spinning on lap one after getting loose in Turn 2.

Ten cars were taken out in the accident, but Busch avoided major damage, although his car required constant adjustments to maintain suitable handling. Busch eventually finished eighth, his tenth top-10 result of the year, and is sixth in the point standings, 290 out of first.

“I must commend my team for their diligence,” Busch said. “No one ever said I wasn’t high maintenance. And speaking of high maintenance, I sincerely apologize to the cars I caused to wreck.”

“As for Rusty Wallace’s comment that I am a dumbass, well, nothing could be further from the truth. I certainly am not dumb.”

4. Jeff Gordon: Like Jimmie Johnson, Gordon struggled with persistent handling issues that had him toiling mid-pack.

The situation worsened late in the race when he ran over some debris, breaking his splitter and cutting both right-side tires. Gordon managed to remain on the lead lap and finished 23rd, maintaining the second position in the point standings. Gordon, still winless this year, trails Kevin Harvick by 184 points.

“We thought going into the Brickyard,” Gordon said, “that we could 'do some damage.' I guess we took that saying a bit too literally. But it sure did make the decision to take right-side tires an easy one. That’s something I’m sure the No. 42 Target team wishes they could say. And they can—in hindsight, which just happens to be your vantage point when you take four tires and nearly everyone else takes two.”

5. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin overcame an early overheating problem to finish 15th at Indianapolis. On a lap one accident started when Kyle Busch got loose, Hamlin’s No. 11 Fed Ex Express Toyota picked up debris which lodged in the car’s air flow and caused the overheating. Hamlin fell a lap down making repairs, but regained the lead lap with twenty to go and salvaged a respectable finish.

“As you know,” Hamlin said, “Kyle’s been very critical of me on occasion, but never to my face. So, I guess that would be the first time that he’s got all up in my grill.”

“Usually, the cursing on this team is left to Kyle Busch, as well as those loose-lipped announcers describing him. But with my air flow compromised, I think I deserve to say, with no apologies, air damn ! That would be called a ‘Fed Ex-pletive.’”

“But, with Indy behind us, it’s time to move on to Pocono, where I won handily in June. Everyone knows the No. 11 FedEx car is the car to beat there. I trust that FedEx will make another successful delivery at Pocono. Kyle’s usually the one flipping his lid over something, but come Sunday, I plan to be the one going postal.”

6. Kurt Busch: Busch saw a possible top-5 finish at Indianapolis go awry on a late restart, when his No. 2 Dodge suffered damage to its nose and lost several positions.

The team regrouped, and crew chief Steve Addington called for a two-tire stop during the final caution, gaining some of the lost track position. Busch finished tenth, capturing his 12th top 10 of the year, and remained fifth in the point standings, 262 out of first.

“It’s unfortunately fitting,” Busch said, “that the No. 2 Miller Lite Vortex car fell victim to a ‘bottleneck.’ And, it’s oddly ironic that NASCAR’s only driver with cosmetic surgery experience was in a car that needed a ‘nose job.’”

“Sure, I would have loved to have made some noise here and given Roger Penske a win, and thus deny Chip Ganassi the so-called Triple Crown. It didn’t happen, but Roger’s Indy Car driver Helio Castroneves more than made up for it, because you could hear him all the way from Edmonton.”

7. Tony Stewart: After depressing practice sessions on Saturday left little hope for a solid finish, Stewart’s fifth in Sunday’s running of the Brickyard 400 must have felt like a godsend. It was Stewart’s fifth top-5 finish of the year, and kept him ninth in the Sprint Cup point standings, where he is 98 ahead of Clint Bowyer in 12th.

“We still have a ways to go before we can honestly say we can compete for the Cup,” Stewart said. “Luckily, though, we’ve got a top-notch facility, spacious beyond belief. However, the biggest room in the place is the Room For Improvement .”

“And we’ve set quite a lofty goal for ourselves, one that may be difficult to reach. We call it our potential.”

8. Carl Edwards: Edwards posted his third consecutive top-10 finish, crossing the line seventh at Indianapolis, joining Roush Fenway teammate Greg Biffle, who finished third, in the top 10. Edwards and the No. 99 Aflac Ford overcame some early overheating problems, and finished strong in the closing laps. He is tenth in the Sprint Cup point standings, 424 out of first.

“I think it’s safe to say,” Edwards said, “that Ford is back. The new FR9 engine is really paying dividends. Ford is no longer the laughing stock of car makers, and I think that rumor that the Ford theme was to be performed by Bad Company can be put to rest.”

“As for the Brad Keselowski situation that went down at Gateway International Raceway, well, that’s just a case of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object. Apparently, I’m the irresistible one, because now it seems Brad’s father wants a piece of me.”

9. Jeff Burton: Burton finished sixth in the Brickyard 400, joining teammates Kevin Harvick, in second, and Clint Bowyer, in fourth, for a solid Richard Childress Racing effort at Indianapolis. Burton qualified tenth, and kept the No. 31 Prilosec OTC Chevrolet in the top 10 for most of the race. He is seventh in the point standings, 305 out of first.

“I understand NASCAR has fined two drivers $50,000 for criticizing NASCAR,” Burton said. “If that’s the case, then how much will Helio Castroneves be fined for his outburst after being stripped of the win in the Honda Indy Edmonton race? It wouldn’t be an understatement at all to say he lost it. Normally, Helio is a soft-spoken fellow, but in this case, the H was anything but silent.”

10. Greg Biffle: Biffle led 38 laps at Indianapolis, and given just a few more laps at the Brickyard, quite possibly could have won. As it were, he finished third, equaling his finish in the Daytona 500. Biffle remained 11th in the point standings, 78 clear of Mark Martin in 13th.

“Juan Montoya may have a reputation as a hothead,” Biffle said, “but you can’t say he doesn’t have manners. Did you see how he politely opened the door for his teammate Jamie McMurray? It was touching, and something you’d likely never see here at Roush Fenway.”

“The race was Montoya’s to lose, but his mistake made victory possible for others, including me. I hate to further the stereotype of Colombia as the cocaine capital of the world, but Montoya certainly did blow it.”

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