NASCAR Power Rankings: Bristol
Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.
1. Kevin Harvick: Harvick struggled with handling issues at Bristol, finishing 14th—the last car on the lead lap in the Irwin Tools Night Race. He still leads the Sprint Cup points standings handily, with a 279-point lead over Jeff Gordon.
“It’s a letdown after last week’s win at Michigan,” Harvick said. “It seems that too much Budweiser can lead to a hangover. And, compared to our performance on a crisp Sunday afternoon at Michigan two weeks ago, our work at Bristol was like the difference in night and day.”
“But a win at Bristol sure would have looked good on the resume. Short tracks are a key component in the Chase, and a win on one would have been a huge confidence boost. Plus, my attention-starved wife DeLana could have proudly referred to herself as the ‘Thunder Valet.’”
2. Kyle Busch: On Bristol’s .53 mile oval, Busch made “short” work of the field in the Irwin Tools Night Race, leading 283 of 500 laps to win for the first time since Dover in May. Busch also won the Craftsman Truck and Nationwide series races, becoming the first driver to complete the three-race sweep. Busch vaulted five places in the Sprint Cup standing to third, and his three wins would seed him behind only Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin when the Chase field is set in two weeks.
“Three wins at one tracks calls for three nicknames,” Busch said. “They call me ‘Rowdy’ and they call me ‘Shrub.’ Now, they can call me ‘The Janitor’ as well. Not only do I sweep the races, but I mop up the competition.”
“Now, as for Brad Keselowski, I readily admit I wrecked him. But calling me an ass during driver introductions on Saturday was unnecessary, and simply a blatant attempt by Brad to seek support. But one can only expect a chicken to use ‘fowl’ language.”
3. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson started from the pole on Saturday night at Bristol and set the tone early, leading 175 of the first 200 laps. But on a restart on lap 261, Johnson’s No. 48 Lowes Chevy was clipped by Juan Montoya’s No. 42 Target car, and Johnson slammed the wall, creating heavy right-front damage. After considerable time in the garage, Johnson returned on lap 327 and eventually finished 35th, 85 laps down.
“At first I wasn’t sure if Montoya wrecked me,” Johnson said. “But a quick view of the replay won me over, and I realized, that, in fact, I was indeed ‘Juan-ed’ over, which is akin to being screwed over.”
“I think my struggles this year have caused my air of superiority to be replaced by an air of vulnerability. I don’t mind being seen in a vulnerable light. Heck, I’m no different than any other driver—I put my racing suit on one leg at a time, and I count my Cup championships on one hand.”
4. Denny Hamlin: After a promising start at Bristol, Hamlin’s prospects soured when he felt his engine give midway through the race. The problem was diagnosed as a faulty drive shaft, and after lengthy repairs, Hamlin returned to the track and eventually finished 34th, 25 laps down.
“Now, I can totally understand Brad Keselowski’s anger towards Kyle Busch. Like Kyle, he entered three races. Unlike Kyle, he came up short on all three counts. Kyle pulled off the ‘trifecta'; Keselowski merely succeeded with the ‘try-fecta.’”
“I’ve had my run-ins with Busch and with Keselowski. Neither will give an inch. So, when those two clash on the track, you know controversy will follow. You know, I think some of that intensity used in fighting for track position could be better utilized fighting for something more useful to those two, like a tan.”
5. Jeff Gordon: Gordon finished 11th in the Irwin Tools Night Race, as handling issues denied him any chance of ending his 52-race winless streak. However, Gordon did clinch a spot in the Chase For The Cup, only the second driver to do so.
“It’s amazing that I’m the second driver to clinch a Chase spot,” Gordon said. “Amazing, in that I did it without a single victory. What else is amazing? That I clinched last place.”
6. Tony Stewart: After a strong start, Stewart’s hopes at Bristol suffered when he was nailed from behind by Tony Raines after Stewart checked up to avoid a spinning David Ragan. Later, on lap 212, Stewart hit the wall further damaging the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevy and causing a tire rub issue. Stewart eventually finished 27th, three laps down.
“After the incident with Raines,” Stewart said, “everything went wrong for us. Which just goes to show that ‘when it Raines, it pours.’”
7. Carl Edwards: Edwards qualified second at Bristol, and a solid start to the race had a top-five finish well within reach. However, a balky pit stop under caution midway through the race cost Edwards 22 places, and he spent the remainder of the race fighting to recover. He finished 12th and improved two places in the points to fourth, and inched closer to clinching a Chase berth.
“It’s satisfying,” Edwards says, “and somewhat vindicating to know that I’m not the only driver that has a problem with Brad Keselowski. Brad’s been ‘turned’ more times than Hulk Hogan.”
“And I feel special knowing that I’m the one rival that gets not only under Brad’s skin, but that of his father, as well. I love it when Brad talks trash about me. I get an even bigger kick when his dad criticizes me. Of course, I haven’t really heard from Bob since he threatened to come after me back in July. I guess it’s true what they say—one ‘pop smear’ a year is enough.”
8. Kurt Busch: Busch scored his 14th top-10 finish of the year with a ninth in the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol. Busch maintained the 10th spot in the point standings, and increased his lead over the 13th spot from 215 to 253.
“If we learned one thing at Bristol,” Busch said, “it’s that Kyle Busch’s and Brad Keselowski’s battles should remain on the track as opposed to ‘on the mic.’ Both those guys have a ‘bad rap.' ’”
“This is not the time of year that you want to be making enemies. That’s something Kyle and Carl Edwards should be well aware of. If Keselowski decides to attempt vengeance in the Chase, Kyle and Carl could have their Cup aspirations shattered. Of all people, they should know better. They can’t well afford enemies when even their teammates can barely be considered friends.”
9. Clint Bowyer: Bowyer overcame a pit road speeding penalty to post a crucial top-five finish at Bristol, coming home fourth in the No. 33 Hamburger Helper Chevrolet. Bowyer remained 12th in the point standings, with a 100-point cushion over Jamie McMurray in 13th with two races remaining before the Chase.
“Hey, what do call the Clint Bowyer/Hamburger Helper fan fest in which admission is only a pound of ground beef?” Bowyer asked. “It’s called a ‘meat and greet.’ ”
“I’m not the biggest Kyle Busch fan, but I have to praise him for his honesty, and commitment to his sponsor. He readily admitted that he wrecked Brad Keselowski on purpose, and even worked in a plug for his sponsor when he said not only did he mean to, but he ‘Double-meant’ it.’”
10. Jeff Burton: Burton finished 16th at Bristol, handicapped by tight handling conditions that numerous adjustments never remedied. He remained seventh in the Sprint Cup point standings, and will likely clinch a spot in the Chase in Atlanta in two weeks.
“As NASCAR’s voice of reason,” Burton said, “I feel it’s my duty to speak of the nasty feud brewing between Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski. Those two are bent on destruction, when what they should be seeking is construction, of a truce. One would think construction would be their strong suit, since they’re both adept at ‘making asses out of themselves.’ ”
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