NASCAR Power Rankings: Daytona

Jeffrey BoswellAnalyst IFebruary 19, 2009

Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Matt Kenseth

Kenseth won a rain-shortened Daytona 500, passing Elliot Sadler for the lead just moments before showers forced an end to the race.

Kenseth’s run to the front was hastened by a nine-car crash prompted by contact between Brian Vickers and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., a wreck that wiped out many of the frontrunners.

“This victory is the realization of a lifetime of dreaming,” says Kenseth. “In fact, I had a dream the other night that I was being chased by Carl Edwards. Turns out, he was chasing me to congratulate me on winning the Daytona 500.”

“I’m proud to win such a historic race. Not only was this the 51st running of the 500 and the first without a Petty in the field, it was also the first broadcast in which the pre-race show lasted longer than the race itself.

"They call this the ‘Great American Race,’ yet organizers had that bloody Kiwi, Keith Urban, performing beforehand. Not to mention a creature from another planet, Tom Cruise, driving the pace car. Plus, a dude singing the national anthem in a language I believe was something other than English.”

“Now, if there’s someone named ‘Keith’ performing before a NASCAR race, shouldn’t it be Toby Keith? Unlike Urban, Keith looks like a NASCAR fan, and he also looks like a man. Plus, he a bouncer at his own concerts.”

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2. Kevin Harvick

Harvick, winner of the Bud Shootout on Feb. 7, nearly won his second Daytona 500, finishing in the runner-up spot to Matt Kenseth.

Harvick pushed Kenseth past Elliot Sadler and into the lead, and raindrops began to fall soon after.

“Matt helped me to my Daytona win in 2007,” says Harvick. “So, it was only fitting that I pushed him to the victory this year.

"Frankly, I’m surprised Matt was able to win with my help. Usually, when Matt is ‘pushed,’ he goes backwards, not forwards.”

3. Kyle Busch

Busch had led 88 of 124 laps, his No. 18 Toyota appearing to be the car to beat, when he was victimized in a lap 125 crash that started when the lapped cars of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brian Vickers tangled, sending Vickers into much of the field. Busch suffered serious front-end damage that left him 41st.

“As everyone knows, ‘88’ is Junior’s car number,” says Busch. “Don’t think the significance of me leading 88 laps is lost on me. That’s either ironic or symbolic, but most of all, it’s idiotic.”

“I imagine Earnhardt fans and Vickers fan will be involved in many heated discussions. Of course, that’s assuming those Earnhardt fans can find some Vickers fans.”

“But seriously, lapped cars should never go to such measures when battling for position, especially with the front of the field roaring just a few car lengths away behind them.

"I’m not sure who is mostly at fault, but those ‘Crash Fest Dummies,’ Earnhardt and Vickers, need to take their Amp versus Red Bull energy drink war somewhere else.”

4. Clint Bowyer

Bowyer and Richard Childress Racing teammate Kevin Harvick hooked up in the late stages of Sunday’s race, with Bowyer finishing fourth to Harvick’s second, giving RCR two top-5 finishes.

“I’d have to say I was a little apprehensive about switching to the No. 33 from the No. 07 car,” says Bowyer. “Having Hamburger Helper and Cheerios on my car just isn’t as glamorous as the world’s most famous whiskey, so you could say free sponsor samples don’t mean ‘Jack’ to me anymore.”

5. Tony Stewart

Stewart was successful at Daytona in his debut as owner/driver of Stewart-Haas Racing, bringing home the Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet in eighth.

Stewart led 15 laps on Sunday, despite starting in a backup car after wrecking his primary ride in Saturday’s practice. He also won Saturday’s Nationwide race, outpointing Kyle Busch to win the Camping World 300.

“Hey, I’m thrilled that nothing has changed for me,” says Stewart. “Just like last year, I’ve got a fast car, I’m highly opinionated, and I’ve got nothing nice to say about Goodyear. And, whether it’s parties or panties, you can still find them in my hauler.”

“I’ve set some lofty goals for myself this year. One, I want to be the first car owner to call a press conference and reprimand himself as driver. And, I want to be the first car owner to punch Kurt Busch. It’s possible I could accomplish those goals on the same day."

6. Jeff Gordon

Gordon ran in the lead pack for the first half of the race, but persistent right tire wear forced him into a green flag pit stop that left him a lap down.

He quickly regained that lap and was well within striking distance when NASCAR called the race due to rain. Gordon’s 13th-place finish was tops in a frustrating and disappointing day for Hendrick Motorsports.

“We’ve got a ‘Senior,’ Mark Martin, and a ‘Junior,’ Dale Earnhardt, on this team,” says Gordon. “And, if Juan Pablo Montoya was a Hendrick driver, we’d have a ‘Señor.’”

“Now, as a 50-year-old, Mark has his share of ‘senior’ moments; as the race at Daytona showed, Dale had his share of ‘junior’ moments. Let’s not ‘Junior’ mince words, Earnhardt made some big mistakes last Sunday that cost him, and others, any chance of victory.

First of all, it’s called a pit stop for a reason—you’re supposed to stop. Junior could also stand to work on his parallel parking. But Brian Vickers is no innocent bystander. I live by, and subscribe to, the maxim that you should always be skeptical of a NASCAR driver who’s ever been sponsored by Garnier hair care products.”

“In any case, fellow drivers aren’t too happy with either Earnhardt or Vickers. Is anyone happy with Earnhardt? First this year, he rightly criticizes Bruton Smith for saying that drivers don’t do enough to promote races. Now the crash at Daytona. I guess you could classify a lot of people's relationship with Earnhardt as ‘Junior Frosty.’”

7. A.J. Allmendinger

Allmendinger led a successful debut for Richard Petty Motorsports, finishing third in his first Daytona 500, and leading three of the team’s cars in the top 10.

Ironically, in the first race without a Petty in the field in more than 40 years, the name “Petty” was in prominent display in the race results.

“The word ‘fast’ hasn’t been used in association with the name ‘Petty,’” says Allmendinger, “since Kyle went on that crash diet some years back.”

“But I’m thrilled to be racing under the Petty banner. It’s one of the biggest names in racing, and now I want to make people proud of the name ‘Allmendinger.’

"I want the Petty’s to be proud, I want my fans to be proud, and I want my family to be proud, especially my great-great-grandfather, who lives in Germany, John Jacob Allmendinger Heimerschmidt.”

8. Elliot Sadler

Once the dust cleared from the Dale Earnhardt-Brian Vickers wreckage, Sadler found himself leading the Daytona 500 with rain approaching on the radar.

On the radio with his crew chief Kevin Buskirk, Sadler lamented the fact that the radar showed rain all around the track, although it wasn’t falling on the track.

“As a veteran driver,” says Buskirk, “Elliot should know that leading the Daytona 500 is no time for ‘drivin’ and cryin.’’ And, you shouldn’t even trust the weatherman for your weather, much less your Daytona 500 fortunes.

"If there’s one thing Elliot needs to change, it his defeatist attitude, followed very closely by his grating, southern Virginia drawl.”

9. Carl Edwards

Like many race favorites, Edwards saw his hopes for victory dashed by damage suffered in the lap 125 melee resulting from contact between Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Brian Vickers.

Edwards’ #99 Fusion suffered front splitter damage that compromised his car’s handling. He managed to stay on the lead lap and finished a respectable 18th.

“Last year,” says Edwards, “I may have gotten angry and confronted the person or persons responsible for damaging my car.

"As I found out, that’s unproductive, and can cause even more damage, usually to my ego and/or the hood of the car I’m slammed upon.”

“This year, I’m a changed man. As most of you know, I had a summer wedding, and I now happily married to a doctor. Despite what Kevin Harvick will have you believe, my wife’s name is not ‘Jerry Punch.’”

10. Michael Waltrip

Waltrip, a two-time Daytona 500 winner, finished seventh in Sunday’s edition, as teammates David Reutimann (12th) and Marcos Ambrose (17th) accounted for the top 3 Toyotas in the race.

“I said at the beginning of the year,” says Waltrip, “that I would call it quits and the end of the year if I wasn’t competitive. I think a seventh at Daytona qualifies as competitive.

"And my competitive juices are still flowing. When ‘Michael Waltrip Racing’ and ‘competitive juices’ are discussed, naturally the subject of jet fuel arises. I’m here to tell you that I can be competitive without jet fuel; that stuff tastes awful.”


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