NASCAR Power Rankings: New Hampshire

Jeffrey BoswellAnalyst ISeptember 24, 2009

LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 20:  Mark Martin, driver of the #5 CARQUEST/Kellogg's Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 20, 2009 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Mark Martin— Martin held off Juan Montoya on a restart with three laps to go to take round one of the Chase with a win in New Hampshire. With Montoya nipping at his bumper, Martin slowed as the two entered turn two with two laps remaining, surprising Montoya, who slowed and lost considerable momentum. Martin then drove away for the win, and later defended his controversial move.

"Don't let my age fool you," Martin said. "'50' is the new '40,' and I believe I just took 10 years off of Montoya's life as well. Sure, I may have slowed considerably to hold him off, but there's nothing illegal about what I did. I told everyone I'd be racing to win the Cup, and I 'backed it up.'"

"I haven't forgotten how to drive defensively, nor have I forgotten how to rap. Listen up for my remake of Chamillionaire's 'Ridin' Dirty.' Like my competitors' standings in the Chase, it 'drops' soon."

2. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson opened defense of his three Sprint Cup titles with a fourth-place finish in New Hampshire, a solid result that kept him well within striking distance of race winner and points leader Mark Martin. Johnson, along with Denny Hamlin, trails Martin by 35 points.

"I realize that a Mark Martin Cup championship would be a popular result in the NASCAR community," Johnson said. "But, as we all know, popularity does not a driver make. Some of us, myself included, measure success by the space in our trophy cases, or lack thereof, and not by number of rowdy fans, or alcohol consumed in that driver's honor."

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3. Denny Hamlin — Hamlin edged Juan Montoya for second just as the yellow flag flew on the final lap in New Hampshire as Mark Martin took the checkered flag. The runner-up finish left Hamlin tied with Jimmie Johnson for second in the point standings, 35 behind Martin.

"I've been telling everyone that the No. 11 FedEx team is peaking at just the right time," Hamlin said. "We may not be the 'X' factor, but we're surely the 'Ex' factor."

4. Juan Montoya— Montoya won the pole for the Sylvania 300, topped both practice sessions, and led the most laps on Sunday, but his quest for victory to complete the sweep was foiled by Mark Martin. Martin held off Montoya's charge on the final restart with some crafty driving that Montoya called "dirty" and "not cool." Montoya finished third in his first race as a Chase qualifier, and trails Martin by 55 points.

"I did everything but run a 'Colombian Victory Lap,'" Montoya said, "which is doing a burnout and laying down rubber to cover every white line on the race track."

"But I'll remember how Mark raced me. Sure, Mark's got class, but you can't spell 'class' without the 'ass.' I'm sure, if the tables were turned and I would have been in front and pulled the same maneuver, there would have been a huge uproar condemning me. And NASCAR would have found a way to penalize me for speeding on pit row."

5. Jeff Gordon— Gordon ran up front early in the Sylvania 300, even commenting to crew chief Steve Letarte that the car was capable of winning. But as the day progressed, Gordon struggled with handling, particularly on restarts, and faded, finishing 15th. He is 10th in the points, and trails Mark Martin by 102 points.

"A finish of 15th in the first race of the Chase certainly puts my title hopes in jeopardy," Gordon said. "And speaking of 'jeopardy,' I think my statement to Letarte was posed in the form of a question, as in 'my car is capable of winning?'"

6. Tony Stewart — Stewart led 51 of the first 180 laps at New Hampshire, but his day fell apart when a bolt on the rear axle cap came loose, forcing a lengthy pit stop that eliminated him from contention. Stewart finished 14th and tumbled four places in the standings to sixth, 74 points behind Mark Martin.

"As would be expected," Stewart said, "I wasn't happy with my crew's performance. If they think we can win a championship with mistakes like that, then they've got a screw loose."

"You've got to wonder if I'm jinxed. Was doing the Burger King commercial with Carrot Top and Erik Estrada a good idea? I keep asking myself 'are there two washed-up has-beens in that commercial, or three?'"

7. Kurt Busch — Busch's sixth-place result in New Hampshire could have been better if not for a debris caution on lap 276, which bunched the field after Mark Martin and Busch had opened up a sizable lead on the rest of the cars. Busch lost ground on the restart, and had to be satisfied with his 15th top-10 of the year, which left him 65 points behind Martin.

"You may have heard that my departing crew chief, Pat Tryson, is only allowed at the Penske race shop once a week for a debrief meeting," Busch said. "That's funny, because when I was younger, I lobbied my parents to grant my younger brother Kyle similar once-a-week visitation rights."

"That, of course, was a domestic issue. And, as Kyle's often proved this year, he's barely 'domesticated.'"

8. Ryan Newman — Newman finished seventh in New Hampshire after starting 18th, somewhat offsetting a disappointing finish of 14th for Stewart Haas teammate Tony Stewart. Newman is seventh in the point standings, one spot behind Stewart and 79 points behind leader Mark Martin.

"I'm sympathetic to Tony's plight suffered on Sunday," Newman said. "I truly am. But I can't lie. It's nice to finish in front of Tony. In the first half of this year, Tony got all the headlines. So, it's good to outdo my employer, but I know he loves the spotlight. That's why I call him 'Boss Hog.' Behind his back, of course."

"Please note that my words, unlike the Whopper, are not endorsed and loved by Tony Stewart."

9. Greg Biffle — Biffle finished ninth in New Hampshire, his 13th top-10 finish of the year and a satisfactory start to the Chase. Biffle moved up three spots in the Sprint Cup point standings, and trails Mark Martin by 92 points.

"With a little track position," Biffle said, "I think we could have contended for the win. But I'm not sure how I would have raced Mark Martin had I been in Montoya's position. Mark seems to have found the killer instinct just in time. In the future, I suspect that being behind Mark will be a position in which only his proctologist will feel comfortable."

10. Carl Edwards— Edwards finished a disappointing 17th in the Sylvania 300, finishing behind all of the 12 Chase qualifiers except for Kasey Kahne, who blew an engine early on Sunday. Edwards fells two places to 11th in the points, and trails front-runner Mark Martin by 113.

"This really has been possibly the most disappointing Cup season of my career," Edwards said. "I may just resign myself to the fact that I'm not going to win a Cup race. But, on the bright side, I probably have as good a chance at breaking my winless streak as one would of breaking a foot playing Frisbee."

"I've had flat tires before, but only on my cars. With one on my foot, I guess that would have to be called a 'Goodyear limp.'"

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