NASCAR Power Rankings: Talladega

Jeffrey BoswellAnalyst INovember 5, 2009

TALLADEGA, AL - NOVEMBER 01:  Jamie McMurray, driver of the #26 IRWIN Marathon Ford, does a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AMP Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on November 1, 2009 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Jimmie Johnson — Johnson avoided disaster at Talladega, running quietly in the back of the pack for most of the race while strategizing for a strong run to the finish. As two late-race pileups picked off some of his closest pursuers, and fuel problems hampered others, Johnson coasted to a sixth-place finish, and now leads Mark Martin by 184 points.

"I guess you could say we laid 'Lowe's,'" Johnson said. "Anyway, I kind of like the view from behind."

"I admittedly didn't sleep well leading up to the race. But after those two big wrecks, you could say I slept like a champ on Sunday night."

2. Mark Martin — Martin's No. 5 Pop Tarts Chevrolet briefly went airborne in the race-ending crash in the Amp Energy 500, just seven laps after Ryan Newman went skyward and flipped numerous times. Both emerged unharmed, but Martin's already slim chances of catching Jimmie Johnson were rendered even slimmer. With three races remaining, Martin faces a 184-point deficit.

"When a Rick Hendrick's car leaves the ground," Martin said, "it's only fitting to say the same thing Jimi Hendrix would say in the same situation: 'Excuse me while I kiss the sky.'"

3. Jeff Gordon — Gordon ran out of fuel under caution three laps from the end at Talladega, but got a push from a tow truck back to the pits. After refueling, Gordon was collected in a crash on the final lap, and finished 20th when the dust had settled. He remained third in the points, but trails Jimmie Johnson by an almost insurmountable 192 points.

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"Jimmie always seems to find a way to skirt disaster," says Gordon. "That reminded me of my own 'skirt disaster,' which is how I got into a failed marriage with a former Miss Winston Cup."

4. Juan Montoya — Like Jeff Gordon, Montoya ran out of fuel under caution before coasting to the pits for fuel, only to be sucked into the final lap incident. Montoya finished 19th, and with Jimmie Johnson's sixth-place result, saw his narrow Cup hopes practically vanish. Montoya is fourth in the points, 239 out of first.

"Ironically, in a gas shortage situation," Montoya said, "I actually wish I was eating a taco. I guess Bob Griese really is an astute announcer, and obviously ahead of his time."

5. Kasey Kahne — Kahne finished second in the Amp Energy 500, avoiding the accidents that cost him in the other three restrictor plate races this year. Kane moved up two spots in the Sprint Cup point standings to ninth and trails Jimmie Johnson by 414.

"Talladega races are interesting for the crashes," Kahne said, "and very little else. The race went smoothly until the end, then all hell broke loose. I was lucky to avoid those two big crashes. Usually, when I see two 'big ones,' I like to put myself right in the middle of them."

6. Kurt Busch — Busch survived an eventful day at Talladega that saw his beaten and battered No. 2 Miller Lite Chevy come home in 30th. In addition to various scrapes throughout the race, Busch was sent spinning by a bump from Brad Keselowski, contact of which triggered the second and final "Big One."

"One day, Keselowski's wrecking me," Busch said, "and the next day, he's my teammate at Penske Racing. And I thought Rusty Wallace and Ryan Newman was the most volatile set of teammates ever at Penske."

7. Denny Hamlin — Hamlin led 11 early laps at Talladega, but an expired engine on lap 138 ended his day early, sending him to the garage with a 38th-place finish. Hamlin fell two spots to 11th in the points, 448 out of first.

"Only in NASCAR can a rule change be implemented on the day of the race," Hamlin said. "I guess NASCAR felt the need to take action for whatever reason, and they certainly succeeded, because the took all the action out of Sunday's race."

8. Tony Stewart — On lap 183, Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet was sent into the wall, clipped by teammate Ryan Newman's No. 39, which was hit by the car of Marcos Ambrose. Stewart's day ended unspectacularly, while Newman faced just the opposite, going airborne and tumbling through the infield grass.

Stewart finished 35th, suffering his first DNF of the season, and now is 279 out of first in the point standings.

"Indeed, I was having trouble staying awake during the race," Stewart said. "I told Ryan Newman to wake me when it's over, and he did, with flying colors. But it's not surprising that a race that was a 'sleeper' was won by a sleeper."

9. Carl Edwards — Edwards led two laps and finished 14th at Talladega, avoiding the two late wrecks that littered the track and scrambled several fuel strategies. Edwards is now tenth in the point standings, 437 behind Jimmie Johnson.

"Hey, congratulations are in order for Jamie McMurray," Edwards said. "Ironically, his No. 26 Ford is sponsored by Crown Royal, which is exactly what we'll be doing to Jimmie Johnson in three weeks."

10. Ryan Newman — Newman's day at Talladega ended in spectacular fashion when his No. 39 Chevrolet went airborne on lap 183 after contact with Marcos Ambrose and Tony Stewart. Thankfully, Newman was unhurt, although shaken, and finished 36th. He is eighth in the point standings, 402 out of first.

"I'm sure this isn't what NASCAR wanted to see," Newman said. "The only person they wanted to see 'tumbling' was Jimmie Johnson, preferably from his perch high above the point standings. As it is, it's not the race for the Sprint Cup that's warming up, but the fat lady, who's ready to warble the opening notes to 'Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye' as we speak."

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