NASCAR Power Rankings: Bristol

Jeffrey BoswellAnalyst IMarch 24, 2010

BRISTOL, TN - MARCH 21:  Jimmie Johnson drives the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 21, 2010 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Jimmie Johnson: Charging late at Bristol, Johnson went from sixth to first in three laps and won at the “bull ring” for the first time ever.

Matt Kenseth’s poor restart held up several contenders, including Kurt Busch, and Johnson quickly capitalized, moving to second behind Tony Stewart. Johnson made quick work of Stewart and took the lead on lap 494.

“Although our surname’s are slightly different,” Johnson said, “Alaska native Levi Johnston and I share one thing in common: we’ve both marked ‘Bristol’ off our ‘to-do’ lists. Likewise, it was ‘easy.’”

“I’m ridin’ high, with my target in the crosshairs, which is a similar manner in which a certain former Alaska governor hunts for wolves.”

“But enough about ‘first’s.’ Let’s talk about ‘fifth’s.’ My fifth Sprint Cup title is in my sight. Many though I would be satisfied with four titles. The truth is, I’m so focused on number five that number four is a distant memory. So, you could say the battle for the 2010 Sprint Cup is a ‘four-gone conclusion.’”

“I guess NASCAR is not immune to ‘March Madness,’ because Kenseth and I ran the perfect ‘pick and roll.’ Apparently, a few people knew what they were saying when they made Matt their ‘pick’ to win.”

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“Now, if football’s your game, you could call it a ‘screen pass.’ Hockey? An assisted ‘goal.’”

2. Kurt Busch: Busch’s No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge was clearly the class of the field in the Food City 500, leading 278 of 500 laps. But his path to victory was blocked on the final restart, when Matt Kenseth’s Crown Royal Ford spun and held up Busch’s line.

Soon thereafter, Jimmie Johnson was long gone, and Busch settled for a disappointing third. Busch moved up four places in the point standings to sixth, and is 97 out of the lead.

“This certainly isn’t the first time Matt Kenseth has been called a ‘royal’ pain,” Busch said. “Apparently, the saying ‘liquor before beer, never fear’ doesn’t apply to restarts in NASCAR races.”

“It really pains me to see Johnson in victory lane. I should have been there. The Miller Lite car was the better car, and I had a better position on the restart. The loss tastes bitter , and it’s less-fitting .”

3. Matt Kenseth: With Sunday’s fifth-place finish at Bristol, Kenseth drew to within one point of points leader Kevin Harvick. Kenseth played a large role in determining the winner, as a slow restart back up traffic and eventually allowed Jimmie Johnson to surge to the lead.

“I think Bob Dylan would appreciate that I’m ‘Knock, Knock, Knockin’ On Kevin’s Door,’” Kenseth said. “Of course, many drivers, Kurt Busch included, would consider my restart ‘Like A Rolling Stone.’”

“It’s been an up-and-down last few weeks for Roush Fenway Racing. Mostly up, though. First, in Atlanta, Carl Edwards sent Brad Keselowski ‘up.’ On Sunday, Greg Biffle backed ‘up’ traffic, while I held ‘up’ traffic.

4. Kevin Harvick: Handicapped by a qualifying effort of 33rd, Harvick still managed to finish 11th at Bristol, his first finish outside the Top 10 this year. Harvick is still on top of the Sprint Cup point standings, and leads Matt Kenseth by one point, and Jimmie Johnson by 14.

“I pride myself on my consistency,” Harvick said. “And I’m sure Johnson does the same, because he’s consistently lucky. I still firmly believe that Johnson has a horseshoe up his behind. Hopefully, in the spirit of NASCAR discontinuing the wing in favor of the spoiler, I can alter Jimmie’s rear as well, and transplant that horseshoe to mine.”

“And speaking of shoe implants, I’d like to put a boot in the ass of Carl Edwards. I’m sure it just ate Edwards up to ‘make nice’ with Keselowski. But what choice did he have? Keselowski is just as hotheaded. If Edwards hadn’t made amends, he likely would have found himself flying through the air as well. So, it was simply a matter of ‘truce or consequences.’”

“One thing is clear, however: when Edwards confronts someone, chances are someone will end up ‘on the hood,’ whether that be Brad Keselowski or Edwards himself. Word to the wise, Edwards—I won’t back down. If you remember correctly, the last time you got in my face, the only ‘back down’ that resulted was yours , on the hood of my car.”

5. Greg Biffle: Biffle survived an accident to finish fourth in the Food City 500, his second Top Five and fifth Top 10 result of the year.

On lap 343, Biffle moved up the track and into Mark Martin’s No. 5 Chevrolet, forcing Martin into the outside wall. Martin’s damaged ride created a bottleneck in Turn 3, collecting a number of cars, including Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Juan Montoya, and Joey Logano. Biffle took responsibility for the incident, but cited a faulty radio as the true culprit.

“Wow. Martin, Gordon, Harvick, Montoya, and Logano. I guess I have a lot of drivers to answer to, and one father. Funny thing is, Logano’s the teenager, and I’m the one wearing braces. I guess at Bristol I defined the term ‘brace for impact.’”

“Honestly, I couldn’t hear my spotter warn me that the No. 5 wasn’t clear. My radio had been going in and out all day. There are about 13 drivers who weren’t too fond of that explanation. Let’s just say it got bad ‘reception.’"

6. Tony Stewart: Stewart claimed his first Top Five finish of the year, finishing second at Bristol, buoyed by a two-tire pit stop that put him in position to win late.

Stewart surged to the lead on the restart, but was easily reeled in by Jimmie Johnson, who took the lead for good on lap 494.

“Johnson’s four tires made me a ‘sitting duck,’” Stewart said. “And speaking of a ‘sitting duck,’ many people think Carl Edwards got off easy with probation, when a suspension for the driver of the Aflac-sponsored car would have truly made him a ‘sitting duck.’”

“It seems as though NASCAR handles discipline with ‘kid gloves,’ which, ironically is how Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick engage in combat. Those guys are ‘lobbing insults’ when they should be ‘throwing punches.’ As they say, ‘One of ‘em’s scared, the other one’s glad of it.’"

"I’ve heard of ‘Punch and Judy,’ but this is a case of ‘punchless and judicious.’ What’s it going to take, short of Kurt Busch’s head, for someone to get popped?”

7. Carl Edwards: Edwards finished sixth at Bristol, joining Roush Fenway teammates Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle, who finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Top 10.

It was a redemptive effort for Edwards, coming on the heels of his incident with Brad Keselowski in Atlanta resulted in a 39th-place finish, a three-race probation, and loads of bad publicity.

“There’s been no back flip,” Edwards said, “but plenty of backlash.”

“Sure NASCAR was very lenient with only probation for such an egregious, albeit deserved, act against Keselowski. And I thank them. So, for their ‘preferential treatment,’ I’ll have to show them deferential treatment.”

“Brad and I, along with Jack Roush and Roger Penske, met with NASCAR last week to resolve our differences. I think reports of the meeting, as well as pictures of Brad and I leaving the hauler smiling, would indicate that we’re ‘on the same page .’ In other words, our feud has been settled, at least ‘on paper.’”

“But as the Keselowski feud fizzles, the Kevin Harvick feud simmers. I’ve called Harvick a ‘bad person,’ while he’s called me ‘fake.’ Jimmie Johnson’s reign as champion can be considered a dynasty, by Harvick and my exchanges sound like nothing more than the prelude to a cat fight on Dynasty .”

8. Kyle Busch: Busch finished ninth at Bristol, his only Top 10 finish of the year, as the No. 18 M&M’s car was the only Toyota in the Top 10.

All three Joe Gibbs Racing cars experienced tire issues, and Busch overcame a right front flat tire that sent him into the wall midway through the race. Quick work by Busch’s crew kept him on the lead lap, and Busch moved up five places in the point standings and is in tenth, 168 out of first.

“Tire issues are the last thing Toyota need right now,” said Busch. “Tires notwithstanding, we could use a little more speed. Currently, Toyota’s are feared less on the race track and more on the highway. Toyota engineers face a tricky dilemna: the racing community is urging them to ‘make it go,’ while the public is demanding they ‘make it stop.’”

9. Jeff Burton: Burton led the Richard Childress Racing charge at Bristol, coming home tenth, one spot ahead of teammate and points leader Kevin Harvick, while Clint Bowyer wasn’t in the mix, suffering engine failure on lap 58.

Burton gambled during the final caution, opting for four tires and hoping to regain lost track position in the final laps. Restarting 12th, the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet quickly pick off two positions, put heavy traffic negated further advance, and Burton settled for his second top 10 of the year.

“As you know,” Burton said, “I make many of life’s choices based on the ‘WWJD’ principles. With all due respect to Jesus, in this sport, it’s all about ‘What Would Jimmie Do.’ With three wins already this year, it seems Jimmie, like Jesus, has plenty of ‘followers’ on Sundays.”

10. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Earnhardt finished a solid seventh in the Food City 500, his day nearly derailed by a speeding penalty entering the pits during a caution on lap 324.

After much complaining to crew chief Lance McGrew of the No. 88 Amp Chevrolet’s handling in the early stages, Earnhardt showered McGrew with a load of expletives after the speeding penalty. Sensing a letdown, McGrew shot back, telling Earnhardt not to “lay down on me,” and admonishment which seemed to spark Earnhardt’s recovery and subsequent Top 10 result.

“It’s not often you bitch that much about your car,” Earnhardt said, “and still come out smiling. I think that’s called a ‘whine and cheese’ result. Incidentally, wine and cheese goes great with Amp Energy Juice.”

“If you heard my radio exchange with McGrew, then you’re aware that my censors now outnumber my sponsors. I may have disappointed some of my fans, particularly viewers of Disney’s Handy Manny , with my foul-mouthed outburst, but at least I know my dad’s looking down proudly at me.”