NASCAR Power Rankings: Talladega

Jeffrey BoswellAnalyst IOctober 26, 2011

TALLADEGA, AL - OCTOBER 23:  Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Subway Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 23, 2011 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Carl Edwards: Edwards avoided danger for the duration of the Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega, hanging back for most of the race before capturing an 11th-place finish. His finish was better than all but three Chase rivals, and left him with a 14-point lead in the Sprint Cup point standings.

“I’m still winless in the Chase,” Edwards said. “In this case, though, I ‘won’ for losing. But who says you need to win races to win the Cup? I plan to keep ‘doing what I’ve been doing.’ I feel that should be enough to keep Jimmie Johnson from doing what he’s been doing.”

2. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth moved into second place in the point standings after finishing 18th at Talladega. He led 21 laps early, and lost ground after the final restart with three laps remaining when he lost contact with draft partner David Ragan. Kenseth lost a bit of ground to points leader Carl Edwards and now trails his Roush Fenway teammate by 14.

“Under most circumstances,” Kenseth said, “I would be happy with this much ‘separation’ between Edwards and myself. It takes the appeal of another Sprint Cup championship to make me want to ‘get close’ to Carl.”

3. Brad Keselowski: With a fourth-place finish at Talladega, Keselowski leaped right back into the championship conversation. He moved up three places in the point standings to third, and trails Carl Edwards by 18 with four races remaining.

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CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 14:  Brad Keselowski drives the #2 Miller Lite Dodge during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 14, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

“You’re darn right I’m in the conversation,” Keselowski said. “I’m being talked about as a legitimate contender for the Sprint Cup. There was a time in my career when ‘being in the conversation’ meant I was arguing with another competitor, like Carl Edwards or Kyle Busch. I may not be the most popular driver in the garage. Heck, I’m probably even less popular in my car. But I know how to win. That doesn’t necessarily give me an advantage over anyone else, because it’s surely possible to win the Cup without actually ‘winning’ anything.”

4. Tony Stewart: Stewart led 30 laps at Talladega and was up front with victory on his mind with a restart pending with three laps remaining in the race. But Stewart’s No.14 Chevy lost the draft and was shuffled back as Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer left the field. Stewart recovered to finish a solid seventh, and is now fourth in the point standings, 19 behind Carl Edwards.

“Much like a good day of business for the Mayfield clan,” Stewart said, “I had a lot of good pushers. I hooked up with Paul Menard late in the race, but he abandoned me due to team orders. Team orders? I thought I was done with Formula 1 after driving Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren in June. Suffice it to say I’m not happy with Menard. A little warning would have been appreciated. He’s not, and there is no, ‘Paul revere.’”

5. Kevin Harvick: After five-straight finishes of 12th or better to start the Chase, Harvick’s luck ran out when he was collected in a lap 104 crash. After a visit to the garage, Harvick eventually finished 32nd, 13 laps back, and dropped four places in the standings to fifth, 26 out of first.

TALLADEGA, AL - OCTOBER 23:  Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Jimmy John's Chevrolet, drives with damage to his car during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 23, 2011 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo by John
John Harrelson/Getty Images

“The No. 29 Jimmy Johns Chevrolet was solid,” Harvick said. “I was leading on lap 100, than by lap 104, I was wrecked. Much like Jimmy Johns quick delivery, we were ‘on the doorstep,’ and before you could blink, we were ‘out of there.’”

6. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson finished 26th in the Good Sam Club 500 after he and Hendrick drafting partner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. found no luck making a run to the front. Johnson is now seventh in the Sprint Cup point standings, and now trails Carl Edwards by 50.

A ‘Big One’ happened at Talladega on lap 104,” Johnson said. “The ‘Big One’ happened on October 15th at Charlotte when I slammed the wall.”

7. Kyle Busch: Busch’s No. 18 Toyota was damaged in the same lap 104 wreck that took out Kevin Harvick. Busch finished 33rd, and is now sixth in the point standings, 40 out of the lead.

“Harvick and I found ourselves in the same boat,” Busch said. “And it now appears we’re up the same creek.”

8. Kurt Busch: Busch slammed the spinning car of Bobby Labonte on lap 173, ending the day for the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge. His day was done, and his 36th-place finish dropped him one place to eighth in the point standings, 52 out of first.

TALLADEGA, AL - OCTOBER 23:  Clint Bowyer, driver of the #33 Chevy 100 Years Chevrolet, leads Jeff Burton, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 23, 2011 in Tal
John Harrelson/Getty Images

“Despite such a horrible finish,” Busch said, “my language on the radio was clean and profanity-free. That’s because I didn’t even have time to curse before ramming Labonte’s car.”

9. Clint Bowyer: Bowyer dove around Richard Childress teammate Jeff Burton on the last lap to snap a 34-race winless streak in winning the Good Sam Club 500. Bowyer and Burton pulled away from the field on the final restart and cruised around Talladega’s 2.66 mile circuit unchallenged until Bowyer’s winning move.

“I’ve said my goodbye’s to Richard Childress Racing,” Bowyer said. “I felt it only fitting that I gave Burton a personal farewell.”

10. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Earnhardt, always a threat to win at Talladega, finished a disappointing 25th, as he and drafting partner Jimmie Johnson never found a groove to take them to the front. Earnhardt remained ninth in the point standings, where he is 60 out of first.

“It’s too bad I couldn’t help Jimmie,” Earnhardt said. “But I take full responsibility. With the laps winding down, Jimmie said, ‘It’s do or die time!’ Unfortunately, I thought he said, ‘It’s Diet Dew time!’”

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