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NASCAR Power Rankings: Chicagoland

 

Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Kevin Harvick: Harvick finished 34th at Chicagoland, as engine problems relegated him to the garage for early repairs, and he eventually finished 16 laps down. It was his second-worst finish of the year, but only his second result outside the top 20 all year. While his lead in the point standings dwindled, he still holds a comfortable 103 point edge over Jeff Gordon.

“My disappointment is tempered by last week’s win at Daytona,” Harvick said. “But do I look concerned? My easy-going demeanor, as well as my nickname, dictate that I live by the credo ‘Don’t worry, be Happy.’”

“Now, as for the talk that Brian France is considering tweaking the Chase For The Cup format to a ‘winner-take-all’ format, that’s just ludicrous. And typical of the wacky ideas you’d expect from someone who has no clue what it’s like to be a driver. I think France needs to go. My wife DeLana wears the fire suit in this family, but in France’s case, I think we need to fire that ‘suit.’”

2. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson, who welcomed a baby daughter on Wednesday, led the first 92 laps in the LifeLock.com 400 and looked poised to win for the sixth time this year. But a spin on lap 137 sent him through the infield grass, then, on lap 174, he slammed the wall after cutting the right-front tire of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet. Johnson finished a lap down in 25th, and dropped one place in the point standings to third.

“I said the same thing after Baby Genevieve’s birth that I did after my first Sprint Cup championship,” Johnson said. “’This is the first of many.’”

“I would have loved to welcome my first child into the world with a win. Sadly, that didn’t happen, but still, despite the disappointment of a 25th-place finish, it was nothing to ‘brood’ about.”

3. Jeff Gordon: Gordon posted his fifth-straight top-5 finish with a strong third in the LifeLock.com 400. He led for 47 laps, but was no match for race winner David Reutimann, who passed Gordon on lap 213. Although Gordon’s winless drought continues, the result was a promising one, as the No. 24 DuPont team introduced a new car at Chicagoland, one likely to be used at Kansas during the Chase.

“Congratulations to the Johnson’s on the birth of their baby,” Gordon said. “But they’re not the only ones expanding their family. My wife and I have a baby boy coming in a matter of weeks. There’s nothing like the joy of childbirth to offset the pain of a 48-race winless streak. Boy, I wish that would end. Like my wife Ingrid, I wish I was ‘due in August.’”

“And speaking of ‘babies,’ I hear Juan Montoya had some words for my Hendrick teammate Mark Martin after Saturday’s race. Criticizing Mark is akin to using the Lord’s name in vain---it’s blasphemous.”

“Like me, Juan is expecting another child. His is due in July, which is too bad. If Juan would have planned better, that baby could be due midway through September, or later. And that’s the only way Montoya could experience a ‘birth’ in the Chase.”

4. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin posted his eighth top-10 finish of the year, and first since winning at Michigan on June 13th, with an eighth at Chicagoland. Hamlin improved one spot in the point standings to fourth, and trails Kevin Harvick by 203.

“Since my fifth victory back in early June,” Hamlin said, “we really haven’t been the same team that looked ready to challenge Jimmie Johnson for the Sprint Cup. Honestly, I think my left knee injury forced the No. 11 Fed Ex team to reach a new level of maturity. It may take something similar to get us back on track. Like an injury to my right knee. In this case, a knee to the ‘growin’’ works just as well as a kick in the balls.”

5. Kyle Busch: Busch started 33rd at Chicagoland, and wrestled a loose-handling No. 18 Snickers Toyota for much of the race before battling to finish 17th. Busch hasn’t posted a top-10 finish since Pocono, and is now sixth in the point standings, 257 out of first.

“We’re still seeking the momentum and the groove that brought us two wins earlier this season,” Busch said. “A 17th won’t get us out of our slump, so you could say, at Chicagoland, Snickers didn’t satisfy.”

“Heck, I’ve seen better use of a candy bar in Caddyshack.”

6. Tony Stewart: Stewart finished ninth in the LifeLock.com 400, overcoming a jack issue on an early pit stop to post his ninth top 10 of the year. Still seeking his first win, Stewart is ninth in the points, 356 out of first.

“The jack issue in the pits was an unfortunate and costly mistake,” Stewart said. “However, with Old Spice leaving at year’s end as sponsor of the No. 14, it gives me a great idea for another sponsor to pursue---Jack In The Box.”

7. Kurt Busch: Busch, who many considered a favorite to win at Chicagoland, finished a disappointing 26th, felled by handling conditions that cursed the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge until a shock absorber change late in the race brought a modicum of relief. However, with improved handling, Busch never got the caution needed to receive the “Lucky Dog” free pass, and eventually finished two laps down.

“All this baby talk had a mysterious effect of the No. 2 Dodge,” Busch said, “particularly the shock absorbers. It’s oddly fitting that a bad set of shocks would arise amongst all this talk of ‘off spring.’”

8. Jeff Burton: Burton posted his second consecutive top-10 finish, coming home seventh in the LifeLock.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Burton improved one spot in the Sprint Cup point standings, and trails Kevin Harvick by 280 points.

“Early in the race,” Burton said, “it looked like Jimmie Johnson was going to ring in fatherhood with a victory. But, I think all the travel back and forth to see his new daughter caught up with him. Then, David Reutimann grabbed a surprise win. Maybe, just maybe, fatherhood is Johnson’s lone weakness. Which is great for the rest of the field, because without a distracted Johnson, it’s hard to ‘conceive’ of anyone else winning the Cup.”

9. Carl Edwards: Edwards led late in the LifeLock.com 400, and briefly challenged David Reutimann down the stretch before settling for the runner-up position. It was Edwards’ best finish of the year, and a welcome boost of confidence for Roush Fenway Racing, which has struggled this year.

“It’s no surprise,” Edwards said, “that in the No. 99 Aflac Silver Ford, we took second. Jack Roush has been waiting all year for a car to prove it’s ‘mettle.’ Well, we finally did it.”

“I stalked Reutimann for a good while, and he didn’t even flinch, which is something I can’t say for everyone. Of course, it’s hard not to flinch when you’re dealing with an unstable personality such as myself. You know, two of my nemeses, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, have captured two poles apiece this year, but they’re not the only ones who are ‘bi-pole-r.’”

10. Kasey Kahne: Kahne scored his second straight top-10 finish, and fourth in the last five races, bringing the No. 9 Budweiser Ford home in sixth at Chicagoland. Although he dropped a spot in the point standings, Kahne is now only 120 out of the 12th spot.

“I think you can safely say this team has interjected itself into the Chase discussion,” Kahne said. “I think we’re really on to something; unfortunately, I’ll soon be off to another team in 2011. For now, call us ‘Kahne And Able,’ which is a tad different than the reasons Rick Hendrick came calling earlier this year. In that respect, it’s a case of ‘Kahne And Bank-able.’”

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