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NASCAR Power Rankings: Watkins Glen

Juan Montoya won handily at Watkins Glen, outpointing Kurt Busch to capture his first win of the year. Kevin Harvick maintains the points lead, while jockeying near the Chase bubble heats up as the series heads to Michigan.

Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Kevin Harvick: Harvick was running sixth before suffering a flat tire on the final lap at Watkins Glen, spoiling a certain top-10 finish. He surrendered five positions on the final lap, and was nipped at the line for tenth by Jeff Gordon, his closest pursuer in the point standings.

"The flat tire cost us several places," Harvick said. "Had it happened at any other point in the race, I’m sure the No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil crew could have quickly remedied it, I’m guessing in well under the four months it took BP to stop their leak."

"When the Chase starts, I plan to be right in the middle of the mix. I am definitely a legitimate contender for the title. Even my wife DeLana thinks so, and, as you know, what she thinks carries weight in this family. But her support can only do so much for me; the actual winning is up to me. Yes, I’ll concede that she wears the firesuit in this family, but heaven help me if she’s the one fitted for a Cup come November."

2. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson was collected in a lap 70 incident involving Kyle Busch and Jeff Burton, who made contact racing into Turn 11. Johnson lit up his tires, and the smoke obscured the view of Denny Hamlin, whose No. 11 Toyota rammed Johnson’s No. 48 Chevy. Johnson eventually finished 29th, and dropped to fifth in the point standings, 328 out of first.

"We may only be fifth in the points," Johnson said, "but we’ve got everyone right where we want them. When you say ‘Jimmie Johnson’ and ‘fifth,’ people get nervous."

"That’s now four finishes outside of the top 20 in the last five races. Many have wondered if this team has lost its edge. Maybe, put there’s no need to panic. In the Chase For The Cup format, there’s no urgency to ‘make a stand’ when we’re ‘sitting’ on five wins. Trust me, the cushion is comforting."

3. Kurt Busch: Busch posted his best-ever finish on a road course, taking second behind Juan Montoya in the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips At The Glen. Busch picked off Marcos Ambrose on the race’s final restart, but the No. 2 Miller Lite Vortex Dodge was no match for Montoya, who won by five seconds. Busch vaulted three spots in the points to fourth, and is 318 out of first.

"You know race sponsorship has reached its saturation point when punctuation appears in the race title," Busch said. "Not to be confused with ‘punk-tuation,’ which happens when I get slapped by another driver."

"Now, you may have heard that I called the Hendrick drivers ‘pretty boys,’ and implied that had I wrecked Jimmie Johnson, and not the other way around, I would have faced an inordinate amount of criticism. It’s clear evidence that ‘looks can be deceiving,’ which, as the wives of many a NASCAR driver can tell you, can be a good reason for marriage."

"But Johnson knows I owe him for wrecking me at Pocono, and I will have my revenge someday. As Miller Lite pouring through the Vortex bottle is my witness, my vengeance will be ‘liquidated.’"

4. Jeff Gordon: Gordon charged from 15th to tenth on the final green flag run at Watkins Glen, salvaging his seventh top-10 finish in his last eight races on a day marked by handling issues. Gordon maintained the second position in the Sprint Cup point standings, 185 behind Kevin Harvick.

"That’s 51 races without a win," Gordon said. "That’s a long time, but everyone goes through their own slow times. You have to look at it in perspective---my wife went nearly three years without ‘delivering.’"

5. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin finished 37th after suffering damage in a lap 65 incident when Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota slammed Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48. Johnson lost control after being nudged by Jeff Burton, as Johnson, Burton, and Kyle Busch went three wide into Turn 11. It was Hamlin’s worst finish of the year and dropped him three spots in the Sprint Cup point standings to sixth, 338 out of first.

"I equate some of the racing at that fateful corner to ‘dive-bombing,’" Hamlin explained. "With that in mind, I guess that means if you put Kyle Busch in a Toyota, he becomes a ‘kamikaze.’"

"If it’s not a dent in my car, it’s a dent in my wallet. Now, I’ve had my ups and downs this year. Five wins earlier this year were followed by a $50,000 fine for some derogatory things about NASCAR I said on my Twitter account. So, thus far this year, I’ve experienced the thrill of victory, and the agony of the Tweet."

"But this won’t deter me from using my Twitter account. In fact, I’ll be paying the fine via Twitter. I’ll simply text ‘K’ to NASCAR fifty times, and my $50,000 fine should be covered."

6. Tony Stewart: Stewart finished seventh at Watkins Glen, surviving an on-the-track run-in with Boris Said on lap 66 that sent Said into the wall. As the two raced for position in the top 10 off of Turn 1, Said drifted wide. Stewart didn’t budge, held his line, and punted Said into the wall. Said finished a distant 38th, while Stewart’s 12th top 10 of the year kept him eighth in the point standings, 345 out of first.

"Slowly but surely," Stewart said, "we are making progress. And that’s not surprising given the time of the year. It’s summertime, so one would expect us to improve ‘by degrees.’"

"Now, I may have called Boris and ‘idiot’ after our incident," Stewart said, "but I have the utmost respect for him, as I do for any white man with an afro. I hear the ‘Said-head’ wigs were popular at Watkins Glen, and when fans don the fake hair, they often look just like Boris. So, I can’t feel too bad about knocking this road course specialist out of the race, thus creating another ‘dead ringer.’"

7. Jeff Burton: Burton posted his 12th top-10 result of the year, finishing ninth at Watkins Glen by employing a conservative approach that kept him free of trouble for the most part. Burton advanced two places in the Sprint Cup point standings to third, and trails Kevin Harvick by 315.

"That was quite a dominating drive by Juan Montoya, the pride of South America," Burton said. "In the only race in the state of New York, those Yankees had to be taken aback by the audacity of a true ‘Southerner.’

"Of course, Montoya’s win, and standing of 19th in the point standings, begs the question, ‘Should any driver with a win automatically qualify for the Chase, despite his points standing?’ I say ‘yes.’ If there’s one thing Montoya can bring to the Chase, it’s international flavor."


8. Kyle Busch: Busch faced an early obstacle at Watkins Glen, forced to bring the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota to the pits even before the drop of the green flag. After a spacer was inserted in the right rear, Busch charged through the field, and was in tenth place on lap 75. He finished in eighth, capturing only his second top 10 in the last eight races.

"We dug ourselves a hole early," Busch said, "which is in stark contrast to our usual strategy in season’s past, digging ourselves a hole late."

"I hear that I was partly responsible for the incident that wrecked my teammate Denny Hamlin. I heard that through the grapevine, and not through Twitter. Joe Gibbs says teammates should bring out the best in each other. Obviously, that philosophy doesn’t apply to Denny and I. We don’t complement each other, nor will we ever compliment each other."

9. Carl Edwards: Edwards won the pole at Watkins Glen, and raced to his fifth consecutive top-10 finish with a fifth in the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips At The Glen. He improved one place in the point standings to ninth, 190 ahead of Clint Bowyer in 13th.

"I’m incredibly proud of winning the pole," said Edwards. "You know what’s so great about starting in the front of the grid? It guarantees that Brad Keselowski won’t be in front of me."

10. Greg Biffle: After topping both practice sessions and qualifying seventh, Biffle had high hopes at Watkins Glen. Those hopes soured on lap 62, when contact with Boris Said’s No. 83 cost Biffle about 20 positions. With his track position defeated, Biffle could only make up one position the rest of the way, and finished 24th. He now sits 11th in the point standings, 112 ahead of Clint Bowyer in 13th.

"Any momentum we garnered in the last two races has been lost," Biffle said. "But we can quickly recover it in Michigan, where the 3M Ford will proudly display the ‘3 Eminem’ paint scheme, featuring Michigan’s adopted son and rap hero Marshall Mathers."

"That’s actually not true, but, coincidentally, here at Roush Fenway, we do refer to Carl Edwards, our svelte teammate of questionable character, as ‘Slim Shady.’"

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