NASCAR Top-10 Power Rankings: PhoenixBy Jeffrey Boswell
1. Brad Keselowski: Keselowski took charge of the point standings with a win at Phoenix, while Jimmie Johnson crashed hard into the wall late. With one race remaining, Keselowski leads Johnson by 22 points.
“It’s all over but the tweeting,” Keselowski said. “The race at Phoenix had so many acts of stupidity, from drivers and NASCAR officials alike, I’m not sure what had more ‘characters’—the race itself, or one of my tweets.”
2. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson’s bid for a sixth Sprint Cup championship took a blow at Phoenix, where a late tire problem sent the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet into the wall late. Johnson finished 32nd, while Brad Keselowski came home 6th and took over a nearly insurmountable lead in the point standings.
“We just cut a tire at the most inopportune time,” Johnson said. “Up until that point, it was a ‘Goodyear.’
“We aren’t conceding anything. However, it’s a bad sign when you see a fat lady singing about throwing in the towel.”
3. Clint Bowyer: Jeff Gordon took out Bowyer with three laps to go at Phoenix, in response to contact initiated by Bowyer earlier in the race. Bowyer later tried to confront Gordon in the garage, sparking a brawl between crew members of both team.
“Did you see me racing to accost Gordon in the garage?” Bowyer said. “I put the ‘sprint’ in ‘Sprint Cup’ and the ‘rage’ in ‘garage.’
“Luckily for Gordon, Michael Waltrip was holding me back. It’s certainly not the first time Michael’s been seen hugging a man.”
4. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin finished second in the AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix, posting his 14th top 5 of the year. Hamlin is fifth in the point standings, 62 out of first.
“It’s a case of ‘too little, too late,” Hamlin said. “But I can look forward to next year for comfort. I’ll spend the next four months much like my pregnant girlfriend—‘expecting.’”
5. Kasey Kahne: Kahne started fourth and finished fourth at Phoenix, posting his 12th top-5 result of the year. He is third in the point standings, 50 behind Brad Keselowski.
“NASCAR penalized Jeff Gordon with a vengeance,” Kahne said. “He was docked 25 points and fined $100,000. I believe before he commits such an act again, he’ll think long and hard. In other words, he’ll ‘pre-meditate’ before he does it.”
6. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth finished 14th at Phoenix, behind Roush Fenway teammates Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards, who finished 7th and 11th, respectively. Kenseth is sixth in the point standings, 74 out of first.
“People can criticize Jeff Gordon all they want,” Kenseth said, “but I think he showed exceptional driving skill. Like a true professional, he hit all his ‘marks.’”
7. Greg Biffle: Biffle finished seventh at Phoenix, posting his 20th top-10 result of the year. He is seventh in the point standings, 78 out of first.
“NASCAR promoted the ‘Boys, have at it,’” policy,” Biffle said, “and they got what they asked for—the ‘Boy Wonder’ versus the ‘Bow’ Wonder.’”
8. Kevin Harvick: Harvick won for the first time this season, taking the AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix. The win came just days after Harvick announced he will drive for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014.
“Along with Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman,” Harvick said, “my addition will give Stewart-Haas three of the most ornery drivers in NASCAR. Stewart likes playing ‘grab ass’ with me, and he definitely ‘grabbed’ an ‘ass’ when he signed me.”
9. Jeff Gordon: After contact by Clint Bowyer damaged his car, Gordon retaliated by intentionally wrecking Bowyer, taking out Joey Logano in the process and nearly collected Brad Keselowski. The incident sparked a brawl in the pits, and on Monday, NASCAR docked Gordon 25 points and fined him $100,000.
“I let my emotions get the best of me,” Gordon said. “That just happens to be the only sighting of the ‘best of me’ since my last Sprint Cup title in 2001.
10. Kyle Busch: Busch came home third in the AdvoCare 500, his third straight top-3 finish and sixth of the Chase.
“I’m certainly encouraged for next year by my Chase performance,” Busch said. “After not making the Chase, I was saying, ‘Wait ‘til next year.’ Now, I’m saying, ‘Can’t wait ‘til next year.’”