NASCAR Top-10 Power Rankings: PhoenixBy Jeffrey Boswell
Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.
1. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson finished second in the Subway Fresh Fit 500, following his Daytona 500 with a near-win at Phoenix. Johnson extended his points lead and now holds an eight point advantage over Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
“Carl Edwards’ back flip wasn’t the only leap he made on Sunday,” Johnson said. “He ‘jumped’ all the restarts, as well.
“I signed a contract extension to keep Lowe’s on my car through 2015. They’ve been with me for all five of my Sprint Cup titles. There’s more than one reason Lowe’s is known as a ‘hardware’ store.”
2. Brad Keselowski: Keselowski notched his second consecutive fourth-place finish, finishing at Phoenix behind Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, and Denny Hamlin. Keselowski now trails Johnson by eight points in the Sprint Cup standings.
“It was a quiet day for me,” Keselowski said, “which is exactly how NASCAR wants it. They want their drivers to avoid controversy while they go out and get the NRA to sponsor a race. I’ve got one thing to say about that, but I can’t, because I’ve been fitted with a silencer.
“There’s a fine line between being the ‘voice’ of NASCAR and being the ‘mouth’ of NASCAR. Apparently, I’m the only driver with sponsors and censors.”
3. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Earnhardt continued his hot start to the season by leading 47 laps and finishing fifth at Phoenix. His two top-5 results on the year place him second in the point standings, five behind Jimmie Johnson.
“Being second in the point standings is always a good sign,” Earnhardt said. “Unfortunately, it’s only a good sign that it’s very early in the season.”
4. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin took the third spot at Phoenix after starting at the back of the field after an engine change. He is tied for fourth in the point standings, 18 behind Jimmie Johnson.
“I made what is called a ‘Kamikaze’ move on the final lap,” Hamlin said. “On that subject, any time a Joe Gibbs Racing car starts a race, it’s a Kamikaze move, because, chances are, it’s going to ‘die.’
“If there was a children’s book written about Joe Gibbs Racing, it would be called ‘The Little Engine That Might.’”
5. Carl Edwards: Edwards led 122 of 316 laps and survived a late caution and restart to snap a 70-race winless streak with a win in the Subway Fresh Fit 500. Edwards led the final 78 laps and held off Jimmie Johnson to put the No. 99 Roush Fenway Ford in Victory Lane for the first time since Las Vegas in 2011.
“I went through 42 cars to finish at Phoenix,” Edwards said. “That’s just slightly more than the number of cars I ‘went through’ to finish at Daytona.
“And speaking of Daytona, I felt a lot like debris after the race at Phoenix, because I made contact with fans through the fence.”
6. Clint Bowyer: Bowyer finished sixth at Phoenix, following his 11th at Daytona with a solid run in the desert. He is now ninth in the point standings, 13 out of first.
“I’m happy with our finish,” Bowyer said. “Unfortunately, I ran over a crew member during a pit stop. It reminded of last November’s race at Phoenix, when I ‘ran over’ to look for Jeff Gordon.”
7. Tony Stewart: Stewart bounced back from his early departure at Daytona to cross the finish line eighth in the Subway Fresh Fit 500.
“Reportedly,” Stewart said, “the National Rifle Association will sponsor the April 13th race in Texas. Understandably, there will be no green flag; it will be a shotgun start. And Juan Montoya’s Target car will be the most-watched car that day, because it will certainly be in the crosshairs.”
8. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.: Stenhouse finished 16th at Phoenix as teammate Carl Edwards took the win. Stenhouse now stands 8th in the Sprint Cup point standings.
“In honor of the National Rifle Association’s sponsorship of the April race in Texas,” Stenhouse said, “only 21 of the 43 cars will sport manual transmissions. It will be a ‘semi-automatic’ field.”
9. Greg Biffle: Biffle finished 17th at Phoenix on a strong day for Roush Fenway Racing, as all three cars finished in the top 20, led by Carl Edwards’ dominating win. Biffle is sixth in the point standings, 24 out of first.
“Congratulations to Carl,” Biffle said. “In a race sponsored by Subway, the car sponsored by Subway won. And that, my friend, definitely makes Carl a ‘hero.’”
10. Mark Martin: After starting from the pole, Martin finished 21st in the Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota at Phoenix. He is seventh in the point standings, 25 out of first.
“I didn’t see my homeboy 50 Cent in Phoenix,” Martin said. “In his honor, I tweeted, ‘Where are all the white people at?’ I received an anonymous reply stating, ‘They’re buying tickets to the NRA 500.’”