NASCAR Top-10 Power Rankings: California

[media-credit name=”Simon Scoggins” align=”alignright” width=”211″][/media-credit]Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Tony Stewart: Stewart won the Auto Club 400 in a race shortened by 71 laps due to rain. Stewart overtook Kyle Busch on lap 85 and held on until the weather forced the race’s first caution, and ultimately its cancellation. It was Stewart’s second win of the year and seventh in the last 15 Sprint Cup races.

“When there’s a sky full of clouds all with silver linings,” Stewart said, “should one expect a golden shower? Maybe for Denny Hamlin. I faked, and Denny bought it. That has to hurt, so I guess Denny’s ‘Stinging In The Rain.’

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“But the No. 14 Office Depot team is picking up right where we left off last year. No, I’m not firing my crew chief. I’m winning races. And the ‘reign gauge’ is full.”

2. Greg Biffle: Biffle finished sixth at Auto Club Speedway, following Roush Fenway teammate Carl Edwards, who finished fifth, across the line. Biffle has scored top-10 finishes in four of the season’s five races, and leads the Sprint Cup point standings.

“If nothing else,” Biffle said, “I’m consistent. And, as Edwards showed last year, consistency will take you places. Unfortunately, it will also leave you there.”

3. Kevin Harvick: Harvick finished fourth in California, posting his second top-5 result of the year. He remained second in the point standings, and trails Greg Biffle by seven.

“I hear Kyle Busch slapped the wall on Sunday,” Harvick said. “Just as I suspected, it didn’t leave a mark.”

4. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Earnhardt continued his solid start to the season, taking third in the Auto Club 400. He improved three places in the point standings, and now trails Greg Biffle by 17.

“I was hoping the race could have been restarted,” Earnhardt said. “But, when it rains, it pours. As someone who’s riding a 134-race winless streak, I know that better than anyone. Oh yes, they call me ‘The Streak.’”

5. Jimmie Johnson: Rain showers salvaged what could have been a disastrous day for Johnson at Auto Club Speedway. After the caution flew when rain started falling on lap 123, Johnson pitted, and the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevy started smoking soon after. The race was red-flagged on lap 129, with Johnson’s car still spewing smoke.

“If you ask NASCAR,” Johnson said, “they’d say those fumes were from the ‘smoking gun.’ I say the heat that created the smoke could be used to cook ‘crow’ before you eat it.

“We feel fortunate to finish 10th, and fortunate to have our points reinstated. We’re thrilled to be the first beneficiaries of NASCAR’s ‘Boys, have it back’ policy.”

6. Matt Kenseth: After a penalty for a loose tire in the pits, Kenseth and the No. 17 EcoBoost Ford limped away from Auto Club Speedway with a 16th-place finish. He fell three spots to sixth in the point standings and trails Greg Biffle by 22 points.

“This is one time,” Kenseth said, “that I’m sorry to say ‘We were on a roll.’ We missed our setup so bad, tires were trying to escape from being attached to the car. I can’t say I was impressed with my pit crews’ performance, but the Three Stooges were.”

7. Martin Truex, Jr.: Truex finished eighth at Auto Club Speedway, recording his third top-10 result of the year. He now stands fifth in the Sprint Cup point standings, 20 out of first.

“Not everyone believed I’d be in the top 10 in points after five races,” Truex said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say, “When will this end?” And that was before it started to rain inFontana.”

8. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin started on the pole in California as Joe Gibbs Racing swept the front row, with Kyle Busch on the outside. Hamlin was in second before pitting during the race’s only caution, which flew for rain on lap 123. He finished 11th after the race was called on lap 129.

“Tony Stewart threw the fake on me,” Hamlin said. “And, like Jeff Gordon’s gas man, I got taken for a ride. Ironically, I got hung out to dry. They say there’s a sucker born every minute. By that reasoning, I should have a twin, or, better yet, a ‘dupe­-licate.’”

9. Kyle Busch: Despite scraping the wall late in the race, Busch finished second, earning his first top 5 of the year. He led 80 laps on the day, but lost the lead when slower traffic allowed Tony Stewart to pass him on lap 85.

“Without the rain,” Busch said, “I’m not sure we could have finished second. The rain was my friend. In fact, the rain may be my only friend.”

10. Carl Edwards: Edwards opted to stay out when the caution flew for rain on lap 123, and his decision proved to be the right one. Edwards earned a fifth-place finish when rain halted the race shortly thereafter on lap 129. It was his second top-5 finish of the year, and vaulted him three places in the point standings to 12th.

“The No. 99 Subway Ford was good enough to win,” Edwards said, “but the rain prevented us from proving that. My car was really fast, possibly faster than the speed of sound. But once the rain came, my shot at winning was gone, having disappeared faster than the ‘speed’ of Mayfield.”

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