NASCAR Top-10 Power Rankings: Daytona

Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.

1. Kevin Harvick: Harvick led 16 laps and finished seventh in the Coke Zero 400, posting his tenth top-10 result of the year. He overtook Carl Edwards, who struggled in finishing 37th, atop the Sprint Cup point standings, and now leads Edwards by five.

“The car says ‘King Of Beers,’” Harvick said. “But the point standings say ‘King Of Peers.’ If this is what a handshake with Kyle Busch gets me, I can only begin to imagine the possibilities, but I’ll try not to for the sake of my manhood. But, the points lead in July is much like an insincere handshake—meaningless.”

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2. Carl Edwards: Edwards No. 99 Ford, paired up with teammate Greg Biffle, got loose in the draft on lap 23, and Edwards spun into the inside retaining wall. The damage to the car’s rear required lengthy repairs, and Edwards finished 37th, 26 laps down. He dropped from first to second in the point standings, and is now five behind Kevin Harvick.

“The damage to the No. 99 Subway caused exhaust fumes to enter the car,” Edwards said. “That was simply more than I could handle. No, not the temperature, but the jokes about whether or not I wanted it ‘toasted.’

“But my trouble with the ‘back end’ allowed Kevin Harvick to ‘back in’ to the points lead. That’s fine with me. Now, without the pressure of the points lead, I can concentrate on contract talks. I may have been ‘un-seated;’ now, I can proceed in earnest with getting ‘re-seated.’”

3. Kyle Busch: Busch fell back from the front after contact from Jeff Gordon damaged the No. 18 JGR Toyota with three laps to go at Daytona. Busch restarted 18th after pitting for repairs, and he picked his way through late-race carnage to deliver a fifth-place finish. Busch improved two spots in the point standings to third, and trails Kevin Harvick by 10.

“Surprisingly,” Busch said, “I drafted well with Joey Logano. Our cars ran extremely well nose to tail. What do you get when you pair the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota and the No. 18 Interstate Battery car together? ‘Domestic Battery.’

“And speaking of other ‘unlikely pairs,’ how about the right hands of Kevin Harvick and I? Other unlikely pairs? My brother Kurt and a happy wife. Red Bull crew members and political correctness. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and victory. Richard Childress and a 2011 without probation.”

[media-credit id=22 align=”alignright” width=”235″][/media-credit]4. Jimmie Johnson: As he had in April’s win at Talladega, Johnson hooked up with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the draft at Daytona, and the duo look poised to challenge up front as the laps wound down in the Coke Zero 400. But after Johnson pitted during a caution with two laps to go, and Earnhardt didn’t, the tandem was separated. Instead, Johnson hooked up with Jeff Gordon’s No. 24, but the No. 48 was collected in a last lap crash that dropped him to a finish of 20th.

“I hear that Earnhardt fans are livid at me for leaving Dale hanging,” Johnson said. “It seems that Junior Nation was unhappy with the state of the ‘union,’ and they let me hear about it. But I fired back on my Twitter account, where I essentially gave Junior Nation the finger. Call it the ‘Tweet-y bird.’

“But let’s be serious. How is Jimmie Johnson pushing Junior advantageous to me? I’m pushing Junior. That means I’m behind him. That in itself means I have no chance of winning.”

5. Kurt Busch: Busch’s No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge suffered damage on a lap 163 restart, and after repairs, he was 26th in the second green-white-checkered restart on lap 168. On the final turn, a wild crash ensued as the field roared to the checkered. Busch, with the help of his spotter, avoided damage this time, and came home 14th. He remained fourth in the point standings, and is 16 out of first.

“At Daytona,” Busch said, “as in relationships, it’s all about finding the right partner. And, in both cases, it’s easy to get out of line, which is what happens when you lose a draft partner, for example, or kiss another woman in Victory Lane. Often, it all boils down to timing. Squeezing through a multi-car crash: good timing. Announcing your marriage is ending after publicly kissing another woman: bad timing.”

6. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth pushed Roush Fenway Racing teammate David Ragan to the win at Daytona, and Kenseth claimed the runner-up spot, his ninth top-5 finish of the year. Ragan and Kenseth were a formidable tandem all night, combining to lead 29 laps. Kenseth moved up one spot to fifth in the point standings, and is 22 out of first.

“With apologies to NASCAR’s drug policy,” Kenseth said, “and even more apologies to the great Curtis Mayfield, I’m proud to say to David Ragan, ‘I’m your pusher, man.’ Ragan was driving the UPS car, but I delivered the package.

“There was a lot of talk at Daytona about drivers leaving their draft partners, but with Crown Royal’s sponsorship leaving the No. 17 car, it appears I’m the one that really was hung out to ‘dry.’”

7. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Earnhardt lost drafting partner Jimmie Johnson when Johnson pitted during a caution with three laps to go in regulation at Daytona. On the restart, Earnhardt resumed without Johnson’s push, and, after getting collected in a final-turn crash, Earnhardt finished 19th. He remained seventh in the Sprint Cup point standings, and now trails Kevin Harvick by 52.

“I was enjoying the push from the No. 48,” Earnhardt said. “Then, with little warning, he was gone, causing a great deal of confusion and leaving my race in disarray. It was a case of ‘helper skelter.’

“As you know, I’m not a big fan of the type of racing prevalent at Daytona now. It’s a lot like a restrictor plate—it sucks.”

8. Jeff Gordon: Gordon survived a spin with three laps to go at Daytona, miraculously keeping his car off the wall, then hooked up in the draft with Kyle Busch for a charge that netted Gordon a sixth. It was Gordon’s seventh top-10 finish of the year, and he advanced one place to eighth in the point standings.

“The two Red Bull cars checked up,” Gordon said, “leaving me, much like Red Bull drivers themselves, nowhere to go.”

9. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin spent most of Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 paired up with Ryan Newman’s No. 39, and the duo was in the mix near the end. But Newman got loose on the final lap, upsetting their two-car draft, and Hamlin fell back before being collected in a multi-car wreck. He finished 13th, and is now 11th in the point standings, 91 out of first.

“Congratulations to David Ragan for a job well done,” Hamlin said. “That was an unexpected win for the No. 6 car. As the driver of the Fed Ex car, I’m contractually obligated not to mention Ragan’s primary sponsor. So I’ll just say his victory was a huge ‘UPS-et.’”

10. Tony Stewart: Stewart rebounded from a late-race accident to finish 11th at Daytona, leading one lap for a valuable bonus point. He remained 12th in the Sprint Cup point standings, and is now 92 out of first.

“I’ve vowed to police NASCAR tracks and take care of anyone who gets out of line,” Stewart said. “In other words, I plan to be judge, jury, and executioner, but not necessarily in that order.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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