NASCAR Top-10 Power Rankings: Chicagoland

Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.

[media-credit name=”Bill Gutweiler” align=”alignright” width=”200″][/media-credit]1. Tony Stewart: Stewart leaped to the forefront in the Chase For The Cup, leading the final 30 laps to win the Geico 400 at Chicagoland. He shot seven places in the point standings to second, and trails Kevin Harvick by seven.

“Just days ago,” Stewart said, “I declared several drivers as favorites to win the Cup. My name wasn’t on the list. Was I sandbagging? Unlike some drivers, I can only play dumb. But it’s obvious I went from ‘pretender’ to contender in a hurry, even faster than Brad Keselowski earlier this year.
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“But of all people, Harvick should appreciate the intricacies of getting every last drop out of an engine. His Craftsman Truck team made plenty of ‘dry runs,’ racing despite a lack of funding.”

2. Kevin Harvick: Harvick finished second to Tony Stewart at Chicago, running out of time as many others ran out of fuel. Harvick took sole possession of the points lead as Kyle Busch ran out of fuel with one lap to go. Harvick now leads Stewart by seven points and Carl Edwards by ten.

“I was running on fumes,” Harvick said, “so a caution wouldn’t even have helped me. So, it helps to have gas in your tank, or a teammate in your pocket. Luckily, we didn’t need Paul Menard in order for the No. 29 Budweiser car to finish strong.”

3. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson led 39 laps at Chicagoland, and was running third when his fuel tank ran dry entering the final lap. He still finished tenth, and fell three places in the point standings to eighth, 16 behind Kevin Harvick.

“Tony Stewart’s not the only driver who ‘tanked,’” Johnson said. “However, he wisely did his tanking before the race. I still contend that I’ll ‘coast’ to my sixth Sprint Cup title; I just didn’t think it would be this soon.”

4. Carl Edwards: Edwards had a solid start to the Chase, finishing fourth in the Geico 400 after leading 39 laps. He improved two spots in the point standings, and now trails Kevin Harvick by ten points.

“What do you know?” Edwards said. “There’s a caveman giving the ‘Gentlemen, start your engines’ command. And Matt Kenseth says I’m the only ‘Neanderthal’ in racing.”

5. Kyle Busch: Busch’s title hopes took a hit at Chicagoland Speedway, running out of fuel on the last lap to see a top-10 result turn into a 22nd. He tumbled eight places in the point standings to ninth, 19 out of first.

“Now I can say I’ve ‘run out of gas early’ in the Chase,” Busch said, “literally and figuratively. If form holds, I’ll next run out of steam, then patience.”

6. Kurt Busch: Busch led the most laps in the Geico 400, 64, and came home sixth, despite being generally unhappy with his car for much of the day Monday. The No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge was good when it counted, and Busch is now fourth in the point standings, 11 out of first.

“I never stop complaining,” Busch said. “Even after a top-10 finish in a fuel mileage race, I wasn’t happy, and I let the No. 22 hear about it on the radio. They were shocked, that after 400 miles of radio belligerence, I still didn’t run out of ‘sass.’

“You may have seen me throw out the first pitch at the Chicago Cubs game on Monday. Silly me. I thought they asked me to throw out the first ‘bitch.’”

7. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Earnhardt posted his best finish since a second in Kansas in June with a third at Chicagoland, buoyed by the fuel mileage problems of several Chase contenders. Earnhardt moved up four spots to fifth in the points, and trails Kevin Harvick by 13.

“I’m impressed by my fuel conservation abilities,” Earnhardt said. “And so are my fans. Junior Nation loves it when Junior rations.”

8. Brad Keselowski: Keselowski’s Chase debut was a success, as he piloted the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge to a fifth in the Geico 400, his sixth top-6 finish in the last seven races. He is now tied for sixth in the Sprint Cup point standings, 14 out of first.

“I’ll take a firth-place finish,” Keselowski said. “Unlike the former driver of the Miller Lite car, I can’t complain. I know when to shut up, and when to put up. Confidence is the name of the game in the Chase, and I feel I’m as talented as any one else. Maybe that’s youth talking. That makes me too young to know ‘better.’”

9. Ryan Newman: Like many, Newman ran out of gas on the final lap, but coasted to a still-solid eighth in the Geico 400 as Stewart-Haas teammate Tony Stewart took the victory. Newman is tied for sixth in the point standings, 14 out of first.

“Next up on the schedule isNew Hampshire,” Newman said. “As you know, Me and Tony finished one-two at New Hampshire back in July. Hopefully, we can repeat that. Most drivers fear the Newman-Stewart one-two punch, especially Joey Logano and Kurt Busch.”

10. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth had the best car for much of the day, but fuel worries forced him to back off the throttle near race’s end. Nevertheless, he ran out of gas with a lap to go, and with a push from J.J. Yeley, was scored with an eighth-place finish until NASCAR ruled the push illegal. Kenseth was credited with a 21st-place finish, and dropped six places in the standings to tenth.

“I couldn’t go ‘all out,’” Kenseth said, “but, ironically, I ended up going ‘all out’ anyway.”

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