Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.
1. Carl Edwards: After a tire issue left him floundering mid-pack for much of Sunday’s TUMS Fast Relief 500, Edwards delivered a gutsy charge to the front late in the race. He salvaged a ninth-place finish and maintained his points lead, which is now eight over Tony Stewart.
[media-credit name=”Barry Albert” align=”alignright” width=”249″][/media-credit]“So, Stewart says I ‘better be worried?’” Edwards said. “He’s right. I am worried. Worried that I won’t be in first place when the Chase ends. But that’s better than worrying that I’ll still be in second when the Chase ends.”
2. Tony Stewart: Stewart nearly fell a lap down midway through the TUMS Fast Relief 500, but battled back and passed Jimmie Johnson on lap 498 to take his third win of the Chase. Stewart now trails Carl Edwards by two points in the Sprint Cup standings.
“The Cup championship is so close,” Stewart said, “I can taste it. I’m not sure what it tastes like, but it smells like victory.
“Paul Menard wouldn’t push me to the win at Talladega. Ironically, his refusal to do so pushed me to the win at Martinsville. Supposed ‘team orders’ played no part in this outcome. Last week at Talladega, it was ‘team orders’ that reeked of ‘team odors.’ Something is rotten in Denmark, and at Roush Fenway, and at Richard Childress Racing.”
3. Kevin Harvick: Harvick finished fourth at Martinsville and clipped five points from Carl Edwards’ points lead. Edwards lead Tony Stewart by eight, with Harvick 21 behind Edwards.
“That’s my sixth top-10 finish in seven Chase races,” Harvick said. “Despite those finishes, I still find myself hovering just outside the lead. It seems I’m ‘spinning my wheels,’ unfortunately not as a result of winning a race.”
4. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth finished 31st at Martinsville after slamming the wall on lap 464 after cutting a tire. He later tangled with Brian Vickers, spinning the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota only to have Vickers retaliate later. Kenseth fell from second to fifth in the point standings, losing 22 points to points leader Carl Edwards, who finished ninth.
“Brian Vickers is hell on wheels,” Kenseth said. “Red Bull comes in a can. You know what else comes in a can? ‘Black Flag.’ Oddly enough, I’m jealous of Vickers. Why? Because he did so much ‘trading paint’ on Sunday that he had new sponsors by race’s end.”
5. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson led on the final restart with three laps to go at Martinsville, but couldn’t hold off the charging Tony Stewart, who slipped by one lap later. Johnson took the runner-up spot and improved one place in the point standings to sixth, 43 behind Carl Edwards.
“Brian Vickers cost me the race,” Johnson said. “He just had to retaliate against Matt Kenseth. That caution killed me. Vickers has no business intentionally spinning cars when he can do it just fine by accident.
“As for my title hopes, I’m not conceding anything. Hopefully, something strange will happen. Ideally, something stranger than me not winning the Sprint Cup title.”
6. Brad Keselowski: Keselowski saw a sure top-10 finish turn into a disappointing 17th after his No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge was collected in a wreck with two laps to go. Dale Earnhardt made contact with Denny Hamlin, sending the No. 11 into Keselowski’s Dodge. Keselowski is now fourth in the point standings, 27 behind Carl Edwards.
“Brian Vickers hit a lot of cars on Sunday,” Keselowski said, “and it appears he ‘rubbed off’ on Earnhardt as well.”
7. Kyle Busch: Busch led 126 laps at Martinsville and was headed for at worst a top-5 finish before he was wrecked on lap 464 when Matt Kenseth cut a tire in front of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota. Busch finished 27th, seven laps down, and fell to seventh in the point standings, a distant 57 out of first.
“It’s hard to believe I was leading the standings before the Chase started,” Busch said. “What’s much more believable? That I’m not leading the standings after the Chase ends. I could blame it on luck, or fate, my own deficiencies as a driver, or, better yet, ‘un-lead-ed’ fuel.”
8. Jeff Gordon: Gordon led 113 laps in the TUMS Fast Relief 500, sporting the best car on the track for much of the race. Unfortunately, his handling faded late, and his chance for a win fell to the wayside. He finished third and remained in tenth in the point standings, 76 out of first.
“Apparently,” Gordon said, “2011 is not a good season for present five-time Sprint Cup champions, or future five-time champions, for that matter.”
9. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Earnhardt finished seventh at Martinsville, registering only his second top-10 result of the Chase. He is ninth in the Sprint Cup point standings, 73 out of first.
“I’m not ready to call our 2011 season a failure,” Earnhardt said. “That is, unless I go four more races without a victory, thereby clinching a winless season. Only then will I call our year a ‘total’ loss.”
10. Kurt Busch: Busch finished 14th at Martinsville, and since winning at Dover on October 9th, has not posted a top-10 finish. He now sits eighth in the point standings, 58 out of first.
“Despite a ho-hum 14th-place finish,” Busch said, “there was reason to celebrate. I spun Ryan Newman and didn’t get punched.”