The Monster Mile took it easy on equipment this weekend, with only one car not finishing the race because of a crash and 20 winding up on the lead lap. However, those who struggled on the one-mile, concrete oval also happened to be some of NASCAR’s biggest names. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.? “You found a fine time to leave me, loose wheel…” Tony Stewart? The Smoke was coming out of his ears en route to 25th. Denny Hamlin? Well… we should be used to his ugly, unimpressive 18th-place finishes during a lost season.
In the meantime, Kurt Busch hopes an old school chemistry with Steve Addington has been found all over again. The duo actually had combined to get the car improving over the course of an event, enough to beat Jimmie Johnson on the final two restarts and hang on to win the race. Right behind them came Carl Edwards, who shot himself in the foot with a pit road speeding penalty that opened the door for an upset. Cousin Carl was third, not first when the No. 99 Ford was perhaps the car to beat on speed. Further back, Kevin Harvick brought his ride home in 10th, good enough to keep him tied with Edwards for first place in the points going forward.
So while Edwards flashed some brilliance, surging back into a podium finish was it enough to move him past Stewart for the top spot in our poll? Or are Stewart’s two wins enough to overcome a lackluster performance and keep him in the number one position? Also, how much did Johnson’s second-place run bump him up in the voter’s minds? Read the Top 15 Power Rankings this week to find out how the experts are shaking down this 43-car field with only seven races left to go.
|FRONTSTRETCH TOP 15 POWER RANKINGS: OCTOBER 5th|
|Rank||Driver (First Place Votes)||Votes||Last Week|
|1||Carl Edwards (4)||116||2|
|The difference between Cousin Carl and Kurt Busch is the in-race meltdown over the pit road speeding penalty contained the words, “Aw, Shucks” instead of “Monkey @##$ing a Football.”|
|Trying to kill ‘em with consistency, hoping 10th every week is going to be enough. News flash for the Closer: it’s not. They’ve got to start leading laps, pronto because someone’s going to start winning races and inch ahead.|
|3||Tony Stewart (1)||98||1|
|Does it make it OK if you tell everyone for the entire week leading up to the race that you’re going to suck?|
|4||Jimmie Johnson (1)||93||8|
|Somehow, in the midst of all those people digging his grave Jimmie Johnson is sitting at the funeral home, waiting for a Halloween points lead scare once they finish the burial and come back.|
|Somehow, someway has hung in there through a Chase where no one’s stood out. But Kansas needs to offer a kickstart because there’s also no margin for error here.|
|Not sure if you can call a 20th-place finish championship caliber, but it was enough to keep them in the conversation which is more than the other Wild Card team is doing.|
|Did you know Kurt Busch came out in public yesterday and called Steve Addington his “best friend” on NASCAR Now? Man, some friendship they have, right? That quote reminds us, we have to call our buddies and ask them out on Friday for some quality verbal abuse, temper tantrum and hissy fit time at the mall.|
|Heading into the heavy intermediate portion of the Chase with this guy still in contention could make the playoff a bit more interesting.|
|Still flying so far under the radar that he’s rubbing on the ground.|
|Putting his best foot forward as employees all around him start jumping ship with pink slips coming. It’s like a bad dream, right? Or his life 12 months ago.|
|11||Dale Earnhardt, Jr.||47||9|
|Sucking less than Newman and Hamlin after three races. That’s about it.|
|Trying to sightsee the front of the field as much as possible before he watches it zoom away from him driving a Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota in 2012.|
|The most airtime for a seventh-place finishing non-Chaser since the current format began in 2004.|
|What a difference two months makes.|
|When the guy’s taking a bankrupt Nationwide Series ride out of the blue, to keep his status intact for 2012 you know the Sprint Cup opportunities are few and far between.|
|Dropped Out: Greg Biffle (11), David Ragan (14).|
|Others Receiving Votes: David Ragan (26), Marcos Ambrose (22), Greg Biffle (20), Juan Pablo Montoya (18), Denny Hamlin (18), Jeff Burton (17), Regan Smith (15), Martin Truex, Jr. (4), Paul Menard (4), Joey Logano (3), David Reutimann (3).|
|Writer Voters Include: Phillip Allaway, Tom Bowles, Bryan Keith, Tony Lumbis, Mike Neff and Garrett Horton.|
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