Sunday’s racing (Oct. 24) at the small, half-mile paperclip in Martinsville was truly spectacular, reminding us why it’s the only racetrack remaining on NASCAR’s schedule every year since the sport’s inaugural season of 1949. Polesitter Denny Hamlin was certainly not the best car all day, but he was the best when it counted, mounting an impressive comeback that included 460 circuits in between laps led to take the victory.
For the rest of the afternoon, the RCR cars had been the class of the field, running strong until team infighting might have assisted with them not taking home the checkered flag that was well within their grasp. Will the heavyweight battle between Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick carry over to Talladega this Sunday? That’s one of many surprising developments we’ll be following from a weekend at the short track, including Dale Earnhardt Jr. leading 90 laps while Ken Schrader returned to the Cup Series to lead seven circuits himself.
But as much as things change at this type of oval… the more they stay the same. For when the smoke cleared on a difficult day, it was the fifth-place finisher who held on to his precarious but familiar position atop the Sprint Cup mountain despite not leading a lap. Jimmie Johnson‘s points lead was cut to six, however, leaving Hamlin looming large in the rearview mirror with the equivalent of Russian Roulette at Talladega dead ahead.
Was Johnson’s “rough” Sunday, his 17th straight top 10 at Martinsville enough to drop him from the top spot in our Power Rankings? Or did Hamlin’s sudden resurgence translate into a move forward to first? Further back, how much did the invisible performance of Tony Stewart hurt him in the voters’ eyes? And were Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle simply able to hold onto a spot in the poll after terrible runs? Check out this week’s Top 15 and find out if your driver got to take home their own version of a grandfather clock… or if they were stuck sucking down TUMS after one too many hot dogs.
|FRONTSTRETCH TOP-15 POWER RANKINGS: OCTOBER 27, 2010|
|Rank||Driver (First-Place Votes)||Votes||Last Week|
|1||Jimmie Johnson (5)||194||1|
|Is a fifth-place finish enough to say “Five Straight Titles” four weeks from now? Certainly not with Mr. Hamlin breathing down your neck and Mr. Gordon wanting to spot you a punch in the face.|
|2||Denny Hamlin (4)||194||2|
|Pulling his best Joe Namath impression by following through on a bold, underdog prediction. All that was missing from a shocking Martinsville come-from-behind victory is drinking too much champagne and kissing Suzy Kolber on TV later that night.|
|3||Kevin Harvick (1)||180||3|
|Finally has something in common with Kyle Busch: they have both managed to piss off Jeff Burton.|
|Should he escape the carnage at Talladega and the Nos. 11 or 48 don’t – he will actually be right back in the title hunt.|
|There was a lot of Miller Lite and some awkward-looking ’80s sunglasses thrown out of the Gordon family household this week. And someone says the Hendrick drivers are a bunch of “pretty boys.” On a side note, how much longer is this guy going to let J.J. push him around before he loses it? Five years? Six? Seven?|
|With the way Roush cars run at Talladega, he has to be cussing out that broken distributor at California. Would haves, could haves, should haves.|
|Talladega’s coming up, which will end up just making for your typical four-win, 13th-place points standing season for McMurray. Wait… what?|
|Virginia State Police have issued an APB for Stewart after his invisible performance last Sunday.|
|Has been in position to legitimately win three races in the Chase – but is just about completely out of it. Maybe that’s why he was so cranky at Kevin.|
|Tell us again how Jeff Gordon‘s getting the AARP sponsorship instead of this guy? Someone needs to organize a trade with GoDaddy.|
|Amazing to think that at this time seven months ago, Kenseth was just one ill-timed bump on Gordon from scoring a win. Now, he couldn’t even see the front with X-ray vision, Bowyer’s “illegal” rear end and a little bit too much Crown Royal.|
|Hoping Busch isn’t thinking about going into politics after NASCAR… because he is a horrible liar.|
|Bringing his Halloween treat bag with him to ‘Dega, knowing fans still mistakenly confuse him for a child and hand out free candy.|
|Look at it this way, folks: at least he’s not Bowyer.|
|Was not complaining about this engine on Sunday compared to last week – especially considering on Thursday, he didn’t even have one.|
|Dropped Out: Clint Bowyer (14), Ryan Newman (15)|
|Also Receiving Votes: Clint Bowyer (54), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (45), Juan Pablo Montoya (42), Ryan Newman (35), David Ragan (22), Brad Keselowski (20), Paul Menard (16), Kasey Kahne (11), Regan Smith (7), David Reutimann (6), Ken Schrader (5), Robby Gordon (5), Marcos Ambrose (5), Sam Hornish Jr. (3), Martin Truex Jr. (1)|
|Writer Voting Panel: Phil Allaway, Brock Beard, Thomas Bowles, Bryan Davis Keith, Tony Lumbis, Mike Neff, Vito Pugliese, Kurt Smith, Garrett Horton and Matt Taliaferro|
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.