Round two of the Chase is in the books and, just like round one, it ended with Tony Stewart in Victory Lane after a fuel mileage finish. It also ended with Denny Hamlin too far down the running order to even sniff the lead, an empty tank of Sunoco sending his 2011 title bid straight to the trash bin. Add polesitter Ryan Newman to that list, too; a tire problem during the final stretch of the race left him off the lead lap and a distant 11th in the standings.
So then… there were ten, with the final Chase results more scrambled than your daily Jumble. Brad Keselowski, an afterthought at Loudon back in July continued his strong run over the last few weeks by coming home in second place. Four-time champion Jeff Gordon overcame a near disastrous bout with running out of gas to notch fourth, far better than his five-time champion teammate. 18th in the race, Mr. Johnson had a difficult day that included a much publicized discussion with his crew chief about the latter’s motivational speaking capabilities.
What an ugly, publicized marital spat… but will Jimmie Johnson’s lowest position in the Chase standings cost him dearly when it comes to our poll? Further up, did Stewart’s second victory in a row move him solidly in position to claim the top spot? Or was Carl Edwards able to retain the number one position with his ho-hum, workmanlike eighth-place finish? Check out this week’s Top 15 Power Rankings to see where the experts place your favorite with just eight races left to go on the year.
|*FRONTSTRETCH TOP 15 POWER RANKINGS: SEPTEMBER 28th*|
|*Rank*||*Driver (First Place Votes)*||*Votes*||*Last Week*|
|*1*||*Tony Stewart (3)*||113||4|
|*Dead Weight* (Definition) – 1. The unrelieved weight of a heavy, motionless mass. 2. An oppressive burden or difficulty. 3. Tony Stewart’s ex-girlfriend. 4. What Tony Stewart’s ex-girlfriends call Tony Stewart… just not in public, in front of 4,235,000 TV viewers.|
|*2*||*Carl Edwards (1)*||109||1|
|Cousin Carl has been quiet, but don’t be fooled; he’s positioned to make things difficult for Stewart and Gordon as the 2011 title Chase shifts into high gear.|
|*3*||*Kevin Harvick (1)*||106||2|
|Can Harvick win the title, lose three Nationwide and Truck teams gracefully _and_ save relationships with DeLana and his pit crew – all in one three-month period? Somebody buy this reality script and put it on BRAVO.|
|Still holding that Cinderella slipper as that Chase clock comes ever closer to midnight… and still waiting for that thing to turn into a pumpkin (or pumpkin beer, for the Miller Lite car). Are we about to experience one of the biggest championship upsets in NASCAR history?|
|*5*||*Jeff Gordon (1)*||96||T – 9|
|His team may have had a strategic blunder on Sunday, but if Gordon can turn a bad break into a fourth-place finish he’s looking really strong for championship number five.|
|Not sure which is more surprising this week: that Kenseth took a spun-out, beat-up race car on a track he hates to finish sixth – or that it took him nearly 40 years to figure out a bra strap!|
|*7*||*Kyle Busch*||78||T – 7|
|New Kyle is still wheeling the No. 18, but there are some rumblings just below the surface that could erupt with another “bad” race.|
|Chad Knaus should show up in a cheerleader outfit at Dover just to show Jimmie how much he’s trying.|
|*9*||*Dale Earnhardt, Jr.*||63||T – 9|
|Got nothing to lose in this Chase to the point he’ll get Lasik eye surgery with 20/20 vision… or blow two tires trying to win. He’s proved it!|
|The saga continues for the No. 22 team, and for Steve Addington, another therapy session begins.|
|Cedar Point has fewer peaks and valleys than a Greg Biffle racing season.|
|*12*||*Ryan Newman*||48||T – 7|
|Oh, to be the teammate of the hottest man in the sport when you drove like hell for a 25th-place finish.|
|Nothing like a company filing 60-day closure papers to get that driver up on the wheel and fighting for his future.|
|Making as much money as possible now to keep up an extravagant, unemployed lifestyle later.|
|Has to be thankful that he isn’t going to have to wear a GoDaddy.com bikini next season to earn a paycheck.|
|*Dropped Out*: Clint Bowyer (12), Mark Martin (13), Denny Hamlin (14).|
|*Others Receiving Votes:* Clint Bowyer (33), Juan Pablo Montoya (29), Denny Hamlin (23), Regan Smith (23), Martin Truex, Jr. (15), A.J. Allmendinger (13), Mark Martin (11), Jeff Burton (10), Joey Logano (4), Marcos Ambrose (1).|
|*Writer Voters Include:* Phillip Allaway, Tom Bowles, Bryan Keith, Tony Lumbis, Mike Neff and Garrett Horton.|
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