Texas Motor Speedway became Denny Hamlin’s personal playground on Sunday (Nov. 7), when he unseated Jimmie Johnson from the top spot in the standings for the first time this late in the season since 2005. Johnson was plagued with pit road issues, which led to the No. 24 team moving over to pit him – a move which has now been made permanent for the rest of 2010, a make-or-break decision with a record fifth straight championship on life support.
While Johnson was having his difficulties, Jeff Gordon was having a dustup with Jeff Burton that resulted in fisticuffs on the backstretch after Burton pile-drove Gordon into the outside wall under caution. All of that excitement took place while Joey Logano was having another strong, under-the-radar run in the Chase, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was not mentioned during the entire broadcast, and Matt Kenseth nearly made a mockery of this whole thing with a turn 2 bid for the win at the finish that nearly wound up wrecking half the field.
Did Hamlin’s run to the top of the standings translate into a move over Johnson to the top spot in our Power Rankings? Or was Kevin Harvick able to sneak in and move up past Johnson with his quiet sixth-place run on Sunday? A little further back, were Greg Biffle and Mark Martin able to make up ground in the poll after their strong showings in Texas? And how much did Kyle Busch’s misdirected middle finger cost him in the voters’ eyes this week?
Check out the latest Top 15 to see how the field stacks up with just two races left to impress our experts before the final poll of 2010.
|FRONTSTRETCH TOP-15 POWER RANKINGS: NOVEMBER 10, 2010|
|Rank||Driver (First-Place Votes)||Votes||Last Week|
|1||Denny Hamlin (7)||196||2|
|We wouldn’t go so far as to start screaming “The Witch Is Dead! The Witch Is Dead!” like Hamlin and Mike Ford seem to be doing this week. But there’s no doubt about it, they threw water on that Lowe’s Chevrolet and it is melting right in front of our eyes.|
|2||Jimmie Johnson (2)||169||1|
|Kobalt commercial getting written for December: “Whatcha doin’, Jimmie?” “Filing divorce papers after you gave away my team, Chad. I’ll see you in court.”|
|3||Kevin Harvick (1)||168||3|
|Thanks for playing, Kevin. But we have a lovely Chase for the Championship parting gift: here is your set of Ginsu knives that Clint Bowyer‘s crew can stab you with after Homestead.|
|If only this team had second gear, the Chase would be just an 18-point race right now. But if there wasn’t any mystery debris, it wouldn’t have mattered. Talk about the story that got swept under the rug this week.|
|With one home-run swing, Kenseth nearly won his first race in 68 tries or threw the Chase into ultimate chaos trying, inches away from a multi-car wreck that would have decimated the field. When you put things in perspective like that, well, a second-place finish was kinda disappointing, wasn’t it?|
|Don’t look now, but the current NASCAR AARP rep might be getting that ol’ feeling back.|
|You know things are back on the right track when this kid says “Heck yeah!” and “Cool!” in his post-race interviews instead of trying to passive-aggressively insult Harvick’s wife.|
|Had Gordon and Burton been allowed to go at it like Cale and Donnie, would Ward have came out of nowhere like Bobby did to assist? We would pay money to hear him say, “Hus face kept hittin’ mah feeyust.”|
|First race penalty has had a net effect of costing him six positions in points, but hasn’t altered the championship outcome in any form or fashion.|
|Here’s Busch’s response to Sunday’s rules enforcement, in an exclusive interview edited out of respect for our younger audiences: “I… NASCAR… dead… ESPN… (the rest was lost after he slammed the microphone smack into our reporter’s face)”|
|Trivia question! What do the AFLAC duck and Edwards have in common? Answer: The same number of Sprint Cup wins since Feb. 2009. Ouch.|
|The reports of Smoke’s demise have NOT been greatly exaggerated.|
|Wonder what Harvick will do if Menard’s pit crew is faster next year?|
|Who would’ve thought with three races to go, the RCR driver in The Chase that would completely lose his faculties and go all Bronson on us would be Burton? God help us if Martin ever goes off.|
|For Allmendinger’s sake, we seriously hope that RPM remains a sustainable and viable race team in 2011 and beyond. He’s earned it.|
|Dropped Out: Jamie McMurray (13), Juan Pablo Montoya (15)|
|Also Receiving Votes: Jamie McMurray (53), Juan Pablo Montoya (52), Kurt Busch (49), David Reutimann (41), David Ragan (28), Marcos Ambrose (24), Ryan Newman (21), Trevor Bayne (15), Regan Smith (13), Kasey Kahne (12), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (9), Elliott Sadler (5), Brad Keselowski (4), Aric Almirola (4), Martin Truex Jr. (2), David Gilliland (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.
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