[Reader Jeffrey Boswell brings us a set of post-Vegas power rankings, along with a bit of commentary and hypothetical driver quotes. Offer up your thoughts below. --JB]
1. Jimmie Johnson: With a crafty four-tire pit stop during the race's final caution, Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe's team outsmarted the competition once again. Johnson's full set of fresh tires allowed him to catch and pass teammate Jeff Gordon, who opted for two tires. Johnson's win in the Shelby American 427 moved him up seven spots to fifth in the points, and also made him NASCAR's all-time wins leader at 1.5 mile tracks.
What Johnson should have said:
"How often can you say you ‘had no luck' in Vegas and still came out a winner? I called everyone's two tires and raised them two more ... The Lowe's team goes into every race with the intention of winning. We always anticipate victory. Suffice it so say my wife isn't the only one ‘expecting' on this team."
2. Kevin Harvick: For the second week in a row, Harvick finished runner-up to Jimmie Johnson, this time in Las Vegas in a race in which luck played no part in Johnson's win. Although winless for the year, Harvick and the No. 29 Chevrolet team served notice to Johnson that they'll be on Johnson's tail all year.
What Harvick should have said:
"Everybody knows Kevin Harvick pulls no punches. Literally and figuratively. I like to speak as frankly as John Mayer tweets. On that note, in regards to Johnson, if you take the ‘lucky' away from ‘lucky S.O.B,' you still get ‘S.O.B.'"
3. Clint Bowyer: Bowyer opted to stay on the track while the leaders pitted during the final caution on lap 230 of the Shelby American 427. Crew chief Shane Wilson's gamble paid off. Bowyer led three laps after the restart, and the track position helped secure an eighth-place finish, Bowyer's third top-10 result of the year. He trails Richard Childress teammate Kevin Harvick by 47 in the point standings.
What Bowyer should have said:
"The No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevy was again strong. And speaking of the Hamburger Helper mascot, I've got to ‘hand' it to Shane for making such a gutsy call. He knows when to gamble; I know when to drive. Like Lady GaGa, he showed his ‘Poker Face,' like Burt Reynolds, I drove like ‘Stroker Ace.'"
4. Mark Martin: After spending much of the day hovering around the top 15, Martin made a late charge to the front, finishing fourth at Las Vegas to put a decisive Hendrick Motorsports stamp on the Shelby American 427. Teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon finished first and third, respectively, and collectively led 237 of 267 laps. Martin jumped three spots in the point standings to third, and trails Kevin Harvick by 49.
What Martin should have said:
"There was some concern about mechanical issues prior to the race, mostly due to the wheel issues experienced by Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. earlier in the year. Like Guns N' Roses, we feared we might face some ‘Axl' problems. But they never a-Rose."
5. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth recovered from an early tire-vibration issues that forced an extra pit stop to finish fifth at Las Vegas, his third top-10 finish of the year. Kenseth and the No. 17 Royal Crown Ford benefitted from a late caution that allowed the car to remain on the lead lap. Kenseth is now fourth in the points, 58 behind Kevin Harvick.
What Kenseth should have said:
"Last year, Las Vegas was the beginning of the end for this team. After two wins to start 2009, things went downhill starting in Vegas. Luckily, I wasn't under Crown Royal sponsorship then. Otherwise, the season would have been known as a royal ‘flush.'"
6. Greg Biffle: Always strong on Las Vegas' 1.5 mile oval, Biffle again showed prowess with a solid tenth-place result that could have been much better if not for an unfortunate pit incident. On lap 109, Biffle, running fourth, entered his pit box, but was blocked in when he tried to exit by A.J. Allmendinger's No. 43 car. Biffle restarted in 25th, and spent the balance of the race making up ground, and handling issues prevented a top-5 run. Biffle fell three spots in the Sprint Cup point standings to sixth, and is 63 out of first.
What Biffle should have said:
"Not since Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison wrestled at Daytona in 1979 have I seen anyone so intent on going for the ‘pin.' NASCAR wants to take our wings? This is one time when I could really have used them."
7. Carl Edwards: After welcoming a baby daughter, Anne, on Wednesday, Edwards hoped to ride the euphoria of fatherhood into victory lane at Las Vegas. But after a loose No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion put him a lap down early, focus shifted from winning the race to regaining that lost lap. Edwards returned to the lead lap on lap 230, and battled his way to a 12th-place finish.
What Edwards should have said:
"In light of the fact that I'm winless in Cup races since 2008, I think it's totally appropriate to call me ‘Daddy-0. This role as a father will be something entirely new for me. Midnight feedings. Diaper changes. Bedtime stories. And giving Anne her pacifier for the first time will truly be a memorable moment, for me and for Matt Kenseth. Finally, Matt will have good reason to call me a ‘pacifist.'"
8. Jeff Burton: Burton fought back from a lap down to finish 11th at Las Vegas, just missing out on a top-10 result to match those of his Richard Childress racing teammates Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer. Burton now sits seventh in the point standings, 76 behind Harvick.
What Burton should have said:
"RCR keeps piling up the top finishes, but we've yet to cash in with a victory. I predict that will change in Atlanta, where I will shock the world with an earth-moving win, appropriately in the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevy."
9. Joey Logano: Logano showed the patience and poise of a veteran with a sixth in the Shelby American 427, his second consecutive top-10 finish after his fifth last week in Fontana. The 19-year-old prodigy again outraced his teammates, as fellow Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin finished 15th and 19th, respectively. Logano is now eighth in the Sprint Cup point standings, 93 out of first.
What Logano should have said:
"The early consensus was that the veterans, Hamlin and Busch, would lead this team, and I, the young guy, would follow. Now, everyone's wondering when the members of this team are going to start ‘acting their age.' Hamlin and Busch should be better than that. If I'm ‘Sliced Bread,' then those two are loafing."
10. Jeff Gordon: Gordon, in the No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet, dominated from the start in the Shelby American 427, leading the first 52 laps after qualifying second. He lost that edge, however, on the race's final pit stop, when crew chief Steve Letarte elected for two tires while Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson took four. Johnson easily tracked down the No. 24, leaving Gordon with a third-place finish and a load of disappointment.
What Gordon should have said:
"That's one decision we'd like to have back. But we'll build on the positives and forget that mistake. As they say, ‘What mis-happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Sure, we should have gone with four tires. And sure, hearing of Johnson's greatness is grate-ing, and tiresome. But give the man credit. He won in Las Vegas, earning a championship belt for his effort. And, until someone knocks the four-time champ off his pedestal, he, like a tire, will remain ‘still-belted.'"
Thanks to Jeremy for the rankings, and have your say in the comments below.