Brant James
Tuesday June 8th, 2010

NASCAR Power Rankings

Denny Hamlin won the race Sunday at Pocono, but he didn't win the news cycle and he didn't climb to the top of the power poll. His fourth win in nine starts at the 2.5-mile coat hanger in the middle of the woods was a decent effort, but not spectacular. Certainly not as spectacular as the after party put on by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Joey Logano. Hamlin put his car into the wall while celebrating, while Logano put his into the fray and went after a budding rival. Have a comment? Send to siwriters@simail.com. You can also follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/brantjames

1Joey Logano, grown-up race car driver
Joey Logano, grown-up race car driver
The 20-year-old has evolved from the shy kid Mark Martin declared the future of the sport five years ago into an adult willing to fight for what he thought was his on Sunday at Pocono, right there on pit road, right there on television. Logano had a look of madness about him as he stormed into a phalanx of Kevin Harvick's crewmen, cursing and shoving, rage on his reddened face as he stormed back to his hauler a few minutes later. Of course, none of those things make him a grown-up. Neither did insulting Harvick by saying his wife, DeLana, "wears the fire suit in the family." And, truthfully, both Harvicks or any member of his crew might have pulverized the wispy lad had it come to a pit road brawl. The telling part was Logano's rush into Harvick's crew without his wingman and father, Tom. Of course, Tom Logano threw interference by pulling a Joe Gibbs Racing crewman from Logano as he exited the car and gesturing over toward Harvick as if to order an attack.

Roush Fenway Racing president Geoff Smith dealt with both Loganos in 2005 when the father was attempting to broker a high-dollar contract from Roush and Joe Gibbs Racing with Martin's endorsement as leverage. Roush had given material support to Logano as a teen, but he was steered by his father toward JGR for a richer deal and quicker route to Sprint Cup. Smith saw a different relationship between father and son on Sunday, he said."What we all saw was Joey deciding it's time to step up on his own and confront the environment that he lives in and as an independent person and you would expect that at about this age," Smith said, "To have this move to man up in the garage, you can't be daddy boy's and achieve that."
 
2Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin
He was bearing down on the white flag when Harvick v. Logano ignited well behind him. His query of "What the hell happened?" over his team radio radiated more befuddlement than anger. After a few moments of worry about teammate Kyle Busch on the restart, he bore off for his series-best fourth win of the season. He leaped two spots to third in points.
 
3Kurt Busch
Kurt Busch
A valve stem cap issue put him a lap down, but he fought back to finish sixth, maintaining momentum after winning the Coca-Cola 600.
 
4Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch
Finished second, avoided the controversy of the week.
 
5Kevin Harvick's ruthlessness
Kevin Harvick's ruthlessness
He's leading the points and wrapping up a top-5 run after a long 500 miles at Pocono where he sent Logano for a little slide -- whether Logano moved down on him or not, as crew chief Gil Martin claimed. Don't cross him. And don't linger on it, Martin said."If Joey carries it past this race right here he's doing himself a harm," he said. "It's a big sport with a lot of stuff at stake. If he carries this on to the next race track, it's just going to be his detriment, not ours. We've forgotten about it already."
 
6Joey Logano's trump card
Joey Logano's trump card
Certainly Joey Logano would love to qualify for the Chase for the Championship for the first time. He's 17th in points, 101 points from the Chase boundary. He has more constructive goals than letting his anger simmer for a few months and hatching some plot for revenge against Harvick. But if Logano doesn't qualify for the playoffs, and if Harvick cruises into the Chase with a shot at a championship, Logano is one potentially devastating wild card. If Logano decided to have at it, he could be Harvick's own personal menace for the last 10 weeks of the season, a little bump here, a little pit road tap there -- just theorizing. And after all, NASCAR told them to settle it themselves.
 
7Danica Patrick
Danica Patrick
Ticket sales for the June 26 Nationwide race -- which commences the IndyCar driver's return to NASCAR -- had spiked by 35 percent even before she finished sixth at Indianapolis and second at Texas to defibrillate a stagnant season. The track promoter fortunate enough to host her first Sprint Cup race should donate $1 million to the charity of her and JR Motorsports' choosing.
 
8Simona DeSilvestro
Simona DeSilvestro
The IndyCar series rookie makes a crossover leap onto the NASCAR poll with sheer tape-my-eye-lids-open-and-go-like-Ricky-Rudd toughness. A malfunctioning fire hose and a safety crew that apparently doesn't perform pre-race checks on such trivial equipment allowed her to sit inside her car for a maddening 30 seconds as an oil fire raged around her. She sustained a "little" burn, she said, on her right hand as she was finally being wrested from the car. Who knew a 21-year-old Swiss female would be the throwback driver the series needs?
 
9Kasey Kahne's desire to get on with it
Kasey Kahne's desire to get on with it
He sees that Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 Chevrolet in the garage every weekend. It must be like waiting to get a driver's license to finally get behind the wheel of that new car dad promised ... in two years. Plans for his stop-gap ride next season have not been announced. And 2012 must seem very far away amid another cratering season. And if that's not bad enough, his own short-timer teammates are ruining weekends for him, as A.J. Allmendinger blocked him into the grass on Sunday defending his position, he said, late in the race, starting a nine-car melee.
 
10June 11-21 birthdays
June 11-21 birthdays
Jimmie Johnson named 26-year-old truck series regular, erstwhile Cup participant Aric Almirola as his emergency driver in case wife, Chandra, goes into labor during on-track activities in the next five weeks. Ideally, Johnson hopes she will give birth in the window between races at Chicago and Indianapolis. Among Almirola's qualifications, Johnson said, is his "geometry is similar," they're about the same size and fit in a similar seat well. Almirola has won in the Nationwide series and is second in truck series points, but seriously, there's no way Johnson wants to give him that car. Push, Chandra, push!

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