Wednesday March 16th, 2005

NASCAR Power Rankings
RankLW Driver
Perhaps the only thing that can slow down JJ is NASCAR. On Tuesday NASCAR suspended Johnson's crew chief Chad Knaus for two weeks and fined him $35,000 because Johnson's race-winning car on Sunday didn't meet the minimum height requirement during the post-race inspection. Though the penalty was absurdly heavy, I expect it'll make Johnson even more fired up this weekend in Atlanta.
Busch had his worst finish of the season last Sunday -- third place. That shows you how ruthlessly consistent Busch has become. Right now Johnson, Busch and Jeff Gordon are in a league of their own.
If Gordon hadn't gotten tangled up with Ryan Newman late in the race last Sunday, Gordon probably would have finished second. Instead he came in fourth. Gordon and Johnson have won two of three races so far this season. Who knows? By season's end, the Hendrick duo could conceivably take half (18) of the checkered flags of '05.
Here's all you need to know about the ascendance of Biffle: In 2003 he didn't even qualify for the race in Vegas; last Sunday he was genuinely disappointed to finish sixth. Yes, the expectations have changed just a tad for Biffle, who continues to look more and more like NASCAR's breakout driver of 2005.
For the second straight race, Newman finished ninth last Sunday. "The Rocket Man" also captured his 28th career pole in just 119 Cup starts. Slowly, Newman is starting to hit his stride.
In Vegas, Stewart got caught up in a wreck -- he ran into Mike Bliss' tire carrier on pit road (he wasn't seriously hurt) -- and yet Stewart still managed to finish 10th. As soon as Stewart starts to get some good luck, watch out.
Harvick and his crew chief Todd Berrier tried to bamboozle NASCAR officials by qualifying with a less-than-full fuel cell, but they got busted. Berrier was suspended for four races, but that shouldn't slow down Harvick, who in the past two races has finished sixth and fifth. It looks like Harvick is finally starting to live up to his enormous potential.
Old man Wallace continues to be steady. After finishing 10th in the first two races of '05, Wallace came in 12th at Vegas. He's currently seventh in the points and justifiably feeling pretty good about his team.
The Roush cars weren't as dominant as most expected in Vegas, yet Edwards still managed to finish 14th. He fell one spot in the points standings to fifth, but his reputation is rising by the day.
Martin had a rough afternoon in Vegas. On lap 89 he was forced into the garage with engine problems. He eventually returned to the track, but finished a season-low 30th. It'll be revealing to see if he can rebound in Atlanta on Sunday.

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