Brant James
Tuesday June 1st, 2010

NASCAR Power Rankings

Memorial Day is over and what have we learned? If you don't use sunscreen, your skin turns red and falls off. You shouldn't have left that pasta salad out in the sun so long if you were going to have it for leftovers. And Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske own the holiday's racing schedule. Oh, and the "new" Kyle Busch -- or is it the "old" one? -- needs to circle the wagons because he's becoming increasingly alienated. Have a comment? Send to siwriters@simail.com. You can also follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/brantjames

1Chip Ganassi
Chip Ganassi
He's short-tempered, demanding, aggressive, but often defensive. He's emotionally and monetarily invested, though seeks to create a buffer between his feelings and his business. He's gruff, but cares about his personnel. Whatever configuration he's currently toting around gives him the best chance to win -- those who remain, and often those who have been fired, steadfastly defend him for his single-mindedness in seeking victory. The 52-year-old Pittsburgh native joined the exclusive, two-member "500 Club" by winning the Daytona 500 with Jamie McMurray this season. Ganassi, who already had three Indianapolis 500 victories, joined friend and rival Roger Penske in that fraternity. Ganassi surpassed Penske on Sunday as Dario Franchitti won his second Indy 500, making his owner the first to win North American motorsports' two greatest races in the same year. Now what? If Juan Pablo Montoya could somehow win the Brickyard 400 this summer -- becoming the first to win in an open wheel and stock car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- Ganassi could complete the triple double.
 
2Kurt Busch
Kurt Busch
Not only did he defend Penske's honor by passing and holding off McMurray for the win in the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday night, but also Busch swept the points-paying and megabucks-paying features of two long weeks in Charlotte. With his All-Star and Coca-Cola 600 wins as a source of inspiration, he's thrust himself back into relevance by moving up to sixth in driver points with new crew chief Steve Addington.
 
3Jeff Burton
Jeff Burton's dander
Burton, a garage sage not prone to bile or fits of anger, was irritated by what he considered an overly aggressive move by Busch that caused a tire rub and subsequent failure on his No. 31 Chevrolet, which had been inside the top 10. There have been more egregious acts committed intentionally or through negligence on race tracks, but Burton was apparently mad as hell and not going to take it anymore even though Richard Childress Racing teammate Clint Bowyer seemed at least as culpable as Busch for creating the scenario. This unseen facet of Burton's personality and the target of his anger will elevate his status greatly with the old-school crowd.
 
4
Jamie McMurray
How is he not better than 15th in driver points? A winner at Daytona and second in three of the last five races, McMurray has evolved as a race-contender in his second stint with Ganassi. But the problem is those six finishes outside the top 20 in 13 races.
 
5Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick
Scrounged an 11th-place finish at the track, in a month he detests and continues to defend first place in the driver standings. Harvick leads Kyle Busch by 29 points and has held the top spot for the past eight weeks.
 
6Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch
Sparks a driver feud with Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin over a late-race incident in the All-Star event, wins the Nationwide race, ties Mark Martin's record for series wins (6) at Charlotte, finishes third in the Sprint Cup race, maintains second place in points. Pretty low-key weekend.
 
7The future of The Double
The future of The Double
No one has attempted to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day since Robby Gordon in 2004, but there was more than nostalgic discussion of it this year. Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Bruton Smith floated the idea of a $20-million reward for winning both races and new IZOD IndyCar Series head Randy Bernard posited a move of the Indy 500 back to 11 a.m. to make the adventure feasible. These could be baby steps back toward historic ground.
 
8Everybody but Jimmie Johnson
Everybody but Jimmie Johnson
The four-time defending series champion once ruled Charlotte Motor Speedway, a track that shared a sponsor with his No. 48 Chevrolet. On Sunday, it was just another stop in a peculiar, unusual mini-slump that continued into its fifth race. Since finishing 31st at Talladega, Johnson has placed as high as 10th just once and has 36th- and 37th-place results during the span. In fairness, a pit road speeding penalty appeared to cost him a win at Dover and he was a contender in the All-Star race. Johnson hasn't forgotten how to race, and his three wins would put him right back atop the standings in the Chase re-seed. Still, he plummeted to seventh in points after finishing 37th on Sunday. This is weird.
 
9David Ragan
David Ragan
Roush Fenway Racing president Geoff Smith told Scene Daily that he expects the 24-year-old driver to be back in the No. 6 Ford with sponsor UPS next season. The shipping giant is signed through 2011 and Ragan, who is 24th in points, has an option in his contract for next season. Ragan finished 13th in his second full season in 2008, but hasn't produced a top-5 and has just three top-10s since. It is fair to wonder if UPS, one of the few full-season, heavily activating sponsors remaining in NASCAR considered this a fair return on its investment, especially considering Ragan's so-far 'developing' resume. Keep smiling at the meet and greets with the execs, kid.
 
10Geoff Bodine
Geoff Bodine
The 61-year-old announced plans to attempt to qualify a Tommy Baldwin Racing Sprint Cup entry at Pocono this weekend. Bodine finished 39th at Dover on Sept. 26, 2004 in his last Sprint Cup start. He has 18 Cup wins, his last at Watkins Glen on Aug. 11, 1996. Perhaps Bodine is getting worried that Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Matt Kenseth are on the verge of passing him for 37th on the all-time list.
10aTaking a chance
Taking a chance
Tony Stewart, weeks ago, extended an invitation to the eventual winner of the Indianapolis 500 to compete on the dirt with scores of NASCAR drivers in his Prelude to the Dream on June 9 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. As of Tuesday morning, Franchitti had not accepted the offer, though a spokesman for Stewart said "we're working on it." Franchitti should accept that offer.

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