Saturday April 16th, 2005

NASCAR Power Rankings
RankLW Driver
Early in the race on Sunday JJ's car was junk. But crew chief extraordinare Chad Knaus kept making adjustments to the Lowe's Chevy and the car grew stronger as the race progressed. Johnson finished eighth and increased his lead in the points standings over Greg Biffle. Don't expect Johnson to vacate this top spot any time soon.
Gordon put forth one of the great performances of his career on Sunday. Less than 100 laps into the Advanced Auto Parts 500, he fell three laps down because of tire woes. But after getting the problem fixed, he steadily zoomed up through the field to win his second race of '05. In a way, he?s kind of like Michael Jordan was in his prime: When Gordon wants something bad enough ?- in this case, a win for his grieving owner -? he usually gets it.
Busch had a top-three car in Martinsville, but he was booted into the wall by Gordon late in the race and finished 19th. It was the second straight week that a Hendrick driver has made a mistake that wound up knocking Busch out of contention. I've got a hunch that payback is coming -- and soon.
By all accounts, Stewart's Home Depot Chevy was the class of the field on Sunday. But during a pit stop late in the race, Stewart's crew didn't get the lug nuts tight enough on his right front tire. On Lap 432 the center of right front wheel broke, which forced Stewart to pit under green. Despite leading the most laps, Stewart finished 26th. Once this team straightens out its pit stops, Stewart will be a weekly threat to win.
With his ninth place finish in Martinsville, Sadler climbed two spots in the points standings to third. He'll be among the favorites to win this Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, where he took the checkered flag last season. Sadler is quietly proving that last season, when he finished ninth in points, was no fluke.
Martin was strong all day at Martinsville and finished third, which was his fourth top 10 in six races. Martin should have another solid outing at Texas. He's won there in the past (1998) and the Fords have traditionally been the quickest cars at Texas Motorspeedway.
On Lap 182 at Martinsville, Biffle got caught up in a wreck which forced him into the garage. He finished 29th, his worst outing of the season. Still, Biffle already has four top-10 finishes (he only had eight top 10s in '04) and he'll no doubt be in the thick of the championship all season long.
On the very first lap at Martinsville, Newman and Scott Riggs -- both of whom started on the front row -- got into each other, which forced Newman to fall a lap down. But Rocket Man eventually got his lap back and at one point seized the lead before finishing fourth. Everyone in the garage is waiting for Newman to go on dominating tear, but until he becomes more consistent, it won't happen.
Jarrett had a solid race on Sunday, crossing the start-finish line in the 14th position. It was his fourth 15th-place-or-better finish in '05. Jarret has yet to have a head-turning, breakout race this season, but I think that's exactly what he'll have in Texas, where on Sunday he's my pick to take the checkers. Come back on Thursday to find out why.
How bad has Wallace's relationship gotten with his teammate Ryan Newman? On Sunday, Wallace was leading the race early on when the field restarted after a caution. Newman was by his side, the first car a lap down. Every other teammate in the garage would have let Newman go to try to get his lap back. Not Wallace. He beat Newman to the first turn and never looked back. Wallace wound up finishing fifth, right behind, it turns out, his favorite person in the world: Newman.

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