Thursday April 7th, 2005

NASCAR Power Rankings
RankLW Driver
11
JJ retains the top spot by finishing sixth at Bristol, but Sunday certainly wasn't his finest performance. On Lap 361, he got into Jeff Burton, causing Burton to spin around and bounce off the wall. As Burton slid across the track, Kurt Busch slammed into him at full speed. No one was hurt, but the accident could have been a bad one. Afterward both Burton and Busch rightfully blamed Johnson for needlessly causing the crash. Don't expect the ultra-talented Johnson to make that kind of mistake again this season.
22
Yes, Busch finished 35th at Bristol, but as noted, the accident that took him out of the race wasn't his fault. Busch had a top-five car -- and perhaps a winning car -- on Sunday, but it was destroyed in the crash. His team will have to build a new Sharpie Ford for Bristol when the circuit returns to the track in late summer. Busch should rebound on Sunday at Martinsville, where he finished fifth last fall.
38
On the first pit stop of the afternoon on Sunday, Stewart got blocked into his pit by another car and lost 15 spots of track position. But Stewart steadily worked his way up through the field, endured a spin, and finished third -- his best finish of the season. Stewart will no doubt be a major player all season long.
43
The award for worst decision of the week goes to Biffle's crew chief Doug Richert. When the caution flag came out on Lap 414, Biffle was leading the race. Richert instructed Biffle not to pit. Bad move. All the other cars on the lead lap came in and, with fresh tires, they all proceeded to zip past Biffle once the race went green. Biffle came in ninth. With better pit strategy, he probably would have finished in the top two.
57
Sadler had a dominating weekend, winning the pole on Friday and finishing second on Sunday. When talking to the media after the race, Sadler offered up a blueprint for how to qualify for the Chase. "Our main goal is to see every single checkered flag," said Sadler. "I'm not racing a soul until the last half of the race. I'm going to race the track and let everybody else take care of themselves."
65
Though Gordon finished 15th at Bristol and is just 12th in points, we still firmly believe that Gordon will be your 2005 Cup champion. He's also my pick to win on Sunday at Martinsville, where in 23 career starts Gordon has five wins and 18 top-10 finishes.
7NR
During the rain-delayed Busch Series race on Monday, Jarrett got bumped into the wall by Shane Hmiel. This prompted Jarrett, while the race was red-flagged, to wave off an ambulance worker, march up to Hmiel's car, and toss a few R-rated verbal grenades at Hmiel. If nothing else, this showed that the 48-year-old Jarrett still has some spunk left in him. On Sunday he finished fifth to climb to eighth in the points standings.
86
He qualified 34th and then, battling a poor-handling car and getting caught up in a wreck, he finished 31st. Martin slipped five spots to 10th in the standings. The free fall could continue this week at Martinsville, where Martin finished 34th last April.
94
Edwards had an utterly forgettable weekend at Bristol. He crashed during qualifying, which forced him to start in the back of the field. Then on the second lap he got caught up in a wreck and damaged his radiator. After an extended trip to the garage, he made back out onto the track, but was 53 laps down. He finished 26th.
10NR
Though his crew chief Todd Berrier was forced to spend the weekend at his home in Charlotte while serving his suspension for cheating, Harvick had a downright spectacular weekend in Bristol. Starting dead last in the field, Harvick took the checkered flag on Sunday and then, for good measure, he won the Busch race on Monday. The Cup victory was Harvick's first W in 55 starts, and could -- repeat, could -- signal that Harvick is ready to become a serious factor this season.

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