By Brant James
July 19, 2011
New Hampshire Power Rankings
Solace and championship aspiration would seemingly be hard to find in a race where a driver had a faulty alternator, changed batteries -- therefore losing his access to air conditioning in mid-July -- and then sustained a late-race tire failure, possibly as a result of not being able to use brake blowers. But Jeff Gordon was seeing kernels of glory in the chaff after finishing 11th on Sunday at New Hampshire.

"Oh, my goodness! What didn't happen today?" Gordon pondered. "It was a pretty crazy day for us, but certainly [there is] a lot to smile about with how great our car was. My goodness, the car was so good. I could tell at the beginning of the race that we just had to be patient and try to get track position.

"You have to survive these races in a lot of different ways and we had a lot of obstacles thrown at us with the alternator issue, which caused me to have to turn my A/C off and brake blowers, which probably ultimately blew that right front tire there at the end. So it was a challenging day in a lot of ways. But it was certainly something. And we're excited about coming back here later in the year to this racetrack. Our car was fast."

In a race where both Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports teammate and five-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson finished well despite travails, only Gordon left encouraged. Certainly some of that pertains to Johnson attempting to maintain a high standard of performance and Gordon groping to rekindle the championship form that marked his earlier career. Gordon has not won a title since 2001.

Sights and Sounds: Loudon
Watch Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart shine at Loudon finishing exactly where they started.

"From a performance standpoint I think today we showed everybody what we're capable of doing, and for that I'm very excited," said the four-time series champion, who is seventh in points with two victories this season. "I know the guys feel really bad about the issues that we had, but it was a great lesson for us to go through this and understand how to deal with it and how we reacted to it.

"I thought they did a great job getting the batteries in the car and switching back and forth to get through the rest of the race. There was no alternator basically and we still had a fast race car. ... You want to go through all your checkmarks for preparing for the Chase for the Championship to make sure when you get into the Chase, if you do, you don't have these kinds of issues."

Now on to the power rankings:

Carl Edwards
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 13
A workmanlike, fuel-sipping 13th-place finish allowed him to capitalize on Kyle Busch's tire failure and ascend to the points lead for the 13th time in 19 races.
Jimmie Johnson
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 12
It was an asterisk type of day for Jimmie Johnson. The five-time defending series champion overcame a series of on-track and pit road mishaps to finish fifth. That was the good news. The bad was yet another pit road mistake by a team too prone to them in recent seasons; a team that has been sorted by depth chart, tweaked and cajoled by crew chief Chad Knaus. With Johnson's margin for error in perpetuating history smaller and more hard-earned each season, he seems irked that command of details is no longer his asset.
Kurt Busch
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 11
Started fourth and led 66 laps, but settled for a 10th-place finish. That was good enough to advance him one spot to third in driver points.
Kevin Harvick
Wins: 3
Top-10s: 10
Started 18th and finished 21st, the three-time race-winner this season bides his time at fourth in points.
Jeff Gordon
Wins: 2
Top-10s: 8
Good runs have often ended in bad results with parts failures or misfortune that past few seasons, but Gordon overcame a battery issue to drive back through the field and finish 11th on Sunday. How did he celebrate? He went to the Congo.
Ryan Newman
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 9
His first win since 2010 buttressed his position inside the top 10 and offers encouragement that his team is finally moving beyond consistent and into a threat to win more races.
Kyle Busch
Wins: 3
Top-10s: 11
Busch maintained the points lead for just a race for the third time this season, coming undone with a tire issue that sent him into the wall and to a 36th-place finish.
Tony Stewart
Wins: 0
Top-10s: 7
Could he finally be rounding into summer shape, when weather swelters, tracks get slippery and Stewart excels? His second-place finish at New Hampshire is an encouraging prelude to his favorite and most beguiling venue, Indianapolis.
Matt Kenseth
Wins: 2
Top-10s: 10
Finished 20th at New Hampshire, his worst result in nine races, and he now stands sixth in driver points.
Denny Hamlin
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 7
Finished a rousing third at New Hampshire to maintain 10th place in the driver standings. His win at Michigan provides some margin for error should he slip outside the top 10, but momentum entering the Chase is crucial for the 2010 runner-up.

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