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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

10 Points To Ponder: After the 2008 Bud Shootout at Daytona

1. Bad Karma For Robby. Robby Gordon seems to have been bit with some bad karma as of late. Last month, he lost approximately $4.5 million when the Dakar Rally was canceled due to the threat of terrorism in Mauritania, an unforeseen bill which prompted him to admit that the loss hit the Robby Gordon Motorsports “slush fund” pretty hard. Now, he may be looking at a fine from NASCAR for a situation not of his making. It seems that Gillett Evernham Motorsports, RGM’s new partner, sent an unapproved nose for his recently converted Ford-to-Dodge racecar, one that officials wasted no time in confiscating from the No. 7 Jim Beam Dodge. A couple of pondering points here, though; will GEM reimburse Gordon for any fine that comes from the illegal part… and how cool would it be to have a $4.5 million slush fund?

2. Boys Will Be Boys. Habitual “bad boys” Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart were once again at each other’s throats after wrecking in Friday’s practice leading up to the Bud Shootout, possibly facing fines and penalties to be dished out early next week. But really… didn’t we all enjoy it? The intrigue now is that they’ve forced the sanctioning body to define what Chairman Brian France meant in last month’s back-to-basics proclamation, saying, in effect, that it was important to allow drivers to be themselves if they hoped to win back some of the longtime fans who have become increasingly disgruntled in recent years. To fine, or not to fine?

3. Seeing Red – Admit it, didn’t all of us at least once during the Shootout mistake the No. 9 GEM Budweiser Dodge for Dale Earnhardt Jr.? If the answer is no, well, then, neither did I!

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4. Fair and Balanced. Were the cries to “Bring Back FOX” that were so prevalent during ABC and ESPN’s debut last season justified? Or is it even clearer after the first race broadcast of 2008 on FOX, that really, they all have plenty of room for improvement?

5. Mark Martin For UN Ambassador. Though it seems that DEI and Earnhardt Jr. were able to agree on little else but to part ways last season, they both seem to recognize that Martin is A-OK. Not only has Martin agreed to a new contract that will see him continuing to drive Earnhardt Jr.’s former DEI No. 8 ride on a part-time basis through 2009, but Junior recently signed Martin to drive his Hendrick/JR Motorsports No. 5 Nationwide Series entry in selected races this season. You wonder what the guy could accomplish with that whole Middle East mess…

6. Those of Such Little Faith. All the talk by the FOX broadcasters (led by the affable Darrell Waltrip) expressing surprise as to how well the Car of Today performed in race conditions at the Shootout seemed a little strange to me. Is this the first time these guys have gotten to see the car? And while we’re at it, when will it be OK to stop calling this race car the “car of today?”

7. It’s a ‘Yota! During the closing laps of the Shootout, as Stewart challenged for a Budweiser Shootout win, was anyone factoring in the fact that he was competing with Toyota power for the first time? I don’t think so, it just looked like Stewart racing up front once again, a sign this new Camry is doing nothing to slow him down.

8. Hey, What Is This Guy Doing Here? Ken Schrader – who was relegated to part-time status last season after losing his ride with the Wood Brothers – raced his non-Top 35 No. 49 BAM Motorsports entry to a 15th-place finish Saturday night. Schrader was eligible for the race by virtue of his two past Shootout wins in 1989 and 1990; boy, that was a long time ago!

9. The Wheels On The Bus Go, ¬†Two-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson begins his title defense by starting on the pole for the 50th Annual Daytona 500. Talk about coming out of the box with a full head of steam…

10. Is The Strike Over? Could a striking Hollywood-type Writers Guild of America member have wrote a better script for Earnhardt Jr. fans than his Bud Shootout win? It almost seemed like divine providence for those that have supported Little E in his move from DEI to Hendrick Motorsports. As they say, “the proof is in the pudding,” and Dale Jr. seems to have dished up a heaping bowl of “I-told-you-so-pudding” for everyone to sample.