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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

10 Points to Ponder… After the 2008 Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono

1. Midget Money – Frequent NASCAR “bad boy” Tony Stewart was fined $10,000 after reportedly becoming angry at officials during a USAC midget race when they made a competition-related decision that adversely affected Tracy Hines, who drives for Stewart’s open-wheel team. Witnesses said that Stewart charged a USAC official – knocking his headset off – and then shoved him. The 10-year NASCAR veteran has since apologized for his conduct, and will also pay for new radios and uniforms for officials out of his own pocket.

Phewww… $10,000? That’s pocket change in NASCAR!

2. Too Frilly – Last week, city officials in Kannapolis, N.C. – home of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt – removed flags honoring their “favorite son” around town as officials believed the flags, marking the haunts of the senior Earnhardt, were old and unsightly and could cause disfavor to the city in the eyes of a scheduled visitor to the area’s North Carolina Research Campus. Later, it was confirmed that the mystery visitor was none other than lifestyle guru Martha Stewart. The city has since assured complaining Earnhardt fans, irate over the removal of the “Dale Trail” flags, that the city plans to expand the commemoration of the seven-time NASCAR Cup champion in the future.

Probably best that the flags were kept out of sight from Stewart, anyways… don’t you just know she would have been suggesting something with pleats and lace?

3. We’ve Got The Scoop! – Sources have reported this past week that NASCAR’s two most eligible non-committed drivers, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr., have made their decisions as to who they will be driving for in 2009. Newman has agreed verbally to join fellow Indiana native Stewart at newly formed Stewart-Haas Racing, while Truex has decided to sign an extension and stay put at Dale Earnhardt Incorporated. However, both drivers vehemently deny the reports, and insist that in neither instance are their plans finalized for next year.

Well, 10 Points to Ponder has learned from inside sources close to both camps that Newman and Truex Jr. will be announcing their future plans very shortly… after figuring out exactly what they are!

4. Liquid SunshineRon Fellows won in the first official NASCAR race to ever be run in the rain at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve track in Montreal, Canada Saturday. After just eight laps, the race was halted to allow teams to switch out to Goodyear rain tires and also install a windshield wiper, brake lights, etc. during the running of the Nationwide Series NAPA 200. The weather, however, continued to worsen, and the scheduled 74-lap event was stopped 25 laps short – but still with enough laps completed to be recorded as an official race.

Here’s the bad news out of all this: NASCAR is racing in the rain now. The other bad news: NASCAR fans will be sitting in the stands watching races in the rain now!

5. Let’s Not Get Crazy – Nationwide Series race winner at Montreal Fellows is scheduled to replace Regan Smith in the DEI No. 01 Chevrolet at the road course at Watkins Glen, N.Y. this coming Sunday. However Fellows, still on a high from his NAPA 200 win said, “Now I’ve got to make Dale Jr. let me run next week.” Dale Earnhardt Jr. is slated to drive his own JR Motorsports No. 5 Chevrolet at Watkins Glen that Fellows took to victory Saturday.

Good win, Ron! But you’re not talking about replacing NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver, are you?

KEITH: NATIONWIDE SERIES BREAKDOWN AFTER MONTREAL

6. It’s All Good – By most accounts, the nine-year-old rain tires that were provided by Goodyear for the NAPA 200 performed admirably, and the company’s tire engineers were beaming with confidence in their ability to hold up through complete fuel runs on the Canadian road circuit. This gutsy move on the part of the tire manufacturer and NASCAR should now absolve them of continued criticism after their debacle at Indianapolis last week, the Sprint Cup event that saw tires worn to the core after just five laps and “competition cautions” put out every 10-12 times around the 2.5-mile speedway.

Yeah… right!

7. Rubber-Necking – Oddly, though fans were by-and-large turned off by the tire fiasco at Indianapolis… they didn’t tune out. The Allstate 400 at the Brickyard garnered the largest television ratings that ESPN has ever experienced for a stock car race, and had a 3% increase over last year’s numbers.

Maybe it was like one of those horrendous freeway accidents that you know you shouldn’t slow down and look at… but do anyways!

8. Army Of One – DEI part-time-soon-to-be-full-time-driver for Hendrick Motorsports Mark Martin backed up his outside pole position effort at Indy in the No. 8 Steak-umm Chevrolet with another second-fastest qualifying run for Sunday’s Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500. Martin also dominated the early parts of the race, leading for a total of 55 laps on the day before finishing a disappointing eighth in what turned into a fuel strategy finish at Pocono.

Rumor has it that DEI did have three other racecars entered… though they were never heard from.

9. When It RainesTony Raines put in a good effort Sunday in the underperforming Haas CNC Racing No. 70 Chevrolet, finishing 18th and on the lead lap in the first of a two-race deal with the team. It was the best finish of the year for Raines, who was unceremoniously replaced at the end of last season in the Hall of Fame No. 96 entry in favor of Joe Gibbs Racing’s JJ Yeley. HoF is a satellite operation to JGR, and the team had positioned itself safely inside the Top 35 in points with Raines behind the wheel. But Yeley has struggled since his arrival with the team, and the No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota – now 39th in the owner points standings – finished 39th Sunday after Yeley qualified shotgun on the field in 43rd.

Sometimes… it’s just the small victories that mean the most.

10. Remaining Nameless… For At Least A Week – Congrats to Carl Edwards on his fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup victory of the season in the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500. The win has moved him into third place in the driver championship standings from fifth a week ago.

Edwards’s four wins are only surpassed by the seven victories to date recorded by… well, you know…

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