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Bryan Keith

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Corona Mexico 200

*In a Nutshell:* The stage was set for Scott Pruett to avenge his crushing loss in this race last year. With Brad Parrott on the pit box and driving Juan Montoya's race winning car from 2007, Pruett was the class of the field. Pruett and the No. 40 team built a commanding lead and were in position to win the race. A late race caution, however, erased Pruett's lead and put Kyle Busch and the No. 20 on his tail. Pruett held off Busch for a while, but used up his tires in the process, leaving Busch to score his third consecutive Nationwide Series win and first ever NASCAR win on a road course. Busch was celebratory in victory lane, but he refused again to answer whether he has decided to run for the Nationwide Series title, stating that the decision to run Nationwide races would continue to be made on a race by race basis. “We're not ready to let that one out of the bag” said Busch. Busch remained third in the points after the race, but moved within 66 points of Clint Bowyer, who kept his points lead with a sixth place finish. Carl Edwards finished third in the race and now trails Bowyer by only nine points in the series standings.

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Side-By-Side: Should Sam Hornish, Jr. Leave NASCAR?

*Today's Question : Recent rumors have Sam Hornish, Jr. considering dropping his stock car career for a full-time move back to Indy Cars. After just eight races, is it too soon for Hornish to back away? Or is this the move he should have made all along?* Bryan: With the signing of David Stremme as Penske Racing's test driver, speculation is running rampant that Sam Hornish, Jr., the 2006 Indy Racing League champion and Sprint Cup rookie, is already preparing to throw in the towel on his stock car racing career. Here's hoping that's not the case; for Hornish has made a lot of progress even eight races into the season. No question, the talent is there for Hornish to make it in NASCAR if he continues to stay the course. Tom: By no means do I want to rush Sam Hornish, Jr. back to Indy Cars. If successful, his presence in NASCAR will lure a legion full of IRL aficionados to pay attention to a different kind of racing -- perhaps more than any of the other open wheel converts for 2008. With an Indy 500 victory and two IRL championships to his credit, Hornish has proven to be one heck of a racing talent; and, by all accounts, an even better guy. With that said, a sudden departure from NASCAR, while shocking, may not be a bad thing for his career; and frankly, it's not unprecedented.

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Nationwide Series Breakdown: 2008 Bashas’ Supermarkets 200

*In a Nutshell:* Kyle Busch had the strongest car in the field, again. Kyle Busch led the most laps, again. Kyle Busch won the race, again. In what's becoming a running theme in the Nationwide Series this season, Busch led four times for 133 laps en route to his second consecutive win during the race Friday night. But he wasn't unchallenged; in fact, Busch held off a furious late race charge from Carl Edwards, who enjoyed his best Nationwide run of the season with a second place finish. However, it wasn't enough to slow down Busch, who won by a little over a quarter of a second; the victory marked his second consecutive win in this series at the Phoenix International Raceway.

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Sprint Cup Rookie Report: Sam Hornish Jr. Carries Banner for Penske Racing

*Rookie of the Race: Sam Hornish Jr.* Hornish Jr.'s day did not start well at all at Phoenix. After being openly disappointed with his 31st place qualifying run, the open-wheel convert slipped to as far back as 40th in the open portions of the race, and became a moving roadblock on the inside line for more than one restart. However, Hornish and his team worked hard on adjusting to the track's transition from day to night, preventing the car from becoming too tight as the track cooled off. Later in the race, with fuel mileage an issue, Hornish went into fuel-saving mode, running smooth laps and saving gas in a way that had crew chief Chris Carrier beaming after the race.

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Nuts for Nationwide: Field-Filling Rearing Its Ugly Head Again

Perhaps one of the best barometers to gauge the health of a racing series is to look the weekly entry list. A once over of the Nationwide Series entry lists so far this season might not seem concerning. Sans the season's second race at Fontana, every race has drawn at least 43 teams to the track, with full fields taking the green flag at six of the series' first seven races. What these lists don't show, however, is that field-filler teams are running rampant in the series, at a level unseen in NASCAR's top tier series since Joe Ruttman took the green flag at Rockingham without a pit crew during a Sprint Cup race in 2004.

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Nationwide Series Breakdown: 2008 O’Reilly 300

*In a Nutshell:* Again, Kyle Busch dominated the Nationwide Series field; but this time, there were no mid-race mishaps. Busch took the lead for the fourth and final time on Lap 158, and was never seriously challenged down the stretch as he scored his first series win of the season at the Texas Motor Speedway. "This feels so good, because this place is so hard to win at," said an ecstatic Busch after taking the checkered flag. "For me, it's extra special to bring DLP their first NASCAR victory, and to bring Toyota here to Victory Lane at Texas [DLP is a Dallas-based company]." Busch, who started 31st after qualifying was rained out Thursday, sliced through the field, cracking the Top 10 by Lap 30. Busch's only minor scare came on Lap 190 when the fourth and final caution of the race came out; Busch elected to stay out on old tires while a number of the leaders pitted. Nevertheless, he still ran away from the field on the last restart.

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Side-by-Side: Can The Pettys Survive Without Labonte?

*Today's Question : In the wake of the sponsorship announcement that General Mills is leaving the organization, it's assumed Bobby Labonte will follow suit. Does Petty Enterprises need the 2000 Cup champ on its roster in order to remain a viable entity in Sprint Cup?* Bryan: With the announcement that longtime sponsor General Mills is leaving Petty Enterprises for Richard Childress Racing at the end of 2008, it is only a matter of time before Bobby Labonte announces his departure as well. And this spells disaster for the future of Petty Enterprises. Kurt: It's not that Petty Enterprises hasn't gotten a boost from Bobby Labonte's presence, nor should they kick him to the curb exactly-- he is a champion and easily one of the most marketable drivers in Sprint Cup racing -- but Petty Enterprises will be fine without him. Labonte still hasn't gotten Petty Enterprises back in Victory Lane, and probably won't this year. With General Mills leaving the team for Childress regardless, it really wouldn't make much difference if he stayed.

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Nationwide Series Breakdown: 2008 Pepsi 300

*In a Nutshell:* Despite being the first standalone Nationwide Series event of the season, the first two-thirds of Saturday's race at Nashville saw Cup regulars dominating, with Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer claiming the top two spots. But that all changed on Lap 163; and in an instant, a Nationwide-only driver was finally given his shot at Victory Lane. First, the incident that changed the complexion of it all. Bowyer, making a run on Busch in Turn 4, got Busch's No. 20 loose and sent him into a spin. Just like that, the 22-year-old was in the grass with a crushed left side fender, and Bowyer had damage to the right side of his Chevrolet. Busch clearly got the short end of the stick; he pitted under green to fix his car, and was never again a factor, finishing two laps off the pace. Busch's misfortune sent Bowyer to the point, with his teammate Scott Wimmer moving into second.

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Nationwide Series Breakdown: 2008 Sharpie Mini 300

*In a Nutshell:* Considered a preseason favorite for the Nationwide Series championship, Clint Bowyer officially established himself as a contender on Saturday. With a little bit of luck and a whole lot of skill, the driver of the No. 2 Chevrolet led 122 of 171 laps run to score the win in the rain-shortened Sharpie Mini 300 at Bristol. A jubilant Bowyer said afterwards, "It feels awesome [to be in Victory Lane]. I'll take it any way you can get it." Well aware of the rain approaching the race track, Bowyer fended off a series of furious charges by Kasey Kahne, who settled for second in his No. 9 Dodge. Kahne caught Bowyer using the high line, but was unable to find the grip he needed to pass Bowyer on the outside. "I should have pressed the issue a little bit, and I'm disappointed I'm in second," said Kahne. "I should be winning. He shouldn't be winning. I just let him have it."

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Nationwide Series Breakdown: 2008 Nicorette 300

*In a Nutshell:* Until Kyle Busch blew a right front tire with less than 30 laps to go, *Matt Kenseth* and the rest of the Nationwide Series field were racing for second place behind Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 20 Chevrolet. But Busch, who led over 150 laps, suffered his second tire failure in as many weeks -- setting the stage for a late race shootout among several other Cup drivers moonlighting in the series. In the end, Kenseth was able to hold off a hard-charging *Kevin Harvick* through a green/white/checker finish at Atlanta to score his 24th career Nationwide Series win. Harvick settled for a runner-up finish in his self-owned No. 33. Harvick was running down Kenseth in the final laps, but a late-race caution for debris derailed his charge to the lead. "I think we were better than the No. 17," Harvick said, "but he was better than we were for a couple of laps."

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