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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Did You Notice? … Buying A Super Bowl Spot, Tweaking The Shootout And Quick Hits

*Did You Notice?…* The Bud Shootout has lost its sense of importance? It’s a topic beaten to death the last couple of years, but retaining steam after the latest, 2012 rule change allowed entry to the top 25 finishers in last year’s driver points. That means we’re going to have the majority of this year’s “locked in” Daytona 500 field, plus one or two “randoms” (Michael Waltrip, for one) that will combine for a bloated, 75-lap, increase-their-advantage test session prior to next week’s Great American Race.

I know, I know; the conflict with Coors, who sponsors NASCAR’s pole award makes it impossible to associate this race with qualifying speeds anymore. In the past, though, this event was a true sprint, just 20 laps and had a small enough starting grid (the past year’s polesitters and previous Shootout winners only) it stood out as an exemplary exhibition. Now? Drivers like Jeff Burton, who will tell you himself last year was a nightmare NASCAR season not worth living are getting the gift of entry as if those stats were special.

Daugherty Sets Top 20 Goal for 2102

JTG-Daugherty Racing is entering the 2012 season with higher expectations than ever and a vision for the future that includes expansion to include a second car. The team had considered adding a second car this year, but decided that it wasn’t the right time, as they will have to convert to the new 2013 racecar …

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Time To Set Your Watches: Your Rolex 24 Preview, Part II

Yesterday, we brought you a look at the 13 (originally 14) teams set to battle it out in the Daytona Prototype class. Today, we start on the Grand Touring (GT) class. However, there are currenty 46 cars entered. We cannot cover everybody in one day, lest we drive our readers insane. So, we’re splitting this up as well. This will be the first part, with more teams to be covered tomorrow. Here we go.

BEST OF 2011: A Sport In Crisis: RPM Just One Card in NASCAR’s Deck

“The house of cards is finally falling for George Gillett’s Richard Petty Motorsports.”

These words, written by “FOX Sports’ Lee Spencer,”:http://msn.foxsports.com/nascar/story/Richard-Petty-Motorsports-in-financial-crisis-in-NASCAR-Sprint-Cup-ranks-102110 began what has become the biggest story in racing this week. As Gillett’s empire crumbles around him, RPM could be the latest casualty for the beleaguered owner of several different properties, including the soon-to-be-divested Liverpool FC soccer club. But Gillett’s financial and personal woes are really just the tip of the iceberg of a Titanic-sized problem brewing for the number one stock car series in America. The team’s potential demise is a microcosm of a sport in crisis, the joker in a NASCAR house of cards becoming increasingly fragile.

2011 NASCAR Driver Review: David Ragan

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*2011 Ride:* No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
*2011 Sponsors:* UPS (36 races), Ned Jarrett / NASCAR Hall of Fame (1 race)
*2011 Owners:* Jack Roush and John Henry
*2011 Crew Chief:* Drew Blickensderfer

*Stats:* 36 Races, 1 Win, 4 Top 5s, 8 Top 10s, 5 DNFs, 2 Poles, 23rd in Points.
*Best Finish:* 1st – Coke Zero 400, Daytona.
*Average Finish:* 19.2.

*2011 Team Ranking:* Fourth out of the four Roush Fenway cars. If you include the two Richard Petty Motorsports cars (Roush Fenway satellite teams), Ragan was sixth out of six in the standings.

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly Of NASCAR 2011: The Good (Part I)

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*The Homestead Season Finale Determines a Champion -* In what was certainly the best race of the season if not the decade, this year’s Cup title was on the line. Tony Stewart knew he could finish no worse than second in the points no matter how his race went. He was also aware if he won the race he had the championship tied up even if Carl Edwards finished second and led the most laps.

2011 NASCAR Driver Review: Bobby Labonte

*2011 Ride:* No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Racing Toyota
*2011 Primary Sponsors:* Kroger / Clorox / Bush’s Baked Beans / Kingsford / Lance Snacks
*2011 Owners:* Brad Daugherty / Tad Geschickter
*2011 Crew Chiefs:* Frank Kerr (February – October); Brian Burns (Final four races following Talladega suspension)

*Stats:* 36 Races, 0 Wins, 1 Top 5, 2 Top 10s, 4 DNFs, 29th in Points.
*Best Finish:* 4th, Daytona 500.
*Average Finish:* 24.8.

*2011 Season Ranking:* 1st of 1. A single-car team, JTG-Daugherty received support in the form of chassis and engines from multi-car giant Michael Waltrip Racing – just not their modest success rate.

2011 NASCAR Driver Review: David Gilliland

*2011 Ride:* No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford Fusion

*2011 Primary Sponsors:* Taco Bell (18 races), Gander Mountain (2 races – Richmond & Texas), T-Mone (Bristol), Thanks Bristol Fans (Bristol Night Race), Stephen Siller Tunnell To Towers Foundation (Richmond – Fall), A & W All-American Food (Atlanta), World Hunger Relief / FromHungerToHope.com (Talladega – Fall), TastyKake (Charlotte – Fall)

*Crew Chief:* Peter Sospenzo

*Stats:* 36 Races, 0 Wins, 1 Top 5, 2 Top 10s, 4 Top 20s, 6 DNFs, 30th in Points.
*Best Finish:* 3rd – Daytona 500.
*Avg. Finish:* 28.2.

*High Point:* For a team like Front Row Motorsports which, in the Ford camp, is like the weaker sister compared to the Roush-Fenway and Richard Petty Motorsports organizations, the high point of the 2011 season was a somewhat surprising third-place finish at the Daytona 500, finishing just a few feet behind upset winner Trevor Bayne.

2011 NASCAR Driver Review: Marcos Ambrose

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*2011 Ride:* No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford
*2011 Primary Sponsor:* Stanley / DeWalt Tools
*2011 Owner:* Richard Petty
*2011 Crew Chief:* Todd Parrott

*Stats:* 36 races, 1 Win, 5 Top 5s, 12 Top 10s, 1 DNF, 19th in Points.
*Best Finish*: 1st, Watkins Glen, Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen
*Average Finish:* 18.3.

*2011 Team Ranking:* No. 2 at Richard Petty Motorsports.

2011 NASCAR Driver Review: A.J. Allmendinger

*2011 Ride:* No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford
*2011 Primary Sponsor:* Best Buy, Valvoline, Nautica, U.S. Air Force, STP, Medallion Financial, WIX Filters, AdvoCare
*2011 Owner:* Richard Petty
*2011 Crew Chief:* Mike Shiplett, Greg Erwin

*Stats:* 36 Races, 0 Wins, 1 top 5, 10 top 10s, 1 DNF, 15th in Points.
*Best Finish*: 5th, Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.
*Average Finish:* 16.1.

*2011 Team Ranking:* 1st of 2 at Richard Petty Motorsports. Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose both had strong seasons, with Ambrose making it to Victory Lane at Watkins Glen. But the ‘Dinger wound up higher in the point standings, which takes top honors in my book.

2011 NASCAR Driver Review: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

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*2011 Ride:* No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
*2011 Primary Sponsor:* Blackwell Angus Beef
*2011 Associate Sponsors:* RickyVsTrevor.com, Fastenal
*2011 Owner:* Jack Roush
*2011 Crew Chief:* Mike Kelley

*Nationwide Stats:* 34 races, 1 Win, 16 top 5s, 26 top 10s, 2 DNFs, 1st in Points.
*Average Finish:* 8.8.
*Best Finish:* 1st – Twice (both Iowa races).

Five Points to Ponder: Shortcomings, Hangovers, Schedules And A Look Ahead

*ONE: Why Winning Needs to Mean More*

Both Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart entered Sunday’s 400-miler knowing how strong each other were; Roush Fenway Racing has long made the intermediate ovals their dominion, while Tony Stewart was the hottest driver in all of stock car racing. Regardless of what the math said, both drivers came into the race knowing full well it was going to take a win to take the Cup. And lo and behold, two of Sprint Cup’s heavyweights put on one of the best shows NASCAR racing has seen in recent memory. The last 40 laps of green flag racing were as intense as they come.

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