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Frontstretch Staff

Frontstretch Staff
The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

What’s The Call: Did Aric Almirola Make The Right Career Choice?

Today's Question : Earlier this week, it was announced that Aric Almirola will be headed to Ginn Racing to share a Cup ride with Mark Martin for the rest of 2007 and beyond. Was this the right move for Aric's future, or was he wrong to slam the door on an opportunity with one of the top teams in Cup, Joe Gibbs Racing, a team he drove for in the Busch Series up until this surprising turn of events? Becca Gladden:Let's see - sharing a Busch ride with Denny Hamlin or sharing a Cup ride with Mark Martin. Hmmm. That's a tough choice. Not! This is a no-brainer for Almirola...and it has nothing to do with what happened in Milwaukee. Tommy Thompson: The news that Aric Almirola is leaving Joe Gibbs and signing on as a part-time Cup driver, sharing duties with Mark Martin in the No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet at Ginn Racing, truly bewilders me. Is the kid suicidal? That's the first of two things that came to my mind when I heard the decision. The other was simply a rule of thumb for self-preservation, one that a grizzled firefighting instructor at Texas A&M once shared with me and the other assembled trainees: "If the rats are running out of a burning building, you don't run in." Someone needs to share this practical wisdom with Almirola, before he gets burned…BIG TIME!

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Rest Easy, Anheuser-Busch: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Did NOT Coronate Budweiser

A few days ago, my esteemed Frontstretch colleague and friend, Mr. Mike Neff, made the assertion that it is the driver that makes the sponsor. While that may be true for some lesser known products, I don't believe the separation of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Budweiser should prompt Anheuser-Busch to be searching through the St. Louis area Yellow Pages for a cheap bankruptcy lawyer _just_ yet. Contrary to popular cultural myth, Budweiser, the "King of Beers", did in fact exist long before the inception, conception, reception, and perception of NASCAR's Most Popular Driver. Truth be told, it predates him by some 98 years, back to 1876, when horsepower was actually rated by the number of road apples left in your wake.

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Fanning the Flames: NASCAR Silly Season Could Be Worse – We Could Have Steinbrenner

Remember when Silly Season used to go into full swing around the Charlotte race date in October? These days, it seems it's going strong by Indy. Yeah, I know I say this every year...but this season truly seems much sillier than last. Or the one before, and the one before that… This year is unique in that most of the silliness centers not with the drivers, but the owners. We have the Ray Evernham / George Gillette deal that has been ongoing for all of a decade and may never get done. There are also investment firms popping up right and left in the garage, milling about like pit lizards, trying to buy into someone, _anyone's_ race team. Problem is, these investment firms don't know a front clip from a fuel pump. They also don't realize that teams need sponsors...not someone to split the utility bill with them.

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Mirror Driving: Kasey Kahne Drinking Bud? Chicagoland A Dud? And Ginn Hits The Ground With A Thud

*It's now been six years since Chicagoland hosted its first Nextel Cup race. Are you disappointed in the progress being made as the track has aged, and should improvements be made ala Homestead and Las Vegas to make the facility more competitive?* Tommy: Heck no...looks like it's becoming a challenging track. I could care less how slick it was…it made for some interesting racing. Amy: The track itself has improved, as it basically started as a one groover. The problem is, NASCAR never needed to be adding all those cookie-cutter tracks in the first place - Chicago _and_ Kansas? Give me a break. Tony: Not sure why we had such a bad race Sunday. I thought Chicagoland was starting to get a bit better; instead, it just took a step back.

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Top Ten Ways NASCAR Could Make Chicagoland Mildly More Entertaining

10. Let Medallion Financial Corp. sponsor the race, featuring 43 selected cab drivers as the drivers while the actual drivers ride shotgun and try to give them advice. (Great for the Diversity program, too!) 9. Move the date to California Speedway so we, the fans, can hear once again just how full the stands really are and how great the shopping is under the grandstands. 8. Hold the race on the Dan Ryan Expressway during regular rush hour traffic. (We'll see just how brave NASCAR drivers really are!) 7. Feed each driver a plate of "Chicago Style" hot dogs and baked beans before the race and enhance the in-car audio for that true "Windy City" effect.

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Driver Shopping? Try Clint Bowyer On For Size

There is no secret that NASCAR is experiencing a "changing of the guard" over the past few years, as many of its popular veterans have either retired or are in the process of gradually exiting the sport. This attrition has left not only team owners scrambling to find competent replacements for the seats of their race cars, but race fans as well looking for their next favorite driver to replace an aging veteran. And in many ways, the process that fans go through in finally settling on a suitable replacement are no less complicated than what car owners are saddled with. Some might argue that picking a favorite driver is even more onerous of a decision for the fan, as owners generally only require a driver to be competent behind the wheel and project an acceptable public persona. Not so for most fan supporters, who, before pledging their personal loyalty and support, in addition to contributing probably more of their hard-earned money in accessorizing their wardrobe, cars, and den than they should, have a lengthy and very personalized set of requirements that a prospective new "favorite" driver must meet. That is as it should be, because this is not a "term of contract" agreement between the fan and their No. 1 driver…it is a longterm commitment. Perhaps Clint Bowyer, presently setting tenth in drivers points in only his second full-time season in the Nextel Cup Series, can fill the void that the recent retirement of Rusty Wallace, as well as the gradual and / or soon expected final retirements of popular veterans like Bill Elliott, Terry Labonte, Mark Martin, Ricky Rudd or Kenny Schrader have or will create for fans of those drivers.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Nextel Cup: 2007 USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland

Chicago is known for football, deep dish pizza, shopping, and the Sears Tower; sadly, it's not yet known for great racing. However, there was at least one driver who didn't sleep through the Chicagoland snoozefest; that would be Tony Stewart, who celebrated the end of his 20-race winless drought with another climb up the fence. Smoke was left awake and alert after a weekend where he got a lecture from the coach about playing nice with others, and he turned that motivation into victory celebration come Sunday night. Smoke wasn't the only happy camper; Richard Childress Racing put all three of its drivers in the Top 10, while polesitter Casey Mears led the way for Hendrick Motorsports. But there were plenty of sour faces at the end of the day, too. Jimmie Johnson saw his chance at victory blow up along with his tire with 45 laps to go, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had to muscle home his Chevy to a 19th place finish with no power steering. So,what mood did _your_ favorite driver leave off heading towards the final off week of the season? Read this week's Who's Hot and Who's Not to find out if he made the cut.

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Numbers Game: 2007 USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland

*1st* Fence climb after a Cup victory in 2007 for Tony Stewart on Sunday. *1.727* Tony Stewart's margin of victory over Matt Kenseth at Chicagoland. (in seconds) *2 hours, 58 minutes, 59 seconds* Time it took to complete the USG Sheetrock 400. *3* Career Cup poles for Casey Mears in 163 starts.

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Ten Points to Ponder After the 2007 USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland

*1. They call it "cookie cutter" for a reason* - Sorry guys, but that just wasn't a very exciting race. Stewart got out front with a fuel-only pit stop and was never challenged in the closing laps after holding off a single pass attempt by Kenseth. There were several long green flag runs and not a lot of lead changes, unless you count the ones achieved through pit cycles, and most of the attrition was due to single car incidents. The only good news to report: the race didn't last that long. *2. He took the words right outta my mouth* - Tony Stewart said that team owner Joe Gibbs had to break away from his vacation to referee the feud between Stewart and teammate Denny Hamlin. Tony described it as Gibbs "coming to babysit his two kids." Hey, that's just what I was thinking. Of course, Stewart is ten years older than Hamlin and, as the senior driver at JGR, shouldn't really need a babysitter - should he? But wouldn't you have loved to be a fly on the wall in that meeting? Like always, Tony's keeping it interesting.

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Bubble Breakdown: Little Change in Top 35 Picture as Gap Widens to 225 Points

With the Daytona debacle now in the rearview mirror, the battle for the Top 35 in car owner points continued this week in Chicagoland; but after an uneventful day for the majority of the cars on the bubble, little changed as far as positions go. In fact, the gap between 35th and 36th place is now the widest the margin has been all season long. For more on what happened with those teams on the bubble this weekend at Chicagoland, as well as an update on the potential changes to the Top 35 rule next season, check out this week's edition of the Bubble Breakdown: *Biggest Mover(s)* The Wood Brothers decision to put *Bill Elliott* in the No. 21 car in an effort to propel the team into the Top 35 in owner points has paid dividends so far.

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