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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.

Mirror Driving: Pebble On The Track…Throw The Yellow Flag! And Is It All Montoya’s Fault, After All?

*After all the controversy on Sunday, how much of a boost does this Busch Series win give Juan Pablo Montoya over in Nextel Cup?* Amy: Not much...the competition in Cup is MUCH tougher. Especially since a lot of the big guns in Busch don't go to that race, so there was a lot of inexperience in that field. Not saying that's a bad thing, but it does make his win less meaningful than if it was at, say Charlotte, with a tougher field. Toni: I agree. It's a Busch road course win…everyone expected him to do well on a road course. And in Busch he has superior equipment - in Cup Ganassi is not so high up the ladder. Tom: I agree with Amy…that field was so depleted. Like I said in my article "Monday":/tbowles/7316/, it's like beating a crappy team and then trying to plead your case to get into the NCAA tournament. A win is a win, but it's not a quality win by any means.

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Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

As we've all seen over the past month, criticizing NASCAR for their infinite number of blunders and incidents of poor judgment is really not that difficult; but it's not exactly fun to do, either. Believe me, it's not my intention to relentlessly harp on the organization; as it is, by Wednesdays I usually find myself standing at the back of a long line of writers that have already beat the proverbial "dog" of controversial topics to death. Thankfully, the sanctioning body has done something right for once involving one such controversy this week, so much so that I can actually partake in a far better exercise; sending _compliments_ NASCAR's way. Yes, the sport should be given credit where credit is due; three cheers, in fact, for what appears to be a decision to reevaluate their flawed Car of Tomorrow (CoT) introduction schedule.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not In Nextel Cup: 2007 Off-Week No. 1 Edition

*Hot* *Clint Bowyer:* Had it not been for his last lap ride through the grass at Daytona, Bowyer would likely be heading to Vegas with two Top 10 finishes in hand. As things stand, the second year RCR driver is still sixth in the standings following a sixth place finish at Fontana; so much for an early season sophomore slump that seemed inevitable after his Daytona flip. Driving for a team that seems to be hitting on all cylinders right now should only continue to help Bowyer as he makes his way through the rest of the early season; at Vegas last year, he finished 15th, and given the way he is running, I wouldn't be surprised to see him match or exceed that this time around. *Jeff Burton:* He may not have the spectacular early season highlight reel or victory that his teammates have, but Burton has something they don't; two Top 5 finishes to kick off the 2007 season. Only Mark Martin, the driver Burton trails in the standings by just five points, can say the same thing. But one thing we can say about Burton we _can't_ say about Martin is that we know he is going to run the full schedule. It's been a long, difficult road but it's now safe to say that RCR is back as one of the top caliber teams in the sport each week, which many partially credit Burton's leadership for. Things should only get better this weekend, as Burton is a two-time Vegas winner and was seventh there last year.

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Beyond the Cockpit: Bobby Labonte at Phoenix

*Q: What did you think about the controversy at the end of the race with NASCAR not throwing the caution?* *A:* I don't care what they do as long as they do the same thing every time. *Q: But some people feel that's the problem - they don't stay consistent.* *A:* They never do. Trash on the track, there's a caution - a tire's on the track, there's no caution. There's no rhyme or reason to it. There's no consistency. That's all I care about. I don't care if we race back to the flag or don't race back to the flag, or this or that, just as long as it's the same.

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Too Early To Worry? Not Necessarily

I love studying the point standings at the beginning of the season. The first five or six races are intriguing in that unheralded drivers often float to the top of the rankings by running steady — not necessarily great — and avoiding early pitfalls that can start a team in the hole, if not derail their season completely. After only two races in the 2007 Nextel Cup campaign, I find myself amused already. Who would have thought Mark Martin, in a part-time role no less, would be leading the standings and having to wrestle — whether he'll admit it or not — with the thought (once again) of doing an about face and seeing this season through? Come to think of it, who would have believed the No. 01 US Army Chevy would have been the vehicle in which Martin would ride to consecutive Top 5 finishes to start the year? At the opposite end of the age spectrum, we have 21-year-old David Ragan as the year's early rookie surprise. This youngster was rushed through the system and thrown into Martin's old No. 6 ride at Roush Fenway Racing. After hitting everything on the track in two events last season, the young man has amazed by keeping his nose clean en route to 5th and 16th-place runs. By simply not screwing up, Ragan finds himself fifth in the point standings.

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Beyond The Cockpit: Carl Edwards at Phoenix

*Q: Any thoughts so far on the Car of Tomorrow?* *A:* It's growing on me. At first I was like, man, it's crazy. But I think they look pretty neat and I think they should race pretty well. The safety innovations should be good, and I think they'll put on a good show … it's competition, and any time they change a variable - and there are a lot of variables changing with that car - it gives people an opportunity to either rise to the occasion or fail. I feel like we've got great engineers, and I'll do whatever it takes to be proficient in that car.

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Scanner Static: Racing Around The Western Hemisphere

*Q: How long before Formula One star turned NASCAR rookie Juan Pablo Montoya wins a race? Tony Stewart said he'd be "disappointed" if Montoya didn't win at least once this year, and that he expects the Columbian to succeed sooner than later. Do you agree? Also, who do you think is the frontrunner for this season's Rookie of the Year?* _— Rush Rocket_ *A:* Truth is, JPM is learning a new racing discipline on the job against the best stock car drivers in the world, and the Ganassi equipment isn't aiding one bit in his quest to figure it out. However, if the Car of Tomorrow is the great equalizer it's being billed to be, Montoya could turn more heads at Infineon and Watkins Glen than Sue Ellen Mischke in a _Seinfeld_ episode.

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Mirror Driving: DEI On Edge? NASCAR Losing Credibility…Again?

*Another questionable debris caution late in the race Sunday bunched up the field and led to an exciting finish at California. But is NASCAR losing credibility with the fact they may be "engineering" finishes with these yellow flags?* Amy: Of course they are. They have been for about three years now. Meegan: I think so, because they happen to occur at opportune times. TOO convenient times. Vito: Rollbar padding, hot dog wrapper, air…throw a caution. Car upside down, on fire full of sod.....eh, let 'em race to the line.

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Dale Jarrett is the Golden Ticket for Owner and Manufacturer

Toyota and Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) have found their debut as competitors in the Nextel Cup Series challenging, to say the least...but probably not entirely surprising. Two races into the 2007 season, the manufacturer has two drivers positioned in the coveted Top 35 in the point standings, namely Team Red Bull's Brian Vickers (34th) and MWR driver Dale Jarrett (a more secure 28th). The Top 35 teams in owner points from 2006 are guaranteed a starting position in each of the first five Nextel Cup races of 2007. However, after the fifth race at Bristol in early March, inclusion on the Top 35 list will be based on the current seasons owner's points. And at that time, the enormous value for MWR and Toyota of Dale Jarrett's much talked about defection from Robert Yates Racing at the end of 2006 will become clear for everyone to understand.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not In Nextel Cup: 2007 Auto Club 500 at Fontana Edition

As the Nextel Cup Series put its second race in the books last weekend in California, a state known for wildfires surely did its part to fuel the flames of several of Nextel Cup's hottest drivers. This week's surprising contingent listed as currently burning up the tracks includes a 48-year-old veteran who continues to steal center stage, as well as a 21-year-old rookie using a combination of luck and racing smart to fight his way towards the top of the charts. At the other end of the spectrum, an entire organization threatens to find itself thrown in the freezer with little or no to chance of being thawed, icing up next to one of the circuit's oldest drivers and the greatest comeback story that may never be told.

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