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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

10 Points to Ponder… After the 2007 Sharp Aquos 500 at Fontana

1. Lowe’s High – For weeks now I’ve been wondering why everyone was depicting the Chase as a duel between Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. “Wait!” – I shouted, what about Jimmie Johnson? Heading into Fontana, Johnson was tied with Gordon for bonus points, 10 ahead of Stewart when the Chase starts, and tonight’s win moves him ahead of both Gordon and Stewart with 50 bonus points. Johnson’s team typically slumps in the summer but they turn it on when it counts. Don’t hand that Nextel Cup trophy to anyone else just yet. It’s also worth noting that Johnson and Matt Kenseth are now the only drivers to make the Chase all four seasons since its inception in 2004.

Bubble Breakdown: Bill Elliott Gets Wood Brothers Back in Top 35; Dave Blaney, Toyota Fall Out

Hot temperatures and consistently high rpms took its toll on a number of engines Sunday night in California. The heat’s biggest victim came when Dave Blaney’s motor expired on lap 201, allowing the No. 21 Wood Brothers team the opportunity to jump back into the Top 35. This secured Bill Elliott a spot in the field next week in Richmond. The two teams have shuffled back and forth numerous times in the past month, with neither team capitalizing on the benefit of a guaranteed spot.

“Dale” A Film for Fans & Non-Fans Alike

Dale, a CMT Films/NASCAR Images joint, is a poignant, and surprisingly introspective, look at the life and career of Dale Earnhardt. And make no mistake, this is no 3. For all that ESPN does well (read: all-things-baseball, World Series of Poker, 25-straight hours of college football coverage) they can’t produce a made-for-TV-movie any better than I can sit through Sense and Sensibility with the aforementioned female.

Kyle Petty Races Hard, Fundraises Harder

Currently 38th in points, Kyle Petty let anger get the better of him a few weeks ago after a blown transmission and subsequent wreck at Watkins Glen. “I’m not going to disclose all the information,” said Petty’s son Austin a few days after the race, “but there was an incident between his fist and a wall and a broken bone.”

David Starr Driver Diary: Safe Racing and SafeLight

Last week was the first race for NASCAR on the new Bristol surface. I have to say, it was really fun. We had our Ford F150 running really good in practice, but we got loose when we qualified. I went out second and I wish I could have went out later, after I figured out you had to move up a little bit to go faster. In the race we had a great truck and we were coming forward before I got bumped and lost six or seven spots. I used my truck up trying to get some of those spots back, and by the time the caution came out we had already earned about four or five positions. We pitted for tires and again I started making my way back up to the front, but a right-front flat pretty much killed us.

Beyond The Cockpit: Kyle Busch Before the 2007 Chase

Busch made a pit stop in Phoenix on Wednesday en route to this weekend’s Cup race in Fontana, Calif. He was a cool customer inside a local area restaurant, cordially signing autographs, posing for photos, and chatting with members of the media in advance of the Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway this fall. Busch won at PIR in November of 2005 and is looking forward to returning here with a shot at the title. Frontstretch Senior Writer Becca Gladden spoke with Kyle about last weekend’s Bristol race, the Car of Tomorrow, and his relationship with the fans, among other topics.

Voices from the Heartland: When It Comes to Bristol, “Professional” Poole Doesn’t Have a Clue

Last week, I made my yearly journey to Bristol to take in this year’s edition of the Sharpie 500, as I have done every such August since 2002. Point being, I’ve seen a lot of racing, in person, at the fabled Speedway in Thunder Valley. I go to this particular track not as a member of the media, but as a fan – which works out rather nicely, as I’ve always been a fan first and a writer second. Truth be told, I think I only got into this writing gig as part of a drunken wager, the details of which are still quite hazy to all who were involved.

Thompson in Turn 5: Kevin Harvick Needs to Mind His Ps & Qs

There is little doubt that Richard Childress Racing has bounced back in the past few years, reestablishing itself as one of the premier racing organizations in the world of NASCAR Nextel Cup. After nearly two decades of success – most notably with the late Dale Earnhardt behind the wheel of the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet – the organization had seen a steady decline in their performance towards the end of the ’90s, even before the tragic death of the “Intimidator” in 2001. In the wake of Dale’s death, it was Kevin Harvick, his replacement, who’s accomplished the most for RCR on paper, winning two Busch Series titles while finishing in the top five in points twice. It’s a list of accomplishments that gets you thinking Harvick was the missing piece responsible for getting a fledgling organization back on track. But, in reality, that’s hardly the case – and in the wake of recent performances, Harvick’s now facing an uncomfortable scenario of being the only weak link in a rapidly forming playoff chain over at RCR.