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Vito Pugliese

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Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.

The Day The Biscuit Wheels Fell Off Toyota’s Gravy Train

Over the years, Japanese auto manufacturers have built a reputation of building vehicles that are as reliable as the Pet Rock. The rationale behind purchasing a car from the Asian auto giant was its above-average fuel efficiency, and that the machines were as mechanically trustworthy as a St. Bernard with a small barrel of elixir strapped to its neck. But while Joe Gibbs Racing's Toyotas have shown irrefutable speed early on this season, one similarity they have not echoed is the corporate nameplate's distinguished record for reliability and quality control. Yes, the same company that brought you the Lexus luxury brand was also privy to Kyle Busch's intermittent steering and Denny Hamlin's semi-active fuel delivery system last weekend. For during Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol, everything that possibly could go wrong did go wrong with a Toyota.

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Mark Martin: He’s Bad, He’s Nationwide – The All-Time Wins Leader Continues To Make An Impact In Semi-Retirement

When asked where his favorite vacation destination is, Mark Martin will list Las Vegas as his place of refuge. No, it is not because he enjoys gambling, the nightlife, or the seedy underbelly of society. For the driver who calls 11:00 PM way past his bedtime, Martin enjoys Vegas because they have the best video game arcades anywhere in the country. That's right; the same 49-year-old who likes rap music, Bernie Mac, and Dave Chappelle also enjoys playing video games with his son Matt while staying on the strip. But the arcade isn't the only thing drawing Martin to Sin City. The driver who Carl Edwards once glossed "crazy old man" in a Nextel commercial a couple of years back also seems to do pretty well at the race track they have out there, too.

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Car of Tomorrow Helps To Provide Parity Today

While many in the media (yours truly included) were raving about Dodge's impressive showing at the Daytona 500, many were looking to this past weekend's Auto Club 500 in Fontana, California as the true test of how the Car of Tomorrow would perform for this season. The 1.5 + mile "downforce" tracks make up the bulk of NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule, and over the last several years with the previous iteration of stockcar, aerodynamics were the key to how a driver would finish. With the new machine and it's common template and non-offset body, much of any aero-ingenuity has been engineered out of the cars, making mechanical grip the moving target for which teams will take aim at. To a man, all of the principles in the sport agree, the driver has more input and influence than anytime in recent memory with the new car.

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Put A Dodge In Your Garage: Dodge Returns To Prominence At Daytona

All through testing and Speedweeks at Daytona, it seemed there was one thing fans could count on happening in the 50th running of the Daytona 500: The Toyotas and the Hendrick Chevrolets would be near the front in the Great American Race. Hendrick's latest acquisition, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., got off to a fast start during Speedweeks, winning the Bud Shootout and his 150-mile qualifying race. Another Hendrick Chevrolet, the No. 48 Lowe's Impala, driven by Jimmie Johnson, took the Coors Light Pole. The reigning champion shared the front row with the face--and mouth piece--of Toyota, Michael Waltrip. Denny Hamlin bested teammate and fellow Toyota driver Tony Stewart to win his 150-mile qualifying race. With such a precedence, why would we expect anything else? During the Daytona 500, it was the Toyota show, with a sprinkling of Hendrick, as expected. Kyle Busch looked primed to take home the checkers, but only if Tony Stewart didn't get there first. So how did it all turn out? As their ads from the 1960's stated, "Put a Dodge in Your Garage".

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Tony Stewart: Center of Controversy Once Again

Tony Stewart has been known to hobknob with more than a few celebrities. Chief among them -- and one of his biggest fans -- is none other than Kid Rock. One of his songs entitled, "Devil Without A Cause" contains the line, same game, same name, ain't a damn thing changed. Those lyrics from one of Stewart's supporters actually came to mind this past week following the veteran's latest dustup. Following the final practice session for the Bud Shootout this past Friday evening, Stewart tangled with Kurt Busch entering turn three. On their way back to the pits, Busch took note that Tony's car wasn't as badly damaged as his, and tried to make a few cosmetic adjustments to the Home Depot Camry to help even the score. It's obvious what happened next: the two were summoned to the NASCAR hauler for the requisite admonishment and "you need us more than we need you" rebuke that drivers have become accustomed to after misbehaving. There's just one thing out of the ordinary; shortly after the meeting, it was reported that Stewart took a swing at Busch in the hauler. Surprised?

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Toyota’s Preseason Testing Numbers: The Shape of Things To Come?

_"The Beast is out there….and he's hungry tonight."_ That line -- from the motion picture "Platoon" -- takes place during the calm before the storm in an exchange between the characters Chris and King. It sets the scene as an eerie prelude of what will devolve into a climactic firefight at the film's conclusion. It could also be used to describe what awaits NASCAR Sprint Cup teams who do not field Toyotas. During preseason testing at Daytona, Las Vegas, and California, there was no mistaking that a good number of Toyotas put up some rather impressive numbers -- a far cry from a year ago, when the manufacturer proved the laughing stock of Speedweeks. The consistency on top of the boards has truly been something to see.

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The Best Of The Frontstretch: Give Me A Break: The Significance of Martin Finally Taking The Week Off As Promised

Someone might want to contact Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel; it appears as if Hell has actually frozen over. For the first time since the November race at Atlanta in 1987, a streak of 621 consecutive races, Mark Martin will not be competing in a NASCAR Cup Series event. Ranking 4th on the all-time list behind Ricky Rudd, Terry Labonte, and Dale Earnhardt, Sr. for consecutive starts, Martin finally takes a break this weekend. It's not due to injury, poor qualifying effort, or fear of flying CoT wings and splitters that sends Martin off to the sidelines; it's simply because he has more "pressing business" at a dirt track in Lake City, Florida. Uh…okay?

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2007 Driver Review: Mark Martin

*2007 Ride:* No. 01 Ginn Racing / Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Chevrolet *2007 Primary Sponsor : U.S. Army *2007 Owner:* Bobby Ginn / Teresa Earnhardt (added in July) *2007 Crew Chief:* Ryan Pemberton *2007 Stats:* 24 starts, 0 Wins, 5 Top 5s, 11 Top 10s, 27th in points (Martin's No. 01 car was 17th in Owner Points) *High Point:* The 2007 Daytona 500. "They waited! I can't believe they waited! I had him!" Even after coming within a few inches of winning what has become the most prestigious event in big-time auto racing, Mark Martin was thankful for the opportunity just to have a shot at it. Just six months earlier, the organization he spent almost 20 years helping to build into the dynasty it has become today - Roush Racing - decided they had no room for him in a part-time capacity as a driver. Choosing family and fatherhood over ingratitude, deafening race cars, and a gaudy-looking trophy, Martin still managed to get off to the best start of his storied career after signing with Ginn Racing, leading the points after the first four races of the season with an average finish of 5.5. What made all of this more impressive is that he accomplished it with what had been a second-tier team, using Hendrick hand-me-downs and outdated technology to score all of two wins in 10 years.

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2007 Driver Review: Robby Gordon

*2007 Ride:* No. 7 Robby Gordon Motorsports Ford *2007 Primary Sponsor:* Jim Beam/Menard's *2007 Owner:* Robby Gordon *2007 Crew Chief:* Greg Erwin (Feb-May), Gene Need (May-Sep), Peter Sospenzo (Sep-Nov) *2007 Stats:* 35 starts, 0 wins, 1 Top 5, 2 Top 10's, 26th in points, laps led. *High Point:* There are few things in life that one can bank on: Death, Taxes, and Robby Gordon on a road course. It is of no surprise that Gordon's best two outings of the year was when he would be on (nearly) equal footing with his fellow competitors. With all of the talk of common templates, bodies, and the inability to pass, Gordon is still clearly worth a few tenths of a second a lap when the road turns right as well as left. He managed to put it on the front row and lead 48 of 110 laps lead at Sonoma in June (undone by poor fuel mileage), and posted his best finish of the year two months later with a 5th place effort at Watkins Glen. It was refreshing this year to see Gordon suffer only two DNF's (versus nine last season), and one of those was an engine failure, not the result of an ill-advised pass or racing for 9th while 3 laps down.

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Driven To The Past: Yeah, Here Come The Rooster…Ricky Rudd

*Name:* Ricky Rudd *Birthdate:* September 12, 1956 *Hometown:* Chesapeake, Virginia *Nextel Cup Debut:* 1975 Carolina 500 - Rockingham, NC *Races:* 905 *Wins:* 23 *Poles:* 29 *Top Fives:* 194 *Top Tens:* 374 *Earnings:* $44,401,043 * stats as of 11/15/2007 *Career Highlights:* Nickname: Rooster. 1977 Winston Cup Rookie of The Year. NASCAR's Iron Man - holds record for most consecutive starts with 788; ranks 2nd in total starts only to Richard Petty. Tied with Rusty Wallace for most consecutive seasons with at least one win (16). Winning at least one race each year from 1983-1998. Winner of the 1997 Brickyard 400. 1992 IROC champion. Named as one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.

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