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

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. Busch encountered yet more misfortune while leading a Cup race for the second time in three weeks. Coming off of the second turn, the steering in his Camry failed to respond. Although he wanted to straighten the wheel, it stayed turned to the left, effectively committing automotive hari kari. The failure was not much different than in 2002 when, while on the parade lap for the fall Talladega race, Mark Martin was busy swerving his car back and forth to warm the tires. As he cut the wheel left, the steering locked, sending him and polesitter Jimmie Johnson into the infield grass.

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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 p.m. 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 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 stock car -- aerodynamics, not handling, were the key to how a driver would finish. But with the new machine, its 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.

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

As their ads from the 1960s stated, "Put a Dodge in Your Garage." While the field fanned out on the backstretch on the "money" lap, Ryan Newman, with a big push from teammate Kurt Busch, streaked by on the outside of Stewart, who was being pushed by teammate Kyle Busch, to take the lead. The whole scene looked perfectly orchestrated, and almost anti-climactic as the two Chargers surged to the front of the pack and ran unencumbered to the finish line. It didn't end there. Looking back through the top 11 spots, seven of them were "Pentastar" powered machines. The brand that was the preverbal boat anchor last season suddenly thrust itself back atop the points standings with their first Daytona 500 win since Ward Burton accomplished the feat back in 2002.

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Tony Stewart: Center of Controversy Once Again

Following the final practice session for the Bud Shootout this past Friday evening, Stewart tangled with Kurt Busch entering turn 3. 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?

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. At Daytona, half of the top 10 fastest single-car runs and six of the top 10 cars in the draft were Toyotas. In Las Vegas, the emerging Toyota threat began to take shape in each session. On the first day in the morning session, Denny Hamlin posted the fastest speed, with Kyle Busch posting the fifth. In the afternoon, Kyle Busch bested fellow Toyota teammate Tony Stewart by nearly .20 seconds... and four of the top five fastest afternoon times were by Stewart or Busch. The next day's AM session had four of the top six cars as Toyotas.

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

Much has been made this season about whether or not Martin would renege on his initial wish to not compete full-time in 2007. After all, it was 2005 that was supposed to be Martin's last go round in Cup in the first place. Two years later, the veteran's stronger now than he was then; following a controversial finish at Daytona that had him winning the 500 but losing the Daytona 505, a string of four top-10 finishes has him leading the points this early in the year for the first time since 2000. During the last month, Martin's faced renewed pressure from the media, fans, and his fellow competitors to keep those good times rolling, giving him the opportunity to perhaps cash in on a long-awaited chance at a championship. This time, however, Martin appears to be making good on a plan he had set in motion way back in 2003.

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2007 Driver Review: Mark Martin

Choosing family and fatherhood over ingratitude, deafening racecars, and a gaudy-looking trophy, Mark 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. Ironically, this team's first win came in 2002 with driver Johnny Benson - narrowly holding off Martin for their first win at Rockingham. And their last? At Kansas in 2004 - the site of Martin's last triumph just one year later.

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2007 Driver Review: Robby Gordon

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 came 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 before being outdone by poor fuel mileage and finishing 16th. Two months later, he posted his best finish of the year with a fifth-place effort at Watkins Glen.

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That’s History Profile: Ricky Rudd

Ricky Rudd began his racing career the same way as many of today's drivers; behind the wheel of something other than a fendered stock car. Ricky got his start in go-karts at the tender age of nine, at the same time running motocross, and didn't get into stock car racing until he was 17 years old. He made his first NASCAR start in 1975 at the Carolina 500 at the North Carolina Motor Speedway, in the sand hills of Rockingham, N.C. "The Rock" had always been a test of man and machine, but even more so back then. The extra 100 miles that were removed after 1995 were brutal - Rudd finished 11th in his Cup debut - albeit 56 laps down. His next start at Bristol would result in his first top-10 finish. This time he was only 44 laps down.

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