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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.

Change For The Better: Helping The CoT From Becoming a PoS

It's no secret that I am not a fan of the Car of Tomorrow. Just saying the phrase elicits certain feelings: Anger. Spite. Loathing. Still ... as much as I would love to sit here and rail against it for another 1500 words, I have made peace with the fact that it is here to stay, and you should, too. Call it what you will - a work in progress or mechanical cruelty - but there's no denying this is the vehicle that will represent NASCAR for well into the next decade. With this weekend's race at Phoenix being the last for the Car of Tomorrow's initial foray into competition, we thought it would be a good time to reflect on the car, how it has performed to date, and what can be done to help make racing better for both the fans and the drivers - before these things go full-time in 2008. First off, we'll start with competition. You'd be hard pressed to argue the new car started off with more than its fair share of good finishes. Kyle Busch and Jeff Burton battled down to the last lap in the CoT's debut at Bristol back in March; the margin of victory then? A microscopic .064 seconds...

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A Racer and A Gentleman: Ned Jarrett

Ned Jarrett was one of the first bonafide superstars of the sport, helping to bring NASCAR to the next level in the early to mid-1960's. What started out as a regional sport with an underground following began to rise to national prominence by the mid-1950's, with factory involvement from Ford and Chrysler. At the time, the heroes of the sport were characters that seemed right out of central casting from Dukes Of Hazzard: Curtis Turner, Fireball Roberts, Joe Weatherly, and the Flock brothers. Ned Jarrett was the antithesis of the hell raisers of the early years. He was a family man who truly earned the nickname, "Gentleman Ned."

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2007: The Year The Biscuit Wheels Came Off The Gravy Train For Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Following this past weekend's race at Texas Motor Speedway, the championship chase tightened considerably between points leader Jeff Gordon and teammate Jimmie Johnson. However, there is one irrefutable fact that has been reinforced from the 2007 season: The wheels have come off Dale Earnhardt, Junior's season. Literally. Heading into the final restart with two laps to go, it appeared that the DE in DEI was finally going to break through for his first win since the Crown Royal 400 at Richmond, way back in June of 2006. As Junior hung the No. 8 Budweiser Monte Carlo on the white line through turn one, it appeared as if he was going to clear Carl Edwards and have at least a shot at catching Jimmie Johnson. At least, for a moment.

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One Fast Cat in a Bad Hot Rod: Rusty Wallace

Rusty Wallace came of age during the late 70's and early 1980's running USAC and ASA with such short truck luminaries as Larry Phillips and Dick Trickle. He also was competing with fellow future NASCAR stars Alan Kulwicki and Mark Martin, often driving tte fastidious Martin crazy by showing up late to practice because he had to wait for his crewman and yougest brother Kenny to get out of school before they could leave for the track. In those days, Rusty sported what he referred to as his "nuclear hair do", a massive poofy Afro that resembled something rising into the atmosphere over Yucca Flats or Bikini Atoll.

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Getting Their Just Desserts – NASCAR Driver Earnings Finally Matching Those Of Other Major Athletes

Ernest Hemingway once said that, "Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports ... all others are games." All decade long, we've heard such age-old discussion of how NASCAR drivers stack up to the athletic performances of the stick 'n' ball sports: Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NHL, and the NBA. You can go back and forth on that question for ages; but in the end, you'll never be able to test athletes on the same athletic skill that makes them so great. However, there's another area where direct comparison _is_ readily available; it's a mode of financial number crunching that goes far beyond physical talent laid out on a track, a football field, or a baseball diamond, one that gives you an idea of just how much one man measures up against another. It's the checkbook.

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Three Brothers, Two Championships, and a Monkey: Tim Flock

Tim Flock was one of the legendary personalities of the sport, along with the likes of his brother Fonty, Curtis Turner, and Fireball Roberts. He was a hell-raiser straight from the mold of the drivers of yesteryear, a far cry from the spit-polished corporate spokesmen of today. *Career highlights:* One of the early pioneers of the sport: finished fifth in the first NASCAR race held, a Strictly-Stock event at the Charlotte Speedway dirt track in 1949; finished 8th in NASCAR's first official full season. A two-time series champion; set the record for poles in a season in 1955 with 19. Held record for most wins in a season with 18 in 1955 until Richard Petty broke it with 27 wins in 1967. Winner of the Daytona Beach race in 1955; regarded as the best Beach Course driver of all time. Winner of the only sports-car race in NASCAR history in 1955. 21.2% winning percentage is the best in NASCAR history. Ranks twelfth on all time win list.

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NASCAR Fans: Still Reviled Among The Elite

One of the biggest gripes about the new Chase for The Championship in NASCAR is not so much a break from tradition, but to what it represents: pandering to the masses. Every week, be it during the race, NASCAR themed shows, or in print, constant comparisons are made to other sports, drawing parallels between their post-season and the new "playoff" format that was introduced for the 2004 season. NASCAR has a tremendous amount of time, money, and effort invested trying to change the reputation and image of NASCAR. What was once thought of as a regional sport born of moonshiners and bootleggers, had grown to the one of the most popular sports in the nation, ranking second only behind the NFL in attendance and ratings. Surely NASCAR had succeeded in winning the hearts and minds of the public at large. That is unless you work in our nation's capitol.

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Ain’t No Joke: Joe Weatherly

*Name:* Joe Weatherly *Birthdate:* May 29th, 1922 *Hometown:* Norfolk, VA *Nextel Cup Debut:* 1952 Southern 500 at Darlington, SC (Grand National Division) *Races:* 230 *Wins:* 25 *Poles:* 18 *Top Fives:* 105 *Top Tens:* 153 *Championships:* 2 (1962, 1963) *Career highlights:* One of the first legitimate big stars in NASCAR, Weatherly was the winner of back-to-back Championships in both 1962 and 1963. Before becoming one of the most storied figures in NASCAR's golden era, he was also a 3-time AMA Motorcycle Champion. Nicknamed, "The Clown Prince of Auto Racing," he won the Most Popular Driver Award in 1961. Sadly, he died in an accident during the 1964 Riverside 500 before he could fully realize his potential. Joe Weatherly's driving career almost ended before it even began. He nearly died while out with a group of friends one night, lost control while driving through an S - curve; he had bumped into a curb and broke a tie rod. With no steering or time to react, he ran headlong into a tree. Weatherly was nearly ejected from the vehicle, his head and neck breaking through the windshield. As Weatherly was trapped and bleeding to death, one passenger was dead, and others badly injured. Weatherly recovered then, but in other instances, he wasn't so lucky. He was left badly scarred about the face; rumors arose that it was the result of a Nazi sniper in WWII. Unfortunately, it would not be the last time he had an encounter with a parts failure in the middle of an S-curve turn. Throughout his golden years in the sport, Joe Weatherly was nicknamed "The Clown Prince of Racing." It was a moniker he enjoyed - he also loved playing practical jokes, partying, and engaging in behavior that would put most rock bands to shame. His antics have become the legend of NASCAR's early days, some of which have been immortalized on the big screen. The rental car chase scene from Days of Thunder? Joe Weatherly and Curtis Turner. Driving a stock car into a motel swimming pool in Cannonball Run? Joe Weatherly and Curtis Turner.

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Talladega Plus The Car of Tomorrow Equals The NFL And A Nap

Say the word "Talladega," and what comes to mind? Three-wide racing. Packed grandstands cloaked in Budweiser red. Adrenal gland-draining close calls. A 30-car pile up. Elliott Sadler upside down, hurtling through the atmosphere. Jeff Gordon getting pelted with beer cans. With that in mind...what track were they racing at last weekend, anyway? From my seat in the stands (for this particular race, a sage green upholstered one in front of a 57" Hitachi), Talladega looked a lot like sitting alongside I-94 in Michigan in the middle of a construction zone. The only thing that reminded me that it was Talladega was seeing Old Glory proudly waving behind the Semi-Truck in the "fly by" during the pre-race ceremonies. Instead of the slicing and dicing, three-wide racing we usually see, the majority of the race was a single file, bumper-to-bumper train along the top of the race track. To say that it was like watching paint dry would be an insult to freshly applied coats of satin everywhere.

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One of the Very Best: Bobby Allison

*Name:* Bobby Allison *Birthdate:* December 3rd, 1937 *Hometown:* Hueytown, AL (Born: Miami, FL) *Nextel Cup Debut:* 1961 Daytona 500 (Finished 31st) *Races:* 718 *Wins:* 84 *Poles:* 58 *Top 5s:* 336 *Top 10s:* 446 *Championships:* 1 (1983) *Earnings:* $7,673,803 *Career Highlights:* Three-time Daytona 500 winner (1978, 1982, 1988); 1983 Winston Cup Champion; 84 victories, tying him with Darrell Waltrip for third in all-time wins; 1980 IROC Champion. Developed front suspension geometry that is still used as the foundation for Nextel Cup, Busch Grand National, Truck, and ARCA race cars. Voted Most Popular Driver six times, and voted one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers. Bobby Allison started racing around southern Florida while he was in high school, but after one too many accidents, his dad, "Pops" Allison made him quit.

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