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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.

Blew By You: Kurt Busch Making A Case For Legitimate Title Contender…Turning Bud Fans Blue In The Process

_Editor's Note : Jeff Meyer is on vacation, so his usual Voices From The Heartland column will not be run. Look for a new version to return next week; in the meantime, The Voice Of Vito's Vito Pugliese proves a fine subsititute with his special column of the week._ With only three races remaining before the 2007 Chase for The Championship begins, the question of who will be the final qualifier for the ten-race playoff became a little more clear on a foggy and soggy Tuesday afternoon in Brooklyn, Michigan. For the second time in three races, Kurt Busch drove the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger to Victory Lane, in a performance that, while not nearly as dominating as his win two weeks earlier at Pocono, was convincing nonetheless that a playoff push has come ever closer to paying off. Need proof? Well, Busch is now just 157 points behind younger brother Kyle, eighth in points - making him closer to moving up than moving out of Chase contention. Behind him, he leads Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by 163 and stablemate Ryan Newman by 171 in the quest to claim the 12th and final spot in this year's championship battle.

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Driven To The Past: Benny Parsons

*Vital Stats* *Born:* July 12th, 1941 *Hometown:* Wilkes County, North Carolina *Starts:* 526 *Top 5s:* 199 *Top 10s:* 283 *Poles:* 20 *Championships:* 1 (1973) *Earnings:* $4,426,278 This weekend's 3M Performance 400 at Michigan International Speedway brings back fond memories of a special life lost. While the track that sits off the road from US-12 might be considered home for Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler, it was also considered the "home" of 1973 Winston Cup Champion Benny Parsons. One of the most beloved figures in NASCAR history, the compassionate driver-turned-TV analyst passed away this past January at 65 after succumbing to complications from lung cancer. Benny Parsons was born in Ellerbe, North Carolina, on July 12th, 1941 - a small town just north of Rockingham. After growing up in the South throughout his childhood, Parsons actually made his first career choice around a profession that had nothing to do with racing - but driving an automobile nonetheless.

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Kyle Busch: Giving 110% for a Great Opportunity…And Other Favorite Cliches

In recent years the terminology surrounding what exactly NASCAR "is" has changed. In an effort to join the ranks of recognized traditional stink-and-ball competition, NASCAR was often referred to as a "Sport". After all, it fit all of the requirements of "Sport": Hand to eye coordination, teamwork, operating under a great deal of stress in an environment of extremes; climate, proximity, auditory and sensory. Plus you can die doing it. Hemingway is often quoted "there are only three true sports: mountain climbing, bullfighting and motor racing. All the rest are children's games that grown-ups play." In recent years however as the "Sport" has grown, a new term has emerged to describe our beloved pastime: "Business". As unsavory as that might sound, racing exists because of sponsors, and our favorite drivers and makes of cars are indeed pitchmen and very loud billboards. With this "business" aspect, comes some of the cliches that accompany corporate America as well. I was reminded of this a number of times during Kyle Busch's announcement that he will join Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008, as driver of the No. 18 machines fielded by Coach Gibbs.

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What’s The Call: Can Kyle Busch And Tony Stewart Get Along As Teammates?

*Today's Question : Earlier this week, it was leaked to the press that Kyle Busch will be headed to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008. With on-track skirmishes and public bad mouthing in the not-so-distant past, can Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart get along as teammates?* Vito Pugliese: Kyle Busch turned 22 years old just three months ago. He has been driving full time in the most prestigious form of racing in this hemisphere since 2005 when he was 19, for the biggest name in the sport. He scored two wins his rookie season, qualified for the Chase last year, and won the first Car of Tomorrow race at Bristol this spring. He is by no means hurting for talent. What he is hurting for is some guidance. Beth Lunkenheimer: Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart on the same team. Is Gibbs nuts? He has set himself up to mediate many Monday morning team meetings where the two drivers will be lectured about their attitudes and their inability to work together.

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The Best There Could Have Been – Driven To The Past: Tim Richmond

Tim Richmond came into NASCAR reminiscent of the way so many do today. He got his start in open wheel racing by testing a sprint car for a friend and wound up turning laps faster than the regular driver. At the age of 21, that brief test had him hooked and soon after he won the USAC Rookie of The Year in 1978. Two years later he moved to big time open wheel racing, competing in the Indianapolis 500 in 1980, finishing ninth after running out of fuel. Driving for car owner D.K. Ulrich, he would make his NASCAR debut at Pocono later that year -- a track where some of his most memorable, yet heart-breaking memories would be made.

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Pat Tryson: The Right Man At The Right Time For Kurt Busch

"Pat, buddy, where have you been all my life?!" No, that wasn't Kurt Busch speaking to new crew chief Pat Tryson following their Sunday victory at Pocono...although it easily could have been. Instead, it was Busch's former Roush Racing teammate Mark Martin, words spoken following Martin and Tryson's first race together at Phoenix in 2003. The joy expressed from that fateful day proved a telling insight into what would be a successful future between the two men...a future that Tryson appears ready to relive through the potential of a younger, rising talent.

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Junk In The Trunk – Driven To The Past: Junior Johnson

If there is one name that is synonymous with NASCAR's storied past, it is Junior Johnson. This pioneer of big-time stock car racing helped to shape the sport to what it has become today, despite the efforts of some to cover up the dirty little secret surrounding NASCAR's origins. Junior was good for racing, and racing was good for Junior. Besides keeping him out of a federal penitentiary, it afforded him the opportunity to use his wit for good, rather than engage in certain nefarious activities. An innovator who was as competent behind the wheel as he was over the wall or atop the pit box, Junior Johnson is one of the living legends of our sport, and the key cog linking its past to the present.

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The Chase For The Cup: Saving Fans From A Championship Already Decided

There has been much handwringing, carping, and moaning about NASCAR's Chase format ever since it was instituted in 2004. Introduced the same year Nextel replaced Winston as series sponsor following 31 years of unprecedented growth, the two became entangled in a litany of criticism surrounding the inevitable fear of change. And that was understandable; with the Latford points system providing some of the most memorable championship battles in history since 1975, the new format raised the ire of many a race fan to see the old system replaced with what seemed like a gimmick designed to resemble traditional stick-and-ball sport championships. With NASCAR now in the national spotlight, the sanctioning body was clearly attempting to go head-to-head with the NFL - the only sport it hadn't eclipsed in popularity - in the Fall with its own version of the playoffs. After snoozer points battles in 2000, 2001, and 2003, NASCAR and new series sponsor Nextel felt a change was in order. Turns out change was good.

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NASCAR: Still Showing What’s Right With Sports

For all intents and purposes, 2007 has been an absolute disaster for professional sports. Major League Baseball is about to have the most coveted and hallowed individual accomplishment bested, and the commissioner of the league's position regarding his attendance of the event, is predicated on if he doesn't have anything else better to do. Not to mention, the player who is preparing to beat the home run mark of 755 by Hank Aaron, is in the center of a grand jury investigation for using steroids and human growth hormone, among other unsavory allegations including an affair and funding his mistress' lifestyle through the sale of baseball memorabilia.

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A Winner In Any Era – Driven To The Past: Darrell Waltrip

Darrell Waltrip is known by all race fans and casual viewers alike, as the jovial anchor for Fox Sports' NASCAR coverage. Since 2001, we've all become familiar with his trademark phrase "Boogity, Boogity, Boogity.....Let's Go Racin', Boys!!!" He has also developed his own language, 'splainin' to us the difference between loose and tight, the practice of working together while trying to win for yourself (coopetition), cars named "Bertha", and he has also been known to break out into song. What many fans who have only started following the sport don't know is just how successful Darrell Waltrip was as a driver. He is often introduced as "3-time Champion, Darrell Waltrip", but with today's Chase format, it's hard to appreciate just how much he has accomplished.

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