NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Cami Starr

Fantasy Picks ‘N’ Pans: 2007 Brickyard 400 Edition

The Cup series heads to the heartland of America this week for the annual running of the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis. Having taken place every year since 1994, this event has quickly become the second-biggest race on the schedule, if not in prestige, at least in purse money. Increasing fan support does nothing but help the race's growing reputation, too; hosting the largest crowd on the circuit at estimates of nearly 300,000 fans, the Brickyard is certainly a jewel that any driver wants to have on their resume at the end of their career.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not In Nextel Cup: Race to The Chase Special Edition

Now that we have survived the final off weekend of the year, it's time to turn our focus to the upcoming seven-race slugfest that will determine the field for the 2007 Chase for the Championship. Obviously, there are certain drivers that are all but locked into the field barring some sort of meteor hitting their race shops. But the expansion to a field of 12 this year has widened the door for more of these wheelmen to try to make a name for themselves and stake their claim to a piece of NASCAR history.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Nextel Cup: 2007 USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland

Chicago is known for football, deep dish pizza, shopping, and the Sears Tower; sadly, it's not yet known for great racing. However, there was at least one driver who didn't sleep through the Chicagoland snoozefest; that would be Tony Stewart, who celebrated the end of his 20-race winless drought with another climb up the fence. Smoke was left awake and alert after a weekend where he got a lecture from the coach about playing nice with others, and he turned that motivation into victory celebration come Sunday night.

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Fantasy Picks ‘N’ Pans: 2007 USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Edition

The summer sun bakes the track's surface, making it slippery. Handling is always a priority but, when you take into consideration the heat wave that that has been gripping most of the country, it will be of the utmost importance this weekend. While track position has been critical in the past, the wider racing groove is taking that out of the equation more and more. When choosing your fantasy lineup, pick teams that typically make their car handle the best; they will be the ones to prevail.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Nextel Cup: 2007 USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Edition

Saturday was supposed to be the luckiest day of the year - July 7th, 2007 (7/7/07). On that fateful night, some of NASCAR's greatest drivers were lucky, indeed, finding no problem pulling the lever and hitting that jackpot on the slot machine of restrictor-plate racing known as Daytona International Speedway. While Jamie McMurray snagged the biggest payout, Kyle Busch discovered you make your own luck, and for all the talk about numerology, Clint Bowyer ended up just where he was destined to... in seventh place. In the midst of it all, Saturday night's race provided the usual restrictor-plate fireworks that we've all come to expect. There were teammate squabbles, finger pointing, bashed-in race cars and fiery tempers, all of which led to a gambler's delight on wheels - one of the closest finishes ever recorded in NASCAR history.

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Fantasy Picks ‘N’ Pans: 2007 Pepsi 400 at Daytona Edition

The Nextel Cup circuit heads to Daytona this week for NASCAR's traditional Independence Day extravaganza. Held on the 2.5-mile tri-oval to mark the end of the season's first half, the 400-miler gives us a chance to take stock and look back on what's been a wild and wacky beginning to '07. Even though the race is no longer held ON the 4th of July, it still involves a prolonged celebration of our country's independence nonetheless. As for your fantasy team, it's a bit of a crapshoot; the Pepsi 400 is a completely different race from the Daytona 500 that kicked off the season. This race is during the heat of the Summer and is run completely at night. It is also the final restrictor plate race in the old-style car -- the final plate race of the year at Talladega will be run with the Car of Tomorrow.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not In Nextel Cup: 2007 Pepsi 400 at Daytona Edition

The 1-mile flat track up in New Hampshire proved as difficult as ever to pass on Sunday, but that didn't stop a resurgent Jeff Gordon from giving it a shot. His last lap battle with Denny Hamlin left the two side-by-side heading to the finish line; but in the end, Hamlin held on, squeaking out a win while sending out a statement that his team could pose a challenge to Hendrick's Car of Tomorrow dominance. In the meantime, several storylines developed behind the two contenders, with late-race pit strategies, dropped jacks, and two-tire stops doing their best to separate the contenders from the pretenders as the Race to the Chase began its final 10-race stretch.

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Fantasy Picks ‘N’ Pans: 2007 Lenox Industrial Tools 300 at Loudon

The Nextel Cup Series heads to the Northeast this weekend to the cozy confines of New Hampshire International Speedway, the 1.058-mile flat track in Loudon, N.H. The eighth Car of Tomorrow race of the season, this weekend up north is likely to send the usual CoT cast of characters near the front of the pack. But pay particular attention to those championship contenders on your fantasy team; those drivers will certainly be focusing their efforts even more keenly on this track this weekend with the Chase in mind.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not In Nextel Cup: 2007 UAW-Daimler Chrysler 400 at Las Vegas Edition

this week both the Nextel Cup drivers and I are back to work after that early vacation, with the bright lights of Las Vegas looming over the horizon. While two weeks isn't enough to forecast a team's entire season, there are definitely those teams out there that are getting all they can out of the early part of the year, just as there are those who are digging themselves a pretty big hole. So, before the engines start up once more, let's take a second look at the roulette table and put our money on Who's Hot and Who's Not heading into this weekend's race at Las Vegas.

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