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Warning: This Is Only A Test

Winter is a stark time, indeed, on the NASCAR landscape; although as a recent transplant to beautiful Mooresville, North Carolina, I must say the weather is pleasant compared to my home state of New Hampshire - to say the least. But in terms of racing, the winter season can be a long, barren time with little to get fans' motors running - or even started in the first place. Sure, there are the cute little tidbits about Junior's trip to Australia, who is doing what for the holidays, etc.; but let's face it, these news stories are like giving you the oyster crackers but not the soup. They're nice and crunchy, but carry no substance (did I write that about California Speedway once)? As the offseason hits full swing, fans' desire to hear engines roar hits a fever pitch; they yearn for speed over sound bites once again. Then after the New Year, along comes Daytona testing, and like the proverbial light at the end of our tunnel (vision), there is racing to talk about.

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2007 NASCAR Driver Review: J.J. Yeley

*2007 Ride:* No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet *2007 Primary Sponsor:* Interstate Batteries *2007 Owner:* Joe Gibbs *2007 Crew Chief:* Steve Addington *Stats:* 36 Races, 0 Wins, 1 Top 5, 3 Top 10s, 1 Pole, 21st in points. *High Point:* J.J. Yeley's spirits in an otherwise lackluster year had to soar after a second place run at the Coca-Cola 600 this May. That bridesmaid finish in fifty-four Nextel Cup races driving for the respected Joe Gibbs Racing organization was Yeley's career best to date, coming days after an ultimatum by Team President J.D. Gibbs for the sophomore to step up his performance behind the wheel. Though aided greatly by a successful fuel strategy call by the No. 18 team, Yeley was able to nurse the car home to the checkered flag after running well for all 600 miles. Just three weeks later, he won his first pole position at Michigan, punctuating his ability to compete in stock car's most prestigious series.

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2007 NASCAR Driver Review: Michael Waltrip

*2007 Ride:* No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota *2007 Primary Sponsor:* NAPA Auto Parts *2007 Owner:* Michael Waltrip *2007 Crew Chief:* David Hyder (February) Scott Eggleston (February - April) Buddy Sisco (April - November) *Stats:* 36 Races, 0 Wins, 0 Top 5s, 0 Top 10s, 1 Pole, 43rd in points. *High Point:* Surprisingly enough, the second half of the season saw Waltrip's team begin to capture a small bit of momentum. In a ten-race stretch from August to November, he failed to qualify just twice, earning three Top 15 finishes in the nine races he actually qualified for. One of those happened to be Talladega, always a strong point for Waltrip; and in that Fall race, he didn't disappoint fans by putting together a lap strong enough to get him on the pole.

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Down in Daytona: Speeds Up in Final Day of Session One

The first session of NASCAR Sprint Cup testing is over, and after Jimmie Johnson topped single-car runs each of the first two days, it was the Toyotas that were at the top of the chart in drafting practice. *J.J. Yeley* led the PM session Tuesday in the Hall of Fame Racing Toyota, then *Kyle Busch* put his Joe Gibbs Racing Camry at the top of the charts in both drafting sessions Wednesday. Speeds jumped up considerably on the second day of drafting, with Busch posting the top speed of with 188.830 miles per hour. Yeley ran a 187.359 on Tuesday; with more rubber being laid down on the race track, speeds should continue to increase when the second wave of Cup drivers return on Jan. 14.

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2007 NASCAR Driver Review: Kenny Wallace

*2007 Rides*: No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet (Feb.-Aug.) No. 45 Petty Enterprises Dodge (Bristol, August) No. 88 Robert Yates Racing Ford (September) *2007 Primary Sponsor*: Furniture Row (No. 78) Wells Fargo (No. 45) Snickers (No. 88) *2007 Owners*: Barney Visser (No. 78) Richard Petty (No. 45) Robert Yates (No. 88) *2007 Crew Chief*: Jay Guy (No. 78) Billy Wilburn (No. 45) Cully Barraclough (No. 88) *Stats*: 15 races, 0 Wins, 0 Top 5s, 0 Top 10s, 46th in points. *Average Finish*: 30.9. *Best Finish*: 21st - Bristol, March. *High Point*: Several drivers waited with baited breath after the Nextel Open to find out who would win the coveted fan vote and transfer into the Nextel All-Star Challenge. However, the hopes of many other would-be contenders were dashed when the NASCAR directive came over the radio: send the No. 78 Furniture Row car to tech inspection.

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2007 NASCAR Driver Review: Brian Vickers

*2007 Ride:* No. 83 Team Red Bull Toyota *2007 Sponsor:* Red Bull *2007 Owner:* Dietrich Mateschitz *2007 Crew Chief*: Doug Richert (February - October) Randy Cox (October - November) *Stats:* 23 races, 0 Wins, 1 Top 5, 5 Top 10s, 0 poles, 38th in Points. *Average Finish:* 25.1. *Best Finish:* 5th - Coca-Cola 600, May. *High Point:* Despite missing two of the first five races of the season - immediately putting himself behind the 8-ball - Vickers ran well in the races that he did qualify for in 2007. Being outside of the Top 35 in owner points was a difficult task for any driver in that position, but in the 23 races that the No. 83 team did make, Vickers averaged a 25th place finish with 5 top 10s. His best run came at the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day Weekend, where a number of Toyotas ran strong - Vickers led several laps and finished 5th, his lone Top 5 of the season. *Low Point:* A shift to Toyota as one of the manufacturer's top drivers left Vickers starting on a very sour note at the beginning of the year.

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Down in Daytona: Drafting Practice Begins On Day 2

*Mark Martin* wasn't shy with his comments about single-car runs following the first day of Winter Testing in Daytona, going as far as to call the session a "waste of his time" and "idiotic." Well, Martin and each of the 26 drivers on hand for Session One got their wish Tuesday afternoon, when NASCAR allowed the teams to participate in drafting practice one day earlier than expected. After *Jimmie Johnson* topped the charts for the second day in an AM session that allowed only single-car runs, teams took the CoT into packs for the first time at Daytona - and it was *J.J. Yeley* who was fastest, with a lap of 187.359 miles an hour. This is Yeley's first official test for the No. 96 Hall of Fame Racing team, as well as HOF's first official test with a Toyota as a satellite team to Joe Gibbs Racing - Yeley's former employer for the 2006-07 seasons.

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2007 NASCAR Driver Review: Martin Truex, Jr.

*2007 Ride*: No. 1 Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Chevrolet *2007 Primary Sponsor*: Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats *2007 Owner*: Teresa Earnhardt *2007 Crew Chief*: Kevin Manion *Stats*: 36 races, 1 Win, 7 Top 5s, 14 Top 10s, 1 Pole, 11th in Points. *Average Finish*: 16.4. *Best Finish*: 1st — Dover, June. *High Point*: Decidedly his first career Cup Win in Dover. Surrounded by stands packed with his hometown fans, there was no more suitable place for Truex Jr. to make a statement about his future in the top echelon of racing. Raised in southern New Jersey, Truex Jr. followed his father into regional racing series, making a name for himself in short order. While fans throughout the Northeast call Martin one of their own, those that populate the Monster Mile consider the Truex family next of kin. The normally reticent Truex Jr. had a hard time peeling the grin off his face while he celebrated in Victory Lane.

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