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Did You Notice?

Did You Notice? … NASCAR’s Shrinking Field, Stealing Money, And Logistical Nightmares

*Did You Notice?* … The underreported aftermath of the Kasey Kahne signing is it could keep another fully-funded car from popping up? Some of the other Kahne scenarios presented the last few months – staying at RPM, James Finch, Stewart-Haas Racing, JR Motorsports, etc. – all required a team to either grow or step up from being a start-and-parker to a fully-funded effort.Not so with the organization Kahne ended up with, another sign of how money talks (remember, sponsorship was already in place at Red Bull, making it easy to dump Kahne there without signing additional financial backers). And even though Red Bull general manager Frye maintains there’s a chance Red Bull Racing might expand, recent budget cuts within the organization suggest three cars for them in 2011 is nothing more than a pipe dream.

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Did You Notice? … “Waving” A Silly NASCAR Rule Goodbye, Innovation vs. Ignore, And Real Heroes

*Did You Notice?* … That Pocono was one rain shower away from the most laughable victory the sport has ever seen? Under a red flag for rain, Sam Hornish – yes, the same Sam Hornish that has yet to score a top-10 finish this year – was sitting out front, using pit strategy to vault into the lead by not stopping when everyone else pitted for fresh rubber. As Mother Nature teased us with a shower, a first win for him in stock cars at one point seemed inevitable, not earned but giftwrapped in the form of some laughable rules.Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against the IndyCar convert still giving it his all each week to survive at the Cup level. If this were the June race, where Hornish ran well all day, then used strategy to fight his way to the front before fading to 11th, I wouldn’t have had much of an issue.

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Did You Notice? … Busch Spotter Silliness, Martin v. Evernham, Labonte Love, And Sources

*Did You Notice?* … Bobby Labonte gets a second chance (or is it more like his fourth)? Hours after Marcos Ambrose announced his departure from JTG Daugherty Racing (we’ll get to his status later), Labonte’s been handed the keys to the No. 47 Toyota for 2011.It’s easily the best-case scenario for the former Cup champ, landing with a program in JTG Daugherty that is solid financially, has chassis support from Michael Waltrip Racing, and placed in a stable with two upward-trending teammates: Martin Truex, Jr. and David Reutimann. No, chances are MWR won’t make the Chase this year. But in a season where just eight men and seven teams have won a race - remember, Roush Fenway isn't even on that list - their Chicagoland victory with David Reutimann, combined with a career year for the No. 56 car itself showcases they’re one of the few middle-class NASCAR operations weathering the storm.

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Did You Notice? … The Cost of Sacrificing A Sport Through One Man

*Did You Notice?* … The selective way in which fans worry about driver aggression? I’ve been bombarded since Saturday night with emails over the Carl – Brad incident, to the point they make Dale Jr. look like a boy scout on the corner holding a giant No. 3 sign that says “Pay Attention To Me.” Through it all, the majority point the finger at Carl, notably upset at his actions considering Brad Keselowski is about as popular as the BP execs, LeBron in Cleveland, and Tiger Woods at a feminist rally … combined. For fans to turn aside their own hatred, turning a man who was once NASCAR’s Most Despised into an innocent victim shows their utter disgust for how Edwards conducted the final five seconds of the race.

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Did You Notice? … Reut Gone Wild, NASCAR Legacies, And Saving The Summer

*Did You Notice?* … How much has been made of David Reutimann’s upset win at Chicagoland Saturday night? From television to the tiniest column on the web, I can’t get away from it. Entire columns and segments of shows are now being devoted to whether he’ll make the Chase, as if the man has turned into some sort of potential superstar overnight.Um … huh? Since when did LeBron James turn pasty, white, and 40? I will say Reutimann is one of the nicest, most genuine people to walk the NASCAR garage. Talent-wise, he’s been underrated in both performance and potential for years. But let’s not get carried away here by _one_ little victory, as impressive as it may be. Last time I checked, viewership at Chicagoland was down by over 200,000 people.

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Did You Notice? … People Don’t Believe In NASCAR Fairy Tales?

*Did You Notice?* … That in today’s world of sports, giving athletes the benefit of the doubt is suddenly a thing of the past? Instead, steroids, cheating scandals, and bad calls have turned us into a nation full of doubters, cornered into a defensive stance of guilty until proven innocent for our own emotional protection.As proof, look no further than a blue and yellow number 3, 1980s vintage Wrangler on the side wrangling its way to Victory Lane Friday night. In the final drive with his daddy’s number on the side, Earnhardt drove like the restrictor plate master of old, leading the final 33 laps of the race in holding off challenges from Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, and a handful of other Cup veterans.

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Did You Notice? … 2010 Title Down To Six Men, The New Car Band-Aid, And Quick Hits

*Did You Notice?* … That with nine races left, there’s a bit of a cushion for a handful of playoff contenders? The top six in the Sprint Cup standings have at least 271 points over 13th-place *Dale Earnhardt, Jr.* That’s not an insurmountable margin, but large enough that all can breathe a sigh of relief, avoiding the dreaded “bubble” talk and the media frenzy that goes with it. For their teams, the focus can turn towards succeeding in the playoffs rather than simply getting in the door.While drivers that peak getting into the Chase can often play the role of Cinderella (see: Juan Pablo Montoya last year, Greg Biffle in 2008) chances are the man holding the trophy is having success right now. After all, since the current format came into existence, only Kurt Busch has come from lower than fourth in the regular season to win the title, rising from seventh in the standings in 2004.

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Did You Notice? … As The Kenseth Crumbles, Lajoie On Drugs, And Bruton The Bully?

*Did You Notice?* … Randy Lajoie’s shocking admission he smoked marijuana? The former NASCAR Nationwide champ turned-radio/TV analyst, supporter of son Corey’s driving career, and safety guru is suspended indefinitely for violating the sport’s drug policy. Tested because of a one-shot deal to spot for Joe Gibbs Racing at Nashville, Lajoie admitted he smoked marijuana one week earlier during the Coca-Cola 600 weekend in Charlotte. Tested a few days later, the failure became public knowledge today along with an apology to his family, employers (ESPN has already suspended him), and legion of fans disappointed a 48-year-old would engage in such behavior.Before we go any further …

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Did You Notice? … How Michigan Saved Itself, Ringers Unemployed, And Fixing Mark

*Did You Notice?* … How Michigan’s attendance for the June race increased by 5,000 between 2009 and 2010? It’s an interesting twist during a year of continued attendance declines, especially considering the state unemployment rate, as of March 2010, was hovering just under 15 percent.What gives? I think there’s a bit of a pattern we can detect on the heels of Charlotte having the same type of healthy crowd. In both cases, there was a major rivalry occurring mere days before the race: Hamlin-Busch for CLT, and Harvick-Logano packing a punch at MIS.

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Did You Notice? … The Next NASCAR Breakdown, Playing Favorites, And Fun With Twitter

*Did You Notice?* … A developing trend? In the last two weeks, we’ve had two mild-mannered veterans go all Jekyll and Hyde, losing their cool while venting frustration in a way we’ve never seen before. First, there was Jeff Burton, pulling a tantrum on Kyle Busch through a blown tire that’s got him nominated to the Finger Pointing Hall of Fame. Then, Joey Logano followed suit last Sunday, a late-race incident with Kevin Harvick the final straw in exchanging the Disney Movie high road for a pair of boxing gloves and an R-Rated mouth. It’s a one-hit wonder of good guys losing their patience we don’t often see this close together, let alone in the same season.

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