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Did You Notice?

Did You Notice? … Fixing The Points… Already, Daytona Means No Chase, And Stewart’s Shocking Defeat

*Did You Notice?* … That in the midst of simplifying the point system, NASCAR’s three championship leaders in the three major series didn’t win the first race of the year? Let’s review:*Cup points leader* - Carl Edwards, 42 (second place in the Daytona 500) *Nationwide* - Landon Cassill, 41 (third place in the Drive4COPD 300) *Trucks* - Clay Rogers, 42 (third place in the NextEra Energy Resources 250)Here’s the best part of all that; both Edwards and Cassill reached the top of the charts without leading a single lap of the race. And this system is supposed to promote winning? Huh?

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Did You Notice? … The Dudsy Duels, NASCAR’s Imperfect Couples And Sleepers

*Did You Notice?* … That there hasn’t been much out there previewing the Duels? Yes, with only 48 cars there’s not the same type of drama as in past years – only five will miss the field – but it’s still a battle to make NASCAR’s most prestigious race. Add in the big purse and the crapshoot of a repaved track where the full 43-car field could stay in contention and yes, qualifying still means something. So let’s take a look at the storylines from each Duel:

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Did You Notice? … What The NFL Teaches NASCAR, Pesky Hangovers And Hanging On

*Did You Notice?* … There’s a reason why people think that entering this season, Denny Hamlin’s experiencing a 2011 hangover? It’s because for the last five years, everyone who nearly toppled five-time champ Jimmie Johnson wound up forgetting to drink a little water before hitting the sack.Here’s a quick list of how the last five years have gone:

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Did You Notice?… Hendrick Did What? Roush Says Money, Not Drivers Talk & More

*Did You Notice?* … Hendrick Motorsports isn’t afraid to make bold moves? Just two days after winning a fifth consecutive championship, the organization pulled the trigger on the biggest shakeup we’ve seen from them this decade. No less than three crew chiefs are changing roles, with the only operation untouched being Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus, and a No. 48 shop that will remain virtually intact for 2011. Let’s go over the changes briefly so everyone knows exactly what happened:*Old Hendrick Shops* *24* paired with *48*, *5* paired with *88**New Hendrick Shops* *24* paired with *5*, *48* paired with *88*

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Did You Notice? … Pending NASCAR Divorces, Pre-Inspection Silliness And Chasing TV Viewership

*Did You Notice?* … Besides the Chase, there’s plenty of other associations coming to an end this weekend. Before we take a look at that championship, here’s a look at the other important storylines and likely divorces headed your way: *The final race for Kurt Busch and Miller Lite.* Five years into a Roger Penske partnership, Busch and one of the sport’s biggest sponsors part ways while capping a underachieving run that yeah, kind of leaves that bitter beer taste in your mouth. Considering the giant hoops both parties went through to find each other – Busch opted out of his Roush contract a year early, narrowly avoiding a lawsuit and endured months of negative press – this marriage started off rocky and never did quite reach the heights of the mid-1990s, when Rusty Wallace won 10 races per season and challenged Dale Earnhardt for the title in 1993-94.

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Did You Notice? … Sponsor Discounts?, Trucking Along, And The One Finger Dilemma

*Did You Notice?* … The underlying message that both Richard Childress Racing and Hendrick Motorsports sent sponsors the last two weeks? In the past, I’ve been worried about one pit crew member being replaced during the Chase, non-playoff teams losing their best man all in the best interests of the “organization” as the top-performing car tries to win the title. Now, this year has seen top car owners go one step further, with RCR and HMS brass replacing entire crews from _other Chase-contending teams_ in the interest of giving their top-tier car the best available personnel to win a championship.It’s a sign of how NASCAR has changed; could you imagine what would have happened to the underdog, single-car Alan Kulwicki in 1992 if Junior Johnson handpicked the best men in his two-car operation, assigned them to *Bill Elliott* down the stretch and gathered up all the resources at his disposal to use against him?

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Did You Notice? … How To Make People Race, A Sponsor’s Decade-Long Despair And Hendrick’s Ace Card

*Did You Notice?* … A big difference in the number of start-and-parkers in NASCAR this past weekend? Joe Nemechek, who was a remarkable _0-for-28_ in finishing races this season, went the distance along with recent early exiters Michael McDowell (Whitney Motorsports), Chad McCumbee (TRG), and Bobby Labonte (Phoenix Racing – blew an engine inside of 20 to go). Those gains weren’t just limited to the Cup side, either; Mike Garvey, who’d been serving as a dutiful S&Per ended a 15-race DNF streak for Sieg Racing’s second truck, actually finishing inside the top 15 while putting together an impressive performance behind Kyle Busch’s Hail Mary-style victory.

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Did You Notice? … Gordon Going Softie, Fans Faking Martinsville Love And Innocent Victims

*Did You Notice?* … How much Jeff Gordon gets pushed around by Jimmie Johnson? Sunday was the latest chapter in a book of on-track incidents, Johnson clearly cutting off the No. 24 car on several occasions to the point Gordon radioed in to ask if J.J. “had a spotter.” Yet once again, even though it’s the No. 48 initiating contact, Gordon decides to complain instead of taking matters into his own hands and fighting back. How much longer is the prodigy going to run roughshod over the master? Four more years? Five? Six?In watching Gordon the last few seasons, this constant deference to a team he co-owns is nothing new...

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Did You Notice? … Bad Times In NASCAR’s Big Apple, The Cost Of Brand Exclusivity And Chase Cinderella: 2010

*Did You Notice?* … That as NASCAR takes to the New York City airwaves today, the landscape in the Big Apple is markedly different for them than it was even five years ago? Back then, not only was the postseason banquet held at the Waldorf Astoria, but the sport was fighting valiantly to get a three-quarter mile track built in Staten Island, the lynchpin to reaching a major market it’s coveted for well over a generation.Ironically, that track could have shifted momentum in the sport when you think about it. With plans in place for a Richmond-style oval, it could have shown prospective developers that you don’t need a cookie-cutter to pack 100,000 fans and deliver great racing to boot.

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Did You Notice? … Regular Season Stats DO Lie, Bruton Whines, And Wooing Wal-Mart The Right Way

*Did You Notice?* … How poor performances before the playoffs don’t always mean something near the end of the regular season? Let’s delve a little deeper into this issue after *Denny Hamlin’s* last-place finish combined with *Jimmie Johnson’s* third-place run at Atlanta, leading everyone towards the following knee-jerk analysis: “Denny’s championship Chase is over! There’s no way he’ll ever recover.” “Jimmie Johnson’s back! How could we have ever doubted him?”Are we jumping the gun on these two?

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