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Who’s Hot / Who’s Not

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not In Sprint Cup: 2008 Daytona 500 Edition

For three months the anticipation built up in preparation for the 50th running of the Daytona 500, all the way up until the green flag flew over 43 of the world's best drivers to kick off the 2008 season Sunday afternoon. The expected Hendrick Motorsports dominance was overshadowed by the success of Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota with *Tony Stewart*, *Kyle Busch* and *Denny Hamlin* each taking turns at the front of the field while only one Hendrick car finished in the Top 25. As the closing laps came winding down, it was two drivers who hadn't necessarily been contenders for the majority of the race who teamed up for a 1-2 finish. The Penske cars of *Kurt Busch* and *Ryan Newman* are obviously two of the hottest cars coming out of Daytona, but who else is satisfied with their performance in the Great American Race? Who is already behind the 8-ball after just one race? Come in and find out in this week's edition of Who's/ Who's Not in Sprint Cup.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not In Sprint Cup: 2008 Preview Edition

The last time we were in Florida for a race, *Jimmie Johnson* and the No. 48 team were basking in a sea of confetti after winning their second consecutive Sprint Cup title at Homestead-Miami Speedway. A lot has changed since that historic day in November; there's been a powerful addition to the Toyota camp, and the sport's most popular driver debuted with Johnson's organization in convincing fashion during Saturday's Budweiser Shootout. Those are just two of a number of storylines and questions heading into 2008 -- some will have to wait to be answered, while some may be answered here. For those of you who are new to this column, well ... so am I. Moving over from the Bubble Breakdown, I'll be replacing Cami Starr, who has done a wonderful job keeping you, the racing fan, updated on the trends of what's happening in NASCAR's premiere series over the past few years. With that said, here's the first edition of Who's Hot / Who's Not for 2008. Use it for fantasy purposes, use it for an unbiased view of where your favorite driver ranks (not that you'd be biased in the first place, right?), or simply read it to kill some time. Either way, I'm glad to have you on board for the upcoming season.

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Who’s Hot / Who’s Not : Outside the Chase

Lowe's is a 1.5-mile oval that has a reputation for going fast and wrecking hard; Saturday night's race proved no exception to that rule. As such, it's time to take a look at how a myriad of non-Chasers performed under the lights in NASCAR's hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. Let's take a look at Who's Hot, and Who's Not, non-Chase style... *Warm* The last four races have seen *Michael Waltrip* qualify for each of them - his longest streak of 2007 - as well as watch him finish in the Top 10 for the second time this year, win a Bud Pole Award, and gain five positions in the points.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not In The Chase: 2007 UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega Edition

It's the one wreck all year that leaves everyone at risk, from championship contenders to field-fillers alike: The Big One. You never know when it's going to happen at Talladega, and you never quite know how many cars - or carnage - it'll cause. Sunday, its damage was quite extensive. A handful of Chasers, including Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch, got dragged into a Fall mess of mangled machinery coming out of turn four, all caused when Bobby Labonte simply lost control and spun out in front of the field. The results really jumbled up the Chase standings; for when the smoke cleared, all title contenders figured out just two men had left the rest of them eating their own dust. It was all par for the course in another restrictor plate roller coaster ride that left engines burning up, Chasers on life support, and fans sitting on the edge of their seats for a last lap shootout to the finish. So, which Chasers head to Lowe's on an Alabama High, and which ones are getting busy preparing for next year at this point? Find out in this week's Chase Edition of Who's Hot / Who's Not in Nextel Cup.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not: Outside the Chase After the 2007 UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega

With the spotlight on the Top 12 drivers in the standings, it's sometimes easy to forget that 31 others take to the track each weekend in pursuit of a long-sought after victory...but that's what the purpose of this column is for. With another Chase race under our belts, it's time to take a look at how some of the _non-Chasers_ performed in Talladega this Sunday. The first Car of Tomorrow race at the superspeedway produced its share of opportunities for drivers looking to make a name for themselves; in the first three-quarters of the event, championship contenders steered themselves out of harm's way, leaving their non-Chase brethren busy setting the pace up front. As the laps wound down, that pace picked up...but that doesn't mean every man from the lead pack was forced to relinquish their spot to a driver fighting for a title. With that in mind, let's take a look at Who's Hot, and Who's Not, Non-Chase style following the UAW-Ford 500... *Hot / Not Update : Kansas Edition* Rick Hendrick's teams have always found a way to get streaky during the title hunt, but don't forget about his non-Chase team this year. *Casey Mears* brought home his fourth straight Top 10 finish on Sunday, ensuring that it's only a matter of time before he appears on _this_ "hot" list again. His counterpart from last week, *J.J. Yeley*, didn't fare too badly, either, finishing the race in 18th place to keep his fire simmering bright. Reed Sorenson, last week's "Warm" driver, turned up the heat a bit with a strong run of 10th in Alabama, while his teammate, David Stremme, remained steady at "Cool" with his second straight 17th place finish. Finally, *Ken Schrader's* blown tire ensured that he won't come off the "Cold" list anytime soon with the No. 21 car, while *Ryan Newman* nearly won in his attempt to melt the ice before the door on this season gets slammed shut for good. *Hot* At first glance, it hardly seems like *Elliott Sadler* is on anything that resembles a hot streak; in fact, he has yet to score a Top 5 this year. But a closer look reveals this team is in position to make some noise as 2007 comes to a close.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not In The Chase: 2007 Lifelock 400 at Kansas Edition

After a wild and wacky weekend at Kansas, people are still trying to figure out who won the race, let alone what the ramifications were on top of the Chase standings. However, as the dust settles and reality sets in that Greg Biffle snagged the win - fair or unfair - the focus should switch to just how clearly the title Chase unfolded after a rain-shortened, crash-filled frenzy in the Midwest. After six drivers were within 28 points heading into the event, now just two are within 114 of new Chase leader Jimmie Johnson - superstar Jeff Gordon and surprise Clint Bowyer. Everyone else got swept up by a Kansas tornado; in fact, half the title contenders finished 35th or worse, putting their Chase hopes in serious doubt heading to Talladega and beyond. So, who survived the Midwestern storm and who appears to be down for the count? Find out in this week's Chase Edition of Who's Hot / Who's Not in Nextel Cup. *Hot* *Jimmie Johnson* - While there was controversy over who won the race at Kansas, there was no such confusion over who was on top of the Nextel Cup standings. After starting shotgun on the field, Johnson put together a masterful performance that saw him rise from 43rd to 3rd in the final running order.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not: Outside The Chase after the 2007 Lifelock 400 at Kansas

*Hot / Not Update : Dover Edition* Last week, Roush Fenway teammates Greg Biffle and Jamie McMurray made the "Hot" list amongst the non-Chase crowd, as both were busy building momentum in the late stages of 2007. Well, The Biff came through with yet another strong performance, taking home the victory at Kansas Speedway, while McMurray faded a bit with a sub-par finish of 24th. Behind them, the current Budweiser driver, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and the future Bud pilot, Kasey Kahne, were labeled about average, with the No. 8 team on the rise and the No. 9 on the fall. However, both of these guys persevered at Kansas, bringing home Top 10s to help pad the stats of two seasons gone wrong. Finally, our cold "non-Chasers" Kyle Petty and Jeremy Mayfield came home 21st and 22nd, respectively...not all that bad for two drivers who need some breaks as we head towards the end of the season. *Hot* Frontstretch.com's "newsletter":/notice/9557/ was the first to tell you about the Hendrick team orders at Dover, with *Casey Mears'* subsequent disgust at being told to move over for teammate Kyle Busch in the No. 5 car.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in the Chase: 2007 Dodge Dealers at Dover Edition

When looking at the schedule of the ten races in the Chase, most people would have pointed to Talladega as the track where wrecks and bad luck could turn the tide in the Championship. But in Dover on Sunday, the Monster Mile played tough and took a swing at some of the biggest names in the sport. By the end of the day, 13 caution flags had waved and four Chasers found themselves finishing 20th or lower. As is always the case when some people find misfortune, others reap the benefits. That was certainly the case for a few of the Chase drivers who left Dover with finishes a few places higher than where they had been running most of the day. So, which drivers left Dover feeling fortunate for surviving the monster, and which drivers felt like they had gone 12 rounds with the heavyweight champ? Read this week's Who's Hot and Who's Not in the Chase to find out.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not: Outside the Chase after the 2007 Dodge Dealers 400 at Dover

*Hot* In a year that has included only three Top 5s, a crew chief change, and sponsorship uncertainty, a season-high second place finish at Dover is definitely something that *Greg Biffle* and his entire No. 16 team can get excited about. That's now six Top 20 finishes in seven races for The Biff, who showed flashes of his old self as he came charging through the field in the last laps of Sunday's race, taking advantage of fresh rubber to come home a few car lengths behind winner and teammate Carl Edwards. Of course, one good finish doesn't equate to the multiple victories of the last two seasons, including 2005's runner up finish in points. Biffle in particular made the intermediate tracks his personal playground back then, taking home a career high six trophies that year while coming into his own as a Cup driver. That confidence provided by past history should prove a good thing for this team, as five of the remaining eight Chase events will be held at tracks that are a mile and a half in length. And if all else fails, there's always Homestead, a track where Biffle has won the past three consecutive races. If he can continue to gel with crew chief Greg Erwin, look for Biffle to easily play the role of Chase spoiler for the remainder of the season.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not In the Chase: 2007 Sylvania 300 at Loudon Edition

One race down...nine races to go. After his dominating performance on Sunday, Clint Bowyer has to be asking himself what the big deal is about all this Chase pressure everyone kept talking to him about. The only winless driver in the playoffs, he threw that status right out the window Sunday, coming out of the gates strong to score the first victory of his Cup career and climbing to fourth in points in the process. But Bowyer didn't stand alone in his success; for the majority of the Chasers, Loudon proved to be a solid starting point for their ten race quest for the Cup. In fact, the top seven finishing positions on Sunday went to drivers solidly within the Chase field; only three ended the day outside the Top 15, leaving the twelve car lineup more tightly bunched at this juncture than ever before. So, which drivers are still heating things up and hitting their marks as the Chase rolls on, and which ones are feeling the pressure to perform? Read this week's Who's Hot and Who's Not in the Chase to find out.

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