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Who’s Hot / Who’s Not

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not In Sprint Cup: 2008 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona Edition

There were fireworks before and after the finish of Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. The multiple late-race cautions helped some and hurt others, causing some changes to our running list of hot or not drivers. Jeff Burton’s consecutive top-15 streak ended at Daytona as Burton was wrecked not once, but twice during the race. Here is this week's look at the hot, the warm, and the cold, after a hot and sticky Saturday night in Daytona Beach. *HOT* *Kyle Busch:* I know that everyone is sick of hearing how great this driver and team are, but there is no denying this fact: Kyle Busch has won on just about every kind of track this year. And -- after winning his sixth race in only 18 starts -- Busch is also on pace to come one short of Jeff Gordon’s amazing 13 race-winning year in 1998. With the victory at Daytona, Busch also extended his points lead to 182 over now second-place Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Busch is now easily poised to make the Chase, and could start with a healthy lead if he wins three or four more races between now and the beginning of September. For those looking for the only chinks in his armor, they come in that he could be peaking at the wrong time and that run-ins, like the one with Montoya at New Hampshiire, could prove costly in the Chase.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2008 LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at Loudon Edition

Rain just laps from the finish at Loudon was a blessing for a number of teams, who were able to use pit strategy to finish much higher than where they'd run all day. But for as many teams as the rain helped, it hurt plenty of others. Tony Stewart had arguably the best car all day -- leading a race high 132 laps -- but fell to 13th place, while a number of hot streaks came to an end -- including Carl Edwards' string of seven consecutive races with a Top 10 finish. But one streak that will continue on to Daytona this weekend is Jeff Burton's impressive 17-race, Top 15 performance. Burton is among those in this week's "HOT" column; read below to see who else joins him in this week's edition of Who's Hot / Who's Not in Sprint Cup after New Hampshire. *HOT* *Tony Stewart:* If it weren’t for bad luck, Stewart wouldn’t have any luck at all lately. This is the stretch of the season where the former champion traditionally starts to hit his stride, but good finishes that could have been better have held the No. 20 team back just a little. Two weeks ago, he was forced to recover from a late-race spin to finish 10th; this week, it was rain and pit strategy that relegated the race’s lap leader to finish 13th. Stewart did seem emotionally drained in his post-race interview, and many will argue it’s partially due to him exploring his options for next season. But those who think this will be a repeat of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s misfortunes upon deciding to leave the No. 8 last season may need to think again...

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2008 Save Mart 350K at Sonoma Edition

The Sprint Cup Series' first trip to a road course this season was supposed to provide drivers who typically don't run near the front the opportunity to make a statement. But while drivers like Marcos Ambrose and Ron Fellows appeared to have cars capable of Top 10 finishes, it was the usual frontrunners near the top of the leaderboard by the time the day was over -- including race winner Kyle Busch. Busch got back on track this weekend after two poor finishes, but who else stayed "HOT" this week? And what teams near the bottom of the Top 35 appeared to have a shot this weekend at a road course, but still struggled? Check out this week's edition of Who's Hot / Who's Not in Sprint Cup to find out. *HOT* *Kyle Busch:* Why there was talk about Lil’ Busch struggling on the Cup side, I really don’t understand. Busch proved the critics wrong, winning the first road course race of his young career this weekend and extending his points lead to 103 over Jeff Burton. Busch finished 43rd at Pocono and 13th at Michigan this month, but ran up front in both events before crashing out two weeks ago and coming from the back last week. With all of his focus on the Cup effort now -- Busch abandoned plans to run for the Nationwide and Truck Series titles -- it’s scary to think of what the No. 18 is capable of for the rest of the season.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2008 LifeLock 400 at Michigan Edition

The long-awaited first Hendrick-Earnhardt victory finally came this week at Michigan, but it didn't come without controversy. Winning on fuel mileage, the No. 88 team worked some pit strategy to make it to victory lane, but Matt Kenseth and Brian Vickers have criticized Junior and NASCAR for allowing the eventual winner to pass the pace car under caution. Nevertheless, Junior's win was still well-deserved and certainly earned. Earnhardt wasn't the only one who enjoyed success at the 2-mile oval, the Red Bull and Roush-Fenway teams also had strong runs. To see which teams made the "HOT" list this week, check out this week's edition of Who's Hot / Who's Not in Sprint Cup.

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

Pit strategy, pit strategy, and more pit strategy; in what became a 500-mile parade with little passing, Pocono’s race became won or lost by the men behind the wall. For those who made the right calls at the right times, a final restart on lap 181 put them in perfect position to succeed; for others, faulty fuel stops left them agonizing deep in the back of the pack. Through it all, Kasey Kahne stayed above the fray – simply because that No. 9 car was in a league of its own. Building a lead of almost ten seconds over its nearest competitors, the Budweiser Dodge cruised home to victory over Brian Vickers, scoring its second win in the last three races as Kahne solidified his hold on a spot in the Chase. Who else is on track to follow in his footsteps -- and which guys find any chance at the playoffs slipping from their grasp? Read this week’s version of Who’s Hot / Who’s Not to find out.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2008 Best Buy 400 at Dover Edition

The notorious “Monster Mile” jumped out and attacked the competition Sunday when Elliott Sadler came down on the No. 38 of David Gilliland on Lap 18, triggering a massive pileup that ended the days for a number of Chase contenders before they could even get into a rhythm. Aside from Sadler’s blunder, though, it was Kyle Busch who once again stole the headlines by claiming his fourth win of the season. Busch is undoubtedly the hottest driver in the series right now; but how does his start stack up against Jimmie Johnson’s impressive start to 2007? Check out this week’s edition of Who’s Hot / Who’s Not in Sprint Cup to find out, as well as which of our Top 12 contenders were able to take the multi-car crash in stride ... or be forced to face the consequences (and the carnage) head on.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2008 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Edition

In the past, the extra 100 miles that make the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR’s longest event has proved to add an extra dimension to an already grueling race. This year was no different, as it wasn't how you started but how you finished that made the difference. It seemed that every driver who ran up front ran into problems -- and in the end, Kasey Kahne survived for the victory only after Tony Stewart succumbed to tire problems three laps from the finish. Kahne moves into the Top 12 in points this week with his first win in 52 starts, and appears to be picking up momentum after winning the All-Star race last week. But will his breakthrough win be enough to put him in this week’s “HOT” list? Check out the latest edition of Who’s Hot / Who’s Not in Sprint Cup below to find out.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2008 All-Star Race at Charlotte Edition

With $1 million on the line Saturday night, drivers and fans got a glimpse of what just may happen when points are up for grabs at the Coca-Cola 600 this weekend. While the annual Sprint All-Star event, traditionally run on the weekend prior to Memorial Day, may be an altogether different animal -- it's a 100-lap sprint compared to the longest race on the NASCAR schedule -- many teams still view the event as an extended test session. Because of that, don’t be surprised if some of the stronger cars last week will be up front once again, putting what they learned to good use late Sunday night. While this column is traditionally designed for the upward and downward trends of Sprint Cup drivers as the season progresses, we’ll also take a look at how the hottest and coldest drivers fared in The All-Star Race -- and whether or not they'll stay the course when it really counts this weekend. *HOT* *Kyle Busch:* If his car holds together for the entire 600 miles next week, Busch will be the man to beat once again. With five consecutive Top 5s and three consecutive finishes of second or better, the No. 18 is the hottest team in the series right now.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2008 Dodge Challenger 500 at Darlington Edition

Despite a different track surface, it was the same ol' Darlington Saturday night, with the Lady in Black’s walls jumping out and biting drivers on several occasions ... including race winner Kyle Busch. But while there were some adjustments made to the track, adjustments made to this week’s “HOT” list are minimal. Kyle Busch continues to dominate. while Junior Nation continues to enjoy the success of the No. 88 team with another top 5. Still, two new drivers are featured in this week’s “WARM” and “COLD” lists heading into All-Star weekend. There may not be a points-paying race next week, but it’s still an opportunity for struggling teams to find some extra speed before the Coca-Cola 600. To see who some of those teams are, check out this week’s edition of Who’s Hot / Who’s Not in Sprint Cup. *HOT* *Kyle Busch:* This man is flat out unstoppable right now. Top 10s in five consecutive races -- with Top 3s in four of them -- to go along with a win this week keeps Busch at the top of the standings.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2008 Crown Royal Presents The Dan Lowry 400 at Richmond Edition

Under the lights on a wild Saturday night, sparks flew and fans booed. A controversial accident between Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. made headlines, but it was Clint Bowyer who left Richmond with a victory. It was Bowyer's second career win, but Junior's winless streak extended another week. All four contenders this weekend made this week's "HOT" list, but who could go for a good run at Darlington? One thing's for sure, two defending champions are having unexpectedly difficult seasons. *HOT* *Kyle Busch:* Busch was already disliked by several NASCAR fans, but by taking out Dale Earnhardt Jr. while going for the lead this weekend at Richmond, the aggressive driver enraged the core of fans in Junior Nation. Let’s get this straight – the wreck was not intentional. It was simply a matter of Busch being too aggressive and it unfortunately took a win away from NASCAR’s most popular driver. Finishing second, Busch moves back atop the points standings with his fourth straight Top 2 finish after winning last week at Talladega.

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