Who’s Hot / Who’s Not

Who’s Hot/Who’s Hot in Sprint Cup: 2009 Southern 500 Edition

If you are a sheet metal supplier and you live in or near the Charlotte, North Carolina area, congratulations -- you are about to be very rich. The first ever Springtime version of the Southern 500 may have been a potent mixture of high speeds on newer pavement -- but it also led to the same danger of race cars marring themselves with Darlington Stripes. As the race’s 367 laps wore on, many teams, both HOT and COLD, experienced and inexperienced, fell by the wayside at the feisty hands of the Track Too Tough To Tame, pushing the night’s caution total to a record-setting 17. In the end, a patient, steady veteran in Mark Martin may have been the star of the show, but rookies Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski also cracked the top 10 to show the Lady In Black isn't afraid to reward both young and old. With another challenging race in the books and a tight points battle remaining that way, here's the scoop on the HOT, WARM, and COLD drivers of the week as the Sprint Cup Series prepares for its annual All-Star Race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2009 Crown Royal 400 at Richmond Edition

Watching the running order during Saturday’s Richmond race was similar to watching a yoyo go up and down. Pit strategy, brake wear, copious amounts of cautions, timely adjustments, and good ol’ fashioned hard-nosed racing worked in harmony to jostle both the running positions and the points standings all throughout Saturday night’s event. In comparison to the race a week and a half ago at Talladega, there may not have been an underdog winner or a series of spectacular crashes, but the numerous swaps for the lead and the constant side-by-side racing back through the pack kept its flame of excitement alive.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2009 Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Edition

What a weekend! The roller coaster-esque ebbs and flows of storylines and drama poured through Talladega more than at any track in a long time. The breakthrough win of David Ragan in Saturday’s Aaron’s 312 Nationwide Series race was impressive enough -- but it merely set the stage for what would be a remarkable finish the following day. At first, it seemed after a series of "Big Ones" it was the usual suspects who would rise to the front at the end. Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. almost fulfilled that prophecy, creating their two-car breakaway during the final restart of the Aaron’s 499. But just when you thought they had it won… something unexpected actually happened in the Sprint Cup Series, as the two-car tandem of Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski blew by them on the white flag lap. And after using some brilliant strategy, it was none other than Keselowski who scored his first Cup win, handed owner James Finch his first, and assisted in one of the wildest, scariest crashes ever.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2009 Subway Fresh 500 at Phoenix Edition

Another one bit the dust in the sands out west at Phoenix Saturday night. But as the smoke cleared from the Cup Series' eighth race of the season, we're left with plenty of storylines from a weekend's worth of action at PIR. Mark Martin became one of the oldest drivers ever to win a NASCAR race, scoring his first victory in nearly four years, while points leader Jeff Gordon surrendered nearly half his lead because of a late-race pit-road miscue -- garnering him his first finish outside the top 15 all year. Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, and Tony Stewart’s solid finishes will keep Gordon honest atop the standings heading into this weekend's restrictor-plate showdown at Talladega.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not In NASCAR’s Other Top Series

Something that both the Nationwide and Truck Series do share is a two-driver breakaway in the points standings. However, while one of those battles is just heating up, the other threatens to cool down as soon as Kansas in two weeks considering one or both of the drivers involved may not run the full schedule. Which championship in which series am I talking about? Find out by checking out the HOT, WARM, and COLD drivers of NASCAR's second and third biggest series. Not surprisingly, the way things are these days, you will notice a familiar name or two from Sprint Cup on the list.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2009 Samsung 500 at Texas Edition

Jeff Gordon’s large winless streak came to an end Sunday in Texas – where everything is big. But while Gordon had a giant weight lifted off his shoulders, other drivers felt huge swings in the points. Greg Biffle gained eight spots in the standings after his third-place Texas run, while Mark Martin’s sixth-place finish gained him nine positions. AJ Allmendinger’s ignition issues relegated him to a 34th-place finish and lost him five spots in the points, while Kevin Harvick and Michael Waltrip each lost four places after lousy runs. Inside the top 12, most drivers changed at least one spot, with Matt Kenseth leading the charge, climbing three spots to ninth after running fifth in Texas. Gordon also is seeing his points lead stretch, as you will find out in this week’s list of HOT, WARM, and COLD drivers.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2009 Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Edition

What a race Sunday! The Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway gave fans the tight racing action they have been yearning for since before the season began. The close racing amongst competitors individually made the race well worth watching, as did the fact that some unexpected drivers had good runs on the tricky, half-mile track. While several surprise drivers slid into the top 15 or 20, other expected contenders found themselves in holes early in the event, with little or no chance of digging out. Here are the HOT, WARM, and COLD drivers this week, before the Cup Series breaks its short-track excursion and travels to Texas Motor Speedway this Sunday.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2009 Food City 500 at Bristol Edition

A weekend in noisy Thunder Valley following a quiet week of rest last week provides a jarring wakeup call to drivers, crews, and fans alike. But while Sunday’s Bristol race itself did not spark the normal beating and banging fest people are used to seeing, it did help bring to light what this season’s short-track races may bring for some teams. While the Food City 500 proved its top finishers are going to be threats next week at Martinsville, at Richmond, and the fall version of all three of these races, it also proved that others have some major strides to make if they want to contend on the type of track that makes up roughly 15% of the schedule. Here are the best and the worst of the litter as the Sprint Cup Series leaves Bristol and makes its way to Martinsville.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2009 Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Edition

As the 2009 season wears on, some of the teams that have had early success are finding themselves in a point standings freefall. As they disappear from view, the composition of the top 12 is starting to take form, with annual contenders slowly creeping towards and into that coveted threshold. The season may be early and the beginning of the Chase months away, but these men are proving they will be threats nearly every week. At the other end of the points are heavily-funded teams that find themselves one bad race away from beginning Martinsville, the first race that uses 2009 owner points, without the comfort of being locked in via the Top-35 rule. For them, the upcoming week off will be filled with little sleep and lots of worry, their very futures hanging in the balance on the high-banks of Bristol in two weeks.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2009 Shelby 427 at Las Vegas Edition

The first three races of 2009 have yielded surprising results at the top of the bottom of the points standings. Some drivers, like Mark Martin, are left scratching their head after having fast cars at each race, but no finishes to show for that. Likewise, teams like Michael Waltrip Racing in the Top 12 and some of the startup teams near the brink of emergence in the Top 35 are among other early surprises in the points. That being said, here are the best of both this week.

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