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Who’s Hot / Who’s Not

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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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not OUTSIDE The Chase: 2007 Sylvania 300 at Loudon Edition

NASCAR's playoffs may be full steam ahead - but that doesn't mean the other 31 drivers stop racing each week. Whether they're building momentum for 2008, out there fighting for a job, or just infused with the plain ol' desire to win, each one has something to strive for as the races wind down. It's a chance to make up for lost time, stealing the spotlight from this year's title contenders while looking for a little late season hardware of their own. These drivers know there's pressure of a different kind; after missing the playoffs, their futures could depend on proving to fans, the media, and their current team they've still got what it takes to compete at the sport's top level. So, which one of the non-Chasers is in the best position to spoil the championship party at Dover? Read on to find out who in this week's edition of Who's Hot / Who's Not… _outside_ the Chase. One note before we begin…unlike our regular edition, we only highlight six drivers in this edition of Who's Hot / Who's Not…which means to make the list, you need to really be on fire (or ice cold, for that matter).

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in the Chase: 2007 Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond Edition

Now that Dale Earnhardt Jr. watch is over, the focus over the last ten races of the year will be on the twelve drivers making a run for the Nextel Cup Championship. With his second straight victory, Jimmie Johnson put the competition on notice that they will have to take on the No. 48 team to take the trophy that they earned last season. But with six of the Chase drivers finishing in the Top 10 at Richmond, they are proving to be up to the challenge. So who left Richmond riding high and ready for battle and which drivers walked away wishing they had a little more time to prepare? Read this week's Who's Hot and Who's Not in the Chase for the Championship. *Hot* *Jimmie Johnson:* After a summertime slump that saw him go 15 races without a win, Johnson has flipped the switch and heads into the Chase as the top seeded driver with six wins; including back to back victories at Fontana and Richmond. The change came after he posted two straight DNF's at Chicago and Indy when he dropped to ninth in the standings. He went on a roll with three straight Top 5s before a mediocre finish at Bristol and followed it up with his two most recent wins. This hot pace will be hard to keep up as the Chase battle brews, but the No. 48 team is serving notice that they will be a force to be reckoned with as they go for two championships in a row.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Nextel Cup: 2007 Sharp Aquos 500 at Fontana Edition

Three things easily sum up this weekend's race at California Speedway: hot, hot and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Countless Earnhardt fans were on the edge of their seats just waiting to see if one of the drivers at the bottom of the Top 12 would slip up, giving their man a chance at making the Chase and the rest of us were forced to go along for the ride as the entire race seemed to be a case of "Where in the World is Dale Jr. Now?" At the end of the night, Earnhardt finished a solid fifth, but still is a long shot to make it into the post season Chase. But as the summer sun baked the drivers, crew members and the scarce number of fans in the stands; Jimmie Johnson came out on top to score his fifth win of the season and looking like he barely broke a sweat. So what other drivers thrived in the sweltering heat and which ones shriveled up under the pressure? Read this week's who's hot and who's not to find out.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Nextel Cup: 2007 Sharpie 500 at Bristol Edition

For some, the racing at Bristol Saturday night was the best it has been in years. For others, it was a Bristol race in name only, with no fireworks and little excitement. But no matter which side of the fence you are on, there were plenty of winners and losers coming out of the annual madhouse that is Thunder Valley in late summer. Carl Edwards added another ten bonus points to his Chase count, and should get extra points for sticking the backflip on Bristol's high banks after his second win of the season. On the flip side, Denny Hamlin's fried engine left him with just his second career DNF. In between, what could have been a big night for a points shakeup amongst the Chasers instead never materialized, with no driver falling out of, or moving into, the playoffs. So, what drivers exited the Bristol bullring feeling like they had fought off the beast, and which ones felt like they got a horn square in the backside? Read this week's Who's Hot and Who's Not to find out.

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