NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not

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 10 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.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Nextel Cup: 2007 Centurion Boats at the Glen Edition

This weekend's race featured a spin to win, two drivers putting in their NASCAR best effort to pull each other's hair out after a wreck, and a crazed fan making his way onto the track during a red flag... just to ask for an autograph. Makes it sound like an August Cup race at Bristol, doesn't it? But instead, this was what transpired from what began as a tranquil Sunday afternoon in western New York. Shocked? So were many of the fans who watched this year's edition of the Centurion Boats at the Glen. But they weren't the only ones happy to see a surprising series of twists and turns that matched the road course's 2.45-mile layout. Perhaps the biggest smile on the day came from stunned race winner Tony Stewart, who inherited the top spot as NASCAR's winningest road racer, Jeff Gordon, spun in turn 1 with just two laps to go, relinquishing the lead and 10 bonus points to his longtime rival in the process.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Nextel Cup: 2007 Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Edition

Unless you're a glutton for punishment, Kurt Busch, or one of Kurt Busch's fans (yes - he actually does have some), then you probably found Sunday's Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono a real snoozefest. Busch started from second position, alongside Dale Earnhardt Jr., but didn't stay there long; he made a mockery out of the race, leading 175 laps en route to his first win of the year and a spot inside the top 12 in points. Unlike recent weeks, there weren't any potential Chasers that ran into major trouble on Sunday; the 14 main contenders all finished in the top 17 positions, making the race for the Chase more competitive than ever with just five races remaining.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not In Nextel Cup: 2007 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard Edition

While Tony Stewart was kissing the bricks at Indianapolis for the second time in three years, some drivers almost kissed their Chase hopes goodbye in the wreckfest that was the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard on Sunday. In the first 60 laps of the race, a total of 18 drivers had been involved in at least one accident, with defending race winner Jimmie Johnson making the most spectacular exit from Indy. As Johnson ran for cover from his burning car, several other key Chase contenders were in the garage area; namely Ryan Newman and Jamie McMurray, who were involved in earlier incidents. But what could have been a terrible day for those drivers turned out to be nothing more than a tiny bump in the road when current Chase bubble driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s engine went up in a plume of smoke.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not In Nextel Cup: Race to The Chase Special Edition

Now that we have survived the final off weekend of the year, it's time to turn our focus to the upcoming seven-race slugfest that will determine the field for the 2007 Chase for the Championship. Obviously, there are certain drivers that are all but locked into the field barring some sort of meteor hitting their race shops. But the expansion to a field of 12 this year has widened the door for more of these wheelmen to try to make a name for themselves and stake their claim to a piece of NASCAR history.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Nextel Cup: 2007 USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland

Chicago is known for football, deep dish pizza, shopping, and the Sears Tower; sadly, it's not yet known for great racing. However, there was at least one driver who didn't sleep through the Chicagoland snoozefest; that would be Tony Stewart, who celebrated the end of his 20-race winless drought with another climb up the fence. Smoke was left awake and alert after a weekend where he got a lecture from the coach about playing nice with others, and he turned that motivation into victory celebration come Sunday night.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Nextel Cup: 2007 USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Edition

Saturday was supposed to be the luckiest day of the year - July 7th, 2007 (7/7/07). On that fateful night, some of NASCAR's greatest drivers were lucky, indeed, finding no problem pulling the lever and hitting that jackpot on the slot machine of restrictor-plate racing known as Daytona International Speedway. While Jamie McMurray snagged the biggest payout, Kyle Busch discovered you make your own luck, and for all the talk about numerology, Clint Bowyer ended up just where he was destined to... in seventh place. In the midst of it all, Saturday night's race provided the usual restrictor-plate fireworks that we've all come to expect. There were teammate squabbles, finger pointing, bashed-in race cars and fiery tempers, all of which led to a gambler's delight on wheels - one of the closest finishes ever recorded in NASCAR history.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not In Nextel Cup: 2007 Pepsi 400 at Daytona Edition

The 1-mile flat track up in New Hampshire proved as difficult as ever to pass on Sunday, but that didn't stop a resurgent Jeff Gordon from giving it a shot. His last lap battle with Denny Hamlin left the two side-by-side heading to the finish line; but in the end, Hamlin held on, squeaking out a win while sending out a statement that his team could pose a challenge to Hendrick's Car of Tomorrow dominance. In the meantime, several storylines developed behind the two contenders, with late-race pit strategies, dropped jacks, and two-tire stops doing their best to separate the contenders from the pretenders as the Race to the Chase began its final 10-race stretch.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not In Nextel Cup: 2007 UAW-Daimler Chrysler 400 at Las Vegas Edition

this week both the Nextel Cup drivers and I are back to work after that early vacation, with the bright lights of Las Vegas looming over the horizon. While two weeks isn't enough to forecast a team's entire season, there are definitely those teams out there that are getting all they can out of the early part of the year, just as there are those who are digging themselves a pretty big hole. So, before the engines start up once more, let's take a second look at the roulette table and put our money on Who's Hot and Who's Not heading into this weekend's race at Las Vegas.

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