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Who’s Hot / Who’s Not

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in Nextel Cup: 2007 Pepsi 400 at Daytona 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. So, which drivers were blessed with a visit from Lady Luck down south, and which ones were left alone to contemplate what might have been? Read this week's Who's Hot and Who's Not in Nextel Cup to find out.

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Who’s Hot and Who’s Not In Nextel Cup: 2007 Lenox Industrial Tools 300 at Loudon Edition

The one-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 ten-race stretch. With the urgency reaching a fever pitch, who left the Granite State with their title hopes solid as a rock, and who discovered their chances may be permanently cracked in two? Read this week's edition of Who's Hot and Who's Not in Nextel Cup to find out. *Hot* *Denny Hamlin:* Hamlin didn't lead a large amount of laps Sunday; for once, he wasn't even the dominant car of the day at a Car of Tomorrow event. But in the end, the driver of the Fed Ex Chevy got what he wanted the most; his first win of the season.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not In Nextel Cup: 2007 Off-Week No. 1 Edition

*Hot* *Clint Bowyer:* Had it not been for his last lap ride through the grass at Daytona, Bowyer would likely be heading to Vegas with two Top 10 finishes in hand. As things stand, the second year RCR driver is still sixth in the standings following a sixth place finish at Fontana; so much for an early season sophomore slump that seemed inevitable after his Daytona flip. Driving for a team that seems to be hitting on all cylinders right now should only continue to help Bowyer as he makes his way through the rest of the early season; at Vegas last year, he finished 15th, and given the way he is running, I wouldn't be surprised to see him match or exceed that this time around. *Jeff Burton:* He may not have the spectacular early season highlight reel or victory that his teammates have, but Burton has something they don't; two Top 5 finishes to kick off the 2007 season. Only Mark Martin, the driver Burton trails in the standings by just five points, can say the same thing. But one thing we can say about Burton we _can't_ say about Martin is that we know he is going to run the full schedule. It's been a long, difficult road but it's now safe to say that RCR is back as one of the top caliber teams in the sport each week, which many partially credit Burton's leadership for. Things should only get better this weekend, as Burton is a two-time Vegas winner and was seventh there last year.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not In Nextel Cup: 2007 Auto Club 500 at Fontana Edition

As the Nextel Cup Series put its second race in the books last weekend in California, a state known for wildfires surely did its part to fuel the flames of several of Nextel Cup's hottest drivers. This week's surprising contingent listed as currently burning up the tracks includes a 48-year-old veteran who continues to steal center stage, as well as a 21-year-old rookie using a combination of luck and racing smart to fight his way towards the top of the charts. At the other end of the spectrum, an entire organization threatens to find itself thrown in the freezer with little or no to chance of being thawed, icing up next to one of the circuit's oldest drivers and the greatest comeback story that may never be told.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not In Nextel Cup: 2007 Daytona 500 Edition

Normally, the fireworks in Daytona are reserved for July, but they came out early this year. 2007's version of NASCAR's Super Bowl didn't disappoint in the action department...at least in the final fourth of the race. Kevin Harvick started off his season on fire with a weekend sweep after claiming his first Daytona 500 victory in a nailbiting finish that went down to the wire. But the only smoke at the track wasn't from the leftover Victory Lane celebration; plenty of teams saw their chances for victory go up in flames as the final 50 laps of the race were filled with wrecks, busted sheet metal, and broken spirits. So who left Daytona in a blaze of glory, and who left putting out the flames of rage and disappointment? 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: Pre-2007 Daytona 500 Edition

This week kicks off a brand new season for the Nextel Cup Series. For all the drivers and teams, points reset at zero and the slate is wiped clean, as 51 teams battle for the championship trophy that will be handed out in nine months. But just because everyone's points are the same right now doesn't mean that they're all starting on even ground. There are always a handful of powerhouse organizations already claiming their place at the top, sharing limited space with your perennial underdogs and plenty of teams in the middle striving to make a big splash. If you're new to the column this year, each week we'll take a look at those haves and have nots and keep track of where their season is heading; not just on a race by race basis, but figuring out what kind of long-term trends the team appears to be establishing. So with that in mind, let's take a look at some drivers hoping to reclaim the magic from '06, others looking to reverse their fortunes, and some who would flat out be happy simply to...

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not In Nextel Cup: 2006 Ford 400 at Homestead Edition

After 35 races, over 10,000 laps and countless hours spent behind the wheel, the final race of the season comes down to five drivers from five different organizations battling for the 2006 Nextel Cup championship. There is Jimmie Johnson, the perpetual bridesmaid who has specialized in watching titles slip just out of his grasp; Matt Kenseth, the quiet former champion; Kevin Harvick, the brash driver in search of rewriting NASCAR history; Denny Hamlin, the rookie nobody expected to be this far this fast; and Dale Earnhardt Jr., the fan favorite searching to keep a family tradition alive. Now all that is left is 400 short miles, just 267 laps to decide who will etch their name in the NASCAR history books.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Nextel Cup: 2006 Dickies 500 at Texas Edition

Sunday's Dickies 500 blew through the 2006 Chase standings like a Texas tornado; when the dust settled, no position in the top 10 went unchanged. Who saw their title bid blown off course, and who was left standing after weathering the storm? Read this week's Who's Hot/Who's Not in the Chase to find out.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Nextel Cup: 2006 Bass Pro Shops at Atlanta Edition

While Tony Stewart stole the show in his fittingly colored orange and black Chevy, Chaser Jimmie Johnson hooked onto his back bumper, both to continue his hot streak and take on the role of the kid who steals everyone's candy at the end of the night. Several other Chasers had their share of candy handed out to them, including Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin; others, like Mark Martin and Kasey Kahne, had their candy ripped right out from under their fingertips. When the smoke cleared from the madness, though, it was Matt Kenseth who was holding the biggest treat of them all... a 26-point lead heading into Texas this Sunday.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not In Nextel Cup: 2006 Subway 500 at Martinsville Edition

The tight Martinsville paperclip did its part to keep the points close Sunday, throwing a wrench into the Chase standings with the first seven positions in points changing hands by the end of the day. Which drivers are heating up as the number of races wind down? Read this week's Who's Hot/Who's Not in the Chase to find out.

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