NASCAR Race Weekend Central

10 Points to Ponder… After the 2007 Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond

1. The Dale Earnhardt Jr. 400 – Oh, you mean that wasn’t the name of Saturday night’s race? Could have fooled me. Earnhardt’s odds of making the Chase were ridiculously slim going into Richmond, making ESPN/ABC’s singular focus on him both ridiculous and way over the top.

Nextel Cup Rookie Report: David Ragan Rocks at Richmond

By the end of Saturday night’s event, many spectators were looking at the No. 6 car and saying, “Where did that guy come from?” It was a very similar to his “stealthy” performance last week at Fontana, where hardly anyone noticed David Ragan as he quietly battled to a top-15 finish. A late season surge from this team should not surprise anyone; in fact, this is the type of performance I expect from this team as they revisit many of these Nextel Cup venues for the second time. Ragan is starting to look more and more like his Roush Fenway teammate Matt Kenseth each week, staying out of trouble while dialing in his racecar for the end of the event. Clearly, he’s becoming a force to be reckoned with.

Bowles-Eye View: News Flash – There Are More Than 12 Drivers & Dale Jr. Racing the Final 10 Races

Effective around 11:30 p.m. on a balmy Saturday night at Richmond, the 2007 Chase for the Nextel Cup officially got underway. As soon as the final two participants – Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch – clinched their spots by crossing the finish line, talk turned from who’s going to get into the elusive 12-car field to who’s going to win it. No doubt, the Chase formed an important storyline Saturday night – Jimmie Johnson’s sixth victory clinched his spot on top of the playoffs by 20 points over the rest of the field. Behind him in Victory Lane, Dale Earnhardt Jr. stood sweating by his hauler, exhausted in his own right but forced to answer countless questions from every media outlet under the sun about how a season filled with promise never pulled a playoff punch. Just like 29 other drivers everyone forgot about.

Busch Series Breakdown: 2007 Emerson Radio 250 at Richmond

Leading a race-high 227 of 250 laps, Kyle Busch was up front early and often throughout the Emerson Radio 250 to score his second win of the season. Even when Derrike Cope’s blown engine brought out a red flag, green-white-checker finish to the race, the outcome was never in doubt. Getting exceptional restarts with the No. 5 Sta-Green Chevy all night long, Busch saved his best for last, pulling away with ease on lap 251 to win by 0.868 seconds over point leader Carl Edwards. Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth, and Mike Bliss rounded out the top five finishers.

That’s History Profile: Cale Yarborough

William Caleb Yarborough was born the son of a tobacco farmer on March 27th, 1939, just outside of Darlington, S.C. Later on in life, Cale would raise not tobacco but turkeys. He had little interest in the product, but more so what was happening down the road. 1950 was the first year of the Southern 500, the first superspeedway oval specific to NASCAR, and one of the first to feature banking. Cale didn’t have a ticket, so he slipped through a break in a chain-link fence to watch the action. A few years later he attempted to make the race, lying about his age to gain entrance. His first start at the track would be in 1957 driving a Pontiac for owner Bob Weatherly. Starting dead last, he’d only improve two positions to 42nd, a failed hub ending his day, but not his desire to race.

Matt McLaughlin’s Driver Handicaps: 2007 Richmond Fall Race Edition

Jeff Gordon – Gordon has won here twice, and has top-10 finishes in 17 of 29 starts… but his track record lately at RIR is worrisome. His fourth-place finish in the spring arrested a streak of four straight finishes of 30th or worse, including a disastrous performance in 2005 that locked him out of NASCAR’s “playoff.” Some would argue since Gordon is solidly in the Chase, he has little incentive to finish on top this weekend; however, that also gives him the option to go for the win, something he hasn’t hesitated to do over the past month or so.

10 Points to Ponder… After the 2007 Sharp Aquos 500 at Fontana

1. Lowe’s High – For weeks now I’ve been wondering why everyone was depicting the Chase as a duel between Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. “Wait!” – I shouted, what about Jimmie Johnson? Heading into Fontana, Johnson was tied with Gordon for bonus points, 10 ahead of Stewart when the Chase starts, and tonight’s win moves him ahead of both Gordon and Stewart with 50 bonus points. Johnson’s team typically slumps in the summer but they turn it on when it counts. Don’t hand that Nextel Cup trophy to anyone else just yet. It’s also worth noting that Johnson and Matt Kenseth are now the only drivers to make the Chase all four seasons since its inception in 2004.

Bowles-Eye View: Fairy-Tale Endings Not To Be For Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ricky Rudd

Pain: That word doesn’t do justice to what Ricky Rudd was feeling on a not-so-pleasant Labor Day. Sunday night was supposed to be a celebration of the longevity of Rudd’s success – his 900th career start in the Cup series keeps him in exclusive company with the King, the only men to toil that long behind the wheel in stock car racing’s top level. A certain Hall Of Famer, Rudd is busy wrapping up a 31-year career that has seen him win the Brickyard 400, 22 other races, and drive for the likes of Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, and Robert Yates, all while setting a NASCAR record for consecutive starts with 788.

Running Their Mouth: 2007 Sharp Aquos 500 at Fontana

Each week, we’ll go through all the media reports, interviews, PR, and all our own stuff to find the best quotes from the Nextel Cup race and capture the story of how the weekend unfolded. It’s the most original commentary you’ll ever find; the truth, coming straight out of the mouths of the drivers, crew members, and the car owners themselves. This week, here’s a sneak peek at what a select few were thinking following the Sharp Aquos 500 at the California Speedway.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from