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Best of Holding A Pretty Wheel: Two Little Brothers, A Public Mourning, and A Kid Named Junior

"Well, the (fill in sponsor/manufacturer/model here) ran great today. My super, amazing crew chief made some great calls and the guys did a great job on pit stops that got us to the front. I'd also like to thank (insert ten other sponsors here), my Mom, and all my fans!"How many times a year have you heard this speech in Victory Lane and shaken your head at how scripted it is? I'd have to say, in the average Cup season…about 36. The reason Victory Lane sounds and looks scripted is because it IS. And for good reason, there are a lot of people who pay a lot of money or supply a lot of equipment who expect a return on their investment: photos of the team wearing their hat, gathered around the trophy and a thanks on national TV to impress their corporate clients.

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Fanning the Flames: Single-File Questions After A Single-File Sunday

*Q: In the first five Car of Tomorrow races, NASCAR jumped up and down, pointing to the "close finishes." But the last six CoT races (excluding the Talladega plate race where we always see close finishes) have been anything BUT close at the checkers. Could it be that those hair-raising finishes were aided and abetted by the infamous "debris caution" in the last laps that NASCAR is so famous for? And have these less than stellar finishes occurred _after_ Tony [Stewart] compared NASCAR to the WWE, manipulating the finishes with phony cautions? I have noticed that field bunching cautions dropped noticeably since then.* _— SallyB_*A:* The mysterious invisible debris cautions have been somewhat nonexistent lately, haven't they Sally? We'll examine that in a minute. First off, I went back and looked at the finishes of the first five CoT races and found that, beyond Bristol and Martinsville — where close finishes are not necessarily the norm, but not uncommon either — the endings weren't quite as close as NASCAR would like for you to believe.

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I’m Just Sayin’…NASCAR Qualifying is Stupefying

If you know someone who thinks NASCAR is just a bunch of guys driving around in circles, I have a challenge for you.Get a printout of the actual qualifying results - you know, the ones based on lap times - from the October 7th Talladega race, and put them side-by-side with the actual starting lineup of the event.Then, try explaining to a person who's already a little dubious about NASCAR why the two lists are so completely different.By the time you're done, the person you're talking to will be less concerned about drivers going in circles, and more concerned about the dizziness in his own head.And chances are, so will you.

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Ain’t No Joke: Joe Weatherly

*Name:* Joe Weatherly *Birthdate:* May 29th, 1922 *Hometown:* Norfolk, VA *Nextel Cup Debut:* 1952 Southern 500 at Darlington, SC (Grand National Division) *Races:* 230 *Wins:* 25 *Poles:* 18 *Top Fives:* 105 *Top Tens:* 153 *Championships:* 2 (1962, 1963)*Career highlights:* One of the first legitimate big stars in NASCAR, Weatherly was the winner of back-to-back Championships in both 1962 and 1963. Before becoming one of the most storied figures in NASCAR's golden era, he was also a 3-time AMA Motorcycle Champion. Nicknamed, "The Clown Prince of Auto Racing," he won the Most Popular Driver Award in 1961. Sadly, he died in an accident during the 1964 Riverside 500 before he could fully realize his potential.Joe Weatherly's driving career almost ended before it even began. He nearly died while out with a group of friends one night, lost control while driving through an S - curve; he had bumped into a curb and broke a tie rod. With no steering or time to react, he ran headlong into a tree. Weatherly was nearly ejected from the vehicle, his head and neck breaking through the windshield. As Weatherly was trapped and bleeding to death, one passenger was dead, and others badly injured. Weatherly recovered then, but in other instances, he wasn't so lucky. He was left badly scarred about the face; rumors arose that it was the result of a Nazi sniper in WWII. Unfortunately, it would not be the last time he had an encounter with a parts failure in the middle of an S-curve turn.Throughout his golden years in the sport, Joe Weatherly was nicknamed "The Clown Prince of Racing." It was a moniker he enjoyed - he also loved playing practical jokes, partying, and engaging in behavior that would put most rock bands to shame. His antics have become the legend of NASCAR's early days, some of which have been immortalized on the big screen. The rental car chase scene from Days of Thunder? Joe Weatherly and Curtis Turner. Driving a stock car into a motel swimming pool in Cannonball Run? Joe Weatherly and Curtis Turner.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Driver Handicaps : Bank of America 500

*2007 Charlotte "2" Driver Handicaps**Jeff Gordon* - Gordon has won here four times, including the 1994 World 600 to score his first ever Cup series victory. (Has it really been thirteen years? Wow). But he's in a pronounced slump at LMS right now, having failed to finish the last five points races here.*Jimmie Johnson* - Johnson refers to Charlotte as "My House," and not without reason. In twelve starts here, he's won five times, finished in the Top 3 three additional times, and has Top 10 finishes in eleven of those starts. Thus, his average finish here is sixth.*Clint Bowyer* - Bowyer is averaging a 24th place finish here after three starts, with each of his finishes progressively worse than the previous one. For him to keep pace with those above him, that streak can't continue.

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Fantasy Picks ‘N’ Pans : Charlotte Edition

The Chase heads to the halfway point this weekend by tackling the only night race left on the horizon for 2007. To do that, the circuit heads back to Charlotte, the track that has been both levigated and repaved over the last couple of years. It's all part of a work-in-progress renovation project by track president Humpy Wheeler and owner Bruton Smith, one that certainly had its share of bumps along the way. The biggest of those bumps may not have smoothed itself out yet; Goodyear is still apparently bringing tires more suited for the Flintstone mobile than the Cup series, a move that could cause complaints among the NASCAR faithful. Clearly, it's a race in which there's constant fear of the unknown - and that will wreck havoc on the nerves of any racing fantasy owner.Of course, there's far more than the renovations themselves to be concerned about, as those things reach beyond your ownership control. Looking at a race that runs from twilight into dark, there is always concern over the changing track conditions and how teams will adjust to them over time. With the Chase pretty much down to a three horse race, the rest of the driver pool is going to be in the same boat - just win, and get maximum exposure for your sponsor. With that type of mentality to go along with a tire that allows for aggressive pit strategies, some strange results are certainly possible as the race winds down. Even fuel mileage can play a factor; an unexpected finish in May brought guys like Casey Mears, J.J. Yeley, and Kyle Petty to the front. With so many variables, don't be surprised to see an unexpected driver to wind up in the Top 5 once again.So, who will figure out the right fuel strategy and changing track conditions on this tricky track? Keep reading on to see who is worth the gamble and who you need to sit this one out in this week's edition of Fantasy Picks ‘N' Pans.

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Mirror Driving : Dale Jarrett’s Road To TV Geek, Jason Keller’s Record-Breaking Streak, And Did Villeneuve Get The Respect He Seeks?

*After observing one restrictor plate race with the Car of Tomorrow package, should there be changes made for future events at Talladega? Also, which type of restrictor plate racing was better - the old car or the new car?*Mike: I don't know that we can make a good judgment after one race. When people were willing to _race_, I thought it was a pretty good show. Tony: Let's see…we had side-by-side racing, then a freight train for awhile, then the Big One, then a last lap pass for the win. I'd say things were close to the same. Beth: When the Cup cars weren't lined up single file, they put on a darn good show.

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Top Ten Things Dumber Than Buying / Building a House Near a Race Track And Then Complaining About the Noise

_Author's note: I wanted to leave all of these ten blank, but the Editors - while agreeing that the list would indeed be factual - also felt that it would be a "cop out" on my part, and insisted I actually list something this week. Apparently, they are onto me...note that they (the Editors) are NOT on the list!_10. Trying to teach a pig to sing. (Whoops! I'm Guilty! Hey, here in Iowa, we sometimes get bored waiting for the corn to mature.) 9. Buying or leasing a racing engine from DEI.8. Betting on Greg Biffle to win…I mean, _finish_ a race at Talladega.7. Most any action that begins with the sentence, "Hey y'all! Watch this!"

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Move Over, Jimmie…Let’s Let Gordon Get One For The Thumb

Race fans, imagine this...Jimmie Johnson is leading Jeff Gordon by one point at this year's season-ending race at Homestead, Florida. Johnson runs one spot ahead of Gordon on the track, when all of a sudden, he receives an order over his in-car radio from Chad Knaus instructing him to let his teammate move ahead. Dejected, Johnson obeys the edict, watches the No. 24 swing by, and remains helpless as Gordon goes on to win his fifth NASCAR Cup Championship.Sound crazy? It is actually not as far-fetched as it seems. Unless the hierarchy of the sport steps up to the plate and takes action to stop the issuing of "team orders," something similar to my illustration is almost certain to occur in NASCAR. It may not be this season, or even the next - but eventually a championship will be determined by the whim of an owner, and _not_ by honest competition on the track.

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