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Drivers Take Turns at Trying to Solve Rained Out Qualifying

Friday marked the third consecutive race and the 10th time this season that Sprint Cup qualifying had been rained out and the starting field has been set by owner’s points. With that in mind, many fans and the media have wondered aloud about the ramifications of NASCAR’s deciding never to move qualifying to another day. Why can’t NASCAR stage qualifying, if weather permits, on Saturday, instead of canceling it on a rainy Friday? How are teams outside the Top 35 supposed to have a fair shot at qualifying for the race, if some are simply sent home after a rainout? How can rookies who are trying to gain seat time in Cup and get certified to run in the series supposed to do that if qualifying gets rained out? If part-time teams are sent home after qualifying, how can they gain the traction to run well, attract sponsorship, and graduate to running a full-time, competitive schedule? Several Sprint Cup drivers took some time during the Friday rains to address the issue.

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Bubble Breakdown: Several Teams Miss Opportunity To Lock Down Top 35 For ’09

There’s an old saying that Hell hath no fury like that of a Dinger scorned, or something to that affect anyways. And for the second straight week A.J. Allmendinger drove like a man on a mission right from the drop of the checkered flag. And a mission is what he needs to be on if he wants to drive Gillette-Evernham’s No. 10 Dodge into the top 35 before the checkered flag flies over Homestead in a month’s time. For the second week in a row, A.J. drove his Dodge from the back to the front and posted another top 15 run. But did he make any measurable gains in his quest for a top 35 locked in spot? Read on to find out in this week’s edition of the Bubble Breakdown.

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Sprint Cup Rookie Report: Hornish Bounces Back From Crash To Widen Lead At Atlanta

*Rookies in the Starting Lineup: (Due to rain, qualifying was canceled and the field was set by owner points):* Regan Smith (32nd), Scott Speed (34th), Sam Hornish, Jr. (36th), Marcos Ambrose (38th), Chad McCumbee (41st) *Unofficial Finishing Positions:* Sam Hornish, Jr. (24th), Marcos Ambrose (29th), Regan Smith (30th), Scott Speed (34th), Chad McCumbee (36th) *Rookie of the Race: Sam Hornish, Jr.* From the drop of the green flag, it looked like it would be a long afternoon for Sam Hornish, Jr. Yet again, his No. 77 team was forced to start from the rear of the pack after qualifying was rained out on Friday. Then, on lap two, the rookie was involved in a wreck with veteran Bill Elliott, and subsequently penalized a lap for pitting too early following the incident.

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Nationwide Series Breakdown: Kroger On Track For The Cure 250

*In a Nutshell:* On Lap 29, a handful of drivers came in for fresh tires and adjustments at Memphis ... and it turns out that made all the difference. A caution on Lap 126 after over 90 laps of green flag racing left less than 10 cars on the lead lap, including Carl Edwards, whose No. 60 Ford was the class of the field. Edwards was never seriously challenged for the lead throughout the rest of the race despite multiple late race cautions and made coming from the back of the pack look easy, scoring a relatively easy victory. Defending race winner David Reutimann got his No. 99 Toyota to second with a few laps to go, but he refused to use the bump and run to move Edwards out of the way, a decision Reutimann later questioned himself for making. The race’s ending was highlighted with fireworks on pit road.

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Tracking the Trucks : E-Z-GO 200

*In a Nutshell:* Ryan Newman took the checkered flag 0.377 seconds ahead of Ron Hornaday, Jr. to win the E-Z-GO 200 Saturday afternoon at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Newman made a last lap pass on teammate Ron Hornaday, Jr. to score a win in his first ever Truck Series start. Denny Hamlin, Todd Bodine and Scott Speed rounded out the Top 5. *Who Should Have Won:* Ron Hornaday, Jr. Hornaday, Jr. ran sixth quickest and started on the outside pole in a field set by owner's points. By the time the field made it to lap 59, Hornaday, Jr. held a six second lead over Kyle Busch and had lapped nearly half of the field. The driver of the No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet took the lead for the first time on lap 10 and went on to lead 110 of the 130 laps run on his way to a runner-up finish.

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Tragedy Only Fueled Hendrick’s Triumph In Their Darkest Hour

It was the first time Brian Vickers smiled all weekend. That was my first thought one Sunday afternoon, a scant four years ago when the dust had settled after the 2004 Bass Pro Shops 500. The second was that it took extraordinary courage and poise for the winning team to be there at all. Racing rarely gives much, but it can take in an instant. Tragedy is constantly a hairbreadth away, and inevitably, sometimes, that line is crossed. Perhaps not so strangely, in a sport that is fueled by danger and excitement, triumph can also be fueled by tragedy.

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Is Johnson’s Three Year Run As Good As Yarborough’s Was?

In the wake of a seemingly inevitable third straight title for Jimmie Johnson and crew, John Close at CloseFinishes.com recently compared Johnson to the only other driver in the history of the sport to achieve that feat, the mighty Cale Yarborough. It’s a natural comparison to make, but Close was the first I saw to make it. So I decided to be second. Close hands the “better” title to Yarborough…“hands down”…based on comparing certain statistics—total wins, Top 5s, Top 10s, laps led, poles won. In that regard, Yarborough’s numbers are better. But to say that Yarborough scored better finishes and led more laps than Johnson did in their dominant three-year periods, while not an invalid argument, is not entirely a big-picture one.

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Driven To The Past : The Infamous Fake Accident

Okay, I got forced into this one by one of Ren Jonsin’s trivia questions this week... It was Wednesday’s question about the pro football team’s stadium where Tom Pistone, Fireball Roberts, Curtis Turner, and Glen Wood won NASCAR races. The answer, of course, was Soldier Field, now home of the Chicago Bears, so technically that is correct. However, Da Bears didn’t start playing their season schedule at Soldier Field until 1971, and the last nationally-sanctioned stock car race there was a USAC event won by Norm Nelson on August 12, 1967. The track was listed as a half mile, but I suspect it was closer to a 3/8ths. Tommy Thompson (not our writer, the driver from Louisville in NASCAR’s early days) once told me it was a “big three-eighths.”

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Nuts for Nationwide: The Future Is Now At Memphis

For race fans out there looking for an event to watch this weekend where the storylines and action will be there regardless of how the points leader does, look no further than the Nationwide Series race at Memphis. Clint Bowyer is leading the purse snatcher brigade and stands poised to claim the title in NASCAR’s second-tier series, but there is a lot going on in the event’s 50 car field.

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Perseverance the Specialty for Doug Taylor, No. 61 Team

Doug Taylor has been doing this for a long time. He fielded his first entry in the Nationwide (then Busch) series in 1994, and continued racing through the 1998 season. That was a banner year for Taylor as a car owner, as driver Kevin Lepage delivered the then-Doug Taylor Motorsports team a pole at Dover and a Busch win at the Bristol Motor Speedway. “We were able to average a 12th place starting spot and 11th place finish [in 1998],” recalls Taylor, who finished seventh in the owner’s championship that season. Fast forward ten years. With co-owner Charlie Shoffner and the same driver that scored him his only career win as an owner, Taylor returned to full-time Nationwide Series competition in '08 under the banner of Specialty Racing. And while the No. 61 car is not contending for wins, or even Top 10s just yet, the season can’t be considered anything short of a success.

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