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Top Ten Victory Celebrations Other Drivers Can Do

_Since Carl Edwards has already won two races this year, NASCAR fans have been treated to his celebratory backflip twice. While Carl's backflip is arguably the most entertaining victory celebration in motorsports, other drivers have been looking for a post-victory schtick of their own. With this week's top ten list, Kurt Smith is here to help._ *10.* Jimmie Johnson can say "this is for all the Johnson haters" and then put his thumbs in his ears, wiggle his fingers, stick out his tongue, and blow raspberries until the commercial break. *9.* Tony Stewart can climb up onto the flag stand and then smoothly execute a "Triple Lindy" back onto the top of the car.

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Edwards’ Penalty: The Decision Should Be Simple

In a departure from NASCAR's standard operating procedure, fines and penalties for rule infractions committed at Las Vegas were not announced on the Tuesday following a Sunday race. Of primary interest to stock car fans and Carl Edwards' No. 99 Roush Fenway camp is what the repercussions will be for a rule violation detected in post-race inspection following Edwards' UAW-Dodge 400 victory. The oil reservoir tank lid was not securely fastened as required by NASCAR; it's a gaffe which could possibly have given the No. 99 a small aerodynamic advantage. Edwards said this week on SPEED TV that a bolt backed out of the cover, but that he believed that he would be penalized. I would hope that's correct, and that NASCAR follows its newfound consistency in dishing out sizable fines and penalties.

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Did You Notice : Money In NASCAR Makes A Difference, Stewart’s Unique Hairdo, And Oddsmakers Don’t Know What They’re Doing?

*Did You Notice?* … How insane Las Vegas security was this weekend? All I can tell you is that both the garage area and pit road were policed like any citizen within 50 feet of anyone important was about to incite a terrorist attack; it didn't matter whether you were a fan or had a hard card in your hand. I don't know what it is about Sin City, but it always seems to bring out the worst in both security and parking volunteers at the track; Vegas is also known for one of the worst traffic nightmares on the circuit, and this year was no exception, in part because of how the Speedway chose to route traffic out of the event. SAFER barriers aren't the only things that need to be added to this facility - some improved escape routes, competent temporary employees, and a few more lanes of highway around this track would be nice, too. *Did You Notice?* … That the two most memorable mistakes that led to wrecks on the weekend were from two of the circuit's most respected drivers - Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon. With 40 years of experience between them, it's a casual reminder that even the most talented men in our sport are never perfect, no matter how much we put them on that pedestal.

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Mark Martin: He’s Bad, He’s Nationwide – The All-Time Wins Leader Continues To Make An Impact In Semi-Retirement

When asked where his favorite vacation destination is, Mark Martin will list Las Vegas as his place of refuge. No, it is not because he enjoys gambling, the nightlife, or the seedy underbelly of society. For the driver who calls 11:00 PM way past his bedtime, Martin enjoys Vegas because they have the best video game arcades anywhere in the country. That's right; the same 49-year-old who likes rap music, Bernie Mac, and Dave Chappelle also enjoys playing video games with his son Matt while staying on the strip. But the arcade isn't the only thing drawing Martin to Sin City. The driver who Carl Edwards once glossed "crazy old man" in a Nextel commercial a couple of years back also seems to do pretty well at the race track they have out there, too.

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Allmendinger Announcement A Bit Of A Shock; And Now, The Pressure’s On

NASCAR's Silly Season seems to start earlier every year … but I never remember it gearing up _this_ quickly. The announcement A.J. Allmendinger will be temporarily replaced in the No. 84 is the second such driver change in three weeks in Sprint Cup - Jacques Villeneuve was ousted from the No. 27 mere hours after missing the Daytona 500. Add in the Bobby Labonte whispers throughout the garage that he's going to RCR for 2009, and it's been one above average month of February when it comes to shakeups behind the cockpit. Make no mistake, though; Allmendinger's exit from the No. 84 was definitely a bit of a shock. Considering the sophomore was the first car left out at all three races this season, it's not like he was completely off the mark; in fact, the 93 owner points A.J. accumulated leaves Team Red Bull just 119 out of a Top 35 spot, not an unattainable goal by any means. In fact, under the old qualifying rules from a few years back, Allmendinger would have made two of three races; he finished 13th in his Gatorade Duel and qualified 34th at Las Vegas (his team would still have been bitten by the California rainout last week).

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Managing Expectations … And Fending Off Disappointment

Trying to predict how the 2008 NASCAR season will finish after just three races -- and with less than ten percent of the full schedule accounted for -- is just short of madness. But NASCAR is nothing if not a brutally honest sport. Yes, you can be the victim of bad racing luck; witness Casey Mears at Fontana hitting a weeper and somehow missing absolutely everyone else except his teammate. Yet for the most part, the standings don't lie; and after three races of this nascent season, we have a small enough sample size to start analyzing trends. Potential points deductions notwithstanding, *Carl Edwards* has had almost a perfect start with a pair of wins (his eighth and ninth in Cup) following a ho-hum 19th in the 500. *Ryan Newman* is another who has started fast with his epic win in the 50th Great American race, one that gave boss Roger Penske his first Daytona 500 crown after thirty years of trying. He's followed that up with two solid finishes in California and Vegas to prove that victory wasn't a fluke. Like Newman, *Kyle Busch* has also come flying out of the gate, with two fourth places and 156 of 717 total laps led -- a mark which leads the series.

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Who’s Hot / Who’s Not In Nextel Cup : Las Vegas Edition

In what was a much smoother race weekend than the on again / off again rain debacle last weekend in California, the story in Vegas wound up with a similar ending. As the checkered flag flew, it was Carl Edwards once again winding up in Victory Lane, cementing his status as the hottest driver in the Cup series right out of the box. But who else left Vegas with a boatload of cash and momentum? And on the flip side, who's currently in gambling purgatory -- needing good runs in the next two weeks to steer clear of the dreaded Top 35 bubble position in car owner points? To see the latest trends in Sprint Cup, as well as what to expect next Sunday in Atlanta, check out this week's edition of Who's Hot / Who's Not. *HOT* *Carl Edwards:* Owww! Sorry, had to grab the extinguisher because Edwards' season is giving me 3rd-degree burns … and we're 1,000 miles away from him right now. Two wins in his last two starts have Cousin Carl leading the standings for the first time in his Cup career; with a 21-point lead over Kyle Busch, his No. 99 team has revitalized Roush Fenway Racing while giving hope that the Blue Oval crowd ain't dead yet. Don't expect this bunch to keel over anytime soon on the track, either; Edwards captured his first career Cup win at Atlanta three years ago, and has six Top 10 finishes in seven career starts at the track.

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Running Their Mouth : UAW-Dodge 400

"It was a great car. I thought we were gonna receive another penalty for a tire that got away, and NASCAR made a judgment call in our favor after looking at the tape. I believe it was the right one, and I'm just very grateful for them looking at that and giving that to us." _Carl Edwards, Race Winner_ "I am thrilled with this finish. We didn't need the red flag, though; the tires spinning, that was just more me trying to not set myself up for the restart correctly. The tire is a little hard... I am curious as to whether we could bring a softer tire and not have wear problems. If that was possible, I would love that. " _Dale Earnhardt, Jr, finished 2nd_ "I'll argue that I had the fastest race car today on the race track and the driver just screwed it up. I got caught speeding on pit road. I was able to get all the way back to, I think I was passing for fourth or third... and [I] got loose off of turn two and probably should have wrecked and don't really understand why I didn't yet, and lost all my track position again. This is the most fun I've had driving a race car in probably a year or two." _Greg Biffle, finished 3rd_

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Open Foot, Insert Mouth : Ford Teams Coming Around After All

As the sun went down on a gorgeous, windy afternoon in Las Vegas, Carl Edwards did a backflip to the delight of the crowd. With his second straight victory in as many races - a win that will stand despite failing post-race inspection - he's made his case for Ford's resurgent operation. And with that, I'll do a little gymnastic move of my own -- cartwheeling away from a prediction that's all but torn to pieces. Just a week and a half ago, on "SI.com,": http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/writers/tom_bowles/02/20/ford/index.html I profiled the struggles of the Fusions after Daytona. With a best finish of 10th, some questions on horsepower, and two teammates taking each other out, it hadn't been the best of Speedweeks for the Ford faithful; and with Roush Fenway's poor showing with the CoT compared to other mega-teams in 2007, it seemed this would be the year the Blue Ovals fell off the charts.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Las Vegas Edition

*The Key Moment:* On lap 237, Carl Edwards powered around Matt Kenseth to take the lead for the final time, eventually scoring his second consecutive win. *In a Nutshell:* Oh well, at least it didn't rain. *Dramatic Moment:* When Jeff Gordon got into the rear quarter panel of Matt Kenseth's car at the front of the pack with four to go a field decimating wreck was narrowly averted. *What They'll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* *Carl Edwards wins two in a row three races into the season?* If nothing else, it proves the futility of pundits making pre-season predictions.

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