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The Day NASCAR Had A Heart Attack

Sunday opened under a threatening forecast at Watkins Glen; but as the day unfolded, fans in the stands were pleasantly surprised that the rain held off. Little did they know the sport they loved had already spent the day under a black cloud and a raging downpour. In the matter of 20 short minutes, an ESPN Outside The Lines report shattered the tranquility of a Sunday morning at the speedway, and immediately made the majority of any on-track activity second string news.

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Ten Points To Ponder … After Watkins Glen

*Nostalgic* - Tasmanian Marcos Ambrose had quite a weekend. He won his first ever Nationwide Series race on a fuel strategy call at the Watkins Glen road course event on Saturday, driving the No. 59 Ford for the non-Sprint Cup affiliated team owned by Tad Geschickter with new partner Brad Daugherty -- the ESPN race announcer. Ambrose then took the famed Wood Bros. Racing No. 21 Ford to a Top 5 finish in the Centurion Boats at the Glen Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen, NY, finishing third while battling two-time Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart for the second place position. How cool was it to see that Wood Bros. No. 21 racing hard amongst the leaders on the last lap of a Cup race again? But was it as cool as seeing the red / white / blue STP paint scheme in Victory Lane one more time – even on a Ford?

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Sprint Cup Rookie Report: Ambrose Gains Positions and Respect at The Glen

*Rookies in the Starting Lineup: (Due to rain, the starting lineup was determined by car owner points)* Aric Almirola (15th), Ron Fellows (32nd), Sam Hornish, Jr. (34th), Michael McDowell (36th), P.J. Jones (38th), Patrick Carpentier (39th), Max Papis (42nd), Marcos Ambrose (43rd) *Unofficial Finishing Positions:* Marcos Ambrose (3rd), Ron Fellows (13th), Patrick Carpentier (20th), Michael McDowell (25th), Sam Hornish, Jr. (32nd), Aric Almirola (35th), P.J. Jones (37th), Max Papis (43rd) *Rookie of the Race: Marcos Ambrose.* When the green flag was waved for the Centurion at the Glen, Ambrose found himself tasked with having to overtake 42 Sprint Cup drivers at one of the toughest tracks on the circuit to pass -- nearly an impossible feat. However, after running near the top of the practice charts and taking home his first career NASCAR victory in the Nationwide Series race the day before, the Australian had a little bit of confidence in his fuel tank; and boy, did it pay off.

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Bubble Breakdown: It’s All Good For Allmendinger After Securing Slot In Top 35

After rain washed out Friday’s qualifying, this weekend’s road race at Watkins Glen was set by owner points -- a decision that turned out to be a double-edged sword for our faithful set of bubble dwellers. On the plus side, all 43 full-time teams qualified without the risk of being knocked off by road course ringers *Boris Said* and *Brian Simo.* But making the field was no consolation when each of these teams were forced to start 31st or worse. In a race where track position proves key, that made it more difficult than ever for programs already struggling to climb out of the hole they’ve slowly dug themselves into all season long. But despite that disadvantage, there were not one but two drivers outside the Top 35 who shocked many by finishing inside the Top 11. Which teams were they, and who was hurt the most by a devastating nine-car crash that decimated several cars in the race’s final laps? To find out, read on for this week’s edition of the Bubble Breakdown.

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Nationwide Series Breakdown: Zippo 200

*In a Nutshell:* Unlike last weekend at Montreal, Marcos Ambrose did not have the best car in the field. But unlike last weekend, Ambrose capitalized during Saturday's race at Watkins Glen, scoring his first career NASCAR victory with a win in the Zippo 200. Ambrose ran in the third position for most of the event’s second half, stalking a furious battle between Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Burton that saw both Cup stars forced to pit with less than ten laps to go for fuel. Ambrose then cruised to an easy win, which also catapulted his No. 59 into the Top 10 in Nationwide Series points. Kyle Busch scored a strong runner-up finish for D’Hondt Motorsports in the team’s first Nationwide Series race of the season, with Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and polesitter Dario Franchitti rounding out the Top 5.

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Tracking the Trucks : Toyota Tundra 200

*In a Nutshell:* Johnny Benson took the checkered flag 0.889 seconds ahead of Erik Darnell to win the Toyota Tundra 200 Saturday night at Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, TN. Benson held onto an extremely loose truck early in the race and led just three laps on his way to his third consecutive win this season. Todd Bodine, Jack Sprague, and Ron Hornaday, Jr. rounded out the Top 5. *Who Should Have Won: Todd Bodine.* Bodine started on the pole and held a 4.2 second lead over Stacy Compton just 30 laps into the race. Bodine went on to lead 74 laps before Stacy Compton took the top spot on lap 75. After losing the lead to Compton, Bodine's truck remained strong enough to run in the Top 5 for the majority of the night; he ended up taking third at the checkered flag, but looked to be far better than where he wound up at the finish.

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What Owners Should Expect From Drivers-And What Expectations Go Too Far

A couple of weeks back, I wrote about which drivers I might like to have should I own a race team. That kind of got me thinking about some of the things that teams owners face, and it was about then that I decided that I never, ever want to own a race team. A couple of things came up that gave me pause, though. First, a debate on our own message boards about what makes a driver ready for a Cup ride has been floating around. Then the lawsuit that Dale Earnhardt, Inc. filed against former crew chief Doug Richert brought to light some interesting clauses that that company puts in their contract. Which got me to thinking-what IS fair for a car owner to expect from his or her employees? After all, many of those employees sacrifice their family lives for a job they love. The driver and pit crew are in very real danger performing their jobs. How much more can a boss ask and still get anyone to work for him?

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No Mas in Ciudad de Mexico: NASCAR Gets One Right

NASCAR announced last week that they will not be running Nationwide Series races at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez road course in Mexico City next year. Finally, a change in the schedule we can applaud. Granted, it’s only the Nationwide Series, but we’ll take whatever victories we can get. It would probably be an understatement to suggest that the initial novelty of Nationwide Series racing has worn a bit thin on our southern neighbors. After the first race, where 100,000 curious Mexicans showed up to watch Martin Truex, Jr. take the victory, this year’s Kyle Busch show drew just 57,000. At this rate, let’s see—carry the one—it would take just four more races to make the population in the garage bigger than that of the grandstands. Of course, to listen to NASCAR, it has been an unqualified success.

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Driven To The Past : The Masters Of Competitive Engineering (Or A Nice Name For Cheating)

Got some e-mails last week asking if we ever did any while I was with Harry Hyde and the K&K team in 1966. I never said we didn't. "Competitive engineering," a nice name for cheating. At Atlanta, there was something of a dust cloud on the backstretch during the pace lap when everyone who had chalk tablets in the front springs hit the brakes, busting them to drop the front end. A NASCAR official commented to Harry that he hoped we weren't involved. Harry didn't bother to point out that our K&K Dodge was equipped with torsion bars in the front rather than coil springs, and we hadn't figured out how to get a chalk tablet in there just yet.

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Fantasy Picks ‘N’ Pans: A Watkins Glen Repeat or The Agony Of Defeat?

For the final time in '08, the Cup boys will be turning left and right as they visit another road course. Watkins Glen is one of the more historic tracks in America and it can have dramatic effects on fantasy players’ teams. This weekend affords you the chance to pick up some inexpensive Road Course Ringers to jump start your team. Though a Ringer has yet to win a Cup race, taking a chance with one on your roster could pay large dividends. A tried and true veteran could pay off as well as the Sprint Cup drivers jockey for a spot in the Chase. Using both pedals a lot more than normal this weekend could mean different things for different drivers. Will Kyle Busch back up his Sonoma win? Does Jeff Gordon finally take the checkers first this weekend? Can Tony Stewart finally get into his usual summer mode? Only in this week’s Picks ‘N’ Pans will you find who you should have on your roster and who should stay in the RV lot.

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