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Ten Points To Ponder…After the 2008 LENOX Industrial Tools 301

*1. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?* - Hendrick Motorsports made it official last Friday that Casey Mears -- who joined HMS in 2007 to replace Brian Vickers -- would be released from his No. 5 Chevy ride at season’s end. Said team owner Rick Hendrick at the time of Mears’ signing, “Casey is a talented driver and a high-character person who is going to be a great fit with our organization." Hendrick went on to say, "He has the ability to win races and ultimately contend for championships, so we're thrilled to welcome him to Hendrick Motorsports." After just 52 points races... Next! *2. Do The Math* - Sunday’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301 from the 1.058-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway was altered by the race sponsor in a promotion that had the race length extended an extra lap this year. The toolmaker said the extra mile was added in honor of Lenox customers – users and suppliers of industrial tools – who perform physically demanding jobs yet receive little recognition.

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Mears Almost Had It All…But Almost Doesn’t Cut It

One third of the way through Sunday’s race, it looked like a little luck was shining Casey Mears’ way. Just days removed from a crushing blow to his career, he looked to follow up his pending release from Hendrick Motorsports with an upset trip to Victory Lane. He almost had it, too … with the keyword being almost. After a crucial decision by crew chief Alan Gustafson to gain track position by staying out during a lap 87 caution, Mears assumed the lead and wound up pacing the field for a total of 53 laps – 52 more than he’d led the entire 2008 season to date. As the laps clicked off and the No. 5 car held firm, it looked for an instant that Mears would pull the shock of the year.

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Sprint Cup Rookie Report: Almirola Ascends To The Top At New Hampshire

*Rookies in the Starting Lineup:* Patrick Carpentier (1st), Dario Franchitti (7th), Sam Hornish, Jr. (20th), Regan Smith (25th), Michael McDowell (38th), Aric Almirola (39th) *Unofficial Finishing Positions:* Aric Almirola (23rd), Regan Smith (27th), Patrick Carpentier (31st), Dario Franchitti (38th), Sam Hornish, Jr. (39th), Michael McDowell (42nd) *Rookie of the Race: Aric Almirola.* It was a dismal start to the weekend for Almirola -- making his second consecutive start in the U.S. Army Chevy -- as the rookie could do no better than 39th in qualifying on Friday. Two days later, it looked like the struggles would continue throughout the race at New Hampshire.

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Top 35 Breakdown: Rain Shines Down On Several “Bubble” Teams

The teams on the edges of the Top 35 -- or simply forced to qualify on speed -- ruled the roost in Friday’s qualifying session. After a rain delay cooled the track, bubble dwellers swept five of the top ten spots, including rookie Patrick Carpentier taking the pole to become the first top qualifier not born in the U.S. since 1953. That led to heightened expectations for this crowd on the weekend; and with Mother Nature playing a major role, those lofty goals were granted by the end of the day. With rain calling off the race with 17 laps to go, the sudden ending allowed bubble teams to take three of the top six spots after some solid pit strategy. So, who stayed out on the track to hog the glory, and who ended up stuck in the pits? Read on in this week's Bubble Breakdown of the LENOX Industrial Tools 301.

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Nationwide Series Breakdown: 2008 Camping World RV Sales 200

*In a Nutshell:* The first companion race for the Nationwide Series since Dover was a trip back to reality for Nationwide Series fans, as Cup regulars ran roughshod over the field. Cup drivers scored the first seven finishing positions and eight of the Top 10 spots Saturday, with Tony Stewart scoring a relatively easy win at New Hampshire. Stewart took the lead for good on Lap 136 after Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, and Carl Edwards had shared the top spot for much of the early part of the race. In the end, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas wound up the class of the field, with Stewart and Kyle Busch (who finished third) combining to lead 138 of 200 laps. Behind them, Greg Biffle wrecked late in the event after starting from the pole but losing the handle on his car in the second half of the race. Mike Bliss was the top finisher of the Nationwide Series regulars, joined only by Brad Keselowski in the Top 10. Between them, Clint Bowyer fell back late and finished ninth, maintaining the series points lead over David Reutimann. Reutimann moved into second, 182 points back, with Brad Keselowski dropping to fourth in the championship standings; however, Keselowski remains the lead Nationwide Series regular in the title chase.

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Tracking the Trucks: 2008 O’Reilly 200

*In a Nutshell:* Ron Hornaday, Jr. took the checkered flag 0.269 seconds ahead of Erik Darnell to win the O'Reilly 200 Saturday night at Memphis Motorsports Park. Hornaday, Jr. held the lead after a short red flag to clean up the track and through a green-white-checker finish to score his second win of the season. Matt Crafton, Rick Crawford, and David Starr rounded out the Top 5 finishers. *Who Should Have Won: Ron Hornaday, Jr.* Hornaday, Jr. qualified third and wasted no time trying to take the lead, as he drove his No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet down to the inside of pole sitter Johnny Benson in turn one right after taking the green flag. Though he didn't win the battle for the lead then, Hornaday, Jr. took the top spot for the first time on lap 44 and went on to stay up front for 139 of the 204 laps run.

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Mauricia Grant’s Lawyer Smells Blood

The other night I was watching the movie _Ransom_, a thriller in which a dirty cop named Jimmy Shaker (played by Gary Sinise) kidnaps the son of wealthy airline entrepreneur Tom Mullen (played by Mel Gibson). The movie reaches a point where Mullen is going to make the drop of the money, and during the jaunt between destinations that Shaker orders him to take, Mullen asks Shaker, “Why me? Why come after me?” Shaker thinks about it for a second, and then reminds Mullen that he was willing to pay off a union-connected mob boss to stop a strike that would have hurt his airline. “Because you buy your way out of trouble,” he tells Mullen. “You’re a payer. You did it once. You’re gonna do it again.” Up until 2003, before the sport’s “Drive for Diversity” began, NASCAR had been contributing to Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH coalition, supposedly to help increase the number of minorities in auto racing. So far, no one can cite any specific achievements of that partnership, which reportedly cost NASCAR $250,000

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Kenny Wallace Driver Diary: Drive the Hell Out of the Car–But Don’t Wreck It!

My very first Nationwide start was in 1988 at Martinsville, Virginia. NASCAR told me they wouldn’t allow me to run Daytona unless they took a look at me and see me race. My Mom and my wife, Kim put together a portfolio of what I’d done and part of that portfolio that I sent to NASCAR was that I ran ASA at Michigan and Milwaukee, so I’d been on mile and mile and a half tracks. But still, NASCAR wanted to see me race. So my brother Rusty and Dale Earnhardt have always been good friends, and they put together a ride for me, and my very first Nationwide start ever was in the No. 8 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet at Martinsville. It was awesome.

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Sprint Cup Teams Need Consistency in Their Drivers

As the Sprint Cup Series tackled the Infineon Raceway last weekend, four full-time teams pulled their regular drivers, installing substitutes that they felt would post a better result and score valuable points in the race to stay in the Top 35. DEI pulled Regan Smith for Ron Fellows, Chip Ganassi Racing pulled Reed Sorenson for Scott Pruett, and Haas CNC Racing moved Scott Riggs into the No. 70 while putting Max Papis in the No. 66. As the race started, the No. 66 and the No. 70 found themselves outside the Top 35, while the No. 01 was 30th in owner points and the No. 41 was 32nd. And, despite the efforts of these road ringers, the No. 66 and No. 70 left Sonoma outside the Top 35, while the No. 01 fell to 31st and the No. 41 to a precarious 35th. While the struggles of these four teams speak volumes as to how antiquated the practice of entering road course specialists in Cup races has become, it speaks to a larger issue, and that is the need of Sprint Cup teams to be consistent with the drivers they put behind the wheel. There are numerous Cup teams this season that have attempted to improve their performance with substitute drivers and driver by committee, yet none of them have managed to find improved performance as a result.

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Driven To The Past: Parnelli Jones and A.J. Foyt

I mentioned the USAC sprint cars at Salem last week on the way to telling that story about Roger McCluskey, and it brought this recollection to mind... It was in 1960 that Parnelli Jones came east with the Fike Plumbing Special out of Phoenix which was powered by a small-block Chevy, and began kicking the butts of the venerable Offenhauser-powered cars. If I recall correctly, that was also the last year USAC had a Midwest champion and an Eastern champion. Parnelli won the Midwest title, and some guy named Foyt won the No. 1 in the East. The thing I remember most is the battles they had on the high-banked track there, as well as at Winchester and Dayton – Parnelli in that Fike Chevy and A.J. driving the Offy-powered Bowes Seal Fast Special.

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