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Numbers Game : Subway 500

*3* Consecutive Martinsville wins for Jimmie Johnson, a feat also accomplished by Rusty Wallace, Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, and Richard Petty. Next Spring, Johnson will have the opportunity to make it four in a row which would tie the record held by Fred Lorenzen. *3 hours, 59 minutes, 45 seconds* Time it took to complete the Subway 500. *4* Number of times Jimmie Johnson led the Subway 500.

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Who’s Hot / Who’s Not In The Chase : Martinsville Edition

The Hendrick stronghold on the Chase for the Championship tightened Sunday at Martinsville, as Jimmie Johnson scored his series high seventh win of the season. Not to be totally outdone, teammate Jeff Gordon finished third, maintaining a 53-point lead over Johnson in what has quickly become a two man race for the Championship. If not for some bad luck and poor finishes in earlier events by the other ten drivers who make up the Chase, Sunday could have actually had an interesting impact on the standings; Chasers claimed ten of the Top 13 positions. But as things stand right now, it's the Gordon / Johnson show down the stretch, with Clint Bowyer barely holding on in a possible spoiler role for yet another week. But even though the big trophy is out of reach for most, there is still plenty of cash to fight for amongst the other ten competitors. So, which of the Chasers left Sunday's yellow-filled race at Martinsville throwing caution to the wind, and which ones left feeling like they had gone twelve rounds with a heavyweight champ? Read this week's Who's Hot and Who's Not in the Chase to find out...

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Who’s Hot / Who’s Not : Outside The Chase

Sunday's race at Martinsville marked the beginning of the final five races this season, launching a segment filled with pressure-packed racing not only for those fighting for the title, but for many others involved in separate skirmishes of their own. Whether it's battling to stay within the Top 25 in driver points, to move up to the "best of the rest" label of 13th place, or simply to prove their worth in the free agent market, each of the non-Chase wheelmen has his own set of goals in mind. Unfortunately for many, the tight quarters of Martinsville's half-mile oval proved a formidable adversary, as the event's 21 cautions chewed up and spit out the hopes of many an underdog looking to make a name for themselves on the old school short track. So, which drivers kept their hot streaks intact, and which ones found themselves skidding to a halt on the hard concrete surface of a paper-clip slugfest turned Demolition Derby? Read on to find out who's heating up and cooling down among the non-Chase drivers heading to Atlanta this weekend...

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Subway 500

*The Key Moment* - Ryan Newman appeared ready to get around Jimmie Johnson; however, he had to back down when David Ragan's last lap spin caused the race to end under caution. *In a Nutshell* - Hand-to-hand short track combat…racing the way it ought to be. *Dramatic Moment* - A two lap shootout at Martinsville had every fan in the jam-packed grandstands on their feet. *What They'll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* Unlike some other race tracks recently, there *weren't any empty seats at Martinsville*. Hmm. Is there a lesson there? It seems NASCAR's three remaining short tracks are perpetual sellouts.

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Ten Points to Ponder … After Martinsville II

*1. Safety, Schmafety* - The next time anyone from NASCAR tries to say that safety is their first priority, I want to have a tape of today's finish on hand, showing David Ragan's car sitting sideways in the middle of the track coming off Turn 1 and the leaders heading towards him full steam ahead. Rusty Wallace, a seven-time winner here who was calling the race, was incredulous: "The 6 car is sitting sideways in the middle of the track! They're wide open!" he yelled before the caution came out. What's worse was the No. 6 car was stopped perpendicular to the wall, with the driver's side door in the direct path of oncoming traffic. This race saw a record number of cautions, but NASCAR was clearly late with the flag when it counted most. Added Wallace in disbelief, "We saw the caution flags all day long, late in the race, and they were coming wide open in Turn 1 with that 6 car sitting dead sideways in the middle of the track." *2. Eddie Edwards* - Did you see the footage of Carl Edwards shoving and then feigning a punch at teammate Matt Kenseth's face when the two argued after the race? I'm sure Carl will say he was just kidding around, but it's obvious Matt didn't get the joke. Will Edwards, clearly the aggressor, be penalized? Will that Tony Stewart line from a year or two ago about Carl being the Eddie Haskell of NASCAR resurface? Either way, Jack Roush can't be happy seeing this altercation between his two stars.

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Three Straight Weeks of Misfortune Cripple Bill Elliott, Wood Brothers In Top 35 Quest

October has not been a good month for the Wood Brothers team. It all started back in Talladega, when Ken Schrader tagged the wall following a cut tire; it was a tragic set of circumstances that resulted in the No. 21 car falling out of the Top 35 in car owner points. Sadly, that was only the beginning. Now - three weeks later - the deficit between the No. 21 team and the final bubble position has grown substantially. The latest episode came this weekend at Martinsville, when a mechanical failure erased a Top 20 performance, handing the team a DNF just 16 laps from the finish. To see how far back the No. 21 team is from the final bubble position, check out this week's edition of the Bubble Breakdown...

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Johnson Proving Exceptional In Unlikely Title Defense

On a day where this Chase became clearly defined as a battle between just two, Jimmie Johnson celebrated the seventh victory of the season at Martinsville with more than just a win at stake. Pulling the latest punch in this yearlong prizefight atop the standings, Johnson was able to close the gap between himself and championship leader Jeff Gordon to just 53 points. It also draws him ever closer to matching his Hendrick Motorsports teammate on a much bigger stage: the NASCAR Record Book. The defending champ now stands on the precipice of challenging for an unprecedented second straight Chase title. It would be the first time since the advent of the playoff system that's happened; more importantly, in an era where the word "repeat" in any major sport is rarely uttered due to both parity and change, it would be a tribute to the way in which the No. 48 team has kept the core of their team intact while focusing on the task at hand. It's also symptomatic of how times have changed.

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Nextel Cup Rookie Report: Montoya Masters Martinsville

*Rookies in the Starting Lineup:* David Reutimann (19th), A.J. Allmendinger (25th), Juan Pablo Montoya (26th), Aric Almirola (27th), Paul Menard (35th), David Ragan (41st) *Unofficial Finishing Positions:* Juan Pablo Montoya (8th), David Reutimann (17th), Paul Menard (24th), David Ragan (26th), A.J. Allmendinger (35th), Aric Almirola (43rd) *Rookie of the Race: Juan Pablo Montoya.* Montoya's Texaco Havoline Dodge started the Subway 500 from midpack and remained there for the first 100 laps of the race, with the Colombian finding it difficult to pass on the .526-mile short track. It was a call from the pits that initially set the tone for the No. 42 car's march to the front; on the day's fifth caution on lap 114, crew chief Donnie Wingo elected to keep Montoya on the track, a move which bumped him up to third for the restart. That decision paid off long-term...

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Tracking the Trucks : Kroger 200

*In a Nutshell:* As the field wrecked behind him, Mike Skinner took the checkered flag ahead of Jack Sprague to win the Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway Saturday afternoon. A late-race red flag set the field up for a three-lap shootout, and Skinner prevailed, winning his third race at the 0.526-mile short track. Ron Hornaday, Jr, David Starr and Rick Crawford rounded out the Top Five. *Who Should Have Won:* Terry Cook. Cook was the third fastest in practice Friday afternoon with speeds just four-tenths of a mile per hour off of Jack Sprague, who topped the leaderboard. The No. 59 Harris Trucking Toyota started deep in the field after posting the 24th quickest qualifying time. Cook took the lead on lap 27 under caution after Brian Scott spun off of turn one. He led the following 108 laps before contact with Sprague opened the door for Skinner to lead. Cook ended up 29th, 11 laps down.

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Whatever NASCAR Does, They Can’t Stop the Dance

It seems so simple. Why, people ask, if I'm so often disenchanted with NASCAR these days, do I still bother to watch? And on the surface, it seems as though it should be a simple enough decision-free up my Sundays for mowing the lawn and watching Lake Norman recede. But like ending any long-term relationship, it's just not that easy. Because despite the problems, despite the inconsistency and blatant favoritism, somewhere past the manufactured competition and the ignorance of the past is something inescapable: it's still beautiful. The racing-the drivers and the cars, the crews and colors under the lights-those are essentially the same as they have always been. Some are young men with something to prove, driven by desire and ambition, with a little anxiety and a little naiveté thrown in for a good measure. Some are older, hanging on to the twilight of a fading career, looking for that one more day in the sun before they walk into the dusk. The older ones were young once, the young ones can only dream of the long and prosperous careers the older ones have enjoyed. There's a certain longing there, each for a part of the other.

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