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Picks N Pans: 2008 UAW Dodge 400

Round three of the Cup series will take place in the desert West as the circuit heads to Las Vegas for the UAW-Dodge 400. The reconfigured Las Vegas Motor Speedway is set to offer up some very intense racing with its variable banking. As the teams continue to figure out this new car configuration, the passing on the track becomes more and more prevalent. Hopefully fans are appreciating the fact that cars are actually making passes for the lead on the track this year. To see which drivers our experts think will make the passes that count and end up in the front or rear this weekend, read on in this weeks Picks ‘n' Pans.

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Nuts For Nationwide: New Sponsor, Same Old Issues

If you'll forgive me for going all Jean Girard on you, the first two weeks of the Nationwide Series bring to mind a line from an old French proverb; "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose." Or in other words, the more things change the more they stay the same. With a couple of races of the 2008 season now in the books we've already seen a number of issues that have bedeviled the second most popular motorsport in America over the past couple of years; domination of moonlighting Cup drivers, "Start and Park" entrants, incomplete fields and a plethora of sponsor related issues. For the incoming title sponsor, Nationwide, none of these problems can be considered surprises but one thing is for sure, they are issues that are unlikely to go away until they're addressed at the highest level. Results-wise, it's been the Stewart and Busch show with the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers finishing first and second in both races. In Daytona, Stewart led only the final three laps and won by the scant margin of just .259 seconds.

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Press Release: CJM Racing in Sin City

Jason Keller No. 11 CJM Racing Chevrolet Sam’s Town 300 Las Vegas Motor Speedway Saturday, March 1, 2008 JASON KELLER/ CJM RACING TEAM FAST FACTS: This will be the team’s first visit to Las Vegas Motor Speedway since entering into the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) CJM Racing is still searching …

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Matt McLaughlin Mouths Off: Toyota’s Here…And There Goes The Neighborhood

Kudzu, a Japanese import, was introduced to the United States in 1876 during the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. The fast growing vine with its massive root structure was said to be a valuable ally in preventing soil erosion, particularly in the Southeast portion of the United States where the climate was perfect for the plant. In fact, the U.S. government spent a lot of money planting Kudzu down South; and in one of the classic cases of the Law of Unintended Consequences, it did, in fact, flourish in the United States. But Kudzu hasn't exactly done what it's supposed to; with no natural enemies, the vine took over its habitat, eliminating native plants in many areas and making a perfect, if seemingly undefeatable, enemy for Southern farmers. Tens of millions of dollars have been spent on trying to eradicate Kudzu -- but it still flourishes in many areas, even to this day. OK, I don't write about botany; and my only real experience with gardening came back during my long ago ill-spent youth, when another non-indigenous weed (said to have been imported to keep railroad ties from rotting in wet climates) was part of daily life. So, where am I going with this? It's to point out an eerie similarity of sorts. Another non-native species has become part of NASCAR's culture over the past five years, threatening to eradicate all those competing against it -- and that's Toyota.

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Disturbing Trends and Subliminal Programming — Straight From NASCAR’s Fuel Tank

So far this year, I have been surprisingly pleased overall with the quality of racing -- when the Cup Series _has_ raced, of course -- that the new Brian France named "car" has produced. (Got to send kudos out to the Big BF for coming up with such a clever name for it!) Regardless, the Daytona 500 was as close as they get; and this last weekend's race, at the silliest named track on the circuit, wasn't as "all wet" as usual. Well, it was, actually -- but it was in a physical sense, and not the usual boring racing sense. There have been, however, two disturbing trends I have noticed this season, ones which I pray will stop in their tracks as February fades into March. The first deals with one of NASCAR's most obnoxious and self-inflated "Official" sponsors, Sunoco.

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From Snake Eyes To Box Cars: Sizing Up NASCAR Odds In Vegas

With the old adage that the "bookies never lose" notwithstanding, and NASCAR's annual date with Sin City just a couple days away, now seems as good a time as ever to put up some odds you might (or might not) see throughout the 2008 NASCAR season... -- *All bets are off*: Juan Pablo Montoya employing another "Scott Pruett special" on a teammate (or any other driver for that matter) if he's running second with the race on the line. *2-1*: Odds that corporate pitchman extraordinaire, Michael Waltrip, gets NAPA into the first five words of every radio or TV appearance. *3-1*: Chances of a Robby Gordon-related controversy _on the track_ before the start of the Chase. Double your money if he celebrates a win after being black flagged.

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Fanning the Flames: Plotting The Forecast For Vegas, For Robby, And For Bobby Labonte

*Matt, I have been watching NASCAR for close to 20 years and I am speechless over the events that happened on Sunday at California… oh, I'm sorry, Auto Club Speedway. Having been watching for what feels like a long time, I don't ever remember NASCAR handling a weather problem with as much ineptitude as I witnessed at the Auto Club 500.* *Not only are California races boring to watch (don't get me started on the Labor Day date!) but having to watch all day and all night (because I'm a fan of the sport and I'll watch them race in quicksand if that is the case) just to see nothing but two crashes that should have and could have been avoided was just a senseless way to spend a Sunday. Could this whole ordeal have been avoided, or is this a problem that happens when the conditions are right?* *Thanks for letting me be heard, Matt! I really enjoy your column.* _— Mary A. Dunne_ *A:* Thanks for using this column as it was intended, Mary. I believe you've expressed what many confused and frustrated fans were thinking. And yes, I do believe that circus could have been avoided.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not In Nextel Cup: 2008 Auto Club 500 Edition

The warm, sunny, and beautiful weather conditions commonly associated with California were replaced this weekend by rain, rain and well…more rain. After little practice time and a washed out qualifying session, NASCAR made a number of futile attempts to run the Cup race on Sunday before finally - at 2 a.m. EST - postponing the race. The schedule may have been thrown out of whack, but when the green flag finally flew again Monday afternoon it was typical California racing - boring - and the usual cast of characters up front. With the win, *Carl Edwards* recorded Roush Fenway's fourth consecutive Spring race win at the 2-mile oval, while Jimmie Johnson followed up his win in the Fall race last year with a second place run in his return to his home track. It was a long week for drivers, teams, and fans alike; but for some in particular, the weekend couldn't have been any longer. At the same time, other drivers followed up great runs at Daytona with solid efforts again this week, becoming some of the select few happy to be in Ontario in the first place. To see who was basking in the California sun Monday afternoon and who simply couldn't wait to get home, check out this week's edition of Who's Hot / Who's Not in Sprint Cup.

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Mirror Driving: Too Much Rain, Too Many NASCAR Penalties, And Too Little Parity?

*NASCAR did everything possible to get the Auto Club 500 off as scheduled Sunday. But in the end, they came up short -- thanks to Mother Nature and a host of other issues. Given the condition of the track, should the race have even been attempted Sunday? And does the postponement of Sunday's race — a hardship for the teams because of a 3,000-mile trek home, followed by another 3,000-mile trek back to Las Vegas — indicate the need for a real overhaul of the schedule, or are acts of nature to be expected and dealt with as they come?* Bryan: The wrecks speak for themselves on this one. Matt T.: The whole show this weekend was pathetic. I applaud NASCAR for trying to dry the track, but after two accidents blatantly caused because of wetness, the race should have been immediately postponed until Monday. Amy: That race never should have even gone green in the first place. Beth: I agree. NASCAR was well aware of the problem of the track spewing water before Sunday even came around; they had to tear the track up Friday night to try to fix that.

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Top Ten Ways California Speedway Is No Darlington

*10.* The race starts three hours later than East Coast fans are used to, so fans can actually be roaring drunk long before the green flag drops. *9.* California Speedway actually fools Darlington fans with the shape of the racetrack being _exactly_ like the other 2-milers, thereby faking uniqueness. *8.* Fontana doesn't bother with those tired old nicknames ("Lady In Black", "Too Tough To Tame") and remains completely undistinguished. *7.* More fans available on Labor Day, since no one actually labors in L.A.

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