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Mirror Driving

Hey everyone, Due to the July 4th holiday, Mirror will make a one-day only move to Thursday, July 5th. Our apologies for the inconvenience, and we hope you'll come back then to read all the latest opinions from your favorite Frontstretch Staff members! Sincerely, The Managing Editor

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How Quickly A Rising NASCAR Star Can Fade

Stars rise and stars fall in the world of auto racing, and the ones who fall to Earth are far more numerous than the ones that rise above to star in a stock car league like NASCAR. Well, it appears as though the star of Scott Riggs is about to take that plunge back to Earth if he is not able to start performing better in his Evernham Motorsports ride. That's a real shame, for Riggs is a driver who, just a few years ago, looked to have finally punched his ticket to the big time after toiling for years to get there, has not been able to find the same stuff that Kasey Kahne has found with EMS, and is in danger of losing his ride as a result.

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Running Their Mouth: Lenox Industrial Tools 300

"Oh man, I will tell you, I was driving like a wuss those last few laps trying not to make a mistake. Those guys with fresh tires were coming and Martin (Truex, Jr.) held them off just long enough to get us this win. I have to thank Jeff (Gordon), he could have gotten himself two (ten) more bonus points there, but he chose not to and I appreciate that. The two-tire call by Mike (Ford) was definitely what got us the win. Our FedEx Ground team was pretty good all day. We were a top-four car for the most part, but I knew all we needed was clean air for this car to be good. I just can't thank everyone enough, Chevrolet, Coca Cola, Wiley X, the whole FedEx team, Joe Gibbs Racing, the pit crew for turning this deal around. It is amazing; finally, we got a win." _Denny Hamlin_

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Who’s Hot and Who’s Not In Nextel Cup: Loudon Edition

The one-mile flat track up in New Hampshire proved as difficult as ever to pass on Sunday, but that didn't stop a resurgent Jeff Gordon from giving it a shot. His last lap battle with Denny Hamlin left the two side-by-side heading to the finish line; but in the end, Hamlin held on, squeaking out a win while sending out a statement that his team could pose a challenge to Hendrick's Car Of Tomorrow dominance. In the meantime, several storylines developed behind the two contenders, with late race pit strategies, dropped jacks, and two tire stops doing their best to separate the contenders from the pretenders as the Race To The Chase began its final ten-race stretch. With the urgency reaching a fever pitch, who left the Granite State with their title hopes solid as a rock, and who discovered their chances may be permanently cracked in two? Read this week's edition of Who's Hot and Who's Not in Nextel Cup to find out. *Hot* *Denny Hamlin:* Hamlin didn't lead a large amount of laps Sunday; for once, he wasn't even the dominant car of the day at a Car of Tomorrow event. But in the end, the driver of the Fed Ex Chevy got what he wanted the most; his first win of the season.

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Numbers Game: Lenox Industrial Tools 300

*0.068* Denny Hamlin's margin of victory over Jeff Gordon at New Hampshire. (in seconds) *1st* Cup pole for Toyota and 2nd career Cup pole for Dave Blaney this weekend. His first came in February, 2003 at Rockingham. *2* Chevrolets who failed post-race tech on Sunday following the Lenox Industrial Tools 300. Neither the No. 70 driven by Johnny Sauter (finished 14th) nor the No. 5 driven by Kyle Busch (finished 11th) met the minimum height requirements during post-race inspection. Look for penalties and/or fines to be announced sometime today.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud : New Hampshire Edition

_Editor's Note : Due to a family emergency, Matt McLaughlin was unavailable for Thinkin' Out Loud; Managing Editor and SI.com contributor Tom Bowles filled in for this edition. Matt will return next week; in the meantime, please keep the McLaughlins in your thoughts and prayers._ *The Key Moment*: Crew chief Mike Ford finally figured out the best way for the No. 11 pit crew to keep costing the team a race win; don't leave the outcome in their hands. Ford gave Denny Hamlin two tires during a pit stop with 44 laps to go at New Hampshire, putting the No. 11 car out front in clean air. The sophomore sensation responded by holding off a frantic late charge by Jeff Gordon to snag his first win of ‘07. *In A Nutshell*: A mixed bag. Take a racetrack already hard to pass on, make it ten times harder to pass with the Car Of Tomorrow, and you've got yourself a bore. Still, it's a race that got mildly interesting at the end; intense racing among Hamlin, Gordon, and Truex ended with a close finish that left everyone on their feet. *What They'll Be Talking About Around The Water Cooler This Week:* Alright, it's been over 48 hours and I'm still scratching my head. *How can Brian Vickers can be sent home after post-qualifying violation one week after Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson were put in the field without even turning a lap?* Vickers' violation was for the car being too low, but at least he had a time good enough to make the field on time; that's more than Gordon or Johnson could say, as they got in on "provisionals" at Sonoma. Without a guaranteed starting spot, Vickers had no such protections, and as such he packed his bags and handed his starting spot to "44th place" Chad Chaffin. That's ironic, as it was Chaffin who got sent home at Pocono last year when a similar violation occurred with his old team; other than that, this decision hardly seems fair when compared to the special slots given to the No. 24 and No. 48. Isn't it time to fix a rapidly destructive provisional system? Or is it time for Red Bull to pony up and become NASCAR's official drink of choice? Maybe then their car would actually have been allowed to start the race…

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10 Points To Ponder … After New Hampshire

*1. Bonus Points, Part One* - In the wake of last week's penalties against the Nos. 24 and 48, drivers like Denny Hamlin and Kyle Petty said that a better punishment would have been taking away bonus points - the extra 10 points per win that drivers get once they make the Chase. But I don't see how this penalty could possibly work because not all drivers will have bonus points, making it impossible to apply across the board. Since every driver with bonus points will make the Chase, taking bonus points away from those drivers would be, well, pointless. *2. Bonus Points, Part Two* - If you had any question about whether the new bonus points would encourage drivers to go for the win rather than settling for a good points day, consider today's admission by race winner Denny Hamlin's crew chief, Mike Ford:

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Bowles-Eye : With Nine Races To Go, Bowyer Most Vulnerable Chase Contender

Since the racing mecca that is Memorial Day weekend, NASCAR Nextel Cup's gotten busy honoring itself with a litany of breakthrough performances by drivers suddenly making a name for themselves. One by one, these men have come forward to claim their winning lotto tickets to the relative surprise of the racing public. Casey Mears, Martin Truex, Jr., Juan Pablo Montoya; all three men searching fruitlessly for momentum until they stumbled upon their biggest stock car prize, wrapped in a box that included one life-changing Sunday at the track. Well, Clint Bowyer's still waiting for that special present to come his way, and that's beginning to pose a problem. A winless wonder, his Chase hopes may lie squarely in the ability for him to get over the hump and into Victory Circle.

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Rating the Nextel Cup Rookies: New Hampshire Edition

*Rookies in the Starting Lineup*: Juan Pablo Montoya (5th), Regan Smith (13th), David Reutimann (17th), David Ragan (32nd), Paul Menard (35th) *Unofficial Finishing Positions*: David Ragan (15th), Juan Pablo Montoya (19th), Regan Smith (32nd), David Reutimann (38th), Paul Menard (39th) *Rookie of the Race: David Ragan*. The AAA team and David Ragan enjoyed a mostly quiet day at the New Hampshire International Speedway. After yet another dismal qualifying effort (32nd), the eleventh time this year that Ragan has started 31st or worse, the No. 6 car appeared to struggle early on.

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Bubble Breakdown : Great Week For Haas CNC…For Now In Top 35 Battle

The Haas CNC Racing entries of Johnny Sauter and Jeff Green have flirted with dropping out of the Top 35 in car owner points for much of the first half of the season. But after a strong run this week in New Hampshire, both teams finally have some breathing room heading to Daytona. Inconsistency has plagued the two Chevrolets, but one week after they finished outside of the Top 30 at Sonoma, both cars came out of the hauler up to speed this weekend, with both teams qualifying and finishing the race in the Top 15. A poor performance by polesitter Dave Blaney, 37th in car owner points with the No. 22 team, as well as another DNS by the No. 10 car and Scott Riggs, 36th in points, were also major factors in what turned out to be a great week for the entire Haas CNC team...for now. See where the Haas CNC cars rank after one of their strongest collective races this season, and learn why their excitement may soon be short-lived in this week's edition of the Bubble Breakdown:

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