NASCAR Race Weekend Central

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Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2007 Lenox Industrial Tools 300 at Loudon

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.

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10 Points To Ponder… After the 2007 Lenox Industrial Tools 300 at Loudon

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 not every driver with bonus points will make the Chase, taking bonus points away from those drivers would be, well, pointless.

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Bowles-Eye View: With 9 Races To Go, Clint Bowyer Most Vulnerable Chase Contender

While remaining one point ahead of 12th-place Dale Earnhardt Jr., make no bones about it, 11th-place Clint Bowyer continues to be the Chase contender most vulnerable of losing his championship opportunity. Of all the drivers currently in the top 12, Bowyer has led the least laps of any of them (just 23 in 17 races; that's an average of one per race) and joins the short list of Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart as the only drivers in the Chase who haven't won.

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Rating the Nextel Cup Rookies: 2007 Lenox Industrial Tools 300 at Loudon

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 11th time this year that Ragan has started 31st or worse, the No. 6 car appeared to struggle early on. During the first third of the race, Ragan lost a lap to the leaders and could not seem to move his Ford Fusion into the top 25 no matter how his car handled. However, with a little help from Lady Luck in the form of the free pass during the day's third caution on lap 122, Jimmy Fennig and his driver started a slow but steady progression towards the front.

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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.

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Busch Series Breakdown: 2007 Camping World 200 at Loudon

The Camping World 200 started off more like a demolition derby than a Busch Series race. There were three cautions for wrecks in the first 42 laps of the race. A multitude of crew chiefs seemed to believe that trend would continue and made a fuel gamble based on the belief that they would be able to receive 30 laps of caution in the last half of the race. However, the second half of the race was much cleaner than the first half, so the teams had to adjust on the fly and come in for fuel when the caution flew with 38 to go. While Matt Kenseth tried a two-tire stop to get to the front at that point in time, his car was just not good enough to hold off Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards.

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Tracking the Trucks: 2007 O’Reilly 200 at Memphis

Travis Kvapil returned to victory lane at Memphis Motorsports Park Saturday night. He held off Ron Hornaday on a restart and ran away from Jack Sprague with just five laps remaining to win the O'Reilly 200. Hornaday, Mike Skinner and rookie Aaron Fike rounded out the top five.

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Holding a Pretty Wheel: Your Only Job is Fairness – An Open Letter to NASCAR

When you pulled the No. 24 and No. 48 cars from the inspection line last week at Sonoma, you suddenly decided to up the ante. Although the template fit the cars, there was an area between the templates that you didn't like. So, instead of allowing those teams to fix the issue (something that was able to be done quickly and easily) and missing some of practice, you made them sit in the garage all day, because missing qualifying is surely a major penalty on a road course. The No. 60 team later said that you allowed them to fix a wheel issue during a later inspection with no penalty at all, even though that issue was discovered after qualifying and before the race. In fact, you have only harshly penalized a team once for an opening day tech issue once, in 2002, when you took a mere 25 points from the No. 2 team for an illegal spoiler on a superspeedway car.

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Rick Crawford Driver Diary: The 1 That Got Away

Charlotte started with a two-day NASCAR test the week before and allowed us time to decide which truck we wanted to use. Kevin "Cowboy" Starland and the Circle Bar crew picked out CB-21, nicknamed Black Jack, which has been the down force workhorse of the Circle Bar camp. The Ford Power Stroke Diesel by International ran decent that day but to me it was just way loose. I steered more to the right than I did to the left but we ended up with a top-10 finish. Anytime you have a bad day (I say it was a bad day) and still end up with a top-10 finish it's OK, but I thought we could be a little bit better.

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