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Ten Points to Ponder … After Fontana

*1. Lowe's High* - For weeks now I've been wondering why everyone was depicting the Chase as a duel between Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. "Wait!" - I shouted, what about Jimmie Johnson? Heading into Fontana, Johnson was tied with Gordon for bonus points, 10 ahead of Stewart when the Chase starts, and tonight's win moves him ahead of both Gordon and Stewart with 50 bonus points. Johnson's team typically slumps in the summer but they turn it on when it counts. Don't hand that Nextel Cup trophy to anyone else just yet. It's also worth noting that Johnson and Matt Kenseth are now the only drivers to make the Chase all four seasons since its inception in 2004. *2. Enough Already!* - Look, I like Dale Junior as much as the next person, but the tunnel-visioned focus of Sunday's race broadcast on Junior's quest to make the Chase was ridiculous. Last week, Earnhardt himself complained about the media's obsession with his points situation, stating, "That's all y'all talk about. I shouldn't tell you that you dictate my mood."

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Fairy Tale Endings Not To Be For Junior, Rudd

It's common to look for the fairy tale ending in sports. It comes as a natural, learned behavior; one that starts at three years old when we're told that David beats Goliath, the tortoise beats the hare, and no matter what, everyone lives happily ever after. That those simple myths don't always translate into the fabric of human life can be unsettling, to say the least; and when true reality does reveal the downs as well as the ups, the finality of what lies ahead becomes almost painful to watch. Pain: That word doesn't do justice to what Ricky Rudd was feeling on a not-so-pleasant Labor Day. Sunday night was supposed to be a celebration of the longevity of Rudd's success - his 900th career start in the Cup series keeps him in exclusive company with the King, the only men to toil that long behind the wheel in stock car racing's top level. A certain Hall Of Famer, Rudd is busy wrapping up a 31-year career that has seen him win the Brickyard 400, 22 other races, and drive for the likes of Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, and Robert Yates, all while setting a NASCAR record for consecutive starts with 788.

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Running Their Mouth : Sharp Aquos 500

_Each week, we'll go through all the media reports, interviews, PR, and all our own stuff to find the best quotes from the Nextel Cup race and capture the story of how the weekend unfolded. It's the most original commentary you'll ever find; the truth, coming straight out of the mouths of the drivers, crew members, and the car owners themselves. This week, here's a sneak peek at what a select few were thinking following the Sharp Aquos 500 at the California Speedway._ "This is a special week for the Lowe's team, for us to come back here and get a win at Fontana, my home track, I couldn't be happier, couldn't be more proud of this race team. It is nice to all these to see all these California fans getting rowdy for us on that cool down lap. I can't thank you guys enough. It was just a long hot night, the track kept changing." _Jimmie Johnson_ "I thought he (Johnson) was going to be a sitting duck. I said on the radio that I thought it was going to be me and Kyle (Busch). It's immensely disappointing. Running second is terrible." _Carl Edwards, finished 2nd_

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Elliott Gets Wood Brothers Back in Top 35; Blaney, Toyota Fall Out

Hot temperatures and consistently high RPM's took its toll on a number of engines Sunday night in California. The heat's biggest victim came when Dave Blaney's motor expired on lap 201 allowing the No. 21 Wood Brothers team the opportunity to jump back into the Top 35. This secured Bill Elliott a spot in the field next week in Richmond. The two teams have shuffled back and forth numerous times in the past month, with neither team capitalizing on the benefit of a guaranteed spot. The race for the final bubble position grew to four teams last weekend with Johnny Sauter and Kyle Petty falling into the clutches of 35th. See just how much breathing room these teams have, as well how close the No. 22 is to the No. 21 in this week's edition of the Bubble Breakdown...

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Numbers Game : Sharp Aquos 500

*1.868* Jimmie Johnson's margin of victory over Carl Edwards Sunday night. (in seconds) *2nd* Career Cup victory and sixth Top 10 finish at California Speedway for Sharp Aquos 500 winner Jimmie Johnson. *3* Cars dropped to the rear of the field prior to the start of Sunday's race. (No. 01 - Aric Almirola and No. 42 - Juan Pablo Montoya for engine changes; No. 96 - Tony Raines for a transmission change)

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Thinkin’ Out Loud: Sharp Aquos 500

*The Key Moment* - With 100 laps remaining Jimmie Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knaus, guaranteed a victory and Johnson pulled through in fine fashion, picking up his fifth win of the season. *In a Nutshell* - As the sun went down, the No. 48 car pulled away from the field, propelling Johnson to a victory at his home track. *Dramatic Moment* - Dale Earnhardt. Jr. drove like a man on a mission and went toe-to-toe with Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson for the lead several times on the night. *What They'll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week:* *It's Labor Day weekend. Where's Darlington?*

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Rating the Nextel Cup Rookies: California Edition

*Rookies in the Starting Lineup:* A.J.Allmendinger (18th), Paul Menard (20th), David Reutimann (28th), David Ragan (33rd), Aric Almirola (40th), Juan Pablo Montoya (42nd) *Unofficial Finishing Positions:* David Ragan (12th), A.J.Allmendinger (18th), Paul Menard (24th), Aric Almirola (31st), David Reutimann (32nd) Juan Pablo Montoya (33rd) *Rookie of the Race: David Ragan.* After starting a dismal 33rd, David Ragan slowly made his way into the Top 10 by Lap 104. The AAA team would experience a "yo-yo" type of night for the rest of the race, dropping as low as 36th after a pit road speeding penalty, before coming home in 12th position. Saturday night's finish marked Ragan's sixth Top 15 finish of 2007 and his tenth top rookie finish of the season.

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“Dale”; A Film For Fans And Non-Fans Alike

My girlfriend loves me. I'm not sure why; I'm not that great looking, I'm moody, I probably don't buy her gifts often enough — wait, strike the "probably" part — and I don't particularly care to share one of her favorite pastimes: Going to the movies. I can't pinpoint the reason(s) I fail to appreciate two-hours in the theatre, but I think it has something to do with having to plan ahead, blocking off a portion of my not-very-busy schedule and sitting still for an extended period of time. Problem is, Kristin loves them. If it were up to her we would spend every Saturday afternoon at the matinee seeing something along the lines of _The Nanny Diaries_ (which by the way, isn't half bad). So it was a masterful stroke on her part three months ago when she bought tickets to the movie _Dale_. I mean, what better way to combine her passion with mine?

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Tracking the Trucks : Missouri/Illinois Dodge Dealers Ram Tough 200

*In a Nutshell:* Johnny Benson took the checkered flag ahead of Ron Hornaday, Jr. under caution for his second consecutive win during the Missouri / Illinois Dodge Dealers Ram Tough 200 Saturday night at Gateway International Raceway. Midway through the race, Benson found himself in 20th after running near the front most of the race, but a strong truck allowed him to race through the field for the win. Defending race winner, Ted Musgrave finished 3rd. Todd Bodine and Regan Smith rounded out the Top 5. *Who Should Have Won:* Benson. At one point, Benson pretty much could have counted himself out of the race. A lug nut came loose when his crew was changing left side tires, dropping Benson from running near the front to 20th. Benson passed Hornaday, Jr. on lap 147 and had a near-perfect truck for the rest of the race.

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Kyle Petty Races Hard, Fundraises Harder

As a third generation stock car racer, 47-year-old Kyle Petty has been around the sport literally all of his life. As a driver, Petty has competed in over 800 Cup races dating back to 1979. Despite the passage of time, he still strives to be successful in the series - and gets frustrated when he isn't. Currently 38th in points, Petty let anger get the better of him a few weeks ago after a blown transmission and subsequent wreck at Watkins Glen. "I'm not going to disclose all the information," said Petty's son Austin a few days after the race, "but there was an incident between his fist and a wall and a broken bone."

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