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Sprint Cup Rookie Report: Sam Hornish, Jr. Bounces Back From Crash To Widen Lead At Atlanta

*Rookies in the Starting Lineup: (Due to rain, qualifying was canceled and the field was set by owner points):* Regan Smith (32nd), Scott Speed (34th), Sam Hornish, Jr. (36th), Marcos Ambrose (38th), Chad McCumbee (41st) *Unofficial Finishing Positions:* Sam Hornish, Jr. (24th), Marcos Ambrose (29th), Regan Smith (30th), Scott Speed (34th), Chad McCumbee (36th) *Rookie of the Race: Sam Hornish, Jr.* From the drop of the green flag, it looked like it would be a long afternoon for Sam Hornish, Jr. Yet again, his No. 77 team was forced to start from the rear of the pack after qualifying was rained out on Friday. Then, on lap two, the rookie was involved in a wreck with veteran Bill Elliott, and subsequently penalized a lap for pitting too early following the incident.

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Nationwide Series Breakdown: 2008 Kroger On Track For The Cure 250 at Memphis

*In a Nutshell:* On Lap 29, a handful of drivers came in for fresh tires and adjustments at Memphis ... and it turns out that made all the difference. A caution on Lap 126 after over 90 laps of green flag racing left less than 10 cars on the lead lap, including Carl Edwards, whose No. 60 Ford was the class of the field. Edwards was never seriously challenged for the lead throughout the rest of the race despite multiple late race cautions and made coming from the back of the pack look easy, scoring a relatively easy victory. Defending race winner David Reutimann got his No. 99 Toyota to second with a few laps to go, but he refused to use the bump and run to move Edwards out of the way, a decision Reutimann later questioned himself for making. The race’s ending was highlighted with fireworks on pit road.

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Tracking the Trucks: 2008 E-Z-GO 200 at Atlanta

*In a Nutshell:* Ryan Newman took the checkered flag 0.377 seconds ahead of Ron Hornaday, Jr. to win the E-Z-GO 200 Saturday afternoon at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Newman made a last lap pass on teammate Ron Hornaday, Jr. to score a win in his first ever Truck Series start. Denny Hamlin, Todd Bodine and Scott Speed rounded out the Top 5. *Who Should Have Won:* Ron Hornaday, Jr. Hornaday, Jr. ran sixth quickest and started on the outside pole in a field set by owner's points. By the time the field made it to lap 59, Hornaday, Jr. held a six second lead over Kyle Busch and had lapped nearly half of the field. The driver of the No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet took the lead for the first time on lap 10 and went on to lead 110 of the 130 laps run on his way to a runner-up finish.

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Tragedy Only Fueled Hendrick’s Triumph In Their Darkest Hour

It was the first time Brian Vickers smiled all weekend. That was my first thought one Sunday afternoon, a scant four years ago when the dust had settled after the 2004 Bass Pro Shops 500. The second was that it took extraordinary courage and poise for the winning team to be there at all. Racing rarely gives much, but it can take in an instant. Tragedy is constantly a hairbreadth away, and inevitably, sometimes, that line is crossed. Perhaps not so strangely, in a sport that is fueled by danger and excitement, triumph can also be fueled by tragedy.

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Is Jimmie Johnson’s Three Year Run As Good As Cale Yarborough’s Was?

In the wake of a seemingly inevitable third straight title for Jimmie Johnson and crew, John Close at CloseFinishes.com recently compared Johnson to the only other driver in the history of the sport to achieve that feat, the mighty Cale Yarborough. It’s a natural comparison to make, but Close was the first I saw to make it. So I decided to be second. Close hands the “better” title to Yarborough…“hands down”…based on comparing certain statistics—total wins, Top 5s, Top 10s, laps led, poles won. In that regard, Yarborough’s numbers are better. But to say that Yarborough scored better finishes and led more laps than Johnson did in their dominant three-year periods, while not an invalid argument, is not entirely a big-picture one.

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Driven To The Past: The Infamous Fake Accident

Okay, I got forced into this one by one of Ren Jonsin’s trivia questions this week... It was Wednesday’s question about the pro football team’s stadium where Tom Pistone, Fireball Roberts, Curtis Turner, and Glen Wood won NASCAR races. The answer, of course, was Soldier Field, now home of the Chicago Bears, so technically that is correct. However, Da Bears didn’t start playing their season schedule at Soldier Field until 1971, and the last nationally-sanctioned stock car race there was a USAC event won by Norm Nelson on August 12, 1967. The track was listed as a half mile, but I suspect it was closer to a 3/8ths. Tommy Thompson (not our writer, the driver from Louisville in NASCAR’s early days) once told me it was a “big three-eighths.”

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Nuts for Nationwide: The Future Is Now At Memphis

For race fans out there looking for an event to watch this weekend where the storylines and action will be there regardless of how the points leader does, look no further than the Nationwide Series race at Memphis. Clint Bowyer is leading the purse snatcher brigade and stands poised to claim the title in NASCAR’s second-tier series, but there is a lot going on in the event’s 50 car field.

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Perseverance the Specialty for Doug Taylor, No. 61 Team

Doug Taylor has been doing this for a long time. He fielded his first entry in the Nationwide (then Busch) series in 1994, and continued racing through the 1998 season. That was a banner year for Taylor as a car owner, as driver Kevin Lepage delivered the then-Doug Taylor Motorsports team a pole at Dover and a Busch win at the Bristol Motor Speedway. “We were able to average a 12th place starting spot and 11th place finish [in 1998],” recalls Taylor, who finished seventh in the owner’s championship that season. Fast forward ten years. With co-owner Charlie Shoffner and the same driver that scored him his only career win as an owner, Taylor returned to full-time Nationwide Series competition in '08 under the banner of Specialty Racing. And while the No. 61 car is not contending for wins, or even Top 10s just yet, the season can’t be considered anything short of a success.

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Beyond The Cockpit: Bill Elliott On NASCAR’s Future And His Present Challenges

Mike Neff: *You recently announced that you are retiring. Is it really going to be for good this time?* Bill Elliott: I never said I was quitting last time. But this time, I think I'm pretty much done. I might be like Brett Favre, Mark Martin, or Terry Labonte, though... Mike Neff: *Once you're done with driving, will you stay involved in the sport, either consulting or maybe even helping out Brian France with things that might help NASCAR as a whole?*

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Matt McLaughlin Mouths Off: Going Back To the Drawing Board

OK, let’s admit it. Something is wrong. It’s not that this year’s Cup racing has been mediocre. NASCAR fans--those fans that haven’t chosen to leave the sport--have come to accept mediocrity as the norm over the last few years. To be frank, this season as a whole has featured boring races though there has been occasional great races like the final laps at Kansas a few weeks back. The Chase was supposed to add some excitement to the season, particularly at the end of the year as NASCAR spars with the NFL, college football and the World Series for the attention of sports fans. With four races left to run, the Chase is arguably over. Jimmie Johnson is going to win it. We’re not going to head into Homestead with three or four drivers having a good shot at the Championship. Ironically, under the old points system, the battle for top spot would actually be closer, if still somewhat lopsided. From a fairness standpoint, Kyle Busch, the driver who has won the most Cup races this season, would be still be hanging on by his fingernails with a shot at the title after dominating much of the season.

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