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Beyond The Cockpit: Aric Almirola Makes A Sales Pitch, Mulls His Future, And… Signs A Shoe?

_After earning a full-time ride for the 2009 season, this was the year Aric Almirola was to step out of the shadows and into the limelight of what's expected to be a strong Sprint Cup future. Indeed, it's been a career's worth of ride sharing for the Florida driver, whose only win in NASCAR's top three divisions is a then-Busch Series ride in Milwaukee ... one where teammate Denny Hamlin jumped in the car instead to win it after Almirola started the race._ _But after a one-year apprenticeship under Mark Martin -- one where Almirola drove a limited schedule to prepare for his Sprint Cup transition -- he's finding full-time isn't all it's cracked up to be. Now 37th in the points with six finishes of 30th or worse in seven starts, his EGR organization is meeting as we speak this Tuesday to determine if the car will even make the trip to Phoenix (Almirola has no primary sponsorship remaining from any company this season). Only time will tell whether the young driver gets a second lease on life; but in the meantime, he stood around chatting with our Tom Bowles about the struggles of his 2009 season to date. He also talks about his new race shop, the one thing he can't live without, and a rather strange fan request ... involving a shoe?_

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I Watched a Great NASCAR Race!

What makes a great race? Do they still exist? Even as Jeff Gordon wrote the story for the Cup Series on Sunday, and I’m thrilled as all heck for him, the racing still was, well, a bit boring. Yes, he broke his Cup losing streak at Texas where he had …

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Numbers Game: 2009 Samsung 500 at Texas

0.378 Jeff Gordon‘s margin of victory over Jimmie Johnson Sunday in the Samsung 500. 3 hours, 25 minutes, 22 seconds Time it took to complete the Samsung 500. 5 Drivers failed to qualify for the Samsung 500. (No. 87 Joe Nemechek, No. 82 Scott Speed, No. 41 Jeremy Mayfield, No. …

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Five Points to Ponder: 2009 Samsung 500 at Texas Edition

*The streak is over* How fitting is it that Jeff Gordon’s 47-race winless streak comes to an end at a track where he’s been winless for his entire career. Gordon was strong for much of the race, but it was a combination of a good pit stop by the No. 24 bunch and yet another poor stop by the No. 99 team that led to the coveted clean air needed for Gordon to pull away for the victory. The win may have been a long time coming, but it certainly wasn’t a surprise with the way the No. 24 team has been running this season.

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Bubble Breakdown: Paul Menard Showing Signs of Life While Joey Logano Remains Lifeless

Optimism ran rampant amongst several bubble drivers this weekend as Paul Menard, Sam Hornish, Jr., and Joey Logano all posted top 12 qualifying runs. But qualifying pays no points and Texas is a big, fast, nasty track that some of the best drivers have yet to master. So, as the race began questions loomed for those with solid starts – would Logano finally break through with a great finish? Would Menard continue his success at Texas? Would Hornish run a race and not hit anything? For the answers to these questions as well as who’s in and who’s out of the top 35, read on for this week's edition of the Bubble Breakdown.

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Doomsday Looms Large Leaving Texas As Rookies Face Uncertain Futures

*Joey Logano:* *Start: 10th; Finish: 30th* *Summary:* The weekend started out strong for the Joe Gibbs Racing newcomer when he recorded his second best Sprint Cup qualifying effort and his best under “normal” procedures (Logano's "career high" is a ninth place start earned through the Gatorade Duels for the 2009 Daytona 500.) But 10th would be as good as it got for the No. 20 team when Logano dropped like a rock at the start of the race. After the first 20 laps, the Connecticut native was not even seen in the top 20 as he struggled with the handling of his Camry.

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Jeff Gordon, NASCAR’s Elder Statesman?

It’s been 12 years since Jeff Gordon made his first start at Texas Motor Speedway in the Spring of 1997. I was only 16... but I remember every bit of it. Gordon was nearing the peak of his career then, leading 69 laps in the speedway’s Cup debut. Comfortably in the top 5, 25-year-old Gordon remained in contention until contact between Ernie Irvan and Greg Sacks made him an innocent victim of a wreck not of his making. The No. 24 car slammed into both cars in front of him, destroying the front end of his DuPont Chevrolet and turning his day into a pile of mush. The crowd cheered.

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Nationwide Series Breakdown: 2009 O’Reilly 300 at Texas

On paper, this one wasn’t even close. And for over 250 miles on Saturday, it wasn’t. In the end, though, Kyle Busch led 178 of the 200 laps run to score his third win of the 2009 season. But he came very close to losing it. Brad Keselowski, who started 42nd in a backup car after a qualifying wreck, sliced and diced through the field and with less than 20 laps to go was running down Kyle Busch’s No. 18.

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