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The Next Big Thing In NASCAR Might Not Be Who You Think It Is

This past weekend at Dover marked the ascendance of one of the hottest young drivers in NASCAR. Many had wondered if he could really get the job done, if all the hype that has surrounded this young man was well-deserved ... or all for naught? But at the end of the weekend’s activities, one simple fact was proven true: Scott Speed is for real. Wait… who? While most of the talk in the garage this weekend at the Monster Mile centered around the NASCAR Nationwide Series debut of Joey Logano, former Formula 1 competitor Scott Speed served notice that there was more than one budding young superstar who's capable of getting the job done.

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Will The Real Gillett Evernham Motorsports Please Stand Up, Please Stand Up…

If you were starting a new three-car team in NASCAR next season — and let’s just set aside the financial burden and inevitable sponsorship woes that come with a start-up outfit for a minute — you could do a lot worse than to assemble your own trio of wheelmen from the sort of stable of drivers you see at Gillett Evernham Motorsports. Just a quick glance at the roster shows you just how good you've already got it. You have the young-ish, successful hot shot and sponsor’s dream in Kasey Kahne; the affable, (mostly) talented, good ol' boy veteran in Elliott Sadler; and the exotic (in NASCAR terms) open-wheeler looking to become a crossover star in Patrick Carpentier. OK, you’re almost certainly saying, "Well, I’d pick Junior, Jimmie, Jeff, or NASCAR's newest arch-villain himself, Kyle Busch..." but I’m sure you get the point: it’s not exactly a bad set of drivers to start with. And yet, in the last season and a third, the results of the three GEM drivers quite simply have not lived up to expectations.

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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2008 Best Buy 400 at Dover Edition

The notorious “Monster Mile” jumped out and attacked the competition Sunday when Elliott Sadler came down on the No. 38 of David Gilliland on Lap 18, triggering a massive pileup that ended the days for a number of Chase contenders before they could even get into a rhythm. Aside from Sadler’s blunder, though, it was Kyle Busch who once again stole the headlines by claiming his fourth win of the season. Busch is undoubtedly the hottest driver in the series right now; but how does his start stack up against Jimmie Johnson’s impressive start to 2007? Check out this week’s edition of Who’s Hot / Who’s Not in Sprint Cup to find out, as well as which of our Top 12 contenders were able to take the multi-car crash in stride ... or be forced to face the consequences (and the carnage) head on.

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Talking NASCAR TV: FOX Finale Adds Some Spice To Snoozer At Dover

With the latest NASCAR TV contract in place now for just the second year, the end of FOX’s annual coverage approaches faster than ever. Under the first deal, FOX covered the first half of the season and NBC covered the second half -- beginning at or around the Pepsi 400 -- while TNT took a few races in the mix with the same broadcasting crew as NBC’s. FOX and NBC also alternated turns broadcasting the Daytona 500. But the new deal, in place since 2007, gives TNT its own six race block after FOX’s set of races -- before ESPN and ABC finish up the remaining portion of the season. This means, of course, that FOX only has the rights to 13 events, instead of the 18 or 19 per year that it had from 2001 to 2006. That makes FOX’s last race came almost as fast as the winter offseason fades into Speedweeks every year. So, just like many students received their report cards after the completions of their terms recently -- and just like FOX graded all of NASCAR’s big teams during Sunday’s race -- the network needs a grade for their 2008 coverage.

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Running Their Mouth: 2008 Best Buy 400 at Dover

_Each week, we’ll go through media reports, interviews, PR, and all our own stuff to find the best quotes from the Sprint Cup race, capturing 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 Best Buy 400 at Dover International Raceway:_ "We didn't have the car to beat today. Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle were better than us, but we made it on the long run as good as they did and we knew if we could get track position and get in front of them that we would be a little bit better. The guys on pit road had a phenomenal day. They got us out front and kept us out front, and that's what won it for us here today." _Kyle Busch_

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Ten Points To Ponder… After the 2008 Best Buy 400 at Dover

*1. Are They Baaack?* - Television ratings for NASCAR have seen resurgence this race season after experiencing at least two years of declines. The Memorial Day weekend Coca-Cola 600 tallied a 4% boost over last season's telecast, and posted the first increase in viewer numbers in three years. But the 4% improvement, though noteworthy, is less than the 5% increase that FOX TV has seen in its race broadcasts for the season to date. Puzzling ... wasn’t there a mass defection of race fans that could no longer tolerate NASCAR’s disregard for its racing roots, mass commercialism, Hendrick Motorsports drivers, the CoT...and the France family’s role in political unrest in the Middle East, etc...? *2. Coming On Strong* - The IRL has got to be ecstatic over their improved television rating numbers, as well. Though trailing the Coca-Cola 600's 4.7 rating (7.6 million viewers), the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500, with a reunified field and three women competing -- including media-darling Danica Patrick -- earned a solid 4.5 final rating.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2008 Best Buy 400 at Dover Edition

*The Key Moment:* Kyle Busch emerged from the pits with the lead after a green flag sequence of stops and drove off into the sunset. *In a Nutshell:* The day started out in the Hollywood Hotel, and ended with Kyle Busch checking out. *Dramatic Moment:* In a day where there were damn few of them, I guess the nods goes to the lap 19 melee Elliott Sadler triggered. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* This is Dover. This is *Dover with the new car.* Any more questions? (Visualize a frying egg here). Does that *new suite area that stretches over the track* block drivers' vision of what’s going on ahead of them at corner exit, leading to a mess like the big wreck?

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Bubble Breakdown: Penalties Have Crippled Haas CNC… While Saving Michael Waltrip Racing

The big story from the bubble this week has been the heavy penalties handed down by NASCAR to the Haas CNC Racing teams. Both cars were hit with 150 owner and driver point deductions, as well as various team fines and six week suspensions of the car chief and crew chief for each vehicle. As a result, the No. 66 car went from solidly in the field to right on the bubble, while the No. 70 has been put in a hole from which it may never recover. The consequences seemed especially excessive for this incident, especially since last year Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s team was cited on the exact same violations: NASCAR Rules 12-4-a and 20-3.1.3. But the No. 8 team only received a 100 point deduction, and not only was the Budweiser Chevy not confiscated -- it didn’t even lose its starting spot for the race it entered.

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Nationwide Series Breakdown: 2008 Heluva! Good 200 at Dover

*In a Nutshell:* I might as well write a template for this portion of the Nationwide Series Breakdown. This Saturday Joe Gibbs Racing dominated the NASCAR Nationwide Series X (Heluva! Good 200). Driver X (Denny Hamlin) smoked the field, leading X (131) of X laps (200). Joe Gibbs Racing has now won X (9) of X (14) races in the Nationwide Series this season. Hamlin was, unlike last weekend’s post-race interview, far from provocative in Victory Lane, thanking JGR for taking a chance on him as a development driver four years ago and also thanking the fans that stuck out a three hour rain delay to watch the race. “We’ve got the greatest fans [here] in NASCAR” said Hamlin, as if attempting to quash the angst many fans have demonstrated towards him following his conflict with Brad Keselowski last week at Charlotte.

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Tracking the Trucks: 2008 AAA Insurance 200 at Dover

*In a Nutshell:* Scott Speed took the checkered flag 3.379 seconds ahead of Jack Sprague to win the AAA Insurance 200 Friday night at Dover International Raceway. A two tire pit stop with just 67 laps remaining helped Speed gain valuable track position and ultimately the win. Ron Hornaday, Jr, Travis Kvapil and Matt Crafton rounded out the Top 5. *Who Should Have Won: Kyle Busch*. Busch led the first 96 laps before smoke forced him to take the No. 51 Miccosukee Resorts Toyota to the garage. It took his team just 19 laps to change his transmission. Once back on the track, Busch managed to gain two of his laps back but was left to finish 17th, 17 laps down.

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