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Nationwide Series Breakdown: 2008 Aaron’s 312 at Talladega

*In a Nutshell:* Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 team continued its utter dominance of the Nationwide Series in 2008; this time, it was with Tony Stewart behind the wheel. The marquis driver in the JGR stable stayed out of trouble and held off good friend Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to win the Aaron’s 312 at Talladega Saturday afternoon. The win was Stewart’s third of the season and the fourth for the No. 20 team, both of which lead the series in 2008. Stewart was the fastest car all race long, leading five times for 81 laps. Earnhardt Jr., in his own No. 5 Chevrolet, was the only car able to seriously challenge Stewart, but could never get a good enough run to pass the No. 20 in the closing laps. Earnhardt finished sixth. The race was marred by the “Big One” on Lap 72, a wreck involving at least 15 drivers that changed the complexion of the event.

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Tracking the Trucks: 2008 O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 at Kansas

*In a Nutshell:* Ron Hornaday, Jr. took the checkered flag ahead of Jack Sprague to win the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 at Kansas Speedway Saturday evening. The defending series winner led the final 55 laps in a caution-filled race, holding off his teammate during the final restart with two laps to go. Colin Braun, Johnny Benson, and Mike Skinner rounded out the Top 5 finishers. *Who Should Have Won: Hornaday, Jr.* Hornaday, Jr. and teammate Jack Sprague were fast straight off of their haulers. The driver of the No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet led the first practice, and followed that up in qualifying with a pole-winning run. That strength carried over to the race itself; Hornaday, Jr. led 136 of the scheduled 167 laps.

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NASCAR’s Baddest Boys Steal Rectrictor Plate Racing’s Biggest Stage

They say the Car of Tomorrow is built to withstand bumper-to-bumper contact far better than any stock car in history. Well, I have two words to say to that: Thank God. Sunday’s race at Talladega resembled the atmosphere of a short track slugfest, with cars exchanging punches at a cool 190 miles an hour across NASCAR’s fastest facility. While the restrictor plates were still in place, the excitement they produced was unrestricted, as drivers didn’t hesitate to bump and bang their way to the front in the third race with this current package. While a single line freight train was a legitimate fear – the Fall race resembled a parade for the first 300 miles until drivers started taking chances – it turned out there was no reason to worry as the car came into its own.

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Tearing Apart the Trucks: Jennifer Jo Cobb and Michelle Theriault Debut

After a four week break, the Craftsman Truck Series returns to the track at Kansas Speedway. Along with the seasoned veterans and rookie of the year contenders, Jennifer Jo Cobb and Michelle Theriault will make their Craftsman Truck Series debuts. Driving for Derrike Cope's newly founded team, Theriault will pilot the No. 73 Derrike Cope Inc. / RMR Dodge Ram, and Cobb will be behind the wheel of the No. 74 Providence Medical Center Dodge Ram. "I couldn't be more excited. I love racing at Kansas Speedway and am looking forward to climbing behind the wheel in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and kicking off Derrike's new race team," said Cobb. "I remember when Kansas Speedway was merely the dream of a few, and now look at the magnitude of the support from the community and the corporations both here in Kansas City and nationally."

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Fanning the Flames: Fishin’ For Some Answers to Tony Stewart’s Likely Defection

Although no one asked, we did catch a few bass last weekend, even with a stiff wind and temps in the 40s. (When I mention fishing at the end of a column, it’s your cue to ask me how I did so I can talk racing _and_ fishing in the same article — and what’s better than that?) The truth was, my uncle and I couldn’t resist the call of the water on a Cup off-weekend despite the nasty weather forecast; and all was well, too, until the engine died as we were heading home for the morning. It’s like Grandad always said, “A boat is a hole in the water into which you pour money.” Looks like we found the hole early this Spring. Big news is breaking, so let’s get to it. Here’s the hole into which you can pour your questions. Let's start with the Big One: *Q: What are the odds that Rick Hendrick is able to put together NASCAR's version of the "Dream Team" by adding Tony Stewart to his team of Dale Jr., Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson? In the big picture, would that team be good or bad for the sport?* _— Dale Petty_ *A:* This question appears to be a moot point, my man (nice moniker, by the way).

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UPS Could Deliver My NASCAR Fantasy

As a motorsports journalist, I am repeated told by my editors, that I must remain impartial. As a motorsports commentary journalist, I am repeatedly telling my editors, don’t worry about it! To my way of thinking, being a writer of a commentary piece provides me a few loopholes. They are after all, paying me to write my opinion, not theirs. Unfortunately, their value of my opinion, has not kept up with the rising price of gas. Values of gas and opinions aside, when things get really messy, writer/editor wise, I am sometimes forced to drop the dreaded journalistic F bomb!

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Matt McLaughlin Mouths Off: Short Takes On A Short Break

A few random notes after a rare weekend off for the Cup Series… I really think NASCAR needs to take a long, hard look at their schedule. I hope everyone who took this weekend off enjoyed it, because the next time the Cup schedule does something like that is July 20th. After that, the series continues without a break right on until the end of the season -- the weekend before Thanksgiving. With that in mind, why -- with three weekends off in a season that drags on from February to November -- do two of those off weeks occur in the first two months of the season? I agree with the need for a sport born in the buckle of the Bible Belt to take the Easter weekend off -- and yes, I realize that Easter is a floating holiday that occurred very early this year -- but for the life of me, I don’t understand why NASCAR sees the need to idle the Cup series just so the Bus…(oops!) Nationwide Series road course race in Mexico gets a bit more attention.

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Fantasy Picks ‘N’ Pans: 2008 Aaron’s 499 at Talladega

The Cup stars head to Northern Alabama this weekend to the longest and fastest track on the schedule, the Talladega Superspeedway. It's the first time that the series comes back to a plate track, having run at Talladega last Fall in the new CoT configuration. That car, along with a newly paved track, resulted in a very long, single file run last year; but expect to see a more competitive race this time around now that the drivers have a better idea of how the car will react in the packs that result from plate racing. Aerodynamics become the most paramount factor this weekend; handling has almost no bearing at all in this weekend's race, as it all comes down to making the car move efficiently through the air and developing as much horsepower as possible with the restricted engines. Of course, that leads to close quarters, big pack racing, and the threat of the big wreck -- a crapshoot that could lead to disaster for your fantasy team. Read on to see what the experts have to say in order for you to navigate the waters of tricky Talladega ...

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Side by Side: Restrictor Plates; Should They Stay or Should They Go?

*Today's Question : Last Fall's race at Talladega was a freight train event, in part due to the drivers' fears surrounding restrictor plate racing. Is it just time to take the plates off, or are the plates a necessary evil in order for speeds to stay down and drivers to stay safe?* Phil Allaway: A necessary evil to slow the cars down, the restrictor plate is being blamed for something that it's not responsible for. Because unlike the previous time that the rules were changed to increase on-track passing (October 2000, when the roof spoilers were introduced), the lack of passing has nothing to do with the current aerodynamic rules... or the cars. Vito Pugliese: It’s been over 20 years since Bobby Allison’s Miller Lite Buick lifted off the ground and nearly planted itself in the front grandstands at Talladega. That, of course, was the defining moment when NASCAR saw fit to equip the superspeedway cars with restrictor plates. But a lot has changed since then.

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Mirror Driving: Mexico’s Blown Save, Jon Wood… Savior? And Saving Excitement At Talladega

*The Sprint Cup Series was idle this week while the Nationwide Series teams went to Mexico City. Given the huge cost of the trip, should it be the other way around? Is it time for the Cup Series to have a race out of the country?* Amy: I think it's too expensive for anyone, but better the Cup guys than Nationwide. Bryan: I don’t think so. It’d be harder for Mexican drivers to get rides in the race, and that’s bound to hurt the event itself. Vito: Racing outside of the United States is a huge waste of time, effort, money, and resources. There are plenty of tracks that could use a race here and gain exposure. After all, whose economy are we truly trying to benefit? I'm guessing a smaller track in the Midwest could use a date more than Mexico City.

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