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Ten Points To Ponder… After the 2008 TUMS QuikPak 500 at Martinsville

*Racing Economics* - In the face of the current economic downturn that is making it problematic for team owners to find the financial backing they need to survive -- one that includes possible takeovers or mergers involving three of NASCAR’s four participating auto manufacturers -- it was reported that NASCAR is considering reducing the number of cars in the starting lineup for each race. However, NASCAR president Mike Helton denies that there is any consideration by the sanctioning body to cut Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series fields to 28 and Sprint Cup Series lineups to 36. “First of all, it wasn’t a report, it was somebody’s opinion from the garage area and it was not a NASCAR opinion. We’re not looking at reducing the fields,” responded Helton on the issue. But should the economic slump continue to worsen, will reduced starting lineups even be NASCAR’s decision?

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Grand Marshal Is Grand In More Ways Than One

The folks at TUMS wanted to have a Grand Marshall for the race this weekend who had provided “quick relief” to a family member. They held an essay contest and invited people to send in their stories about why they should be the Grand Marshall for the day. An independent panel reviewed the hundreds of submissions and narrowed it down to five. Consumers were then asked to visit www.tumsracing.com and vote for their favorite submission. The winner was Robert Hankins of Colorado Springs, CO. Hankins, a staff sergeant in the US Army stationed in Iraq, was given a two-week leave to return to the states and fulfill his obligations as the winner of the contest.

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Sprint Cup Rookie Report: Scott Speed’s Debut Overshadowed by Almirola’s Short Track Success

*Rookies in the Starting Lineup:* (Due to rain, qualifying was canceled the field was set by owner’s points): Aric Almirola (15th), Regan Smith (30th), Scott Speed (35th), Sam Hornish, Jr. (36th), Chad McCumbee (41st) *Unofficial Finishing Positions:* Aric Almirola (20th), Chad McCumbee (25th), Scott Speed (30th), Sam Hornish, Jr. (34th), Regan Smith (42nd) *Rookie of the Race: Aric Almirola.* The rain on Friday worked in Aric Almirola’s favor when he inherited a 15th place starting position by virtue of his team’s position in owner points. But while the U.S. Army Chevy faded a bit early, it would be pit strategy employed by crew chief Tony Gibson that would put Almirola back up front. After pitting during the first caution of the day, Gibson made the call to keep Almirola on the track after the day’s second yellow when Kasey Kahne’s Dodge came to a halt. The move gave Almirola the lead for his second consecutive start, and this time, the No. 8 car would lead a total of 53 circuits -- a career high for the rookie.

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Bubble Breakdown: Michael Waltrip and Scott Riggs Continue Push Into Top 35

Martinsville, Virginia played host to NASCAR’s field of 43 this past Sunday for the running of the Tums QuikPak 500. The half-mile paper clip shaped oval makes for some exciting beating and banging throughout the event. If you ever questioned how tough this track was, NASCAR veteran Kurt Busch came on his radio three quarters of the way through the event, crying that he wanted to park his car and go home because he was afraid he may get hurt. Now if a veteran struggles like that, just imagine how tough it was for a rookie like Scott Speed, making his NASCAR debut!

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Tracking the Trucks: 2008 Kroger 200 at Martinsville

*In a Nutshell:* Johnny Benson took the checkered flag 0.785 seconds ahead of Dennis Setzer to win the Kroger 200 Saturday afternoon at Martinsville Speedway. The driver of the No. 23 Toyota took the lead with 44 laps to go and never gave up the top spot on his way to his first career Martinsville win. Rick Crawford, Kyle Busch and Todd Bodine rounded out the Top 5. *Who Should Have Won:* Ron Hornaday, Jr. Hornaday, Jr. led the final practice and backed up that run by winning the pole position in qualifying. The driver of the No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet led the first 155 laps before Johnny Benson took the lead from him. With four laps remaining, Ron Hornaday, Jr. ran out of fuel and ended up with a 29th place finish.

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Jeff Gordon Tops TUMS Quikpak 500 Final Practice at Martinsville

In a reversal of fortune from the first practice today, Jeff Gordon moved to the top spot during Happy Hour practice with a time of 20.002 seconds. Jimmie Johnson was close on his heels with a 20.009 second lap. Clint Bowyer was third quickest running 20.069 seconds. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. …

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Driven To The Past: Getting Even With Dr. Dick

Reading through my copy of Speedway Illustrated this week got me to thinking about Dick Berggren. Dr. Dick and I became friends when I was with ASA. In addition to doing some flagging, I would write a story or two for Stock Car Racing when he was the Editor. I was impressed by his knowledge of racing and the fact that he was a former driver himself. People tell me that he was particularly adept on the dirt. In the December 1982 edition of that magazine, he used a “most unforgettable” format, and my pal Al Stilley, an extremely accomplished racing writer and newspaperman, chose me for his subject and called for an interview. I was very flattered, of course, and muddled my way through it, being more accustomed to acting as the interviewer than the interviewee. The story took up one page, and it was a good one, I thought. My mother framed it, and I’ve still got a copy of the issue.

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Please NASCAR, Not Martinsville Too

Martinsville Speedway isn’t for candy-ass drivers or spectators. And that’s the best thing about the joint. Like Fenway Park, one doesn’t go to Martinsville Speedway expecting the comforts and “amenities” of modern-day event facilities. Racing fans in southwest Virginia don’t go to races to sip lattes and possibly meet celebrities. No one goes to the paper clip to play roulette and maybe catch a few laps of a NASCAR event. The town of Martinsville isn’t built to host an event that may, and usually does, draw as many as 65,000 people. Parking is difficult to find and hotels are not abundant enough. There aren’t any major U.S. routes or interstates going through town. And you aren’t going to roll out of your hotel bed at 9AM if you want to beat Martinsville race traffic.

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Lean Times or Cash Cow-NASCAR Meets the Economy

There has certainly been much written lately about the state of the economy and how it effects NASCAR. Sponsors pulling out; teams, especially in the series below Sprint Cup, cutting schedules or folding altogether (remember just a year ago when four or more teams went home each week? Now it’s more often two, maybe three); teams cutting costs--the list goes on. Surprisingly, though, there hasn’t been as much written about the economic state of NASCAR from the ground up--what effect is the current economy having on the largest part of the NASCAR pyramid, the fans? While the immediate effect of an economic slowdown is on the corporate end, eventually, the fans who patronize the individual races will feel the pinch as well-and then track owners feel it. But does NASCAR itself feel the strain?

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Kevin Harvick: Too Impatient for Driver, Team Development?

Do I think Carmichael is ready for a full-time Truck ride? No. But Harvick and KHI seem to think he is. And given Harvick’s record as an owner, I am concerned for Carmichael and his career development should he get that promotion. Carmichael, given how green he still is not just in the ranks of NASCAR, but in racing stock cars period, is a rookie that is going to require a lot of patience, even more than with most. Patient is not something Harvick has ever been as an owner.

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