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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Nextel Cup: 2007 Sharp Aquos 500 at Fontana Edition

Three things easily sum up this weekend's race at California Speedway: hot, hot and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Countless Earnhardt fans were on the edge of their seats just waiting to see if one of the drivers at the bottom of the top 12 would slip up, giving their man a chance at making the Chase and the rest of us were forced to go along for the ride as the entire race seemed to be a case of "Where in the World is Dale Jr. Now?" At the end of the night, Earnhardt finished a solid fifth, but still is a long shot to make it into the post season Chase. But as the summer sun baked the drivers, crew members and the scarce number of fans in the stands; Jimmie Johnson came out on top to score his fifth win of the season and looking like he barely broke a sweat. So what other drivers thrived in the sweltering heat and which ones shriveled up under the pressure? Read this week's Who's Hot and Who's Not to find out.

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Voice of Vito: Where’s The Beef? Chase For The Championship A Far Cry From Past Battles

With only one race remaining before the start of the 2007 Chase for the Nextel Cup, the race for 12th place has all been but decided, with Kevin Harvick needing to only finish 32nd or better to solidify his place in the Championship dash. While the Daytona 500 winner will start the race a whopping 670 points out of first place, he will end it no more than 50 points out of the top spot, courtesy of NASCAR's new seeding system, awarding 10 bonus points for a win to each driver in the top 12. Which raises a legitimate question: What exactly does a 700-point deficit convey anything remotely related to the term "champion?" Is this what it has come to? "The race for 12th?"

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Toyota: Banking On Some Old-Fashioned American Ingenuity… From Joe Gibbs

Today's expected announcement that Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) will end a 15-year relationship with General Motors (Chevrolet and Pontiac) in favor of forging a new alliance with the behemoth Japanese auto manufacturer Toyota indicates just how far from the "moonshine" days of NASCAR's infancy its race teams have come. All indications are, that if anyone was knocking on doors, it was Toyota selling themselves to the highly successful JGR organization. In other words... Toyota needed Gibbs more than Gibbs needed Toyota.

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10 Points to Ponder… After the 2007 Sharp Aquos 500 at Fontana

1. Lowe's High - For weeks now I've been wondering why everyone was depicting the Chase as a duel between Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. "Wait!" - I shouted, what about Jimmie Johnson? Heading into Fontana, Johnson was tied with Gordon for bonus points, 10 ahead of Stewart when the Chase starts, and tonight's win moves him ahead of both Gordon and Stewart with 50 bonus points. Johnson's team typically slumps in the summer but they turn it on when it counts. Don't hand that Nextel Cup trophy to anyone else just yet. It's also worth noting that Johnson and Matt Kenseth are now the only drivers to make the Chase all four seasons since its inception in 2004.

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Bowles-Eye View: Fairy Tale Endings Not To Be For Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ricky Rudd

Pain: That word doesn't do justice to what Ricky Rudd was feeling on a not-so-pleasant Labor Day. Sunday night was supposed to be a celebration of the longevity of Rudd's success - his 900th career start in the Cup series keeps him in exclusive company with the King, the only men to toil that long behind the wheel in stock car racing's top level. A certain Hall Of Famer, Rudd is busy wrapping up a 31-year career that has seen him win the Brickyard 400, 22 other races, and drive for the likes of Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, and Robert Yates, all while setting a NASCAR record for consecutive starts with 788.

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Running Their Mouth: 2007 Sharp Aquos 500 at Fontana

Each week, we'll go through all the media reports, interviews, PR, and all our own stuff to find the best quotes from the Nextel Cup race and capture 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 Sharp Aquos 500 at the California Speedway.

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Bubble Breakdown: Bill Elliott Gets Wood Brothers Back in Top 35; Dave Blaney, Toyota Fall Out

Hot temperatures and consistently high rpms took its toll on a number of engines Sunday night in California. The heat's biggest victim came when Dave Blaney's motor expired on lap 201, allowing the No. 21 Wood Brothers team the opportunity to jump back into the Top 35. This secured Bill Elliott a spot in the field next week in Richmond. The two teams have shuffled back and forth numerous times in the past month, with neither team capitalizing on the benefit of a guaranteed spot.

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