NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not: Outside the Chase After the 2007 Checker Auto Parts 500k at Phoenix

While admirable performances were put in by a handful of teams, Sunday’s final results leaned heavily in favor of the playoff participants – again. For the second straight week, eight of the top 10 finishers were also among the top 12 in Nextel Cup points, making it difficult to argue that any of the Chasers didn’t deserve to be ranked amongst NASCAR’s elite. But what about those drivers left behind? Now, just one race remains for any of them to salvage seasons that clearly didn’t turn out the way they intended. Read on to find out Who’s Hot and Who’s Not, outside the Chase for the Championship.

Fanning the Flames: Talkin’ Safety, Driver Shuffles & Engine Troubles

Q: Hi Matt. I seem to remember that some drivers were hesitant to the idea of NASCAR mandating that they wear a HANS device in the wake of Dale Earnhardt’s death. Since then, the drivers seem to have become more accepting of it, as I can’t remember the last time I heard a complaint (via the media of course). Has the HANS device simply become an accepted part of the safety innovations of the last few years to the point that the drivers view it as just “part of the uniform?” And can you tell me exactly how it works?

Full Throttle: Jeremy Mayfield’s Final Shot Could Be Jeff Green’s Last Hurrah

One week ago, it looked like Jeremy Mayfield’s Nextel Cup career was nearing a difficult, painful ending. But just when you thought the two-time Chaser was down and out for good… he’s been given one final chance. It was announced on Monday that Mayfield is going to drive the No. 66 car for Haas CNC Racing for the rest of this season and all of 2008. That ride was occupied, until this week, by Jeff Green, who has now been unceremoniously shoved to the unemployment line. While the seat is not the A-level ride Mayfield’s desired since announcing he’d leave Bill Davis Racing at the end of 2007, it still represents an opportunity, one more chance to prove he can still make a living driving in the Cup Series.

Mirror Driving: Tired Of Tires, Who’s Haas Gonna Hire, & Whose Chase Has Caught Fire?

All weekend long at Lowe’s, both complaints and concern centered around the tire Goodyear brought to the event. After seeing the race unfold, is the tire still too hard for this surface – or are drivers getting to the point of whining about something a little too much?

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not: Outside the Chase After the 2007 Dodge Dealers 400 at Dover

Tension proved its existence at Dover, as a Kyle Petty – Denny Hamlin crash resulted in an off-track altercation, a special run by Roush Fenway Racing’s “forgotten man” nearly resulted in a win, and an old legend of the sport, Mark Martin, came up with his best finish since Daytona. So, as the series moves on to the Midwest for this weekend, which drivers are best suited to make the most noise on the Kansas prairies? Read on to find out who in this week’s edition of Who’s Hot/Who’s Not, outside the Chase. One note before we begin, unlike our regular edition, we only highlight six drivers in this edition of Who’s Hot/Who’s Not, which means to make the list, you need to really be on fire (or ice cold, for that matter).

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.

Fanning the Flames: Kurt Busch Delivers, Herman is Saved, & A Season Finale At…Bristol?

In this very column two weeks ago, I gave Kurt Busch a pretty hard time. His Pocono Victory Lane celebration, with its scripted victory speech and fake beer swigging, was not only pre-meditated, it was downright fake. So to be fair, I must acknowledge that Kurt’s straight-up rundown of the last 100 laps and compulsory ‘Thank Yous’ at Michigan were well done.

In short: You drove one helluva race, Kurt, and – by ditching the forced pitchman routine – you scored mucho points with the casual fan by simply being yourself. And the fact that you actually opened the beer bottle before you took a swig was almost, dare I say it?, Junior-esque.

Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2007 Centurion Boats at the Glen

Jeff Gordon simply spun himself out heading into turn 1 with two laps to go, setting up a furious battle between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards for the win. Overdriving his car, Edwards missed the corner and slipped into the sand trap in the second-to-last turn of the race, giving Stewart an uncontested run to the checkered flag.

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Nextel Cup: 2007 Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Edition

Unless you’re a glutton for punishment, Kurt Busch, or one of Kurt Busch’s fans (yes – he actually does have some), then you probably found Sunday’s Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono a real snoozefest. Busch started from second position, alongside Dale Earnhardt Jr., but didn’t stay there long; he made a mockery out of the race, leading 175 laps en route to his first win of the year and a spot inside the top 12 in points. Unlike recent weeks, there weren’t any potential Chasers that ran into major trouble on Sunday; the 14 main contenders all finished in the top 17 positions, making the race for the Chase more competitive than ever with just five races remaining.

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