NASCAR Race Weekend Central

10 Points to Ponder… After the 2008 Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix

1. Monkey See… Monkey Do – The nip and tuck championship battle between Ron Hornaday and Johnny Benson Jr. continues after the two squared off at Phoenix Friday night in the Lucas Oil 150. The fact the two Craftsman Truck Series drivers continued their points fight was made more remarkable after Hornaday incurred significant damage to his Kevin Harvick Inc. Chevrolet on the first lap of the race. Repairs to Hornaday’s truck took 29 laps to complete, and he wound up finishing 25th, 34 laps down. However, a lap 87 wreck with TJ Bell sent Benson behind the pit wall for extensive work on his Bill Davis Racing Toyota. The current point leader did return to the track to salvage a 26th-place finish in the final running order – winding up one position behind Hornaday.

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 After the 2008 Dickies 500 at Texas

History repeated itself for the third time in a row, as the winner at Atlanta in the fall headed to Texas the following week and won again. That victory this week by Carl Edwards stole a couple of first-place votes away from Jimmie Johnson, but didn’t move him out of the top spot just yet. Meanwhile, Jeff Burton’s drive to the championship is done – that is, if you believe the voters in this week’s poll. But just how far did Burton fall? And what Roush Fenway driver made an appearance in our top 12 for the first time? Read on for the answers in this week’s version of the Power Rankings.

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2008 Dickies 500 at Texas Edition

Last week I said in this column that Jimmie Johnson all but had his third consecutive title locked up; Don’t tell Carl Edwards, who is trying his best to make sure that doesn’t happen. Chasing down the series leaders in both Nationwide and Sprint Cup, Edwards is riding back-to-back victories on the Cup side in an effort that has closed the deficit between he and Johnson to 106 points. Still, it appears Edwards needs Johnson to hiccup in one of the final two races to have a shot at the championship. With just two races remaining, the 1-2 drivers at the top of the standings are clearly among the hottest drivers in the series. But who else is on a roll? Who needs a good run this weekend at Phoenix? Check out this week’s edition of Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: Chase Edition to find out.

Running Their Mouth: 2008 Dickies 500 at Texas

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 car owners themselves. This week, here’s a sneak peek at what a select few were thinking following the Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 After the 2008 Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta

Carl Edwards made good on the promise that he showed at the beginning of the spring Atlanta race by taking the win this past weekend. Overshadowed by that performance, however, was a banzai run by Jimmie Johnson from 11th to second in the last eight laps of the race. That strength solidified the points leader’s place at the top of the Power Rankings, where he swept all of the first-place votes again this week. Behind him, positions continue to swap like hotcakes as drivers scrape and claw for every spot they can get on the racetrack. Read this week’s rankings to see if our writers thought your driver has had that extra incentive to wheel it to the front with only three races left – or if he’s been slip-sliding his way right out of our Power Rankings.

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2008 Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Edition

Carl Edwards returned to victory lane this weekend at Atlanta and is now one win behind Kyle Busch for the series lead, but Jimmie Johnson utilized late-race pit strategy for an impressive runner-up finish. The second-place run improves the No. 48 team’s stranglehold on the rest of the Chase field to 183 points, increasing the likelihood of what would be a third consecutive championship.

Johnson has garnered the most headlines since the Chase began seven races ago, but it’s one of his teammates who has quietly been one of the most consistent drivers right along with him. To see who that is and who else has been strong as of late, check out this week’s version of Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: Chase Edition.

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 After the 2008 TUMS QuikPak 500 at Martinsville

If you’re still doubting Jimmie Johnson’s championship future, well, let’s put it this way: our writers are convinced. Johnson pulled off the sweep this week in the Power Rankings, garnering all 10 first-place votes. But what about the big shifts behind him? Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton and Tony Stewart are just some of the Chasers who had major jumps up and down the ladder this week. Check our rankings to see if your driver kept the short track fenders on or finished without his hood in this week’s Power Rankings.

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2008 TUMS QuikPak 500 at Martinsville

It was the same track, same story for Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team, who extended their top-10 streak at Martinsville to 13 races with a win this weekend. Not only did Johnson extend his top-10 streak at the paperclip half-mile, but he also extended his top-10 streak overall to eight races on the season. With Jeff Burton struggling this weekend, Johnson is now the lone driver on this week’s HOT list. While Johnson is clearly the series’ hottest driver and appears to be headed toward a third consecutive championship, a handful of drivers make the WARM list this week. To see if your favorite makes the cut, or if they need nothing more than a solid run at Atlanta, check out the latest edition of Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup, Chase Edition.

Running Their Mouth: 2008 TUMS QuikPak 500 at Martinsville

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 TUMS QuikPak 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Matt McLaughlin Mouths Off: Halfway Home – A 2008 Chase Review

Five weeks ago, many pundits — this humble scribe included — boldly predicted the Chase was a two-man battle between Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards. I am hopeful that at the time I picked Jimmie Johnson as a potential spoiler — at least that would make me look less like a moron than I currently feel. But like those disclaimers on mutual funds proclaim in small print, “past performance does not guarantee future results.” So, here at the halfway point let’s take a look at the 12 Chasers and how they’re faring, with the above disclaimer still in play:

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