NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2008 Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix

Very rarely do you see a former champion show so much admiration for another. But when Kurt Busch finished runner-up to points leader Jimmie Johnson this weekend at Phoenix, he admitted that the No. 48 team was “something special,” and told fans to tune in or come to watch NASCAR’s next big dynasty. It’s true that nobody has been able to touch Johnson, Chad Knaus and Co. in the Chase, and this week’s race was no different. Carl Edwards finished in the top five yet again, but lost points to the two-time defending champion, who won his seventh race of the year and increased his point lead to a nearly-insurmountable 141. Johnson and Edwards have certainly been in a league of their own these last few weeks, but who else has been HOT as the season winds down? 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 Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix

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 Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 presented by Pennzoil at Phoenix International Raceway.

Holding a Pretty Wheel: Amen, Junior – Why NASCAR Needs to Trim the Fat

Last week, when Dale Earnhardt Jr. commented that the length of the season is too great, the first thought that entered my mind, was “Shut up and drive.” But then, I really thought about it. The more I thought, the more I realized… maybe Junior was right. The argument you usually hear about the 38-week season (including two exhibition races) is that it’s hard on race teams, keeping drivers and crew members away from their families for too much of the year. There is really no time off at all for most teams, as the month and a half after the season ends is spent getting ready for Daytona testing in mid-January, and after that, Speedweeks is just around the corner, and it’s crunch time.

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.

10 Points to Ponder… After the 2008 Dickies 500 at Texas

2. Look Before You Leap – Before the Teresa Earnhardt-bashing crowd warms up their vocal chords to declare that DEI would be in better shape had Dale Earnhardt Jr. been handed the reins of those race teams, they may need to consider the latest developments from Earnhardt’s race team itself. In a statement released by Kelley Earnhardt, general manager of JR Motorsports and sister of Earnhardt said, “We’ve been working aggressively to secure funding to continue with two teams in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. The economic climate is difficult, as everyone is aware, and that is affecting every company’s ability to spend. The 2008 season will be ending in less than three weeks, and preparations for next season are already underway. We do not anticipate getting the funding required to field two teams after the end of this season, and we need to make adjustments now to prepare JR Motorsports accordingly. We are reducing our workforce and budgets to comply with a new plan for 2009, which at the present time is to field the No. 88 team full-time with driver Brad Keselowski and the No. 5 team on a limited basis with a select group of drivers.”

Holding a Pretty Wheel: Just Thinking About… Lean Times, Junior as the Future of HMS & Making a Violation Go Away

I know it’s Halloween, but… the economy is scarier and it’s hitting NASCAR hard. Some sources have as many as eight Cup teams currently racing being gone next year. NASCAR insists they won’t have any trouble filling a 43-car field, but do the math. With about 45 teams running a full or almost full schedule, take away eight and you’re left with just 37. And yet, NASCAR continues to make decisions, from scheduling to testing and beyond, that hurt the smaller teams. The way I see it, NASCAR should be doing everything to help these cars succeed, or they won’t need franchising because there will be nobody left but the big teams. That’s fine if you don’t want to fill the field every week.

Did You Notice? 2 Juniors Speak Out, We’re Chasing the Old System & Max Papis?

Did You Notice? That under the old points system, the championship battle would be far from over? With three races left, Jimmie Johnson would lead Carl Edwards by just 98, with Kyle Busch hanging on by a thread at 203 points out. Jeff Burton and Greg Biffle would round out the top five, but neither would have a shot at the title. Should the 1-2 finish for Johnson and Edwards hold, it would be the second time in the last three years the old system would have “been better.” In 2006, Johnson won his first title over Matt Kenseth by 56 points in the Chase; but in the regular season, that margin would have been just four – the closest championship battle in NASCAR history.

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.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com

Frontstretch