NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 After the 2009 Samsung 500 at Texas

Things at Texas happen fast these days, leaving the margin of error slim to none on what’s become the sport’s speediest track. From Kyle Busch cutting a tire to Carl Edwards having trouble on pit road, too many of the sport’s biggest superstars discovered that answer too little, too late. The end result was a major shakeup in our poll this week, with our experts dropping no less than three drivers right out of the rankings. Luckily for Jeff Gordon, he already knew the dangers – 0-for-16 for his career in the Lone Star State entering Sunday – and was finally able to put the bad karma behind him in streaking to his first victory of 2009.

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2009 Samsung 500 at Texas Edition

Jeff Gordon’s large winless streak came to an end Sunday in Texas – where everything is big. But while Gordon had a giant weight lifted off his shoulders, other drivers felt huge swings in the points. Greg Biffle gained eight spots in the standings after his third-place Texas run, while Mark Martin’s sixth-place finish gained him nine positions. AJ Allmendinger’s ignition issues relegated him to a 34th-place finish and lost him five spots in the points, while Kevin Harvick and Michael Waltrip each lost four places after lousy runs. Inside the top 12, most drivers changed at least one spot, with Matt Kenseth leading the charge, climbing three spots to ninth after running fifth in Texas. Gordon also is seeing his points lead stretch, as you will find out in this week’s list of HOT, WARM and COLD drivers.

The Yellow Stripe: Taking It to the Next Level, Which of These 10 Drivers Will Win a Sprint Cup Championship?

The label of future Sprint Cup champion is liberally dispensed — but rarely achieved. In the 60 years of NASCAR competition, only 28 drivers have attained the hallowed crown – and it’s a pretty excusive club. 12 drivers have won a solitary championship, while another eight have won two titles. Five men – Jimmie Johnson, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, David Pearson and Lee Petty – have won three; Jeff Gordon owns four, while both the King and the Intimidator won a record seven apiece. I’m going to pick a number of current drivers and analyze their chances of winning a Sprint Cup championship at some point in the near (or far) future.

It’s Not a Sport, It’s a Business: The Start & Park Phenomenon Threatening NASCAR’s Future

Beneath the surface, all was not as healthy as it seemed. While Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards were there to win the race per usual, the reasons some cars and drivers showed up were far different than what you’d want to believe as a race fan. These teams – nestled within the middle and back of NASCAR’s starting fields – were there not to compete, but to turn a healthy profit, all while padding the sport’s bottom line in the process. For these organizations – which have comprised up to 20% of the Truck Series field in some races – their version of competition is to slowly take a qualifying lap around the racetrack, making the starting lineup in the back of the pack – only to pull the car off the speedway in the first few laps of the race, what’s known in racing circles as the dreaded “start-and-park.” In doing so, they bring an undamaged car in the garage area, make off with tens of thousands of dollars in purse money, and ensure the sport collects its most important lifeline of all… cold, hard cash.

Frontstretch NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 After the 2009 Shelby 427 at Las Vegas

The Jewel in the Desert offered up some fast and furious competition on Sunday, with the Shelby 427 perhaps taking its place as the most competitive racing yet out in Las Vegas. In the end, the 1.5-mile oval took a rather unexpected toll on some motors, a more expected one on some nerves, and turned the Power Rankings into chaos with a ton of late-race wrecks and pit strategy. Once the smoke cleared and the gambling stopped, our experts had clearly finished major surgery just three weeks into our Power Rankings season. Matt Kenseth’s last-place finish was enough to catapult him from the top spot in the poll; but was Kyle Busch’s victory enough to put him number one? Or, did Jeff Gordon’s consistency allow him to swipe the top spot along with the Sprint Cup points lead? Read on to find out these answers and more, as the experts sort out if your driver hit the jackpot or rolled snake eyes in this week’s Top 15 rankings.

Running Their Mouth: 2009 Shelby 427 at Las Vegas

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 Shelby 427 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

10 Points to Ponder: 2009 Shelby 427 at Las Vegas

Daytona was just a minor hiccup: the No. 18 team is back with a vengeance in 2009. Las Vegas native Kyle Busch won the pole this weekend, only to have to start at the back after an engine change. Nonetheless, Busch methodically made his way back to the front to score his first career win at his hometown track, a win that he likened to being as big to him as the Daytona 500.

Did You Notice? The Start & Park Scam, NASCAR is a Team Sport & RCR Comes Up Short

Did You Notice? The latest way in which NASCAR’s “locked-in” qualifying rule has spiraled out of control? For the past year plus, MSRP Motorsports has existed in the Nationwide Series for seemingly one goal – to make money. Each week, the team owned by Phil Parsons’s wife, Marcia, and Randy Humphrey trots out two unsponsored Chevrolets, hoping to simply qualify within the field of 43. It’s their only big hurdle to clear each weekend – not so they can compete, but so they can gain the opportunity to park their cars before they’d need to make an actual pit stop. Doing that pockets them as much cash as possible while avoiding costs like a real pit crew, extra sets of tires, etc. In 63 career starts in the series, the team’s No. 90 and No. 91 cars have been running at the finish a total of zero times. That’s right… zero.

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2009 Auto Club 500 at Fontana Edition

Adding to the boredom was the dominance of a select few. Kyle Busch came close to scoring the first “hat trick” in NASCAR history, finishing third in the Cup race while scoring impressive wins in both the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series events. Matt Kenseth followed up with his second consecutive win in the Sprint Cup 500-miler, although Jeff Gordon and Greg Biffle each had cars capable of getting to victory lane. Gordon drove a masterful race, only to come up just short, while a Biffle miscue on pit road and other miscues of his own left him with a surprise appearance on this week’s “Hot, Warm, Cold” list. Here’s a breakdown of where Kenseth, Gordon, Biffle and some of the series’ other top drivers stand heading to Las Vegas next week:

Voices from the Heartland: Time for the “Old Men” to Show “The Boys” a Thing or 2 at Daytona!

I still think that “whooshing” sound is pretty cool – but after many of the practice sessions we’ve had thus far at Daytona, I find that I am a bit more excited about the race than usual. The source of this excitement is simple: the “old guys!” Guys like Bill Elliott, Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin… and yes, I will even throw Jeff Gordon in there. To a lesser extent there is Terry Labonte, Jeff Burton and maybe even Tony Stewart. Each of these drivers, in their own way, has me cautiously surfing a small swell of enthusiasm as we head into the first race of the new year.

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