Race Weekend Central

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.

Drivers Take Turns at Trying to Solve Rained-Out Qualifying

Friday marked the third consecutive race and the 10th time this season that Sprint Cup qualifying had been rained out and the starting field has been set by owner’s points. With that in mind, many fans and the media have wondered aloud about the ramifications of NASCAR’s deciding never to move qualifying to another day. Why can’t NASCAR stage qualifying, if weather permits, on Saturday, instead of canceling it on a rainy Friday? How are teams outside the Top 35 supposed to have a fair shot at qualifying for the race, if some are simply sent home after a rainout? How can rookies who are trying to gain seat time in Cup and get certified to run in the series supposed to do that if qualifying gets rained out? If part-time teams are sent home after qualifying, how can they gain the traction to run well, attract sponsorship, and graduate to running a full-time, competitive schedule? Several Sprint Cup drivers took some time during the Friday rains to address the issue.

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.

The Yellow Stripe: It’s Jimmie Johnson’s World – We’re All Just Living In It

Jimmie Johnson’s gonna three-peat, becoming just the second driver in NASCAR history to do so (joining the immortal Cale Yarborough, who won back-to-back-to-back titles (1976-78) some three decades ago). All that we’re waiting for now is the corpulent lady to belt out a little number, right? Well, maybe not quite yet.

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.

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:

Fanning the Flames: The Stats Don’t Lie… Consistency Wins Titles

Q: The $700 billion bailout — an imaginary caution flag for the lucky dogs on Wall Street — included somewhere between $100-130 million in tax breaks for race track owners. Not that anyone can explain Congress’s “solutions” but why would millionaire track owners be given a nickel of my tax money?

Fantasy Picks ‘N’ Pans: Keeping Martinsville Mayhem Off Your Team

The new and modern way of determining a series champion heads to the race track that has been on the Cup schedule the longest as it travels to Southern Virginia for the second and final trip to Martinsville. Fantasy gamers are once again on edge because they face the daunting possibility that their driver can be caught up in someone else’s mess, causing a weekend of ruin through no fault of their own on this half-mile short track. At least most of your team won’t be distracted by the mounting pressure of the Chase. At this point, the championship is down to a three or four driver race; everyone else in the field is either gunning for a victory or testing things to get a head start on next year. The worry for fantasy players, of course, is that their driver will be testing and have a failure before the race is over. But for the top three left battling for the trophy, failure is no longer an option.

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