NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Matt McLaughlin’s Driver Handicaps: 2007 Richmond Fall Race Edition

Jeff Gordon – Gordon has won here twice, and has top-10 finishes in 17 of 29 starts… but his track record lately at RIR is worrisome. His fourth-place finish in the spring arrested a streak of four straight finishes of 30th or worse, including a disastrous performance in 2005 that locked him out of NASCAR’s “playoff.” Some would argue since Gordon is solidly in the Chase, he has little incentive to finish on top this weekend; however, that also gives him the option to go for the win, something he hasn’t hesitated to do over the past month or so.

Fantasy Picks ‘N’ Pans: 2007 Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond Edition

For 12 drivers, it all comes down to this. OK, that’s overstating the drama heading into this Saturday’s race at Richmond; but by the end of the night, the remaining positions in the Chase will be filled before the points are reset for the top 12. Unfortunately, for most fantasy owners, there isn’t a redo button that you can hit after week 26; you have to gut it out for the entire 36-race schedule. Obviously, different drivers will have various goals heading into Richmond: some are looking to win bonus points for the Chase, some are looking to run well enough to maintain their positions, and some are just looking to survive. Hopefully, you can emphasize with position number one rather than number three… otherwise, your team may be in serious trouble!

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.

Matt McLaughlin’s Driver Handicaps: 2007 Fontana Summer Race Edition

Jeff Gordon – Gordon won the inaugural race at Fontana in 1997, and has won two additional Cup races here. He finished second at the track this spring, and has top-five finishes in half of his 14 Cup starts.

Thompson in Turn 5: Kevin Harvick Needs to Mind His Ps & Qs

There is little doubt that Richard Childress Racing has bounced back in the past few years, reestablishing itself as one of the premier racing organizations in the world of NASCAR Nextel Cup. After nearly two decades of success – most notably with the late Dale Earnhardt behind the wheel of the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet – the organization had seen a steady decline in their performance towards the end of the ’90s, even before the tragic death of the “Intimidator” in 2001. In the wake of Dale’s death, it was Kevin Harvick, his replacement, who’s accomplished the most for RCR on paper, winning two Busch Series titles while finishing in the top five in points twice. It’s a list of accomplishments that gets you thinking Harvick was the missing piece responsible for getting a fledgling organization back on track. But, in reality, that’s hardly the case – and in the wake of recent performances, Harvick’s now facing an uncomfortable scenario of being the only weak link in a rapidly forming playoff chain over at RCR.

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Nextel Cup: 2007 Sharpie 500 at Bristol Edition

For some, the racing at Bristol Saturday night was the best it has been in years. For others, it was a Bristol race in name only, with no fireworks and little excitement. But no matter which side of the fence you are on, there were plenty of winners and losers coming out of the annual madhouse that is Thunder Valley in late summer. Carl Edwards added another 10 bonus points to his Chase count, and should get extra points for sticking the backflip on Bristol’s high banks after his second win of the season. On the flip side, Denny Hamlin’s fried engine left him with just his second career DNF. In between, what could have been a big night for a points shakeup amongst the Chasers instead never materialized, with no driver falling out of, or moving into, the playoffs.

Running Their Mouth: 2007 Sharpie 500 at Bristol

Each week, we’ll go through all the media reports, interviews, PR, and all our own stuff to find the best quotes from the Nextel Cup race and capture 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 Sharpie 500 on the newly repaved Bristol Motor Speedway.

Matt McLaughlin’s Driver Handicaps: 2007 Bristol Night Race Edition

Jeff Gordon – Gordon has won five Cup races at Bristol, but only one of those wins was in the August Night Race. Still, with 18 top-10 finishes in 29 starts here, Gordon figures to be a factor Saturday night.

Fantasy Picks ‘N’ Pans: 2007 Sharpie 500 at Bristol Edition

After a marathon weekend at Michigan, it’s time for a sprint-like turnaround and a trip to everyone’s favorite bullring, Bristol Motor Speedway. Michigan had its share of surprises for fantasy teams, with drivers like Dave Blaney, Bobby Labonte and Brian Vickers making appearances in the top 10. But not to be outdone, old reliables like Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, and Carl Edwards were there, too, continuing to cruise along towards the Chase – and hopefully helping the chances for a season-ending trophy of your own. But this weekend at Bristol, no pick is truly a “safe bet;” you can expect both anything and everything to happen. Just one nudge on the bumper and your team’s best driver could be spinning down the standings… taking your team with him. Still, there are certainly drivers you want to make sure to have in your arsenal, along with ones to avoid.

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