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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Sprint Cup Rookie Report: Joey Logano & Greg Zipadelli Ride New Rules to Pocono’s Top Rookie Prize

I mentioned last week that I was impressed by Joey Logano’s ability to improve through out the course of a race and while the finish wasn’t as pretty this week, the run was almost as notable. The No. 20 car looked like junk for the first half of the race, barely hanging on outside of the top 30. Just past the halfway mark, Greg Zipadelli’s call to get his driver back on the lead lap appeared to give the team the momentum boost they desperately needed. Once they learn to come out of the gate faster, I guarantee Logano will be racing for top 10s instead of top 20s at the end of each event.

Bubble Breakdown: Michael Waltrip Bounces Back With Strong 17th to Solidify Spot in Top 35

If you make the long and winding drive down Long Pond Drive you’ll come upon the Speedway in the woods known as Pocono Raceway. In 2008, this track was nothing short of disaster for the bubble teams and 2009 wasn’t much kinder to them. It started Friday when qualifying was rained out, meaning that the teams would have to start from the rear of the field. Add in the fact that passing is so difficult in these cars and it’s a long grueling race anyway and you have a long afternoon for the teams hovering around the Top 35. The end result was only Michael Waltrip posting a top-25 finish among our drivers and that included a pair of spins. So to see how badly the bubble teams struggled on Sunday, read on in this week’s edition of the Bubble Breakdown.

Sprint Cup Rookie Report: Joey Logano’s Improvement Continues with Help from Miles the Monster

Logano has shown many signs of improvement over the past month as he recorded his fourth top-15 finish in his last five starts. However, I think the youngster has shown the most growth this past weekend at Dover. When Logano finished ninth at Talladega, Darlington, and Charlotte, he was running at or near the front of the field for almost the entire race, while earlier this season, when the 19-year-old struggled in the back third of the pack, he stayed there.

Scott Speed Driver Diary: Dodging the Rain & Returning to the Scene of a Big Win

It definitely was an odd trip to Charlotte last weekend with all of the rain. The delays really don’t bother me as a driver, I just kind of roll with it. You can’t let things outside of your control get to you when you are in this business. The true challenge was dealing with the …

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Sprint Cup Rookie Report: Joey Logano Earns 3rd Top-10 Finish at the “Lake at Lowe’s”

You can definitely tell how far Joey Logano’s season has progressed when during the final rain delay, he commented on his disappointment about not having a chance to compete for a top-five finish. Just a few short months ago, this team was disappointed about not being able to finish in the top 30. It appears that Logano and Zipadelli are starting to get on the same page as the rookie driver now has top-10 finishes (all ninth place to be exact) at one of the most treacherous tracks (Talladega), one of the most challenging venues (Darlington) and during one of the most bizarre events (Charlotte) on the schedule.

Thompson in Turn 5: The Jury is Still Out on Scott Speed, AJ Allmendinger Swap

When in the fall of last season it was announced by Red Bull Racing that it had relieved AJ Allmendinger of his duties behind the wheel of the Red Bull No. 84, the news was met with a considerable amount of skepticism within the NASCAR community. It made little sense to many to replace Allmendinger, …

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Did You Notice? NASCAR’s Drug Mistake? (Not Mayfield’s), Keselowski Should Be Cup’s Top Rookie & Johnson Plays Dead

Did You Notice? That despite the rough economy, Darlington was closer than any track not named Daytona or Bristol to a sellout this season? I had a quick conversation with Track President Chris Browning yesterday, and he told me they came within 2,000 seats of that magic number – with daily ticket sales for the last three weeks far outpacing the numbers they had back in 2008. When you add in the large number of fans buying infield admission, the overall attendance for Darlington was about 63,000 in the stands and 9,000 in the infield for a total of 72,000. What an impressive turnout, especially considering the unemployment rate for South Carolina is up to a scary 11.2%.

Mirror Driving: Darlington on Steroids?, The Rookies Rally & NASCAR on Drugs

Jeremy Mayfield stated that his positive drug test was the result of a mix of legal prescription and over-the-counter drugs – in effect, a false positive. Did NASCAR do the right thing with its “suspend first, ask questions later” reaction, or should they have ordered and waited for a more complete toxicology test and report… even given that some tests may take several weeks before results are available?

5 Points to Ponder: 2009 Southern 500 at Darlington Edition

In the same week that Manny Ramirez was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball for violating the sport’s substance abuse policy, NASCAR one-upped the stick-and-ball sport by suspending former NASCAR race winner Jeremy Mayfield indefinitely for the same violation. Mayfield claims that the combination of prescribed medication and an over the counter drug triggered the negative result; but in today’s era of positive tests in other sports and half-hearted and often bogus excuses, you have to take his with a grain of salt.

Sprint Cup Rookie Report: The Lady in Black Can’t Take a Bite Out of “Sliced Bread”

No one will argue that the 2009 rookie contenders have not done much this season to get anyone excited. Sure, there were a bunch of top 10s recorded at Talladega, which were impressive in their own right; but still, as Logano said himself… it was Talladega. After Saturday night, though, Logano has taken one giant step forward in illustrating that the Class of ’09 will in fact make some noise this year. Not only did he tie his best career finish at Darlington, but he did it at one of the most difficult circuits on the schedule. The No. 20 team has a history of not “waking up” until later in the season; and if that still holds true with their new driver, we may be seeing just the beginning of several impressive runs from this teenager moving forward.

Bubble Breakdown: Jeremy Mayfield Dealt Death Blow While Non-Top 35 Teams Struggle

Just like Jeremy Mayfield’s test results, the Lady In Black wasn’t kind to everyone to tried to conquer her this weekend. While there were some great days for teams on the right side of the bubble, many of the cars outside it saw their bubble burst with wrecks or poor qualifying runs that hampered overall performance. As a result, while no one new moved into the Top 35 this week, some teams had a chance to put distance between themselves and the rest of the pack. To see which ones had the most success – and who’s still in danger – read on to see this week’s edition of the Bubble Breakdown.

Rookie Report: Joey Logano, Marcos Ambrose Bruised in Battle But Win the War in Richmond

Joey Logano’s success at the 3/4-mile track on Saturday night should really come as no surprise. This team has a long history of success at Richmond, giving his predecessor, Tony Stewart, three wins – including his first career victory in 1999 – as well as three runner-up finishes. Don’t forget that Logano was also slated to make his first Sprint Cup start at this venue last September, and was very quick in practice before rain canceled qualifying and sent the Joe Gibbs entry home. And while it was only his third best finish in the record books, this may be the rookie’s best run of the year.