NASCAR Race Weekend Central

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.

Running Their Mouth: 2009 Aaron’s 499 at Talladega

Each week, we’ll go through media reports, interviews, PR and all of 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 special Nationwide Series peek at what the drivers were thinking following the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Sprint Cup Rookie Report: Rookies Find Checkers, Not Wreckers at ‘Dega with Keselowski, Speed, Logano Mastering Draft

Brad Keselowski raced the Aaron’s 499 in the same manner as one would want to play a game of poker. After starting in the top 10, Keselowski spent much of the afternoon darting to the front of the pack, only to fall off the pace soon thereafter – leaving his competitors scratching their heads as to exactly what was under the hood of his Miccosukee Chevy. In fact, the Michigan native almost unknowingly twice caused an accident – once on lap 82 when the No. 88 of Dale Earnhardt Jr. quickly came up on the back of the No. 09, forcing Keselowski below the yellow line; and then again with 55 circuits remaining, when he pushed Elliott Sadler to the front, only to lose momentum and create a logjam behind him.

Bubble Breakdown: Part-Timer Wins at Talladega While Top-30 Teams Turn in Top 15s

With both restrictor-plate wrecks and engines evening the playing field, six cars outside the top 30 in the owner standings wound up in the top 15 at the finish. Were Sam Hornish Jr. and Robby Gordon among the lucky group that broke through? You’ll just have to read on to find out in this week’s edition of the Bubble Breakdown.

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: 2009 Subway Fresh 500 at Phoenix Edition

Another one bit the dust in the sands out west at Phoenix Saturday night. But as the smoke cleared from the Cup Series’ eighth race of the season, we’re left with plenty of storylines from a weekend’s worth of action at PIR. Mark Martin became one of the oldest drivers ever to win a NASCAR race, scoring his first victory in nearly four years, while points leader Jeff Gordon surrendered nearly half his lead because of a late-race pit-road miscue – garnering him his first finish outside the top 15 all year. Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart’s solid finishes will keep Gordon honest atop the standings heading into this weekend’s restrictor-plate showdown at Talladega.

Sprint Cup Rookie Report: Out with the New & In with the Old for Phoenix Freshmen

While youth has been the preference of many NASCAR owners over the last decade, it appears as though the trend may be reversed for the moment. On a night where the ageless wonder, Mark Martin, drove to victory lane at the age of 50 years young, the newbies of the sport continued to struggle with the handling of these Sprint Cup cars. While Joey Logano started his Nationwide Series career with a bang and Speed decimated the ARCA field last season, both appear to be having a difficult time adjusting to new cars raced at the sport’s top level.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

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