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Holding A Pretty Wheel

Daytona Is Over. So Now What?

“Did that really just happen?” Those were my words (though I’m pretty sure I’m not alone on that) after Sunday’s Daytona 500 which, after a weekend rife with reminders of the past, showed a hint of the future. Trevor Bayne’s win was a feel-good story for a sport that desperately needed one; the rookie besting the title favorite to start the season. It was an exciting race with a storybook ending, at a time the sport badly needed to turn over a new leaf. But has it? Well, not so fast. The Daytona 500 is over. There are 35 races to go this year. So now what?

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Gone In an Instant: Earnhardt’s Death Still Reverberates in NASCAR

It’s hard to believe that ten years - an entire decade - has come and gone since the day the NASCAR world stood still. That day is etched in the minds of many race fans like it was yesterday: the blue car flashing across the line as the black one spun across the track in turn 4 and came to rest in the infield. It didn’t look that bad, really; certainly not any worse than the wrecks we saw all the time. Definitely not worse than the wild airborne ride that Tony Stewart had taken earlier that day. But it was worse.

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Why Jimmie Johnson Will Win it All (Again) in 2011 – And Why He Won’t

Will it ever end? Following a 2010 season in which the seemingly impossible happened, as Jimmie Johnson won his fifth Cup title in a row, coming to rest dangerously close to the sport’s all-time greats, we’re all left to ask one question: Can he possibly do it again? A lot of fans are probably hoping to see Johnson’s streak come to an abrupt end this year, and some even go so far as to argue his titles are “bad for NASCAR.” (A ridiculous argument, by the way. NASCAR survived Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt relatively unscathed and it will survive Johnson, too.) But whether Johnson can continue his remarkable streak is up for debate. There is plenty of reason to think that 2011 will be same old, same old. But there is also plenty to think that this time, he won’t. As the new season looms, the title question is already at the forefront. Here are six reasons why Johnson will - and won’t - hoist his sixth straight Cup this year.

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NASCAR Keeps The Chase? It Means The Rest Is Smoke And Mirrors

For, oh, half a second there, I really thought NASCAR had finally figured it out. Perhaps this one was finally the year when the sanctioning body would realize what folly they had created over the last half-decade, making amends for a long list of grievances from fans, competitors, and media alike. With a revamped points system, NASCAR had a real shot at giving everyone something to care about on Sundays again. But, alas, the powers that be never got their heads far enough out of the sand to see what the real problem was, and as a result, applied another band-aid on a gaping wound hoping only to staunch the bleeding and not to heal the ugly gash underneath. This time, NASCAR came so close to getting it right. At first glance, the 43-1 points system has gobs of potential, in position to create excitement from the green flag at Daytona until the checkers at Homestead all by itself.

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Racing’s Elite Owner Is Probably Not Who You Think

Ask people who the most successful car owner in NASCAR is these days and it’s likely that the name Rick Hendrick will top that list, perhaps followed closely by Jack Roush or Joe Gibbs. And if you're only taking NASCAR credentials into account, well, that might be correct. But the real elite team owner right now in racing isn’t included within that first-mentioned group, left out despite multiple wins compiled across each of his two Sprint Cup teams. That’s right; the real elite owner in the mix isn’t named Hendrick or Roush or Gibbs, or even Penske. It’s Chip Ganassi.

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A Lot at Stake: Six (Other) Drivers to Watch at Homestead

There is a report circulating at Homestead-Miami Speedway that has taken many people by surprise. It’s not really earth-shattering, yet it seems to have crept up on the racing public. In fact many people seem to not have heard it at all. There are going to be 43 drivers in the race on Sunday. Yeah, I know, that’s a real shocker. While it’s natural to want to focus all of the attention on the three drivers within 46 points of each other and a championship, there are some others not named Hamlin, Johnson, or Harvick who, for a variety of reasons, deserve a second glance this week. One on the outside of a championship team looking in, a pair in limbo, another finally _not_ in limbo, one at a crossroads, a team making a final curtain call. They’re not the only other stories, but they’re also ones you probably won’t hear over the din of the crowd all focused on the big three.

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No Place for Sentamentality: Johnson, Harvick Crew Swaps Were the Right Move

NASCAR is in the final innings of the Chase, its own version of the World Series and the stakes, to the drivers, their teams and fans, are just as high. The championship of the sport is at stake, and with it the victory celebration, bragging rights in Las Vegas and at every track next year. Why wouldn’t a team do everything it takes to win? Why should they do anything but that?

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A Slap On The Wrist? NASCAR Chooses Inconsistency Over Fairness… Again

You could almost miss it, perusing some popular NASCAR Websites. It’s kind of innocuous on NASCAR Online with only a small box dedicated to it, buried under a story on the Sprint Cup title race, another on Richard Petty, and a third on the destruction at Talladega. The story itself is short, too, outlining a penalty handed down at Talladega. NASCAR’s statement is as follows: “The No. 46 car was found to be in violation of Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4-J (any determination by NASCAR officials that the race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR required rules); and 20-2.3A (unapproved added weight location and unapproved added weight -- lower A-frames were filled with weight pellets) of the 2010 NASCAR rule book. Crew chief Thomas Tucker has been fined $50,000 and indefinitely suspended from NASCAR. Car chief Richard Boga and team manager Tony Furr have also been indefinitely suspended from NASCAR. Driver Michael McDowell and car owner Dusty Whitney have been penalized with the loss of 50 driver and owner points, respectively.” Huh, someone got caught cheating and NASCAR issued a penalty. Interesting.

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They Just Want to Race: Start And Parks Deserve Sympathy and Admiration, Not Derision

You see it every week now in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series: less than halfway through the race, a seemingly undamaged car pulls into the garage and the team packs up and heads home early. The results sheet shows an electrical or brake failure, and the owner collects a backmarker paycheck. It’s a practice known as start and park, and it’s been increasing in the sport over the last few seasons. It’s terrible. It’s a blight on the sport and it shouldn’t be allowed. Or so say many race fans, quick to disparage the practice as a greedy team owner and/or driver trying to make a quick buck on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. They’re getting rich on the purses and not putting any of that back into the team. They don’t really want to race, they just want to make money. NASCAR really should do something about them. Not so fast.

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A Sport In Crisis: RPM Just One Card in NASCAR’s Deck

_Editor's Note: For the latest timeline on the RPM / Gillett / Kasey Kahne saga, please check out our Breaking News section by "clicking here":http://www.frontstretch.com/breakingnews/31961/ to find out the future of RPM, how we got to this point, and so much more._ “The house of cards is finally falling for George Gillett’s Richard Petty Motorsports.” These words, written by "FOX Sports’ Lee Spencer,":http://msn.foxsports.com/nascar/story/Richard-Petty-Motorsports-in-financial-crisis-in-NASCAR-Sprint-Cup-ranks-102110 began what has become the biggest story in racing this week. As Gillett’s empire crumbles around him, RPM could be the latest casualty for the beleaguered owner of several different properties, including the soon-to-be-divested Liverpool FC soccer club. But Gillett's financial and personal woes are really just the tip of the iceberg of a Titanic-sized problem brewing for the number one stock car series in America. The team’s potential demise is a microcosm of a sport in crisis, the joker in a NASCAR house of cards becoming increasingly fragile.

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