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Who’s Hot / Who’s Not

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not In Sprint Cup: Dover Edition

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not In Sprint Cup: Dover Edition

Typically, the Monster Mile is notorious for chewing up seasons and spitting them out into the crushing cement of its outside wall. But on a day marked by empty seats and single-file competition, the giant of one-mile ovals chose to go all 21st century on us instead, using the laser gun accuracy of pit road timing loops to destroy its closest competition. The biggest victim was its two-time defending winner, as Jimmie Johnson proved in defeat that sometimes, even a robot can malfunction in carrying a little too much speed out of the pits. The day’s half-human, half-hate victor, Kyle Busch used the win to throw another punch into Johnson’s seemingly infallible record. But as the Joe Gibbs Racing teams heat up, is the heart of Hendrick Motorsports really cooling off? We’ll take a brief look, then remind you there are other teams competing on the grid each weekend in the latest edition of Who’s Hot / Who’s Not. Read More »

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not In Sprint Cup: Darlington Edition

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not In Sprint Cup: Darlington Edition

_As the month of May pushes racing sharply into focus, who’s on top of the Sprint Cup world is more blurry than ever. You’ve got a point leader, Kevin Harvick, that’s leading by 110 but is driving for a team that has neither a 2011 sponsor nor a contract ready for him to sign. There’s the curious case of Jimmie Johnson, whose hot start with three wins in the first five races has been replaced by some startling inconsistency (two DNFs in the last six) and the percolating profanity of one Chad Knaus on the radio. Charging up behind them both are the Joe Gibbs Racing duo of Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, armed with four wins total in the last six races and hungrier than John Daly at a Hooters, but armed with more distractions and enough emotional volatility to leave Dr. Phil on standby._ _Add that all up, and it’s enough to make your calculator give you that dreaded “E” for an answer. The truth is, we just don't know who's a clear favorite, so with a Monster of a challenge looming, building the most momentum is the name of the game right now as everyone jostles for position on the Chase scale._ Read More »

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not In Sprint Cup : Richmond Edition

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not In Sprint Cup : Richmond Edition

Here’s the $5 million dollar question: What’s the track with the fewest lead changes so far this season? Fontana? Nope. That’s actually sixth on the list (although you may not have been awake to see it). Atlanta? Nope. That’s number three (although the next version of this race may be run somewhere in Kentucky.) Hmmm … Las Vegas? Texas? Phoenix? Wrong. Read More »

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not In Sprint Cup: Talladega / Richmond Edition

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not In Sprint Cup: Talladega / Richmond Edition

Perhaps it’s appropriate a weekend of wild weather accompanied 500-plus miles of racing at Talladega. For by the time the checkered flag dropped, the point standings looked like they just got hit with a thunderstorm all their own. That’s the blessing and curse of restrictor plate racing all in one; points get dealt not by who has the fastest car but by who can pin the tail on the donkey blindfolded. Apparently, Ryan Newman’s not very good at that game, because he doesn’t want ‘Dega to count in the points anymore (and if I wrecked in three straight races there, heck, I probably wouldn’t want to even show up). Considering he’s the lone NASCAR driver with a bachelor’s degree, there’s probably some semblance of intelligence behind that theory. But whoever said the Chase was concocted by somebody smart? Read More »

Who’s Hot / Not In Sprint Cup: Pre-Talladega

Who’s Hot / Not In Sprint Cup: Pre-Talladega

As we prepare for racing’s semi-annual version of Russian Roulette (Talladega), it’s always nice to take a quick look back before we see whose lives are going to be battered by the Big One. Don’t believe me? Just remember last year. Jeff Gordon came to ‘Dega 98 points in front of Jimmie Johnson and seemingly on another planet compared to everyone else. But an untimely tap by Matt Kenseth on Lap 7 started a multi-car wreck that eliminated a quarter of the field. When the smoke cleared, Gordon’s Chevy was headed to the junkyard, his season never quite the same the rest of the way. Read More »

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not In Sprint Cup: Phoenix Edition

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not In Sprint Cup: Phoenix Edition

This year’s Spring race at Phoenix was hampered by three things: faulty pit strategy, bugs, and a race that was 100 kilometers more than it actually should be. Seriously, why in the world would organizers add laps to an event - on a Saturday night, no less - when the number one complaint amongst the fan base is the races are _already too long?_ I know I’m preaching to the choir with that one … so let’s move on to the concert, shall we? The inside story from our time in the desert is not everyone has broken free from those darned gnats. Sure, a handful of drivers used the shock of a green-white-checkered finish to pull a top 5 finish out of what had been a dreadful day. But for many others, the bugs within their season continue to multiply as they’re already 100, 150, in some cases 250 points outside the vaunted “top 12” everyone labels as the pass/fail moment of their season. Read More »

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not: NASCAR Stars Of The Past And Future

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not: NASCAR Stars Of The Past And Future

Yesterday’s end to March Madness was the ultimate display of David vs. Goliath: the small school Butler Bulldogs versus the longtime tournament powerhouse Duke Blue Devils for a national title. But why put all your eggs in one basket, rooting for that classic “Big Brother vs. Little Guy” matchup when you can see the same type of battle in NASCAR every week? With the “Goliath” efforts of major league drivers constantly double-dipping into Nationwide and Trucks, it’s a similar uphill struggle for the sport’s up-and-coming drivers vs the series' elite. So let’s take a moment and give their efforts the pub they deserve. Looking for a new favorite driver? Or tired of the same old faces up front in Cup? Read More »

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not In Sprint Cup: Martinsville Edition

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not In Sprint Cup: Martinsville Edition

With the Sprint Cup tour preparing for its second break in a little less than four weeks (courtesy: the Easter Bunny), it’s time to sit back and take stock once again at which drivers have all the momentum. And for those who don’t have any, there’s plenty of time to kick their season into high gear… Right? Wrong. Six races means almost one-quarter of this year’s regular season is already complete. As I told you "last week in SI,":http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/tom_bowles/03/24/mailbag/index.html according to history approximately nine of the 12 drivers you see currently entrenched in this year’s Chase will be there once the checkered flag flies at Richmond this fall. Read More »

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: Bristol Edition

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: Bristol Edition

It’s only Tuesday, but most people in America this week are already hot under the collar about _something._ Whether it’s their NCAA bracket getting thrown in the shredder, agony/elation over the health care bill, or the 5-minute socially awkward conversation otherwise known as “Tiger Woods Gives Some One-Sentence Answers,” there’s been plenty for people to get all fired up about. But when it comes to NASCAR, a deafening silence falls amongst the crowd. A few might fidget, others might change the topic, and one or two might stand up and cheer. But the ugly truth is there’s just one driver hotter than everybody else these days … so hot for so long, in fact, he’s ready to join the sun as a permanent star in our solar system. Read More »

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not: NASCAR Stars Of The Past And Future

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not: NASCAR Stars Of The Past And Future

Basketball Cinderellas may dance onto our radar screen this week in the form of the NCAA Tournament … but they’ve been visible in the NASCAR world all along. Nationwide and Truck drivers look for some small scraps of attention every week, trying to establish (or maintain) their careers in the face of Danica-Mania, Cupwhackers, and an economy that’s made unemployment the rule and not the exception. Yet through it all, they’ve maintained a smile and a sense of quiet determination that puts a select few in position to reach the pinnacle of their division – and if they’re lucky, get another chance to race at NASCAR’s top level. How have some of these “other” stars performed as Spring approaches? Well, my friends, that’s why we have a little column called Who’s Hot … and Who’s Not, taking a look this week at drivers you might not be paying attention to. Read More »