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Who’s Hot / Who’s Not

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not in NASCAR: Phoenix / Homestead-Miami Edition

Brad Keselowski couldn’t catch a break in the final 50 laps of the race at Texas, but he caught a big one at Phoenix. Jimmie Johnson’s right-front tire failure and subsequent crash put Keselowski in the catbird’s seat (20-point lead) heading to Homestead-Miami. Johnson must have left his golden horseshoe in Victory Lane at Texas, or maybe Kevin Harvick finally stole it. Either way, after Johnson caught all the lucky breaks at Texas, Keselowski caught them all at Phoenix. After Johnson’s wreck, the race wasn’t exactly a cakewalk for Keselowski, especially in the final laps. He had to avoid Jeff Gordon’s stupidity (more on that in Cold), then get to the finish while skating in oil and avoiding a massive accident on the frontstretch. It must’ve felt like Watkins Glen all over again, except the championship was on the line so it wasn’t as easy to laugh at. Read More »

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in NASCAR: Texas/Phoenix Edition

Brad Keselowski had Jimmie Johnson beat when Sunday’s race restarted with 54 laps to go. Keselowski may have been behind, but he was going to make it on fuel and Johnson wasn’t. Keselowski had Johnson beat when the race restarted with 19 laps to go; the No. 2 had more speed with two fresh tires even though Johnson had four. He had Johnson beat again when they restarted side-by-side with eight laps to go, contact notwithstanding. Unfortunately for Keselowski, there was still one more restart. Read More »

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not in NASCAR: Martinsville / Texas Edition

Ordinarily when drivers are eliminated from championship contention, it happens one of two ways: a sudden crash or mechanical failure takes place, ending things in the blink of an eye; or a driver gradually loses points each week based on performance, meaning the team, driver and fans are able to brace themselves for falling short. What happened to Denny Hamlin on Sunday was like nothing I’d ever seen. It was, in a word, agonizing. A number of factors came together to make it this way. Hamlin was at his best track and knew it was an opportunity to get to Victory Lane, closing the gap on Keselowski and Johnson. Read More »

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in NASCAR: Kansas/Martinsville Edition

There are moments that define championship teams and Jimmie Johnson’s crew had one of them on Sunday at Kansas. Johnson seemingly drove himself out of Cup contention when he got loose trying to race his way through the pack and backed his No. 48 hard into the outside wall. The wreck mirrored what happened to Johnson at Charlotte in 2011 in many ways. The impact wasn’t as great this time around, but it was a similar situation where the five-time champion jumped on the gas too quickly while looking to the inside of another car. At the time, the repercussions seemed the same — he appeared to be eliminated from the hunt for the big trophy. Read More »

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in NASCAR: Charlotte/Kansas Edition

Clint Bowyer did everything right in the first three races of the Chase. He kept his car clean and drove to top 10s in all three events, and with that he was within striking distance of the leaders. Then Talladega happened. Even though he was running toward the front of the pack, Bowyer received heavy damage in the last-lap melee and was scored in 23rd. Bowyer was knocked 40 points back of Brad Keselowski, and it seemed that his Chase was over through no fault of his own. Then Charlotte happened. Read More »

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in NASCAR: Talladega/Charlotte Edition

The point of this column each week is to separate the winners and the losers after each race. It is to point out those who are trending up and those who are sliding back. After Sunday’s race at Talladega, it was hard to find many winners. Ten of the 12 Chase drivers were involved in the chaos that ensued on the last lap, and every driver besides Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle lost ground on leader Brad Keselowski. The race that was supposed to tighten up the championship battle instead just knocked worthy drivers such as Clint Bowyer further out of contention. Read More »

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in NASCAR: Dover/Talladega Edition

How perfect was Sunday’s ending for Dodge? The company announced over the summer that it wouldn’t back Cup Series teams in 2013, although they left the door open for a future return. Well, the manufacturer may be leaving the sport, but Brad Keselowski and Penske Racing are making sure the automaker goes out in style. At Dover, Keselowski was going to finish fourth or fifth at best, but because of the great fuel mileage he gets — an advantage he's had all season — Keselowski drove around the cars conserving fuel in his Dodge and drove to a second victory in three races in the Chase. Now, the rest of the garage is asking, “How do we get one of these Dodge engines?” Read More »

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not: New Hampshire/Dover Edition

Denny Hamlin called his shot, and hit it out of the park when it mattered. Hamlin dominated New Hampshire for the second straight race, but did something he wasn’t able to do the first time around — close. On Sunday, Hamlin led 193 laps and never even came close to relinquishing the lead down the stretch on the way to his fifth victory. The win moved him within seven points of series leader Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin made a statement by closing the deal at New Hampshire, but he could make an even bigger statement by stringing together consistent finishes like the top two in points have, Keselowski and Johnson. Read More »

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in NASCAR: Chicago/New Hampshire Edition

Jimmie Johnson made it clear in the mid-part of 2012 that he would be the driver to beat in the Chase because of his consistency. From the May 12 race at Darlington to the June 30 race at Kentucky — a seven-race span — Johnson won twice while finishing inside the top six all but once. The only other driver that displayed consistency even remotely matching that this season is Brad Keselowski. What Keselowski has done might even be more impressive. Nobody has scored more points in the last 11 races; during that span, Keselowski has two wins, seven top 5s and 10 top 10s. Read More »

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in NASCAR: Richmond/Chicago Edition

Jeff Gordon climbed from his car and raised his fists in the air after 400 miles at Richmond. Never has someone been so excited to finish second (At least, not since Alan Kulwicki in 1992 at Atlanta). Clint Bowyer’s victory was an afterthought and so was the performance of nearly every other driver besides Kyle Busch. However, Gordon wasn’t the only to driver to exit his car at Richmond after a top-five finish to breathe a sigh of relief. After a four-race slide in which Tony Stewart nearly fell out of the top 10 in points, he finally stopped the bleeding at Richmond. Read More »