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Bowles-Eye View

The Anti-Daytona: What the 500 Giveth, Talladega Taketh Away?

If NASCAR tracks were ranked by controversy, Talladega would serve as your election powder keg of political sniping. Everyone, from Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to Matt Kenseth to Kevin Harvick’s dog has a pointed opinion about its unique type of restrictor-plate racing, manipulated side-by-side competition evolving in some shape or form since the late 1980s. With record-breaking lead changes and white-knuckle finishes, thrills there propel this sport into the national consciousness as much as ugly, life-threatening wrecks accentuate its tragic risks. But when it comes to the sport’s bottom line, in the last few years filled with disappointing sales NASCAR can point to the plates as its shining light of “competitive brilliance.” Sunday’s photo finish – bear with me, we’ll get there – was tied for the closest in the Cup Series’ 60-year history since the advent of electronic scoring in the early 1990s.

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7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… Ford? Seven Races, Seven Reasons To Believe J.J. Has A Rival

Sometimes, the story of a weekend is all in the numbers. *7.* That’s how many years it’s been since a Ford tasted the champagne of a Cup Series championship. It was the first and only won by the Blue Ovals under the Chase system, Kurt Busch fending off pre-dynasty Jimmie Johnson to win the inaugural playoff format by a mere eight points.

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Educating Earnhardt: What Martinsville’s Mayhem For Hendrick Could Teach Him

The race may have ended, but as Dale Earnhardt, Jr. sat in the Media Center, he talked faster than when speeding down the straightaway at Martinsville five minutes earlier. His mind raced literally a million miles a minute, reporters along for the ride while a candid, public questioning game of “What If?” took center stage. As if both sides were best friends catching up, a man’s sense of regret flowed freely in front of strangers, rough reaction that could only be spurred by watching the lottery prize of a first victory since June, 2008 disappear despite his best efforts to cash the ticket. “I was thinking at the end I was meant to win that damn race,” he said, placed in position by crew chief Steve Letarte but maneuvering into the lead with his own, old school bump ‘n’ run on Kyle Busch before Kevin Harvick came calling. “I was thinking I’ve got a hell of an opportunity and if I can keep the distance I had on [Harvick] which was only about three or four car lengths.”

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Heartbreak On Valentine’s Day: Can New Rules Tear Apart NASCAR “Couples?”

Love me. Love me not. Love me... win the race. This Valentine's Day, all around the country from elementary school crushes to senior center bingo you'll have millions trying to play Cupid while pursuing the partner of their dreams. It's not unusual for an eight-year-old to go back and forth like that, trying to navigate the fine line between charisma and cooties in between a few extra trips down the slide on the playground.

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NASCAR’s Rookie Filled With Potential, Foiled By Economic Reality After Season Finale

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. started the year an example the pitfalls of NASCAR driver development. He ended it the role model of how to suck it up, refocus, and learn how to do everything right. The problem is, overcoming adversity no longer guarantees him a future in the sport. It’s a nice story within Roush-Fenway Racing, the resurgence of a soft-spoken and highly talented 23-year-old who now holds the title of Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year. It was a remarkable story of perseverance, one most drivers might not even get a chance to write after eight – yes, eight – crashes in his first dozen starts of 2010 left his career hanging in the balance. When I saw the No. 6 crew at the eighth of those wrecks – Charlotte - they were standing dejectedly in front of a totaled CitiFinancial Ford, half-heartedly fixing the effort while their driver looked like he’d just been hit by a freight train. To a man, it was a collective group of people who appeared to this observer they were better served waving the white flag.

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Will NASCAR’s New Garage Leader Please Stand Up? Only Veterans Can Stop Bumper Cars 2010

“Horrendous.” “Berserk.” “A living hell.” All these words were uttered by some of NASCAR’s finest drivers Friday, looking back at the Infineon Bumper Cars 350 as the newest pimple on a face littered with the acne of bruised egos and broken race cars. Six months after the sport’s “Have at it, boys” mentality and one year after double-file restarts, a litany of crashes have led to a rising concerto within the Cup garage, all of whom are chanting a one-line chorus: Enough.

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In NASCAR These Days, Listen To The Money Talk

“Come on, come on, listen to the money talk.” _AC/DC_ I’m calling my 2010 the year of the NASCAR complaint. Since being commissioned for an SI online mailbag this year, my inbox has increased exponentially along with it; but the sheer number of emails I receive isn’t the only thing that’s changed. Not only are fans seemingly disillusioned by a number of problems that have dogged them for years - political correctness, the Car of Tomorrow, the Chase – that rebellion includes an unwillingness to give the sport its due for being proactive on trying to correct them.

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For NASCAR’s Underdogs, Car of Tomorrow Not The Right Decision Today

Nationwide Series veteran Jason Keller has a record 498 career starts under his belt. That’s the type of resume that gives you a lifetime of respect. It also creates a world of attention the moment you speak with fear. And make no mistake, Mr. Keller spoke like a man freaked over his future Friday – a future that includes new cars his race team can ill afford. For with NASCAR just two months away from debuting its new Car of Tomorrow, the clock is also ticking for some teams who might just be priced out of the business both on and off the track.

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Mears Has Tough Task Ahead Replacing Hamlin

Denny Hamlin’s ACL surgery could make-or-break his chance at the Chase. But for his handpicked sub, that same stretch of races could make-or-break his career. Casey Mears was selected Saturday to sub for Denny Hamlin while he recovers from ACL surgery. It’s a deal that came together in just a few days, but one Mears knows could relaunch a fledgling Cup career after going 1-for-6 in making races with underfunded Keyed-Up Motorsports – a deal that ended with a DNQ Friday. “It’s just an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” he said. “It’s one of those deals where I could just be sitting on the pit box if Denny feels pretty good, but if he doesn’t it’s just a great opportunity to possibly get in a good car.”

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The Next Five NASCAR Drivers To Get “Taught A Lesson”

As we put the Carl – Brad fiasco in the rear-view mirror, there’s plenty of debate about where we go from here. But fans, insiders, and drivers alike can agree on one thing, no matter which side of the coin they fall: this week’s race at Bristol is the most-anticipated short track slugfest in years. With drivers clearly sent a message that payback’s not only acceptable, it’s encouraged, everyone’s looking to see how many will loosen the reins and play bumper tag – especially at a track where patience ends the second the green flag drops. With that in mind, it’s time to have a little fun on this off-week and see who’s the next Brad Keselowski: you know, the guy some drivers and fans feel need to be "taught a lesson" on the track. Just know before we go any further we're embarking on a feel-good, laid-back journey that’s a little tongue-in-cheek: don’t read if you don’t have a sense of humor.

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