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Did You Notice?

Did You Notice? … People Don’t Believe In NASCAR Fairy Tales?

*Did You Notice?* … That in today’s world of sports, giving athletes the benefit of the doubt is suddenly a thing of the past? Instead, steroids, cheating scandals, and bad calls have turned us into a nation full of doubters, cornered into a defensive stance of guilty until proven innocent for our own emotional protection. As proof, look no further than a blue and yellow number 3, 1980s vintage Wrangler on the side wrangling its way to Victory Lane Friday night. In the final drive with his daddy’s number on the side, Earnhardt drove like the restrictor plate master of old, leading the final 33 laps of the race in holding off challenges from Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, and a handful of other Cup veterans.

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Did You Notice? … 2010 Title Down To Six Men, The New Car Band-Aid, And Quick Hits

*Did You Notice?* … That with nine races left, there’s a bit of a cushion for a handful of playoff contenders? The top six in the Sprint Cup standings have at least 271 points over 13th-place *Dale Earnhardt, Jr.* That’s not an insurmountable margin, but large enough that all can breathe a sigh of relief, avoiding the dreaded “bubble” talk and the media frenzy that goes with it. For their teams, the focus can turn towards succeeding in the playoffs rather than simply getting in the door. While drivers that peak getting into the Chase can often play the role of Cinderella (see: Juan Pablo Montoya last year, Greg Biffle in 2008) chances are the man holding the trophy is having success right now. After all, since the current format came into existence, only Kurt Busch has come from lower than fourth in the regular season to win the title, rising from seventh in the standings in 2004.

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Did You Notice? … As The Kenseth Crumbles, Lajoie On Drugs, And Bruton The Bully?

*Did You Notice?* … Randy Lajoie’s shocking admission he smoked marijuana? The former NASCAR Nationwide champ turned-radio/TV analyst, supporter of son Corey’s driving career, and safety guru is suspended indefinitely for violating the sport’s drug policy. Tested because of a one-shot deal to spot for Joe Gibbs Racing at Nashville, Lajoie admitted he smoked marijuana one week earlier during the Coca-Cola 600 weekend in Charlotte. Tested a few days later, the failure became public knowledge today along with an apology to his family, employers (ESPN has already suspended him), and legion of fans disappointed a 48-year-old would engage in such behavior. Before we go any further …

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Did You Notice? … How Michigan Saved Itself, Ringers Unemployed, And Fixing Mark

*Did You Notice?* … How Michigan’s attendance for the June race increased by 5,000 between 2009 and 2010? It’s an interesting twist during a year of continued attendance declines, especially considering the state unemployment rate, as of March 2010, was hovering just under 15 percent. What gives? I think there’s a bit of a pattern we can detect on the heels of Charlotte having the same type of healthy crowd. In both cases, there was a major rivalry occurring mere days before the race: Hamlin-Busch for CLT, and Harvick-Logano packing a punch at MIS.

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Did You Notice? … The Next NASCAR Breakdown, Playing Favorites, And Fun With Twitter

*Did You Notice?* … A developing trend? In the last two weeks, we’ve had two mild-mannered veterans go all Jekyll and Hyde, losing their cool while venting frustration in a way we’ve never seen before. First, there was Jeff Burton, pulling a tantrum on Kyle Busch through a blown tire that’s got him nominated to the Finger Pointing Hall of Fame. Then, Joey Logano followed suit last Sunday, a late-race incident with Kevin Harvick the final straw in exchanging the Disney Movie high road for a pair of boxing gloves and an R-Rated mouth. It’s a one-hit wonder of good guys losing their patience we don’t often see this close together, let alone in the same season.

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Did You Notice? … Red Bull’s Risk, Kyle Bails, And Manufactured Johnson Drama

*Did You Notice?* … Team Red Bull’s willing to take some chances now that their regular season is shot? The move to switch crews between Scott Speed and Casey Mears wasn’t surprising … it’s expected. Not only have both cars lagged behind the curve all year, but with Brian Vickers sidelined and Scott Speed 26th in points making the Chase is about as likely as the Miracle on Ice. GM Jay Frye understands how that leaves this team in a unique position. In a story that’s going to be out on Frontstretch tomorrow, our Jay Pennell talked with a number of people in and around the Red Bull organization in the wake of Brian Vickers’ departure. Everyone had a different take, but the running theme remained the same: roll the dice!

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Did You Notice? … Charlotte Indy Double Duty, A Boring 600, & Retiring w/Dignity

*Did You Notice?* … Bruton Smith’s $20 million offer for 2011 and beyond to any driver who wins both the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day? That’s opened up a whole other can of worms and stirred the pot for a handful of drivers anxious to get their hands on that money. In what would likely be a public relations boon for both series, you’d like to think all parties involved would work together to make this happen. But which drivers would actually bite at the chance to make history? Considering the difficulty the IndyCar guys have had jumping into the stock car level, you’d have to think the NASCAR boys would have a better shot of pulling it off. Here’s five I’d love to see in double duty next year...

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Did You Notice? … Mayfield’s Next Move?, Silliness Surrounding Sacks, And Quick Hits

*Did You Notice?* … Jeremy Mayfield’s lawsuit was dismissed on a technicality? That’s important to note as his case burns to the ground outside Federal court. In his decision to dismiss the case, Graham Mullen focused not on the actual defamation claims themselves but on a waiver form Mayfield signed to participate in as both driver and owner within NASCAR. Think of that form as a “get out of jail free” card, withholding the sport from liability in the event a driver violates a rule. It gives them the discretion to act, enforcing their penalties without fear from the other party taking them to court.

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Did You Notice? … Ugly Johnson Jeers, Picking Apart Purses, And Short Fields?

*Did You Notice?* … The crowd cheering like crazy the second Jimmie Johnson’s Lowe’s Chevrolet came to a stop in Turn 3? After a savage wreck, Johnson was left to endure his first DNF at an unrestricted track since the Coca-Cola 600 in 2008, when A.J. Allmendinger’s failing brakes left him using the No. 48 like a dart on a bulls-eye entering the turn. Now, I don’t have a problem with fans booing a guy they don’t like, but everything changes when a driver’s health is in question. Seeing that wreck live, I can say unequivocally it was the hardest hit I’ve seen someone take in person at Darlington since the repaving. Remember, this track is the same one where Steve Park suffered a serious head injury under _caution_, a reminder that crashes can happen anytime, anywhere.

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Did You Notice? … Ford’s Flop, Veteran Victory Droughts, And Silly Season Ends Early?

*Did You Notice?* … That with so much focus surrounding Jeff Gordon’s 38-race winless streak, we’ve forgotten about a lot of big-name drivers riding even larger droughts? We’ve knocked off two big ones (Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick) in the month of April, both of whom hadn’t won since the 2008 and 2007 Daytona 500s, respectively (and you think there’s no curse… yeah, and Miss Cleo can actually see the future). But in a world where only a select few have been visiting Victory Lane as of late, there’s still plenty with droughts that have lasted more than one year. Here’s a look at some top-level veterans dying in a desert filled with no winning hardware...

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