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Holding A Pretty Wheel

Never Fear; Underdog is Here! And He’s Saving the Season

In some ways, it seems like yesterday when the engines first fired at Daytona to start 2011, but here we are, ten races later, and not only is the season flying by, by most standards the sport is doing well. Ratings are stable, if not up, people are talking about the sport, and the racing has been good, with some stellar finishes. It’s been a different season than the last couple of years. But why? Simple: it’s been _fun_. The reason for the fun lies in part with the great finishes, but there’s more to it than that, something that speaks to more than close racing, more even than victory margins measured in the thousandths of seconds. It’s been the year that an underdog won.

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Horses and Horsepower: Saturday’s Two Great Races Have More In Common Than You Think

This week’s Showtime Southern 500 is a NASCAR tradition. (Sort of, anyway; it’s on the wrong weekend now.) Once NASCAR’s oldest race, it was the one everybody wanted to win-the trophy was as sought after as the Daytona 500 hardware, and harder to win, because drivers don’t race each other at Darlington; they race the track, known as the Lady in Black for her reputation as a killer of dreams. While Saturday’s running isn’t the same race at heart, Darlington, the Track Too Tough to Tame, is the oldest superspeedway in NASCAR. But she’s not the oldest track to be showcased on Saturday.

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When It’s Not About the Racing, the Racing Community Is at Its Best

Sometimes things happen that remind us all that no matter how passionate we are about racing (or anything else), it’s really just a diversion from life. And life was especially hard this week for so many people that racing and other diversions seem almost trifling in comparison. And on one level, they are. As the death toll from the worst tornado outbreak the South has seen in nearly 40 years rose to nearly 300 and climbing, we’re reminded that some people lost everything they had and more. As a young driver spends Friday in a hospital bed instead of in his racecar, we’re reminded of the fragility of each and every one of us.

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Rock and a Hard Place: What Do We Really Want?

Sometimes I feel sorry for NASCAR. Yes, you read that right. I feel sorry for NASCAR, the sanctioning body that has given us such gems as the Chase, the top 35 rule, and stock cars that are about as stock as the $20 watch you purchased in the subway station from some guy named Tiny is from an actual Rolex. They have my pity. After hearing race fans and media malign the racing at Talladega on Sunday (a race that featured 88 lead changes at the line and many more around the track), I can’t help but wonder what, exactly, race viewers _want_ these days.

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Top Of the Heap or King of the Mountain? Four Who Would Be Superstars In Other Series

If the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series represents the 43 best stock car drivers in the country, then is it any wonder that most drivers want to race in that series these days? You can’t blame any of them for wanting to be in the Cup Series-it’s got all the money, all the prestige, all the fans. But ever look at a driver and wonder why he’s in the series? You know the guy: struggling in anonymity, often for a backmarker position, barely shown on TV unless he’s getting lapped or in a wreck, and even then it’s a passing remark at best. And in some cases, the driver could be a rock star-if only he was racing in a different series.

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And Another Thing…

It’s been a quiet week by NASCAR standards-no major controversy, no big drama. In short, nothing particularly interesting. Certainly nothing earth-shattering enough to devote an entire column to. But there are a few odds and ends in my desk that I need to clear out before they fester. So here you have it-clearing out the desk, post-Martinsville edition. *Were the people who said that Dale Jr. laid down at Martinsville watching the same race I was?* Seriously? Because I didn’t see a driver lay down. I saw a driver do everything he could to win a race and come up short to superior equipment. I saw a driver in his postrace interview who was disappointed in second place. He knew second place is the first loser-it was written all over his face. But the closing laps were certainly not driven by a driver who didn’t care. Earnhardt was able to get to Kyle Busch late and put the bumper to him to move Busch out of the groove and take the lead.

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Is NASCAR Ready to Dethrone the King?

There has been considerable debate lately about wins: which ones should count toward the record books and which should not. At the center of it all is Kyle Busch, who scored his 91st NASCAR touring victory at Fontana and who has made it a personal goal to try to equal Richard Petty’s storied mark of 200. That pursuit ignites a certain controversy, especially as this march nears the halfway point of his stated goal at just 25 years old - making that pursuit more realistic than it ever has been. But should all touring series wins be counted when looking at a driver’s career total?

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Big Six: Kroger 250

*Who…gets my shoutout of the race?* From the Where Did He Come From Department, *Brendan Gaughan* climbed into the top 10 after a totally inauspicious start to the day. Gaughan qualified 31st out of 35 trucks and was in danger of losing a lap very early on, but the cautions …

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Hollywood and Mayberry: Auto Club Speedway and Martinsville a Microcosm of All NASCAR

It’s a little like looking at Fenway Park and the now (thankfully) defunct Astrodome side by side on a calendar of ballparks. One wonders how the same game can be played at two places with so little in common they might as well be on different planets. Sure, they both have a diamond in there somewhere, but that’s where the similarity ends. One represented the game they way the nostalgic want to remember it; the other represented progress and expansion to new frontiers. Yeah, it’s kinda like that.

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Cali-bore-ya or Sunshine Superspeedway? Some (Sort Of) Good Things About SoCal’s Racing

The NASCAR circuit swings westward this week to Fontana, California and the Auto Club Speedway, the much-maligned 2-mile oval that replaced the road course at Riverside as NASCAR’s southern California staple. The track has a reputation for acting as a narcotic, producing more snores than racing. In fact, this was the subject of our featured newsletter commentary on Thursday. And the fan responses poured in to defend the speedway. Okay, that’s kind of an exaggeration. A fan response poured in to defend the speedway. Kevin in SoCal is a longtime and valued Frontstretch reader as well as frequent commentator on the site, and is a staunch supporter of ACS. His email takes exception to the poor treatment the track receives from the media. “California (Auto Club Speedway) does not deserve the bashing it gets from you, or anyone else for that matter,” Kevin writes. “The track was built by Roger Penske as a dual-use track for his Indy Cars and NASCAR, and he cloned Michigan because the races there were usually pretty good...

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