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5 Points To Ponder

Five Points to Ponder: Ageless Wonders Join With Earnhardt For Martinsville Magic – Now Can It Last?

_There was plenty of chatter in the week leading up to Martinsville that even though the No. 11 and the No. 29 teams were mathematically close to the No. 48 in points, the season was already careening inevitably to a fifth straight Jimmie Johnson title triumph. Even with five races left, the thought was J.J. would do what he's done so often at the paperclip oval Sunday: dominate and pick up another maximum points day._ _Instead, Sunday afternoon on NASCAR’s smallest track restored matters some, Denny Hamlin closing ground while Johnson himself rightly pointed out on pit road during post-race interviews: “There’s a lot of racing left. And Talladega.” He's absolutely right. The three primary protagonists are now separated by a scant 62 points, with the 36-degree banks of the Alabama lottery madness looming large next Sunday afternoon, part of a Russian Roulette game that makes the 2010 Sprint Cup championship still oh so very definitely up for grabs. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise... and that’s where we’ll start this week’s Five Points To Ponder:_

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Five Points to Ponder: Labonte Parks Again, Hornish vs. Allgaier, And Bowyer’s Meaningless Win

*ONE: Clint Bowyer and RCR Have Done This Before* Clint Bowyer lived a Cup driver's dream that used to only be possible in the first week or two after Daytona -- win a race and go from 12th to second in points over the course of one dominant Sunday afternoon. But that's what happened at Loudon, where Bowyer had just enough fuel left in his tank to hold off Denny Hamlin and score a victory that saw him lead 177 laps en route to his second career win on the Magic Mile. Now, merely eight days after taking the green flag at Richmond, driving for his playoff life, Bowyer is a few positions on the race track away from taking the point lead. It's a great underdog story, the kind NASCAR wants to trumpet for its floundering playoff system.

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5 Points to Ponder: No Chase Drama? No Problem, Four Too Many for Hendrick, and Conway’s S&P

*ONE: No Chase Drama, No Problem* As the Sprint Cup Series headed to Richmond this past weekend for the final race to set the Chase field, ESPN and company were stretching every which way they could to make it sound like 12th-place Clint Bowyer was vulnerable. It was a cute storyline, for sure; but most everyone with a shade of common sense knew better. The reality is, as was demonstrated on Saturday night, none of his challengers ever had a ghost of a chance. Bowyer easily made the Chase, with 13th and 14th-place Ryan Newman and Jamie McMurray never even factors throughout the 400-lap event.

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Five Points to Ponder: Smoke Rises, Onion’s Folly, and Newman, Atlanta Fall Short

*ONE: Two Seasons Diverge for Stewart-Haas Racing* Sunday's 500-miler at Atlanta Motor Speedway provided both Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart with the respective watershed moments of their 2010 seasons. For Stewart, that moment came under the seventh yellow flag of the evening for Brad Keselowski's spin. After a night that saw the No. 14 a true contender for the race win, with laps led and a car that short of restarts was among the class of the field, Darian Grubb's pit crew delivered on lap 297, earning the team the biggest gain of any car in the top 10 and allowing Stewart to start second. Being that far up front for the restart on lap 300, Stewart was quickly able to recover from spinning his tires at the drop of the green (a problem that dogged the No. 14 team all night long), pass Carl Edwards one lap later, and drive off to score his first win since Kansas nearly one year ago.

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5 Points: S&P, Out of Business? Too Little Too Late For Boris, and ARCA Favorite?

*ONE: For Boris Said, This Win Was Too Little, Too Late* It was truly a feel-good story. Journeyman Boris Said, the road course tutor of over half the Sprint Cup Series field, scored his first Nationwide Series victory on Sunday in a photo finish with accomplished road ringer Max Papis. The win also marked a triumphant return for Scott Zipadelli to the pit box, a huge triumph for a RAB Racing team struggling to stay on the track.

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Five Points to Ponder: Kyle’s Still Vulnerable, ESPN’s One-Trick Pony, and Nationwide’s Erosion

Life is good for Kyle Busch right now. Leaving Bristol, he not only scored a Truck Series victory in his own equipment, got the better of Brad Keselowski battling for the win, and dominated the 500-lap night race, he became the first driver to win all three national touring series races in the same weekend. It's an accomplishment that, if the media is any indication, trumps just about anything ever done in stock car racing -- never mind the fact this feat has only been possible since 1995, and only a handful of drivers talented enough to pull it off actually care enough to run tons of minor league races when battling for a Cup.

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Five Points to Ponder: Martin’s Misery, All Hail ARCA, And The Entitlement Of Joey, Kyle, And Denny

*ONE: No Worries, Kurt Busch Will Make the Chase* Yes, it has been the coldest stretch in recent memory for the driver of the blue deuce. Two DNFs in his last three races, an average finish of 22.2 over the last five, and no wins since Charlotte back in the Spring have dropped the No. 2 team from fourth to tenth in points. That's led to talk, in particular during Sunday's broadcast, of momentum headed the wrong way for Penske Racing's lone title-contending driver as the Chase approaches.

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Five Points to Ponder: The Cup Series We Know So Well… Stupidity And Mistakes Repeating Themselves

*ONE: Should Kevin Conway’s Ride Be in Jeopardy?* On the stats sheet, it’s hardly been a stellar rookie campaign for Kevin Conway. Through 21 starts thus far in 2010, only four have resulted in top-30 finishes, and he's ended races on the lead lap just three times: the two road courses and a 14th-place run at Daytona. Front Row Motorsports has had to make owner points swaps on a number of occasions to ensure that Conway, the slowest qualifier nearly every weekend, and his valuable Extenze sponsorship take the green flag on Sundays. And the freshman’s first return visit to a track (Pocono) yielded only minimal improvement; Conway finished 35th in his first start on the tricky triangle, then 31st upon his return.

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Five Points to Ponder: Poor Judgment by NASCAR Vets, More Money, Mo Problems, And NASCAR Ain’t the NBA

*ONE: Richard Childress Racing Poised to Make the Same Mistakes Twice* There is no getting around several facts involving Richard Childress Racing. 1.) Since cutting down to three Sprint Cup cars, all three drivers have run considerably better throughout 2010. Debate causality until the cows come home, the three-car RCR operation is now leading the Cup standings and poised to give J.J. a run for his money come Fall with Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, and possibly even Clint Bowyer.

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Five Points to Ponder: Censorship Gone Wild, Carl & Kyle Sitting In A Tree, More

*ONE: Almirola the Right Move for JR Motorsports* Aric Almirola's third-place finish in his debut race with JR Motorsports this weekend could hardly be considered a surprise. A veteran of scores of starts across the Nationwide and Cup Series, as well as a title contender in the Truck ranks this season, he's picking up wins and respect with his current full-time ride over at Billy Ballew Motorsports. Now straddling the line between young gun and experienced vet, it's that exact reason he's the driver JRM should be looking to sign to the No. 88 for 2011.

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