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Last updateTue, 04 Nov 2014 9pm

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Dale Jr. steals the show at Daytona

The Fourth of July weekend at Daytona is a NASCAR tradition. The original July race was the Firecracker 250. Through the years the race has been lengthened and, like most every other major sporting event, a corporate sponsor tag has been added. The July 4 marquee event is now the Coke Zero 400 for the Sprint Cup series cars..
Kevin Harvick won this year’s Coke Zero 400 for his second win at the track, and second win of this season. Saturday night’s win was the 13th Cup win of Harvick’s career. The win increased Harvick’s point lead to 212. Jeff Gordon heads to Chicagoland Speedway Saturday night in second place, just 13 points ahead of teammate Jimmie Johnson in third.
The real excitement of the weekend was Friday night’s Nationwide Series race. The series debut of their new race car format features a longer wheelbase car with front ends that look much more like the cars you would see at your local dealer. Ford debuted their Mustang, which will be the full-time Ford entry in the Nationwide Series next year and Dodge Challenger also made its debut. But the big news was Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s return to victory lane. Though not a win in the Cup Series, it was Jr.’s first trip to victory lane since the Life Lock 400 at Michigan on June 15, 2008. The Earnhardt Nation was beside themselves.

Read more: Dale Jr. steals the show at Daytona

Race to the Chase begins in New Hampshire

The ten-race stretch that began last Sunday with the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is the make or break portion of the 26 races leading up to NASCAR’s  version of the playoffs, the Chase for the Sprint Cup.  
What began Sunday in the New England countryside will end on Saturday night, September 11, at Richmond and the Chevy Rock & Roll  400.  Following Richmond’s annual fall Cup race, the top 12 drivers in the standings will participate in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.   Not in the top twelve after Richmond, forget about it.  Seems the be-all, end-all that goes with the current virus in NASCAR called “Points Racing,” is making the Chase.
 If  you’re in, you are among the elite.  Your season is a success - even if you tank miserably in the season’s final ten races.   Miss the Chase and even if you get hot and reel off three of four wins in the season’s finale,  you still didn’t quite cut it.  Modern day racing.
Ten races at ten different tracks means weekly challenges.  Drivers who respond become Chase material, while those who don’t find the 12th and final Chase eligible position slipping from sight.  The hurdles include such traditional schedule stalwarts as the Fourth of July holiday weekend at the high-banked 2.5 mile Daytona International Speedway, and the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Indy is also 2.5 miles, but unlike the high banks of Daytona, the Brickyard is a flat, narrow rectangle.
Add short track battles at .533-mile Bristol Motor Speedway and .75-mile Richmond , a 2.45 mile road course at  Watkins Glen International, a pair of speedy 1.5 mile tri-ovals at Chicagoland Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway, then Michigan International Speedway’s wide two-mile layout and Pocono Raceways unique triangle layout with its three distinctive turns and long straightaways and the variety becomes dizzying, forget about week after week of cookie cutter 1.5 mile ovals.

Read more: Race to the Chase begins in New Hampshire

Much ado about Kasey Kahne

 Once you get past Joey and Tom Logano battling it out with Kevin and Delana Harvick, Jeff Gordon and the funky fuel dustup, and Denny Hamlin taking NASCAR to task for using debris on the track caution flags to keep the field bunched up, the news this past week has been mostly about Kasey Kahne.
The defending champion at Infineon Raceway who has struggled the first half of the season, appeared headed for a rebound with a runner up finish at Michigan and a trip to a track that took him six tries to conquer.
“That was definitely a surprise last year” Kahne said from Infineon Raceway last weekend. “It’ll be a little different with the Ford engine, how it runs, things like that. But I look forward to it. For an oval guy like myself, I think the whole course is where I really need to keep my eyes open. One little mistake there and you lose it all.”

Read more: Much ado about Kasey Kahne

Week after week, Hamlin keeps on winning

The man who appears to be the answer to Jimmie Johnson’s dominance of the Spring Cup Series just keeps on going. After winning at Pocono for his fourth of the season, and his fourth career win at the Pennsylvania triangle,  Denny Hamlin came right back at Michigan Sunday and notched win number five of the season.   
With Sunday’s win, the 13th Cup of his career, Hamlin has taken the lead in the seeding in the Chase for the Sprint Cup with 50 all-important bonus points. He sits third in the race for the Chase, 25 points behind teammate Kyle Busch, and 47 points behind points leader Kevin Harvick.  

Read more: Week after week, Hamlin keeps on winning

Kyle Busch: a young man in a hurry

 It seems lately the news on the Cup circuit is all about the Busch brothers. Older brother Kurt Busch completed the rare All Star, Coca-Cola 600 sweep, the seventh time that has occurred. The 600 victory was Kurt Busch’s second of the season, and gave him another 10 potential chase bonus points. The older Busch brother is off to his best start since his championship year in 2004
Including the All Star race, Kurt and Kyle Busch had won four of the last five races heading into Pocono last weekend, with Kyle at second place and Kurt in sixth in the points standings.

Read more: Kyle Busch: a young man in a hurry

Missed it by “that” much

They call it doing the double.  A few have tried it back in the days when they dropped the green flag at Indianapolis at noon.  Donny Allison, John Andretti,  Robby Gordon,  and Tony Stewart come to mind.  Since the Indianapolis 500 track management has moved its start time to a bit after 1:00 p.m., it is just not physically possible to run the full 200 laps at Indy, helicopter to the airport, fly to Charlotte, and helicopter to the Charlotte Motor Speedway in time for the  6:00 p.m. start of the Coca-Cola 600.   

Read more: Missed it by “that” much

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