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Daytona Speedweeks

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One week later than previous years, Daytona Speedweeks kicks off Thursday February 16, with racing beginning the subsequent Saturday.

Schedule of Important Events (all times GMT -5)

2/18: Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 (ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards) - 4:40 PM

2/18: Budweiser Shootout (NASCAR Sprint Cup Series) - 8:29 PM

2/19: Daytona 500 Qualifying presented by Kroger (NASCAR Sprint Cup Series) - 1:05 PM

2/23: Gatorade Duels at Daytona (NASCAR Sprint Cup Series) - 2:19 PM

2/24: NextEra Energy Resources 250 (NASCAR Camping World Truck Series) - 7:52 PM

2/25: DRIVE4COPD.com 300 (NASCAR Nationwide Series) - 1:36 PM

2/26: The 54th Daytona 500 (NASCAR Sprint Cup Series) - 1:29 PM

All of the above events will be televised and, as such, streamed on the usual site named after the third and least successful Labonte. If you want specific links, I can do that closer to race dates, but it's really not that hard to find if you just log in during the race. No guarantees that streams will not be shut down by the network. You would likely run into the most trouble, if you were to watch, with the Nationwide race as that is on ESPN who are very aware of the streaming that takes place and, rightfully so, close streams immediately, given that ESPN actually has streaming of sporting events to certain devices and through certain services. FOX/SPEED/NewsCorp are less likely to close feeds which would keep the others alive and kicking, on the heels of good news for international viewers of NASCAR races in that NASCAR will be purchasing their digital media rights back from Turner, meaning NASCAR.com will likely offer some type of race streaming in the near future. Presently they offer RaceBuddy on some races (probably not Daytona) and TruckBuddy for the CWTS races, which is pretty terrible quite honestly because they only have one camera on the front stretch and a bunch of on-boards so as soon as the cars leave the front stretch you have to switch to an on-board to try to see anything.

You can always legally stream radio, as well. I can link you to that, too; NASCAR isn't allowed to stream radio themselves until the new digital media rights agreement, but the radio station affiliates that carry the races often have online streaming. It takes some hunting.

Dissertation on TV done, now for another.

Sprint Cup Qualifying Procedure

They qualify. Single car, two laps each. This determines the front row.

Then on Thursday they run the Gatorade Duel races. Cars with odd-finishing-positions in the final 2011 Sprint Cup Owners' Points in one race, cars with even-finishing-positions in the other. They line up by how they qualified on Sunday.

The finishing order of those races determines the inside and outside lines of the actual starting field, minus the front row who still race the Duels but will start first and second regardless of where they finish.

All cars that finished within the top thirty-five in owners' points last season are guaranteed to start this season. That leaves eight spots to fill the field of forty-three. The top two of those cars in each Duel get into the race, and then the fastest four Sunday qualifiers not already qualified by finishing in the top two get in (they do this after the race, meaning that if the fastest four Sunday qualifiers not locked in were the top two in their races, the fifth through eighth fastest of these qualifiers would get in)...

...unless someone who is not already in happens to be a past champion. The most recent past champion of the Sprint Cup Series not already qualified will bump the last-qualified of the not-in-the-top-thirty-five cars out of the field (basically, the driver who was the fourth fastest of the four fastest not yet qualified cars) and start forty-third.

What I don't know is what they do if a not-locked-in car qualifies on the front row, as unlikely as that ever would be to happen. They would be guaranteed to start in the front row, so I don't know if they would then only take the three fastest unqualified drivers, or what. I'm not sure NASCAR even knows what they'd do.

Fair Warning

This race could be awful. At present, the drivers do tandem drafting; two cars line up nose-to-tail the entire race and go super fast. NASCAR wants to eliminate that, as fans and drivers really don't enjoy it. However, rather than make it a proper race, NASCAR want to go to "pack racing," where all 43 cars run in one massive cluster causing non-stop side-by-side and large wrecks, and quite honestly, that's really just an insulting way to treat the greatest race in the United States (most-watched worldwide behind the F1 races, ahead of Le Mans, Indy, etc). I hate that they try to dumb it down to this over-the-top caricature of an automobile race, especially when more people are watching this one than any other and it colors their impression of NASCAR as being this strange, unskilled, ridiculous traffic jam every weekend when it really isn't...

...but it's Daytona. It's still cars out in the warm sunlight in Florida so what the hell do I care that the race is a bit odd to watch and some of the recent winners have been real flukes? I can only hope that one day NASCAR will decide to change the aero, as they already do to some extent, to raise the threshold in which the cars will get airborne. They use "restrictor plates" to slow the cars down so they don't get airborne (and then they still do anyway), now with fuel injection it's a little different but similar. Anyway, they are letting the cars go faster now (to try to eliminate tandem drafting), so they changed the aero of the cars so that they can go faster without flipping. I'd like them to get to the point where they can eliminate the restrictor plate through aerodynamics, but I know that's exactly what they don't want to do because then "waaaah the best driver in the best car will win the race and it might not be a photo finish :("

I'll outline a lot of the stories leading up to this race and through Speedweeks.

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Chronologically, the ARCA race should be addressed first.

Bobby Gerhart will pit on the second lap.

Thirty cars will wreck over the duration of the race (you save a lot of money on superspeedways by not putting real brakes in the cars, until you lose a lot of money because your driver piled into something), 80% of which will be run under yellow, such that Gerhart never has to pit again.

Gerhart cycles through to first in the order by the final restart with two laps left.

He uses his engine of dubious legality to hold off the competition and win his nine-millionth Daytona 200.

They never learn to stop wrecking, and they never learn to just pit when Gerhart does. Sorry to spoil it for you. :P

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Then I'd talk about the Budweiser Shootout.

But I don't even know the eligibility rules for it. It doesn't count for points or anything. Every year they change the rules of who is racing and who isn't.

I think something like 33 cars are expected. Well, hell, just run all 43, eh? NASCAR's exhibition races are a bit silly, to me. It's the same drivers in the same cars on the same tracks with the same rules. Apparently they race "harder" because there are no points on the line but no one wants to tear up equipment for no good reason (Shootout cars are usually the backups to the Daytona 500 cars; you get good data for the big show).

Oh well. I'll still watch it and enjoy it because it's racing.

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Now for the Trucks, the series that taught Kimi Räikkönen and Narain Karthikeyan (actually, no, we shouldn't brag about him) everything they know about auto racing.

James Buescher attempted the impossible last season: winning the Truck title with more DNQs than wins. After failing to qualify for the Phoenix race, round two of the season, Buescher, aged twenty-one as he begins his fourth full season of CWTS competition, finally met his potential. In the twenty-four races he did start, nineteen ended in top ten finishes, with ten in the front half of that classification. Buescher remained in the title hunt until poor luck late in the season relegated him to third, 29 points out. Still winless in Truck competition, Buescher should be a factor at Daytona; he led 55 of the 103 laps last season in stout Turner Motorsports equipment.

Defending champion Austin Dillon will not return to competition this season, as he graduates to the Nationwide Series. His vehicle, numbered 3 and owned by grandfather Richard Childress, is now driven by younger brother Ty, a driver just as formidable as Austin. Last season, Ty Dillon took seven wins from sixteen rates en route to the ARCA Racing Series title, and while allegations that his equipment advantage made all the difference were prevalent, Dillon backed it up with a third and a sixth in two of his three CWTS starts last year. Dillon leads the rookie contingent, but he may be among the favorites for an even bigger title this season.

Also absent is the man who last won this race, Michael Waltrip. Waltrip one rolled over an SUV while drunk, walking away from the scene because he is, as Robby Gordon called him, "a piece of s***." John Wes Townley, planning a comeback to NASCAR after quitting the sport twice in the past few years, now adds common ground with Waltrip, crashing his BMW into a telephone pole while intoxicated and showing up at someone's house disoriented, barefoot, and bloodied this morning. It is Townley's second alcohol-related arrest; he was nabbed for under-aged drinking in Las Vegas during a race weekend. NASCAR has never acted in the past when drivers have gotten DUIs, so as long as JWT's team stands behind his father's money, he'll be here, racing, at Daytona, trying to emulate Waltrip, who will be in the broadcast booth for this race. God help us all.

One guy to always watch at Daytona? Timothy Peters. He won in 2010, and has always run strong at Daytona. This year, his teammate, for this race only, will be Todd Bodine, the man he beat to the stripe the year of his triumph, and a winner himself in 2008 and 2009. Red Horse Racing always field top equipment at Daytona, and with partner Service Central on-board, their Toyotas should pose a threat.

As should the Toyotas of Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter, new to the manufacturer after team ThorSport spent over a decade with Chevrolet, and that of Jason Leffler, the new driver for Kyle Busch Motorsports now that Joe Gibbs prohibits Busch from entering Truck races.

Recent trends at Daytona? The emergence of foreign-born drivers, for one. In 2009, Canadian J.R. Fitzpatrick took fourth, while Nelson A. Piquet took sixth the following year. Last season, Miguel Paludo finish behind the first two runner-ups. Now, Piquet and Paludo unite all the Brazilian NASCAR drivers under one banner, joining Turner Motorsports for 2012, in equipment that will undoubtedly contend.

KHI equipment, too, was always of a high level of performance. Now those teams, sold by Kevin Harvick in light of his starting a family with wife DeLana, are operated by Eddie Sharp Racing, a factor on the ARCA circuit, notably fielding a near-championship effort for Scott Speed among others. The underwhelming Cale Gale and Justin Lofton team with past champion Mike Skinner, while former KHI champion Ron Hornaday moves to Joe Denette Motorsports alongside Max Gresham, the K&N Pro Series East champion with Joe Gibbs Racing last year.

Brad Keselowski is racing, too. Lucky us. We get rid of Busch and Harvick and now Keselowski comes to save the day!

SparkNotes: this race is a clusterf*** and whoever doesn't wreck and has marginally good equipment wins.

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HUGE KUDOS TO RAB RACING!

They have suspended John Wes Townley indefinitely following his DUI.

Last year, Rusty Wallace had the audacity to say he "would" get rid of Michael Annett, following his DUI, but "needed" the sponsor money. Wallace folded his team last month.

All the credit in the world to Robby Benton and co. for doing something ethical. F*** John Wes Townley.

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Eric, you swear alot these days....

Why do the races start at such silly times? Is the hour, 1/4 past, half past, or quarter to, not suitable for NASCAR people?

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:lol: Race start times are accurate to the exact projected time of the green flag dropping. They start driver introductions (one at a time to come out and be booed and cheered by all the fans) exactly at one quarter before the hour. After that, they have a short break, go to the invocation and national anthem, then drivers get into the cars, then the command to start engines, then they roll off and do a few pace laps. Impossible to do it all at a nice even time. :P

My Nationwide preview: Danica Patrick.

Though she isn't the only female driver, with Johanna Long driving for ML Motorsports, owned by Mary Louise Miller who, coincidentally and hopefully obviously, is a woman, too! Unfortunately, her sponsor is Blue Devil, which is fine other than having "STOP LEAKS" across the hood of a woman's car.

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The Great American Race...driver-by-driver...part one. Every driver I know to be entered in this fine event, in numerical order. The names that are links take you to a picture of the car, so it's almost like a spotter's guide. Isn't that something? No link, no image available.

In the months preceding the 2010 Daytona 500, Jamie McMurray found himself far removed from the instant impression he had made in 2002, winning in his second career Cup start as a fill-in for the injured Sterling Marlin. Never repeating the performance with team owner Chip Ganassi, McMurray moved to the top-flight Roush-Fenway Racing organization, where he won races again, but was largely outclassed by his teammates, making the Chase not once in his tenure with Ford's leading team. His major chance squandered, he found a second one with the same racing icon who took him from mild obscurity and placed him in Cup to begin with. McMurray's return to Earnhardt-Ganassi, though materializing late in the off-season, got off to the perfect start: a late-race charge to win the Daytona 500, the first of a hat-trick of important victories finished off by the Brickyard 400 and the fall race at Charlotte, the site of that first win in 2002. 2010's great story became 2011's biggest disappointment, though, with McMurray and the EGR team predominantly abstaining from the top of the running order. With ever-potent Earnhardt-Childress engines for the 500, McMurray and his peers aim for redemption, and know from past experience that Daytona is exactly the place to start that ambition.

While redemption will not be on the mind of Brad Keselowski this February, the Michigan driver is no stranger to McMurray's present plight. A top prospect for years, Keselowski's introduction to the Sprint Cup Series began smoothly; a win at Talladega, admittedly amid controversy, and a top ten at the ever-demanding Darlington in 2009 established Keselowski's legitimacy. A disastrous 2010 destroyed it. The year prior, Keselowski scored four top tens in his fifteen races; now, as a Penske driver, he had just two in the full thirty-six. The Nationwide champion that year, Penske called upon the minor league crew chief Paul Wolfe to graduate to the Cup side with his driver, moving both to the #2 Miller Lite entry made famous by Rusty Wallace. On the verge of being written off as a fluke, one of NASCAR's most outspoken drivers was slow to deliver. In the first twelve events, Keselowski had failed to score a single top ten outside of a second-runner-up run at Charlotte. The breakthrough came with a win at Kansas in June, and two additional wins, paired with a dozen top tens, followed. Ranked eleventh in the Chase as a wildcard entry on the strength of his triple crown of victories, Keselowski continued his late-season rise to take fifth in the final standings. Some wondered prior to the 53rd Daytona 500 if Keselowski had it in him to last in the Sprint Cup Series; now they're convinced he will be a perennial championship contender. It's up to Keselowski and Penske Racing to ride the momentum and make that true in 2012.

Few, however, enter the season with more momentum than the strong-finishing Kasey Kahne, finish worse than seventh just once in the final eight races, a stretch highlighted by a win at Phoenix as the former USAC standout sent Red Bull Racing on their way. Now Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis enter the most-anticipated contract in recent NASCAR seasons, uniting with Hendrick Motorsports after their season-long loan to Red Bull as Hendrick honored Mark Martin's existing deal with the team. Champions five consecutive seasons as a team, and a sixth as a supplier, Hendrick Motorsports offer Kahne a first-rate drive after a career spent mostly with a managerially- and financially-challenged Evernham Motorsports team that changed hands in ownership multiple times before eventually becoming Richard Petty Motorsports. Six times a winner en route to eighth in the points battle in 2006, Kahne has never had the tools to capitalize on his obvious ability until this season. Kahne recently pitted for repairs with knee surgery, but aims to be completely prepared to begin a year where the expectations are obvious: contend for the overall title.

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. did exactly that last year in the Nationwide Series, winning the championship with Roush-Fenway Racing after finishing a miserable sixteenth the year prior. Replaced for three events in 2010 due to that performance, the Mississippi driver highly praised by Tony Stewart knew he didn't deserve his ride with such a respected organization for 2011. He aimed to change that, and with two wins at Iowa, including one where he tangled with teammate Carl Edwards at the finish line as his engine blew after relentlessly battling with the renowned Cup star, Stenhouse reestablished himself as the promising talent he once was. Without sponsorship, Jack Roush does not intend to field the #6 Ford beyond the Daytona 500, but made sure the driver he stated would be winning races in this sport long after he was gone got the call, much like he did with the Wood Brothers in the wake of Trevor Bayne's mysterious illness. In the longest race of the season, Stenhouse finished eleventh. If he can control his infamous temper that got him involved a mutually-destructive fight with Scott Speed in the 2008 ARCA finale where both were contending for the title and led to a fight with an official at a sprint car race, Roush's forecast about Stenhouse's career stands a strong chance to be correct. His immediate future in the Cup Series, however, will rely on a strong run at Daytona to secure the funding needed to continue further; in the interim, Stenhouse intends to defend his NNS title.

Successfully staying cool last season, the young Stenhouse set an example that the veteran Robby Gordon failed to follow at the Dakar Rally, inviting the stewards to "kiss his ***" over a discrepancy about a part that Gordon alleged "[didn't] do s***." His NASCAR season, however, was less colorful, even if it unfolded at the wheel of his fluorescent orange/yellow/pink Dodges. Parking more often than not, and absent for many of the rounds, Gordon remained invisible all season, focusing on his extra-NASCAR racing affairs, all funded by his SPEED Energy beverage. Gordon, of course, is not without competitive fire, from banging wheels with Michael Andretti at Cleveland in CART to tussling with Tony Stewart in the garage in 2000. The past Daytona 24 champion has a small share of wins, too, beginning with an aggressive maneuver on Jeff Gordon in the 2001 season-ending Loudon round and being backed up by a sweep of the road races in 2003. Since then, it's been stone cold for the hot-tempered driver, but Gordon would rather lose doing it his way, as the owner/driver/mechanic of his own cars, if the only path to winning is taking the polished approach. He shouldn't be discounted at Daytona, either, as controversial of a win as it would be for NASCAR to have to stand behind a driver who has often claimed the sport's disciplinary body had it in for him. Last season, Gordon's strongest runs came at Daytona and Talladega, working with Bobby Labonte to charge toward the front in last year's 500 and Trevor Bayne to do the same at the fall race in Alabama. After his worst year to record in terms of performance, Gordon would like to make the competition kiss his a** this time, as they almost had to in the 1999 Indianapolis 500 he was one lap shy of winning.

Five more tomorrow. Yay!

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One of the many drivers to tangle with Robby Gordon is Marcos Ambrose, deprived of a shot to win the Montréal Nationwide race in 2007 when Gordon's antics caught up with him. It wouldn't be the only Canadian round Ambrose would lose, dominant on road courses but unable to seal the deal outside of Watkins Glen in NNS, and anywhere in Sprint Cup. Last August, Ambrose broke through, first in Cup at the Glen, and the next weekend at Montréal in a one-off run in the second-tier series. While the six days of success highlighted Ambrose's inaugural season with Richard Petty Motorsports, his performance on ovals like Dover, Bristol, and Charlotte solidified his reputation as a stock car driver. Ambrose aims to take the next step in 2012, and find his way into the Chase. Always a candidate for wild card given his ability at the road course races, the V8 Supercars champion needs to capitalize on his strongest skillset while continuing to string together consistent runs on the ovals. A win on the left-turn-only circuits won't be out of the question, either, and the lottery at Daytona could be that race. Crew chief Todd Parrott, after all, has won the 500.

Greg Zipadelli, on the other hand, has won just about everything but the Great American Race. After years apart, working with Joey Logano, Zipadelli reunites with Tony Stewart, joining Stewart-Haas Racing in a managerial role and serving as crew chief for Danica Patrick in her limited Sprint Cup endeavors. Patrick, surrounded not only by veterans Zipadelli and Stewart, but also mentors in Tommy Baldwin, who called Ward Burton to the 2002 victory, and within Hendrick Motorsports, seeks to gain experience in the Daytona 500 as she transitions from IndyCar racing to the most popular discipline of American motorsport. She's no stranger to flashy debuts, however, nearly winning as a rookie at Indianapolis, battling wheel-to-wheel with Dan Wheldon to grab the lead late in the race before relinquishing the top three spots as her fuel tank ran dry. A celebrity at and away from the track since, Patrick brings more than a brand to NASCAR; her new, friendlier personality present more so in the stock car garage than it had been with the open-wheel crowd, paired with her renowned feistiness, make her a true competitor. Patrick's learning curve is steep, but it didn't take her long to send sparks flying with the Kanaans and Wheldons of the world on the other side of the fence, and for once, she's actually having some fun. Realistic in her expectations, Danica will aim for a good, clean run, just as she had in her first full-fendered race at Daytona in the 2009 edition of the ARCA 200.

Unlike Patrick, Denny Hamlin comes strictly from a stock car background, and his impact at the top level was unsurprisingly instant. A perennial contender in the last half-decade, Hamlin struggled slightly in 2011, despite making the Chase. As such, changes were in order at Joe Gibbs Racing for this season, replacing crew chief Mike Ford with the one who led Tony Stewart to the title: Darian Grubb. Grubb, a Hendrick Motorsports man to this point, debuted in the 2006 Daytona 500, when Jimmie Johnson's regular crew chief Chad Knaus was suspended for four weeks. The team won that race, and took another victory two weeks later. Reassigned to Casey Mears' team the next season, Grubb added another large victory to his résumé, this time at the Coca-Cola 600. Known to bring out the best in any driver he works with, the new signing is pegged to take Hamlin from "almost" to champion, though the FedEx-backed driver will have to deliver amidst lingering allegations of his lifestyle away from the track.

Already noted as one of the drivers Grubb has worked with in the past, Casey Mears has been without a win since that 2007 race in Charlotte. A lack of performance at Hendrick Motorsports and then Richard Childress Racing drove Rick Mears' nephew, a former CART competitor himself, further and further down the field, bouncing from under-funded start-and-park rides. Mears eventually landed at Germain Racing, a championship team in the Camping World Truck Series with Todd Bodine trying to establish itself on the Cup circuit. Despite giving the team its best runs late in the 2010 season, an incident in the Gatorade Duel race left Mears without a starting spot in the biggest race of the year. The team rebounded and continue to improve, with the new father and soft-spoken racer taking a season-high twelfth place with the fledgling team at Martinsville in the fall. Now, Germain reorganizes for 2012; GEICO has expanded their sponsorship, though still not to the extent it will cover the full season, leaving some uncertainty, while the Truck operation has been disbanded to focus exclusively on their new Ford racing cars. It's still an uphill climb, given that the team may be forced to start-and-park later in the season if more sponsorship isn't found, but Mears remains motivated heading into Daytona after a strong showing at the similar Talladega last season. A top-notch performance in the 500 will redeem the once-regarded talent, and reinvigorate a Germain team in flux.

Top-notch would understate the drive Tony Stewart put in at the season-closing Ford 400. Winning five of the final ten races, including that round at Homestead, Stewart, winless prior to the Chase, bested Carl Edwards with the tie-breaking W column after the points tally ended in a stalemate. Making more overtakes than there were cars on the track after falling back in the running order twice, Stewart showed the talent and drive he's always had, but displayed a less-seen side in his ability to rally his team around him. Never blaming and always encouraging, Stewart put faith in his equipment and his own capabilities to overcome setbacks on pit road, and won the championship with the perfect attitude. Easily one of America's greatest racing drivers of this era, Stewart always contends, no matter who he is working with; this year, Steve Addington joins as his crew chief after a spell with both Busch brothers at their respective teams, while the aforementioned Zipadelli rejoins Stewart in a larger capacity within the organization. Always one to poke fun at his own appetite for less-than-healthy foodstuffs, Stewart demonstrated a hunger as strong as ever to be champion last season, and at age 40, he seems absolutely ageless, much like his own hero, A.J. Foyt. Missing from his triple crown of Sprint Cup titles, of course, is the Daytona 500 itself. If Stewart can dig as deep as he dug to win Homestead's thriller, the remaining forty-two drivers best be prepared to come up short.

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Clint Bowyer didn't come up short in the last superspeedway race, narrowly beating then-teammate Jeff Burton to win at Talladega this past fall. However, 2012 presents a new challenge for the Kansas driver, raised on short tracks before being noticed by Richard Childress, the team owner he now leaves to join Michael Waltrip Racing. The new partnership places Bowyer not only with a new organization, but also with a new crew chief in Brian Pattie, the estranged captain of Juan Pablo Montoya's Ganassi squad, and a new manufacturer in Toyota. After failing to make the Chase in 2011, Bowyer still targets the playoffs for this season, but will need to be mindful that MWR has never even contended for a top twelve position, let alone earned one, and expansion to include this third ride for Bowyer could set them back even further. Still, the proven plate-track winner adds his expertise to that of two-time Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip, setting the newly-created #15 team up for a promising debut.

While Bowyer and company go through reshuffling, Greg Biffle remains immune to similar organizational movements at his Roush-Fenway Racing team. Under-performing in 2011, the clock continues to tick on Biffle's goal of becoming the first driver to win titles in all three of NASCAR's national championships, having locked up the Truck and now-NNS divisions in 2000 and 2002 respectively. While his driving accomplishments were not up to par in a season that saw a crew chief change for the #16 team, Biffle still received accolades at the National Motorsports Press Association awards, recognized for his activity in animal-related charities when not racing. With Roush-Fenway Racing contracting to exclude the #6 car, once their flagship vehicle, Biffle and his 3M-backed peers may be in line for extra support from the top, which could put them back to the level they once were; a level that teammates Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth demonstrated throughout last year's Chase.

The Chase was eventful, to say the least, for Kyle Busch. On the strength of four victories, Busch qualified for the in-season playoff, but failed to score more than two top ten placings leading up to the Texas race weekend, where Busch received a suspension from the Nationwide and Cup races after an incident with Ron Hornaday under a caution period. Busch's season derailed late last year, he now aims to start strong, with ambitions of putting the "old" Kyle Busch behind him. Those ambitions, of course, border on requirements; team owner Joe Gibbs has already prevented Busch from entering Camping World Truck races (though he will still compete part-time for his own Nationwide team), and sponsor Mars nearly bailed on the team before being persuaded to give Busch one last chance. Ever-talented, with a three-series combined win total now in the triple digits, a renewed, refined Kyle Busch could be unstoppable. Whether or not he's actually made those changes, though, remains to be seen.

Joey Logano needed a different set of changes, his attitude fine but his results not. Signed by Mark Martin at the age of 14 prior to defecting to the Joe Gibbs Racing fold, Logano emerged as the "next best thing since sliced bread," and through the Nationwide Series, backed the hype up with race wins. His transition to Cup was less than smooth, and the young driver's career began to deflate. Gibbs considered replacing Logano last season, courting Carl Edwards heavily during the summer months. Logano earned another chance, but this time, there are no excuses. His style had been incompatible with Greg Zipadelli; that has now been remedied, with a new crew chief on the pitbox for the Connecticut racer. Touted as a future champion once, Logano needs to emerge from the mid-pack wasteland in 2012, especially when teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch have beaten him year after year.

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Derrike Cope's twin nieces, Angela and Amber Cope, are at it again. This year, they will be driving for a team called "Horizon Sports Management" that they founded, sharing the ride with Benny Gordon (none of the Gordons in NASCAR have ever been related). They purchased a Toyota from Pastrana-Waltrip Racing, and will use #24 (coincidentally, Jeff Gordon's number, which was also Cecil Gordon's number). According to the Cope twins, they "purchased Jeff Gordan's (sic) car from Michael Waltrip." They later clarified to say that "NASCAR assigned" them "Jeff Gordan's car from Michael Waltrip." Bright girls they are, purchasing a car from Waltrip and getting assigned the #24 by NASCAR. :lol:

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It's interesting that you rate Marcus Ambrose. Yes he won the V8 Supercar Championship, but it really was a case of best-team-at-the-time when Ford stole a march on Holden. But knowing you, your respect goes past the actual driving, and more to the man, and I guess he's brought the laid back Aussie approach that you seem to like (in Willy Power too).

It would be good to see him win an oval or too, and make the next step up. It's a bit like watching Montoya...you knew he was going to be near the podium on a road course, but the oval stuff just takes more time as it's a whole other game...more chess than driving flat out and on the racing line as it is in circuit racing.

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Just looked at his car...that De Walt / Stanley car has a bit of history in the winners circle, does it not? Going back a bit, I know, but I recall it up near the front in some old NASCAR stuff we used to get as highlights waaaaay back in the day (late 80's/early 90's)

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Ambrose's time in V8SC largely predates my time following it; I used to get a Ford racing magazine for free years back and the brief mentions of his endeavors were really all I had seen since I was just looking for the NASCAR and USAC stuff. Had heard similar things about his titles not really coming down to him being the best driver, can't judge for myself. He's been a take-no-prisoners kind of driver here while still maintaining a level of respect. He gets scrappy when he needs to, but he's not dirty, and that's really how you have to drive in today's stock car racing. Power comparison is pretty accurate, good guys off the track, really feisty on it.

DeWalt sponsored Bobby Dotter in the early 90s, though they weren't much of a force...I know they sponsored Hermie Sadler in the Busch Grand National series mid-to-late-90s, before moving to Cup with Matt Kenseth from 1999-2008, winning the 2003 title and a good number of races, first time they were really noted. Stanley was around early 90s in a similar capacity, part-time with Hut Stricklin. Stanley Black & Decker acquired DeWalt a few years ago; convenient how the color schemes worked out.

92Stanleyrefa-vi.jpg

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2003DeWALT.jpg

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Some things are so strange they must be true. 49-year-old Donnie Neuenberger will drive in the ARCA race for a team owned by rapper Eminem and sponsored by Ron Paul, whose likeness appears on the side of the car in a style very reminiscent of how Colonel Sanders is portrayed on a bucket of KFC. My mind is blown.

Mind-blowing, too, is Rick Ware Racing's Cup effort, that starts with Mike Wallace at Daytona and will eventually compete for rookie of the year with last year's NNS ROTY Timmy Hill and sponsor Poynt. The car for Rick Ware? The #37 car. The 37 was a Front Row Motorsports car, before being spun off to Larry Gunselman, who then partnered with Rick Ware Racing for a total of one race after announcing the team had actually been sold to them. Following that, Gunselman, who by this point had changed the name to Max Q Motorsports after fielding Toyotas years prior under the Gunselman Motorsports name, partnered with Whitney Motorsports to field the car as a team car to the 46...this last a few weeks before they went back to being Max Q with Josh Wise, who they had a deal to run the full 2012 season with...until they replaced him with Mike Skinner before 2011 even ended, but then considered fielding him in 2012 anyway, but eventually got back into bed with Rick Ware. My mind is blown.

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Well that's the only thing he's getting blown in a while. ZING!

Sorry, sorry, that was off topic. But couldn't resist. Please don't ban me. :P

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:injured: Off goes Eric to hospital to mend his blown mind :P

:lol: If my mind were well, I wouldn't be able to enjoy cars going around in circles.

Well that's the only thing he's getting blown in a while. ZING!

:lol: You ever even held a girl's hand? All I'm saying is that a younger, pre-marriage Dan Wheldon wasn't wrong about American girls versus the ones in his homeland and I don't let that go for naught. :P

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Media day was today. The biggest story was that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has a beard.

I know I've gotten lazy with my driver-by-driver stuff, can't be ***ed. So here's the rest of the field, rapid fire, now official as the entry list is out.

Trevor Bayne - Defending champion trying not to go down as another Michael Waltrip.

A.J. Allmendinger - NASCAR's leading closer, gaining the most positions late in the races last year. Scored a DUI late in the night a few years ago, but somehow we've all forgotten, since he apparently drove all 24 hours of the Rolex all by himself. Everyone loves the guy...unless they've had to work with him in the past. But keep telling yourself he's getting screwed out of rides, it has nothing to do with him being extremely entitled and arrogant to work with.

Robert Richardson (that's Scott Riggs in the photo) - Guy was a real d*ck to me.

Jeff Gordon - One of the greatest drivers in the history of auto racing enters his twentieth season. Not going to be many more chances for NASCAR's Person of the Year (for his philanthropic efforts) after he broke back into the Ws last year.

Tony Raines - I'm assuming this is a start and park if they get in.

Paul Menard - He's won a special one at the Brickyard, could start a Chase run with a victory as big as his sideburns. Gets better every year.

Kevin Harvick - Won a close one in 2007 with a massive charge from eighth without a drafting partner.

David Stremme - Inception Motorsports, it's a team within a team. No seriously they're housed in someone else's shop or something I don't remember.

Jeff Burton - Says he never wants to retire. Should probably look at the guy below him to see why he ought to.

Terry Labonte - Won titles twelve years apart in 1984 and 1996. Retired twice. Still races because his joints are too weak to get him out of the car.

Elliott Sadler - Stanley Tools ran an advertisement congratulating Elliott Sadler on his 2008 Daytona 500 win. Problem? Matt Kenseth won that race. Maybe that's why they seem like they have more of a winning history than they do. Sadler's only got one race all year to make it all happen.

David Ragan - Want to know what happens when you blow the Daytona 500 by switching lanes and getting a black flag? You end up in the Power Pak Pudding car. Never up the middle, always up the boards, all you kids out there.

Dave Blaney - Got a top five at Talladega, ran up front last year. Huge underdogs, but Tommy Baldwin's won this before, Blaney will keep it clean, and that's 99% of this racing. They have some support from SHR now, too.

Mike Wallace - He's renowned for his ability at plate tracks in NNS and CWTS. Tell me when he's done something relevant in Cup.

David Gilliland - Third last year. One of the biggest busts in recent years. You know why? Instead of signing to run NNS with Childress for one year and then move to Cup provided he succeeded, he chose to go straight to Cup with a struggling Yates team and karma will bite you in the ***. I realize you take the money when you can but...

Ryan Newman (no idea which of his liveries he's running; probably swap out decals midway through) - Sometimes I forget he even made the Chase last year. Make some noise, please.

Michael Waltrip - JUST GO AWAY PLEASE JUST GO AWAY GO AWAY AWAY AWAY NEVER COME BACK OH MY GOD I HATE YOU SHUT UP GET OVER YOURSELF YOU AND YOUR BROTHER, AT LEAST HE'S A DECENT GUY WHO DIDN'T FLIP A CAR WHILE HE WAS DRUNK AND THEN RUN AWAY FROM THE SCENE OF THE ACCIDENT, BUT STILL, BOTH OF YOU, GO AWAY, YOUR BROTHER TO SOME NICE WARM ISLAND WITH HIS FAMILY AND YOU TO PRISON. WAAAAAAH. Have a picture of his car but I sure as hell ain't giving that company, rated F by the BBB, any free advertising.

Juan Pablo Montoya - You aren't going to last half a second in this game if you don't learn how to deal with adversity, because these races are long and so closely contested that things are going to happen. They run well, then he gets upset, then they fade. This isn't open-wheel; your car still goes when you make contact so get up on the wheel, quit yelling, and win yourself an oval race.

Aric Almirola - Nicknamed himself "The Cuban Missile." I don't like people who give themselves nicknames.

Bobby Labonte - Retire already. My favorite driver, a total class act, one of those really inspiring quiet leaders, and the only man to ever be champion in both Cup (2000) and NNS (1991). I'm sick of watching him suck. Almost won last year, but he just didn't know what to do with it and that made me sad.

Jimmie Johnson - New colors, new challenge. Let's see what Jimmie's made of. Never had to turn it all around and make a comeback. We know he's one of the best ever, but how good he really is will be seen in how he responds to last year's awful loss, worst season of his entire career.

J.J. Yeley - I don't have words.

Kurt Busch - Says he's a changed man. I'll guarantee a year working for Marc Reno and James Finch, driving their crappers with their unreasonable expectations and fiery tempers, will teach this guy more than seeing a "sports psychologist" is ever going to.

Mark Martin - Go away. No picture, same sponsor as Waltrip.

Martin Truex, Jr. - Just never figured it out in Cup.

Regan Smith - Surprise winners at Darlington with their little team out of Colorado. Ran well at Daytona last year. Darkhorses that could do it.

Landon Cassill - Underrated talent gets his second career full-time ride with a weird team. Guess a guy with the last name "Castle" works well driving for a bunch of Burger "King" franchisees.

Joe Nemechek - Jeff Gordon would be a five-time champion if Nemechek had any respect for his competitors, but as it happens, the guy has no self-respect either, starting-and-parking his crapper.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - It's just a bad joke. Such a bad joke.

David Reutimann - One race as Cassill's teammate. Michael Waltrip released him last year via text message...while Reutimann was at an event promoting one of Waltrip's sponsors.

Bill Elliott - Riding that past champion's provisional in and out of retirement with Texas Terry. Parking Nemechek's backup car. You'd never believe this guy was a hero at Daytona, or the most popular driver for over a decade.

Michael McDowell - Whitney's in a better place now...merged with HP, to form Phil Parsons Racing. McDowell annoys me.

Carl Edwards - I've never seen anyone come so close to something they wanted so badly and lose with so much grace. Edwards earned a lot of respect from me last year; he even goes into the stands with the fans when he wins a race. Doesn't mean I like the guy, but I'll give him his due. He has to be fired up to win the title this year, so expect a hard charge.

Kenny Wallace - CORN CORN CORN CORN

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:lol: If my mind were well, I wouldn't be able to enjoy cars going around in circles.

:lol: You ever even held a girl's hand? All I'm saying is that a younger, pre-marriage Dan Wheldon wasn't wrong about American girls versus the ones in his homeland and I don't let that go for naught. :P

I was married to a chick from Dan's homeland, so I don't think you should be going nur nur nur American chicks are hotter nur nur nur just yet.... (mainly because I've never had an American wife, so I can't yet compare the two with any authority :P )

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NASCAR has confiscated the C-posts of Jimmie Johnson's car after it failed tech inspection. Crew chief Chad Knaus has been suspended for the Daytona 500 once before, in 2006, when Johnson won. He's been suspended other times, too, and the 48 has failed tech inspection more than any other car in the last decade.

Daytona will add a .4 mile short oval on the back stretch. They should run the 500 on it, I think. It'd be a better race.

http://www.news-journalonline.com/racing/racing-business/2012/02/15/dis-to-add-short-track.html

Bobby Gerhart won the pole for the Daytona ARCA race. Milka Duno is driving for Eddie Sharp Racing now. Can't find the full lineup anywhere.

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Dan actually said American girls were easier than English ones. :lol:

Now you know why I've never had that much success (so far). :P

Annnyyyway, if it is on at a decent time for here, I may well watch a bit of the Budweiser Shootout. If it isn't, then I guess I'll just have to resort to YouTube.

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