NASCAR's Comers and Go'ers

Taking stock of the 2012 Sprint Cup Series at the Easter break
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<p> Athlon Sports contributor Jay Pennell reviews the first six NASCAR Sprint Cup races of the 2012 season as the series takes its first off-weekend.</p>

Taking Stock of the 2012 Sprint Cup at the Easter Break

Six weeks into the 2012 NASCAR season, the Sprint Cup Series heads into the first of only two off-weekends of the year. With no race this weekend, and thus no fantasy picks to make, let’s take a look at some of the biggest surprises thus far, which drivers and teams are on track for a solid season and which need to turn their season around before it is too late.

It's a Long Way to the Top for Michael Waltrip Racing

MWR experiencing banner year in 2012 with revamped driver lineup
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<p>  </p> <p class="p1"> Michael Waltrip Racing’s renaissance of 2012 has been one of the biggest stories of this NASCAR season. Just how far has this team come from the depths of despair? Vito Pugliese takes a look.</p>

by Vito Pugliese

“I’m sorry guys, I just … can’t drive my racecar …”

2012 NASCAR Preview

The Daytona 500 cranks up the Sprint Cup season on Sunday.
<p> 2012 NASCAR Preview</p>

by Matt Taliaferro

The Daytona 500 will kick off another exciting NASCAR season on Sunday, as Tony Stewart tries to defend his Sprint Cup title against many worthy adversaries. The Budweiser Shootout was exciting last weekend with Kyle Busch winning in thrilling fashion, and Carl Edwards will start on the pole for the Great American Race. From the pages of Athlon Sports Monthly, here’s our 2012 NASCAR preview.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s New Paint Scheme

Earnhardt Gets Diet Mountain Dew Look in 2012

Dale Earnhardt Jr. unveiled his 2012 Diet Mountain Dew paint scheme — pictured top right — on Wednesday via Facebook, rolling out a predominantly silver Chevy with Mountain Dew’s familiar green, red and black accents.

AMP Energy, co-primary sponsor of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 car following the 2007 season, will take on a reduced branding role next season. PepsiCo, whose contract with Hendrick Motorsports and the No. 88 teams runs through 2012, is the parent company of both AMP and Mountain Dew.

Exclude From Games: 
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<p> Dale Earnhardt Jr. unveils his 2012 Diet Moutain Dew paint scheme.</p>

The new look is more reminiscent of Buddy Baker’s famous “Grey Ghost” car than the classic early ’80s Mountain Dew machines driven to a pair of titles by Darrell Waltrip in 1981 and '82. And this writer, for one, was hoping for more of a “contemporary” revision of Waltrip’s Buicks — particularly when one considers Earnhardt's love of NASCAR history and his hands-on approach to paint schemes. In fact, the Diet Mountain Dew throwback paint scheme Earnhardt drove in one race last year (bottom right), would’ve done just fine.

Agree with Matt? Disagree? Post a comment below and tell him what you think of Junior's new paint job. You can also follow Matt on Twitter @MattTaliaferro