Greg Biffle

Kyle Busch Wins Shootout; Carl Edwards on 500 Pole

Busch edges Stewart, while Edwards nips Biffle

by Matt Taliaferro

Kyle Busch won a crash-filled Budweiser Shootout on Saturday evening, kicking off Daytona Speedweeks in spectacular fashion.

Busch’s .013-second win over Tony Stewart (right) was the closest finish in the Shootout’s 34-year history. In route to the win, Busch found himself completely sideways on two occasions, but was able to save his Toyota — itself a backup car rolled out after an accident in practice — each time.

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<p> NASCAR's Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway kicked off over the weekend with a first-time Bud Shootout winner and a first-time Daytona 500 pole winner.</p>
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2012
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Tony Stewart Wins in Texas

Stewart wins fourth Chase race; Carl Edwards second

by Matt Taliaferro

Tony Stewart is putting together a run in NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship as impressive as any seen in its seven-year history. Stewart’s win in the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway was his fourth in eight Chase races, and finds him just three points shy of Carl Edwards as the Sprint Cup Series heads to the penultimate race of the season in Phoenix.

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<p> Tony Stewart held off Carl Edwards to win his second straight race in the AAA Texas 500.</p>

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Kansas Speedway

Previewing NASCAR's Hollywood Casino 400

by Matt Taliaferro and Nathan Rush

Race: Hollywood Casino 400
Location: Kansas City, Kan.
TV: ESPN (2:00 p.m. EST)
June Winner: Brad Keselowski

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<p> Athlon Sports previews this weekend's Hollywood Casino 400 from Kansas Speedway.</p>

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Two'fer Tony Stewart

Stewart wins second straight, assumes NASCAR Chase lead

by Matt Taliaferro

Most had written off Tony Stewart as a legitimate 2011 championship contender — including himself, if you believed his words in the midst of a 27th-, ninth- and 28th-place string just six weeks ago. After all, his No. 14 team was winless through NASCAR’s 26-race regular season, averaging a pedestrian 14.2-place finish with only three top 5s.

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<p> Tony Stewart won his second straight race to lead off NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup with a win in the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.</p>

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Another First-Timer!

Marcos Ambrose Scores First Cup Win in a Wild One at Watkins Glen

by Matt Taliaferro

A green-white-checker finish, savagely wrecked racecars, a fight in the garage and a first-time winner in the Sprint Cup Series.

No, this wasn’t Bristol, it was Watkins Glen — one of two road courses, which have become NASCAR’s new destination for can’t-miss excitement. And the person most excited following Monday’s rain-delayed Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen was Marcos Ambrose.

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<p> Marcos Ambrose picked up his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup win in a destructive affair at Watkins Glen.</p>

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Turning the Season Around

Dissecting the reasons for a crew chief change

by Tom Bowles

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<p> Athlon Sports contributor Tom Bowles dissects the anatomy of a crew chief change on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit.</p>

But now, with NASCAR granting two playoff “wild card” spots to drivers with the most wins that are ranked 11th-20th, both Montoya and owner Chip Ganassi smell opportunity. Last season, Montoya was the top-performing car at Indy — the circuit’s next stop — and he enters Watkins Glen in August as the defending champ. Win those two races, and it’s virtually irrelevant how he does in the other five — the No. 42 has earned itself a postseason bid via wins. That means if Ganassi feels a jolt is needed, why not try to catch lightning in a bottle? If Pattie’s replacement, Jim Pohlman, proves the answer there’s still a chance for the organization to contend for the championship now, not next year. Pattie, considering the No. 42 had led only 99 laps on the year, may only have been able to guide Montoya to a top-5 finish in the aforementioned events. Pohlman’s fresh approach could be the energy needed to push the team over the top.

Of course, there’s a chance Pohlman proves to be the wrong move for Montoya, turning the last 17 races into a disastrous ending while turning an already mediocre year into a failure. With 17 races being a more-than-ample trial period, there’s a justified sample size to give Pohlman the axe for 2012 should things go south. By comparison, would the 10 races after Montoya missed the Chase under the old system (and philosophy of doing things) be enough to make the same decision? Possibly not.

This type of theory applies to Biffle, Allmendinger and even Truex. For Biffle, he’s the defending champ at the upcoming Pocono race and has the equipment to make it to Victory Lane — just ask 2011 winners and teammates at Roush, Carl Edwards, David Ragan and Matt Kenseth. As for Allmendinger, while winless in NASCAR, he had a fourth-place finish at Watkins Glen last August. The possibility exists for a new crew chief with fresh ideas to take a chance and improve on that promising run. Even Truex, now a month into working with Chad Johnston, is close enough to the top 20 that a win changes his postseason prospects. And already, his team has three top-10 finishes in six starts with Johnston at the helm.

For crew chiefs, this means the job is more tenuous than ever. Erwin, for example, saw a four-year relationship severed after just four months of struggle. But if there’s a silver lining to what’s been a difficult season for the sport, it’s how the buildup to the postseason for over half the field has turned the focus back to where it should be: winning races instead of settling for a “good points day.”
 

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