Five of the final eight races will be run on similarly-configured, 1.5- and two-mile tracks, so this week will set the tone for the rest of the Chase Find out who'll be strong in this week's Yahoo! Preview (.pdf).
Lewis Hamilton posted his second victory of the season by winning the Singapore Grand Prix after starting from the pole.
Our View Hamilton's first win this season didn't come until race 10 and the Hungarian Grand Prix and previous to that his best result was fourth in the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix. Since Hungary, however, Hamilton has three poles and two wins in five races plus another runner-up result in Spain.
Kyle Busch dominated Dover early but Clint Bowyer had the right handle when it mattered most. He held off late-race charges by Busch, Mike Bliss and Brad Keselowski to win his second career race on the concrete high banks.
Our View In addition, Bowyer now has a seven-race top-10 streak there.
NASCAR has requested that James Finch field a fulltime car in 2010, according to Lee Spencer, which reveals that the economic situation is not expected to be any better next year and full fields will be hard to come by.
Our View From a competitive standpoint the start and park drivers—which has been Finch's role in most of this year's races—have been frustrating, but it limits fantasy owners choices and makes their job just that much easier.
Jimmie Johnson, Juan Montoya, Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, David Reutimann and Kasey Kahne provide you with a diverse list of marquee drivers and sleepers on the first three rows, which makes the game interesting this week. Check out the Dover edition of the Yahoo! qualification story .pdf story.
Jimmie Johnson posted the fastest single lap of practice at Dover International Speedway in practice for the AAA 400. His top lap of 158.026 was more than one mile per hour faster than second-place Ryan Newman with a 157.020.
Our View The top of the board was dominated by Chasers. In addition to Johnson and Newman, Juan Montoya (156.986), Greg Biffle (156.952) and Kurt Busch (156.474) rounded out the top five.
Juan Montoya completed his sweep of fast times with another first in Happy Hour. His lap of 130.376 mph was joined by the fastest time on Friday (132.485), the fastest time in Saturday morning (130.131) and the pole for the Sylvania 300 (133.431). If that were not enough: Montoya also had the quickest average speed of 128.337 during 39 laps in Happy Hour.
Juan Montoya took his second career pole at New Hampshire with a speed of 133.431. His previous fastest lap came at Talladega SuperSpeedway this April.
Our View Back in April, he slipped to a 20th-place finish, but the plate tracks are more about track position and the drafting pack. Montoya could be a sleeper this week on the short, flat track that requires many of the same skills as a road course.
Last weekend, Robby Gordon turned his car over to David Gilliland so he could race in the Primm 300 off-road race. It paid off; he won over Rob MacCachren by only a minute, according to Race-dezert.com.
Our View It's rare to see a NASCAR driver forego a points' paying Cup race, so this underscores Gordon's love of his off-road roots.
Brian Vickers earned his first career top-10 at Richmond since his inaugural start in 2004 (in which he finished eighth) with a solid seventh-place finish and that was enough to clinch his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase berth.
Our View By the numbers, he was a long shot, but this is why they run the race and Vickers is one of two drivers to make his first playoff appearance.
Carl Edwards won the Richmond Nationwide race with one foot tied behind his back. Broken right foot and all, he outpaced the field after taking the lead late in the Virginia 529 College Savings 250.
Our View Edwards had to come from the back of the pack after a poor qualification effort. This gives him confidence entering the Saturday night Cup race, but his record is still not good enough to recommend starting him in the big show.
Nearly all of the bubble boys will be clustered together on the start grid, adding to the drama of the final regular season race. The most popular Yahoo! players are together as well, so check out this week's qualification story .pdf story.
And in case you missed it, click here for this week's preview.
Mark Martin posted the quickest average speed in Happy Hour practice at Richmond, with a speed of 122.013 mph during 11 laps.
Our View That was a relatively short run, but he was also third-best in the morning session. His fastest lap in Happy Hour was third on the grid, so he should be considered a favorite to win both the pole and the race.
Martin Truex Jr. posted the quickest average speed in the first Richmond practice session among drivers working primarily on race trim. His average speed was 119.718 mph during 25 laps.
Our View After dominating early last week at Atlanta and falling off the pace late in the Pep Boys Auto 500, Truex needs redemption, but it's unlikely to come here. He has only one top-five in seven starts with an average of 23.9.
Richard Petty Motorsports and Yates Racing announced an intention to merge their companies in 2010. Kasey Kahne, A.J. Allmendinger, Elliott Sadler and Paul Menard will be the drivers and the entity will race Fords.
Our View That leaves Bobby Labonte and Reed Sorenson out of rides next year.
This has to be one of the most convoluted entities of all time since RPM is made up of a merger between Petty and Gillett-Evernham Motorsports and Yates, who absorbed Hall of Fame Racing at the start of this year. The economy makes strange bedfellows, and it is not improving competition.
The night was filled with comers and goers, but a late-race caution gave the edge to Kasey Kahne. His short run setup was better than Kevin Harvick's and he sprinted out to the lead with a handful of laps remaining.
Our View Three drivers dominated at different times. Harvick led 66 laps compared to Kahne's 60, but Martin Truex Jr. led the most laps at the start of the Pep Boys Auto 500 and headed the field for 68 circuits.
Kevin Harvick led 131 laps and dominated the Degree V12 300, but the victory was still in question during the final laps as Dale Earnhardt Jr. tried to turn the race into a fuel mileage gamble. It didn't matter, Harvick ran down the leaders and won.
Our View Harvick also had to overcome a seven-second mistake on pit road. That showed a lot of strength.
Starting position is of critical importance at Atlanta, so the drivers starting on the first five rows should dominate this week's roster. Check out this week's Yahoo! qualification story (.pdf) to see who is hot prior to Sunday's race.
Martin Truex Jr. utilized cool conditions to win his second pole of the season and the third of his career with a speed of 184.149 mph. He will lead the field to green on Sunday night, with Kasey Kahne on the outside of the front row.
Our View Qualification is extremely important at Atlanta, but the No. 1 team's luck has been abysmal. Outside pole sitter Kahne will be a better bargain this week.
Earlier this week it was announced that Bobby Labonte would replace David Gilliland in the No. 71 in seven of the final 12 races this season, which left the California native out of a ride in those events. He won't sit idle for at least two races, however, as he has been tagged to attempt to qualify a fourth Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota at Texas and Homestead-Miami with sponsorship from Farmer's Bureau Insurance, according to ESPN.com. Gilliland is also expected to run the Gibbs car at Lowe's Motor Speedway, which is not a race Labonte is scheduled to run in the No. 71, but there is no shortage of drivers waiting to take his place.
Our View Gilliland will be much more competitive in the Gibbs car than he was in the start and park Racer's Group ride.
According to a tweet from @NateRyan, David Gilliland will replace Bill Elliott in the No. 21 Wood Bros. Ford this week while Elliott heals from back problems.
Our View If you've lost track of the musical chairs, it has gone this way: Erick Darnell is in the No. 96 at Atlanta (and six more races), displacing Bobby Labonte (who is in the No. 71 for those same seven events), displacing David Gilliland who now is in the No. 21. This time of year is not known as the Silly Season without reason.
Bobby Labonte will not be able to use his past champion's provisional this week since he was not the original driver entered for the Pep Boys Auto 500, according to Jayski.com.
Our View Jayski quotes the following from the rule book: "If after starting position 1 through 42 are assigned and there remains an eligible car owner whose driver is the current or a former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion who participated as a driver in the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and who was entered in the Event for that owner in that car prior to the entry deadline, a 43rd provisional starting position, the "Champion's Provisional", will be assigned to that car owner."
The entry deadline is Tuesday of each week prior to each event.
Carl Edwards has broken his foot while playing Frisbee, according to a tweet from Jayski. He is still expected to race this weekend, however.
Our View Edwards was a big enough favorite that this does not automatically eliminate him from contention for you roster, but if you were on the fence about starting him in games with rosters that must be decided pre-weekend, this could be the deciding factor.
Bobby Labonte will be behind the wheel of the No. 71 Chevrolet according to FoxSports.com, and as the most recent past champion running for a team outside the top 35 in owner points, he is guaranteed to start. Erik Darnell is taking over the No. 96 in seven of the last 12 races, which left Labonte out of a ride in those events until this deal was struck. Labonte will start those seven races with the Racer's Group.
Our View David Gilliland will sit out the seven races that Labonte starts, so it looks like he was the last man standing when the musical stopped. Until the Labonte/No. 71 gets a race or two under their belt and prove to be more than just a start and park operation, they should be avoided. This week, they enter the event with a sponsor on the hood, so the Racer's Group might actually try to go the distance.
The Chase contenders will be the ones to watch this week at Atlanta, but fantasy owners know it's not all about who wins. Check out this week's Yahoo! preview (.pdf) for a look at the top marquee drivers and dark horses alike.
On Tuesday morning, Penske Racing announced one of the worst kept secrets of the 2009 Silly Season: Brad Keselowski will run the No. 12 Dodge in 2010, according to multiple sources.
Our View This appears to be a one-year deal while Mark Martin runs his final season with Hendrick Motorsports. Don't be surprised to see him land in the No. 5 in 2011 with the possibility that Justin Allgaier could graduate into Cup that same year.