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Round Five of NASCAR championship chase looms Saturday, so who's still in the hunt?

  Jimmie Johnson's top two title challengers appear to be Denny Hamlin (here) and (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)


   By Mike Mulhern



   So, considering NASCAR's championship chase, after the California shakeout, who's still in the fight, and who's out?
   Denny Hamlin, sitting second, 36 points behind Sprint Cup tour leader Jimmie Johnson four races into the 10-race chase, and heading into Saturday night's Round Five, says "I'd say anybody within 150 points at this point is still in it. 

"We still have a lot of tracks like Talladega where anything can happen."
   Hamlin's stance would make this a six-man race.
   Challenger Kevin Harvick says it's down to five, with Kurt Busch (140 points down) probably no longer in the hunt.
   Hamlin himself hasn't had a brilliant chase exactly. But that's not his game plan: "For me, it's important to stay close within the first five races, and then really go for it in the last five. And I feel we're executing that well."
   After all, as Kevin Harvick says of the championship, "You don't have to win it in one week...but you sure can lose it in one.
   "You just have to go out and protect yourself the best you can."
    Hamlin agrees: "The first three or four races I've been trying to avoid wrecks, more than worrying about winning races, because the wrecks can take me out of the championship. 
   "I lost some spots last week on restarts because I was too conservative and didn't want to get run into.  It hurts you a little bit; but giving up five or 10 points each week, to be conservative, is better than the alternative, 100.  That's hard to overcome -- Not only the points, your mindset changes so much when you get more than 100 points behind."
   He can see that most clearly with teammate Kyle Busch, who blew an engine last week and declared himself out of the hunt.
   "I'm a little worried Kyle had an engine failure; and we know that here last year, and the following week at Talladega, we had two engine failures last year in the chase," Hamlin frets. 
    "That obviously put a bit damper on us. 
    "But we're going out here these next few weeks and really feel we can gain points (on Johnson).  I'm in the position I wanted to be at at this point in the chase.
   "These (next three) are three really good tracks for us, even though the statistics might not show it. 
   "After that, we have Texas. So we have three tracks we've won at in these last six races.
    "I'm pretty confident we should be looking good here soon."
   Assuming he can stay out of trouble created by others....
   Hamlin worries that rivals are "more eager" now.
    "You see guys that maybe had a bad week last week be more aggressive out on the track this week. Everyone's objective changes from week to week based off where they're at in the standings."


   ...and Kevin Harvick (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


    There's still no decision from NASCAR officials on what to do with the Nationwide tour for 2011, as far as dealing with Sprint Cup drivers running the Saturday events.
    Team owners have been pushing NASCAR for answers, because they have to lay out rosters and sponsorships pretty soon.

    Danica Patrick is back in the NASCAR house again, fresh off an interesting performance at California, where she got crashed out after a tussle with another driver), for Friday night's Nationwide 300 here. And she seems in a remarkably feisty mood.
   "I'm not going to make it my 'mission,' to take him out, but if he acts up again, yes, I will do something," she said. "You can't get pushed around out there. The best thing to do out there is give them a dose of their own medicine.
   "Hopefully he plays well."
   Next season she says she'll run about the same NASCAR-Indy-car schedule next year as this, "but after that we don't know."

    One of NASCAR's best-known, most-outspoken, and controversial journalists, Jack Flowers, died Monday at 72. 
    Flowers covered NASCAR racing for 40 years and was best known for his long-time column Say it with Flowers.
    A memorial service will be held in the NASCAR Nationwide garage at Charlotte Motor Speedway 6:10 p.m. Saturday Oct. 16.

   Tim Richmond, the flamboyant NASCAR racers of the 1980s, will  be subject of a documentary Tuesday Oct. 19th on ESPN.
   Richmond, who died in 1989, at 34, was famous for racing the late Dale Earnhardt harder than just about anyone else, and becoming a buddy of Big E in the process.

   NASCAR isn't the only racing series with sponsorship and TV problems. The Indy Racing League is struggling too, albeit on a much smaller scale.
   The crowd for the Homestead finale a couple weeks ago was less than thrilling, and the TV ratings on Versus weren't impressive either.
   Plus, it looks like IRL stars Paul Tracy, Tony Kannan and Dan Wheldon may all be looking for rides for 2011.
   And major crew layoffs could be looming.
   One fan terms the issues part of a "protracted death rattle."

  One of NASCAR's best known, most outspoken, and controversial journalists, Jack Flowers, died Monday at his home in Concord, N.C. He was 72.
   Flowers, who covered NASCAR racing for 40 years, was best known for his long-time column Say it with Flowers.
   A memorial service will be held at Charlotte Motor Speedway 6:10 p.m. Saturday Oct. 16.

   The revival of North Wilkesboro Speedway continues: next April the track will feature another Modified race, a 100-lapper, $5,000 to win, part of a doubleheader with the Pro All Stars 300 April 9th.
   And the TV series 'Madhouse,' about a season of racing at Winston-Salem's Bowman Gray Stadium, continues to pump up the Modified world. Modifieds are here, on the quarter-mile, for a Thursday night 150.

    Goodyear says it will be providing teams tires with "the same tire codes" here this week for Cup and Nationwide that teams ran in May. The right-sides (D4234) are the same raced at Las Vegas the last two years and at this track last season and at Darlington this spring. The left-sides (D4390) however are unique for this track.


  This year's NASCAR Diversity class. Who makes the cut for next year's class? Tryouts coming up next week (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   NASCAR's Drive for Diversity 'Combine' testing  tryouts will be held next week at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., with 35 drivers from 18 states, plus Mexico and Puerto Rico.
   The D4D program is being run this year by Max Siegel and John Story.
   The Virginia tests will cover three days, for the drivers, aged 16 to 26. The top drivers in the tests will be sponsored next season in a series of short track races.
   This year's crop of D4D drivers earned four victories, 42 top-fives, and 80 top-10s in 141 total starts in NASCAR's K&N Pro East series.
   The list of drivers making tryouts:
   Jorge Arteaga, 24, from Agualcalientes, Mexico;
   Kelsey Bauer, 21, from Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin;
   Mackena Bell, 20, from Carson City, Nevada;
   Juan Carlos Blum, 16, from Miami, Florida;
   Brandy Bower, 23, from Marysville, Ohio;
  Jessica Brunelli, 17, from Haywood, California;
   Katrina Canney, 20, from Charlotte, North Carolina;
   Cole Carbrera, 16, from Exeter, California;
   Michael Cherry, 21, from Valrico, Florida;
   Enrique Contreras, 18, from Mexico;
   Heather DesRochers, 21, from Granby, Massachusetts;
   Brittany Finley, 24, from Ardmore, Alabama;
   Cassie Gannis, 19, from Phoenix, Arizona;
   Trey Gibson, 18, from Easley, South Carolina;
   Ryan Gifford, 21, from Winchester, Tennessee;
   Katie Hagar, 24, from Damariscotta, Maine;
   Sloan Henderson, 17, from Franklin, Ohio;
   Rebecca Kasten, 20, from Mequon, Wisconsin;
   Ali Kern, 17, from Fremont, Ohio;
   Julia Landauer, 18, from New York City;
   Amanda Lynch, 21, from Greenville, South Carolina;
   Clinton Mills, 23, from Indian Trail, North Carolina;
   Dallas Montes, 16, from Bakersfield, California;
   Jeff Oleen, 20,  from Bethesda, Maryland;
   Tayla Orleans, 17, from Randleman, North Carolina;
   Bryan Ortiz, 21, from Bayamon, Puerto Rico;
   Sergio Pena, 17, from Winchester, Virginia;
   Matthew Piercy, 16, from Conover, North Carolina;
   Troy Rave, 21, from Westby, Wisconsin;
   Ryan Reed, 16, from Bakersfield, California;
   Jason Romero, 26, from Cameron Park, California;
   Dylan Smith, 17, from Randolph, Vermont;
   Lacey Tuttle, 21, from Elmwood, Nebraska;
   Darrell Wallace Jr., 17 from Concord, N.C.;
   Kristen Wallace, 17, from Jasper, Georgia.


   Danica Patrick says she's tired of being considered just another pretty face and is ready to rough up anyone who tries to rough her up. Hmmmmm. Could make for an interesting Nationwide 300 Friday night (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


You know what?......

This D4D thing...I think I'm gonna try out for it. Hell, I'm a BLACK MAN, 45 years old. Been driving before ALL of them kids were born. (From checking out all those last names, I'm safe there too! LOL!) But, hell yeah, I wanna race! What makes them so special? Cause they young & diversified of color and sexuality? What about age? Why can't I get in a race car and haul ass around a track and rub fenders? And if get taken out, I know how to get outta a car whup some ass, OL' SCHOOL MAN-STYLE!

Here's the scoop Mike...
Don't tell nobody.
I'm gonna apply for the D4D Combine next year. If they don't let me in I'm suing for AGE DISCRIMINATION!!!! That's right! And I'm gonna win too! Take that money, start me up a little late model team, kick ass/win races, then move on up to ARCA. Do the same there, then Trucks/N'Wide before moving up to Cup. Being a Cup rookie at 55, gon' be tough! But I'll be ready!!!!

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