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The Hot Pass: Stewart upbeat despite crash

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Lee Spencer

Lee Spencer is the Senior NASCAR Writer for FOXSports.com. She has provided award-winning coverage of auto racing over the last 15 years. Spencer has lent her expertise to both television and radio and is a regular contributor to SiriusXM Radio and the Performance Racing Network. Follow her on Twitter.

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LONG POND, Pa.

Points leader and polesitter Tony Stewart went through the spin cycle at Pocono Raceway on Saturday. Stewart, who posted the third fastest time (166.701 mph) on the speed chart in the first of two practices Saturday, completed 11 laps before losing control of his No. 14 Office Depot Chevrolet exiting the tunnel turn. He missed the wall but damaged the front-end after going off track. "I went off into the grass but I hit the right front off the splitter with — I guess — one of the access roads or something and ripped the whole nose off of it."
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The team went to a back-up car — chassis 450. The former Haas-CNC Racing car had five starts before receiving a new front clip and body for 2009. Stewart drove the car at Las Vegas earlier this season, where he started 10th and finished 26th. Although the team missed the first 10 minutes of Happy Hour, Smoke climbed from eighth to sixth by the end of the session with a lap of 164.817 mph. "If I knew the back-up car was going to be this good I would have crashed the other car after the first lap," Stewart smirked after his run. All joking aside, Smoke was off for lunch and a quick nap while he waited for his guys to put the finishing touches on the back-up car. Then the driver/owner was treating the team to a night of dirt-track racing at his Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, OH. Although the Prelude to the Dream charity race scheduled for this week was scrubbed until Sept. 9 due to rain, the show goes on for the 15th annual Dirt Late Model Dream Saturday night. Stewart qualified 24th for the event, but the field will be inverted and he will start on the pole in the sixth heat.

Hamlin tops Happy Hour

Denny Hamlin topped the speed chart in Happy Hour on Saturday with a lap of 165.317 mph. He reached the speed on the second circuit before posting 46 laps for the day. Hamlin, who won both 2006 Pocono races from the pole, is hoping to turn his luck around on Sunday. He has yet to win a race this season, has not finished in the top-five since Martinsville (seven races ago) and wrecked last week at Dover on Lap 233 after cutting a tire. Hamlin described his current luck as "worse than bad." "I've had bad luck, but I don't know," said Hamlin, who has dropped from fourth to seventh in the point standings since Richmond. "I'm going to ride it out until it ends. That's the thing — for as much bad luck as we've had, we're not 20th in the points — we're still digging. We're in there trying to make the Chase and we just can't have things — the blown tire last week, it just happens. It wasn't self-induced. It's bad luck right now. "Of the 36 races, I've had probably three races where we lucked into a better finish than what we deserved and I've had probably 20 that went the other way. I think it all comes full circle. It's just how long you are going to be in that rut. All you can do is just ride it out and try to be consistent enough to still make the Chase and then hopefully when it gets to the Chase time that's when you get all your good luck."

Biffle leads the Ford camp

Greg Biffle jumped from 11th-fastest in morning practice to third in Happy Hour with a lap of 165.210 mph. In 12 starts on the 2.5-mile "tricky triangle," Biffle's best finish is fourth. Biffle said the No. 16 Ford was handling "decent" and he expects the track to be pretty similar to the current practice conditions or maybe a little slicker on Sunday. The veteran Roush Fenway racer is hoping the speed he gained on Saturday will translate to success during the race. "The guys are pretty happy with the lap times," Biffle said. "They think we have a top-five car. That's good for us here."

Digger presents

Wally's fun facts
This week, NASCAR rolls into Pocono, where TNT analyst Wally Dallenbach had a top-5 and two top-10s in 17 tries. Wally's average finish at Pocono was 23.9 and in 1992, he finished 32nd in a race won by ... FOX's own Darrell Waltrip. We remind everyone (including Wally) that it's "Be Kind to Gophers Month," so no more talk about doing mean things to the furry little fella, OK?
  • Source: www.racing-reference.info
With double-file restarts debuting in the Pocono 500 on Sunday, Biffle expects growing pains with the procedure initially until all the kinks are worked out of the system. The driver feels there are "pluses and minuses" associated with the process but that they will will add excitement to most of the races. "We're not going to have to race lap cars anymore, which a lot of times is a disadvantage to us, because when you're running fifth and the green comes out, it takes a while to get in line and get in line and try to get by that lap car and try to get where you can race the guy you're trying to race," Biffle said. "As far as competition, we're going to be able to race the cars right away that we're trying to race for position. "The negative side of that is places Martinsville or some of these other places that are super lane sensitive, one-lane race track, is really, really hard. You get trapped on the outside, it might be 10 cars before you can get down. So, there it's going to suck, you know, and we're just going to have to deal with it. So, it's great at some places, it's not going to make a difference at some places, and then it's going to bad at some places. The good, we're going to have pay the price with the bad, and the middle's not going to matter."

Kyle and the Chocolate Factory

Kyle Busch and the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team took a plant tour of the M&Ms factory in Hackettstown, N.J. on the way to Pocono. The driver held a question-and-answer session for more than 600 Mars employees and stayed for autographs. Afterward Busch was given a tutorial on how to make M&Ms. What was the best part of the experience? "Of course getting all the free chocolate samples afterwards." Busch said. "That's the freshest of the fresh. The shelf-life of an M&Ms product is like three years. But with the fresh stuff, you can really, really taste the peanut. You can really, really taste the pureness of the chocolate and how fresh it is because you're right there in the factory."
Tagged: Tony Stewart

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