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NASCAR Fans Have Reason to Rejoice and It Begins in Richmond

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IApril 28, 2011

FORT WORTH, TX - APRIL 09:  Race fans cheer during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2011 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Heading into the heart of the season, fans have a potpourri of scenarios to follow. With eight NASCAR Sprint Cup races down in the young 2011 season, the momentum has been diluted with two off-weeks.

There are 11 points races and one great non-points race on tap before a one-week hiatus prior to the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis on July 31.

Many NASCAR fans grew up with Saturday night racing at their local short tracks. It was just the American way if you liked to watch the stock cars in various forms go around in a circle for the trophy more than money.

Glory! Glory! We have five of the 11 races that count at night, as well as the exciting NASCAR Sprint All-Star non-points festivities May 21 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The million dollar Sprint All-Star Race is basically 100 laps for big bucks and a chance for some drivers to maybe get even for some on-track wrongdoing that they may have encountered at another race.

The spectacular non-points race is an opportunity to showcase specialty paint jobs on the cars that generate die-cast revenue and look fantastic under the lights.

Ford fans have reason to cheer, with the FR9 engine giving the Ford teams a bit of an edge with performance that they had been lacking. So watch for the drivers with a Roush-Yates engine to be running up front.

The new simplified points system appears to be working as expected by NASCAR. Wins are more critical especially for those who have fallen to the bottom half of the point standings. So far there have been seven different winners in the eight races.

As we head through upcoming races that lead to the Chase, one big question will weigh heavy with some drivers who wonder if their consistent top finishes will be enough.

It could easily turn out that two inconsistent drivers who got lucky with one or two wins each, end up in the Chase because of the wild card slots and a driver who was 11th or 12th in the points with a good shot at the title is on the outside looking in.

We have seen unexpected performance from Paul Menard and his new Richard Childress Racing ride while drivers like Jamie McMurray and Joey Logano flounder around in 23rd and 24th place in the points.

Will Denny Hamlin finally get his mojo working? How will the season play out for Jeff Gordon who really wants that fifth title? Will the Ford drivers end up being the spoilers this year? So many questions as we watch each race unfold.

For the fans of Junior Nation, Dale Earnhardt Jr. continues to tease them with his rejuvenated performance that has him sitting third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings.

Even as gas prices have continued on the rise, attendance at Talladega and Martinsville looked pretty good. It remains to be seen just how big the impact of rising prices on most everything fans need from fuel to food will impact attendance at all sporting events.

We have seen some great racing and even better finishes. Those who are financially able will probably still make the trek to their favorite tracks, but television viewership should be on the upswing.

Jimmie Johnson got pushed to victory at the finish line by his teammate, Earnhardt Jr. Which race will it be that we see the five-time Cup champion give the driver of the No. 88 that thank you push for the win?

Kyle Busch is going to have some wins and possibly contend for the title whether you like him or not. He is currently sixth in the point standings, but expect him to battle Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Johnson and others who you anticipate seeing in Victory Lane.

Fans have to be watching their favorite driver to see if he will be the one to dethrone the reigning Sprint Cup Champion who has made a habit of snatching the title for the last five years.

So rejoice race fans, we have some great racing ahead especially those popular night time shows. The contenders will start to rise to the top and secure their status.

Some popular drivers may find themselves in a hole that is hard to climb out of with the new points system unless they can find a way to win a few races.

It is prime time for NASCAR racing, and it all begins this coming weekend at Richmond International Raceway. Stay tuned for some great competition, surprises and wild finishes.

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