Winter Hot Laps Final Edition

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Turn the calendar to February and let's start the racing season.

We kicked things off over the weekend with the Toyota All-Star Showdown in Irwindale and the Roex 24 Hours of Daytona which were an interesting pair of races to begin 2010.

But before we pack up the suitcase and board the big bird for Daytona, here's a quick look at a few issues and topics:

o Joey Lopgano won the race but Sergio Pena was the driver who captured the most attention Saturday night in Irwindale. The 16-year-old phenom had never driven a K&N Pro Series car in race conditions until getting to Irwindale and put on one of the most impressive displays in recent memory. Pena is part of NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program and drove the Revolution Racing entry to a runnerup finish behind Logano, but not before a side-by-side battle that seemed to last the entire race. It will be very interesting to see where Pena's career heads after turning so many heads over the weekend.

o The big guns all faltered in this year's running of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona leaving one of the sport's little guys to bask in the glory. When the likes of GAINSCO, Brumos and Ganassi suffered trouble in the 2010 edition of the twice-around-the-clock endurance test, the upstart Action Express squad was able to capitalize and went to victory lane. This year's race endured some of the nuttiest weather in its history with an absolute monsoon facing competitors in the early going and then cool temperatures in the evening hours followed by conditions of sunshine for the second day's action. It will be interesting to watch the Grand Am season unfold and if the sport generates more interest now with a full television season set for SPEED and radio coverage in place for the Motor Racing Network.

o The Indy Racing League received some exposure over the weekend when series sponsor IZOD tied into the CBS Grammy Awards telecast. Several spots included the company's association with the IRL and the league has to hope the typically young audience that views the music industry's annual awards gathering will check out its product this year.

o Speaking of the IRL, how very strange it is to see Tony George now completely removed from the sport with the shuttering of his Vision Racing team. First ousted as president from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IRL, George then was voted off the IMS Board of Directors and now doesn't even have a team competing in the series he created. My hunch is George returns to the sport in some capacity but where and as what is a mystery.

o We knew Richard Childress Racing's No. 07 points would wind up somewhere and indeed they did with the alliance announced last week between RCR and Furniture Row Racing. As part of that relationship, Regan Smith will get the points Casey Mears earned in the 07 last season, which gives him a guaranteed spot in the Daytona 500 and first five races by virtue of the Top 35 rule. Again neither party did anything wrong under the guidelines set forth by NASCAR but I still am not a fan of either the Top 35 or the transferring of points between entities from year to year. A team can earn those points but should be forced to keep them and not sell or swap or use as a commodity.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2010

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