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Original Issue

Midway Awards

Sure, there arestill 20 races to go until the Nextel Cup finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway onNov. 18, but the 2007 regular season is already more than half over. With 10races left until the start of the Chase, here's a look at the best and theworst of racing so far.

Best rookie
Juan Pablo Montoya

At 21st in thepoint standings, he is the highest ranking rookie, but the full magnitude ofhis talent was on display on June 24 at Sonoma when a masterly drive broughthim his first Cup win in 17 starts.

Best team
Hendrick Motorsports

While the Gibbsand Penske teams moan about the breaks of the game, the Hendrick operation,which has 10 wins, makes its own luck.

Best driver
Jeff Gordon

Four wins and 14top 10s in 16 races. The four-time champ's in top form.

Ryan Newman

A year after hislost season, Flyin' Ryan is again earning poles and running in front. Now hejust needs to win a few races.

Denny Hamlin

At second in thepoint standings, it's hard to believe that he could call this a disappointingseason so far. All he needs is a victory.

Best of therest
Matt Kenseth

Nobody's donemore with less this year than he has. His win at Fontana in February is one ofonly three by a non-Chevy this season.

Best quote
Tony Stewart

On questionablecaution flags influencing race outcomes: "I guess NASCAR thinks, 'Hey,wrestling worked, and it was for the most part staged, so I guess it's going towork in racing, too.' I can't understand how long the fans are going to letNASCAR treat them like they're stupid."

Best crewchief
Steve Letarte

His Sonomamisstep aside, nearly every move has paid off--most notably at Pocono, wherehis beat-the-rain pit strategy secured a win.

Kasey Kahne

Unprepared forthe Car of Tomorrow, as well as for the new nose of his Dodge Charger, lastyear's winningest driver has struggled most weeks to get near the top 20.

Kurt Busch vs. Tony Stewart

The two formerCup champs have been trading paint--and verbal barbs--ever since they tangledin the Daytona 500, crashing out of the race 49 laps from the finish whilerunning in first and second.

Tamest feud
Dale Earnhardt Jr. vs. Jeff Gordon

This one existsonly in the minds of Junior's fans, who now have to get used to the two menactually being teammates. What would Dale Sr. say? Simple: Just win, son.

Biggest boneheadmove
Kurt Busch

This one's badeven by Busch's standards. After tangling with Stewart at Dover, Buschsideswiped the number 20 Chevy on pit road, nearly pancaking Stewart'sjackman.