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Big names don't appear key to NASCAR success

Originally Published: August 31, 2005
By Darren Rovell | ESPN.com

When NASCAR dreamed up its innovative Nextel Cup playoff format last season, it seemed unlikely that both Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. would be outside the 10 drivers eligible to make a run for the title.

In the past decade, Gordon was the circuit's No. 1 driver for four seasons and never finished worse than ninth in the final standings. Earnhardt had 52 top-10 finishes from 2001 through 2003, and was clearly one of the most skilled, and definitely most popular, young drivers on the ...

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