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The NASCAR racing series is just past the halfway point for the 2008 season, and the first half brought plenty of surprises and big moves and moments. Here's a breakdown of what's been happening and a look ahead at where things might wind up when all is said and done in November.
The biggest surprise so far has certainly been Kyle Busch, the 23-year-old phenom behind the wheel of the #18 car for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Busch was almost an afterthought with Hendrick Motorsports last season, but after switching teams at the beginning of the year, he has already amassed six wins across the three series -- double the win total of the next highest driver. Four of those wins came in key Sprint Cup races, and Busch now finds himself firmly cemented in first place in the standings with eight races to go before the Chase.
Of course, even with his outstanding performance thus far, Busch is not the only top story from the first half. Perennial newsmaker Tony Stewart is once again attracting attention, despite the fact that he has yet to win a race this season.
On Wednesday, Stewart announced he would be leaving Joe Gibbs Racing, the team he has been with since 1999 and with whom he has racked up 32 total career wins and two championships.
Stewart will be forgoing the final year on his contract and instead move next season to Haas/CNC Racing, where he will also be a part-owner. The move is expected to make Stewart the highest-paid NASCAR driver.