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2009 Driver Report Cards, Part I: Grading The Chase Contenders

2009 Driver Report Cards, Part I: Grading The Chase Contenders

We’re one race past the statistical halfway point of the 2009 season and as we gear up for the stretch run of 17 Sprint Cup races in 18 weeks, the much maligned (and in equal parts ballyhooed) “Chase for the Sprint Cup” is just seven races away. So before we get down to the serious business of the sharp end of the season, we’ve graded each of the top 40 drivers – based on the points standings as we run headed to the Brickyard. We’ve divided our review into two halves; today, we focus on the top 20 drivers while tomorrow we’ll look at the wheelmen running in positions 21 through 40. Some of these grades will seem just right to you, others a country mile off. But no matter what you think, let us know what you agree with, what you don’t, and why below… Leading off, it’s “owner/driver” Tony Stewart, a moniker he’s taken well to, it seems. Read More »

NASCAR on TNT A Breath of Fresh Air After FOX Hype

NASCAR on TNT A Breath of Fresh Air After FOX Hype

The Sprint Cup season is now over halfway home. Can you believe it? I know I can’t. In fact, it only seems like yesterday Elliott Sadler was leading a rain-threatened Daytona 500 bemoaning his lack of luck… and heck, we all know how that turned out. So, with 19 races in the books, seven races to go until the Chase, and a rare off weekend ahead, we reach the final broadcasting transition of the season as ESPN, the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” takes over for the stretch run following a terrific six-race spell by TNT. Read More »

Ten of the Best Motorsports Writers You Should Be Reading (Outside Of Frontstretch)

Ten of the Best Motorsports Writers You Should Be Reading (Outside Of Frontstretch)

Part of the beauty of the sheer volume of online information available to NASCAR aficionados these days is that you can cherry pick your favorites. If one particular writer annoys you, then you just ignore that particular scribe or site. But part of the fun of the wide variety of columns and links, each and every day, is that you can very quickly get a long list of must read columns that inform you on the latest and greatest in the NASCAR world. And that, dear readers, is the spirit in which this column is written. When I first mentioned the topic to our Managing Editor, he was plenty skeptical – and not without good reason. Why, to be fair, did I want to willingly direct traffic away from Frontstretch? But the bottom line is we're not the only site with great writing -- and there are several other members of the media who should both be read and acknowledged for their hard work they put out each and every week. So, without any further ado, here are ten of the best NASCAR writers you’re not reading on Frontstretch... Read More »

The Remarkable Rise of Michael Waltrip Racing

The Remarkable Rise of Michael Waltrip Racing

With the honorable exception of David Reutimann, the driver formerly known as the Franchise, it was another very positive weekend for Michael Waltrip Racing at Infineon Raceway this past Sunday; yet more evidence to support the remarkable rise from the ashes of the jet-fuel “first race” debacle at Daytona in 2007. Taking top billing was everybody’s favorite Australian NASCAR driver, Marcos Ambrose, who finished third -- a season high -- behind race winner Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart. For the Launceston, Tasmania native, the third place finish made up for his fine run, but terrible finish at the same track last year, and tied his highest Cup finish, having also come home third at Watkins Glen in 2008. Read More »

Crucial Weeks Approach for Chase Hopeful Montoya

Crucial Weeks Approach for Chase Hopeful Montoya

Lost in the pack, behind the failed fuel gambles of Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle and a series-equaling best third win for NASCAR’s very own Peter Pan, Mark Martin, was the sixth place finish for the No. 42 car of Juan Pablo Montoya this week at Michigan. But for a man who'd never been better than 25th at MIS, Sunday's formidable finish was nothing to shy away from. The Colombian’s best run of the year, and fourth top 10 in six races, elevated the 33-year-old to 14th in the standings -- leaving him a scant 43 points from the all-important Chase cutoff. Montoya’s ebullience was evident in his post-race comments, where in a telling moment, an often-temperamental driver wasn't afraid to shy away from spreading the love. Read More »

Will Hamlin’s Supposed “Bad Luck” Derail A Promising Career?

Will Hamlin’s Supposed “Bad Luck” Derail A Promising Career?

"I think luck is the sense to recognize an opportunity and the ability to take advantage of it. The man who can smile at his breaks and grab his chances gets on." _- Samuel Goldwyn_ There is a tendency in sport, from the highest echelon to the lowest, most grassroots level, to accentuate the short term, focusing on what just happened or what is happening rather than looking at the bigger picture. A driver guiltier of that than most is the wheelman of the No. 11 FedEx Camry -- Denny Hamlin – but after a pair of shocking races, short and term are two words the Virginia native would do well not to let pass his lips in the near future. Read More »

Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day: A Solid Start To Life After Tony Eury for Dale Jr. And Co.

Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day: A Solid Start To Life After Tony Eury for Dale Jr. And Co.

When Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the Moon on July 21, 1969 he uttered the now famous phrase: “That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Now, it’s a quote that can easily be applied to Dale Earnhardt, Jr. following Sunday’s Autism Speaks 400 at the Monster Mile. The small step took the form of a 12th place finish, coming after a three-week stretch that saw Junior finish 27th (twice) and then 40th in the Coke 600 in a car so ill-handling not even the great Ricky Bobby, in his prime, could have wrestled it to any sort of decent performance. But the giant leap for Junior comes in his dramatic relationship transition in the form of a crew chief. Read More »

So Near And Yet So Far: The Story Of RCR’s Struggles In 2009

So Near And Yet So Far: The Story Of RCR’s Struggles In 2009

The trouble with great expectations is that when you fall even just a little short, the disappointment is exponentially greater. In the case of Richard Childress Racing, falling short is very much the story of its season so far. And nowhere was that more evident than at Lowe’s Motor Speedway this past weekend where the quartet of RCR drivers had what can best be termed a collective nightmare. Jeff Burton was the (cough) top finisher in 25th-place, while Casey Mears was 33rd, Clint Bowyer 36th and Kevin Harvick a distant 41st. Read More »

Grading The 2009 Sprint Cup Pack: Part Two

Grading The 2009 Sprint Cup Pack: Part Two

*Hendrick Motorsports* (Nos. 5, 24, 25, 48, 88) *Stats:* 4 Wins, 15 Top 5s, 22 Top 10s in 47 starts *Best Driver:* Jeff Gordon (1 Win, 8 Top 10s, Point Leader) Danny: They only get the minus because of Junior. Otherwise, it’s business as usual for Rick Hendrick’s fantastic four. *Grade: A-.* Tom: What they’ve done this season is so impressive, I think Junior doesn’t even matter at this point. Hendrick has formed the model of the satellite team (the way to get around a four-car limit) while drivers Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon are the ones to beat for this year’s title. Oh, and there’s a 50-year-old named Mark Martin who’s on track to win six races. What more do you want? OK, OK I hear ya Junior Nation… but if the Tony Eury, Jr. era is truly over, it’s just a matter of time before he picks it up. *Grade: A.* Read More »

Grading The 2009 Sprint Cup Pack: Part One

Grading The 2009 Sprint Cup Pack: Part One

NASCAR’s longest and most grueling race, the Coca-Cola 600, represents a significant milestone in the 2009 season. It’s not quite the halfway point to the Chase (that comes the following week after Dover), but once the checkers fly late Sunday evening, we’re exactly one-third of the way through the 36-race schedule. With that in mind, it’s a good time to take a step back and look at how the Sprint Cup contenders (and pretenders) have performed thus far. Read More »