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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 »

This Bud’s Not For Kasey: After Killer Start, The Only Way For Kahne To Go Is Up

This Bud’s Not For Kasey: After Killer Start, The Only Way For Kahne To Go Is Up

As the curtain closed on another Southern 500 Saturday night, the Lady In Black shined brightly on three of the four cars at Richard Petty Motorsports. Elliott Sadler, A.J. Allmendinger, and Reed Sorenson persevered to hard-fought top 20 finishes, battling back from miserable starts as they looked to turn their seasons around. As for their teammate Kasey Kahne? He was simply nowhere to be found. The final results listed the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge the first car one lap down in 23rd... nothing to write home about on a night in which the red and white car wound up all but forgotten at the finish. Read More »

Race For The Chase Far From Over For Those On The Outside Looking In

Race For The Chase Far From Over For Those On The Outside Looking In

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics." So reportedly said Benjamin Disraeli, prime minister of Great Britain from 1874 to 1880. It’s a well-known quote that is attributed to other writers as well, including Mark Twain, but regardless of its exact point of origin, it’s a quote the drivers placed outside the top 12 would do well to remember. The stats, you see, show that 80 percent of the final Chase field is set after the first Richmond race. In other words, if you’re the on the outside looking in today, you’ve got the odds stacked high, wide and handsome against you. The data shows, that of the 54 total Chase places, in the five iterations of Big Bri’s NASCAR “playoff” lottery, 43 were ultimately taken by men already in the top 10 (2004-2005) or top 12 (2006-2008) leaving the historic Virginia track. Read More »

Why I Don’t Love Plate Racing Anymore and Up Next: The Best Month of the Season

Why I Don’t Love Plate Racing Anymore and Up Next: The Best Month of the Season

Even by Talladega’s “biggest, baddest” standards, that was quite the race weekend in Alabama, wasn’t it, dear readers? Matt Kenseth’s crash in the Nationwide race was violent and scary looking, but it pales into almost insignificance when compared to the carnage the airborne No. 99 Ford Fusion caused on the final lap -- not to mention the double helping of the "Big One" that bookended the 188 laps of mayhem and general disaster. I wasn’t able to watch the race in normal time, so when I finally got home and fired up the DV-R, it was already quite late in the evening. Read More »

50 Is The New 20 For Mark Martin

50 Is The New 20 For Mark Martin

The NASCAR season is brutally long, and with 36 races across ten months, you know that from time to time you’re going to see an absolute stinker of a race. But from the moment I clicked on the broadcast on Saturday night, I just had a feeling it was going to be a fantastic evening -- and so it proved to be. The weather was great, the invocation by Phoenix International Raceway chaplain, Ken Bowers, was crisp and to the point; the anthem was sung with gusto by Kate and Kacey (whoever they might be, I have no clue, but they sure can sing), and the flyover by four F-16s from the 52nd Fighter Squadron from Luke Air Force base was flawless. Read More »

Can Tony Stewart Win A Sprint Cup Title In His First Year As An Owner?

Can Tony Stewart Win A Sprint Cup Title In His First Year As An Owner?

When Tony Stewart signed on the dotted line in July 2008 to assume 50 percent ownership in what was the struggling Haas CNC Racing outfit, there were plenty of people lining up to tell the irascible Columbus, IN native that he was making a colossal mistake. That it was a great deal financially speaking was the one thing that couldn't be argued; Stewart didn’t have to pay so much as one dollar for a half-stake in the two car outfit. But all numbers aside, the real issue was that Haas CNC Racing had hardly set the racing world alight in its first six years of operating. Indeed, a driver who'd spent the last decade defined by stock car success had purchased a team seemingly destined to fail. Read More »

Is Roush Fenway’s Slow Start A Case of Short Track-itis … Or A Sign Of Something Else?

Is Roush Fenway’s Slow Start A Case of Short Track-itis … Or A Sign Of Something Else?

In the euphoria surrounding his rain-shortened victory in the Daytona 500, the self-styled perfectionist Jack Roush must have permitted himself a wry smile. Winning the biggest race of all for the very first time -- after 113 previous Sprint Cup victories in 21 years of ownership -- must have felt like a harbinger of what was to come in 2009. No doubt, Roush thought it was an important first step en route to what he expects will be a third Sprint Cup crown. Sadly, for the “Cat in the Hat,” it hasn’t proved to lean in that direction so far as after six rounds of action, all five of his drivers have, to some extent, underachieved. Read More »

Taking It To The Next Level: Which of These Ten Drivers Will Win a Sprint Cup Championship?

Taking It To The Next Level: Which of These Ten Drivers Will Win a Sprint Cup Championship?

The label of future Sprint Cup champion is liberally dispensed -- but rarely achieved. In the 60 years of NASCAR competition, only 28 drivers have attained the hallowed crown -- and it’s a pretty exclusive club. Twelve drivers have won a solitary championship, while another eight have won two titles. Five men – Jimmie Johnson, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, David Pearson, and Lee Petty – have won three; Jeff Gordon owns four, while both The King and The Intimidator won a record seven apiece. So, it’s fair to say the odds of becoming a Sprint Cup Champion are extremely slim (think, paper thin) and with the Chase format and the increasing number of competitive teams, it’s arguable that it’s harder than ever to win the lot. With that level of complexity in mind, I’m going to pick a number of current drivers and analyze their chances of winning a Sprint Cup Championship at some point in the near (or far) future. Read More »

Who’s #1? Listing The Ten Best NASCAR Tracks In The Cup Series Today

Who’s #1? Listing The Ten Best NASCAR Tracks In The Cup Series Today

After a momentary pause for breath this past weekend, NASCAR plows right into some of the best venues listed on their schedule. In the next two months, the Sprint Cup Series visits eight terrific tracks: Bristol, Martinsville, Texas, Phoenix, Talladega, Richmond, Darlington, and Lowe’s Motor Speedway -- places that hope to get a fan's mind off a rather rough start to 2009. Thinking about some great racing to come, I sent a quick email to the Frontstretch staff last week, asking those who had both the time and inclination to name their five favorite tracks on the circuit. The idea was to use their responses as a straw poll of sorts, proof for a future article on what tracks to watch out for next. But what I didn't expect was the response and genuine excitement I’d get from almost every writer on the site. And so rather than write what, if I’m honest, might well have been a vague, generic column on good tracks for racing, I’ve decided to write up the results of my impromptu survey instead -- Frontstretch's view of the best tracks out there on the Sprint Cup schedule today. Read More »