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Holding A Pretty Wheel

New Bud Shootout?  More Like Shooting Yourself In the Foot

New Bud Shootout? More Like Shooting Yourself In the Foot

Note to self: never, ever wonder if it could get worse. When I wrote "earlier this year":http://www.frontstretch.com/ahenderson/14266/ that the Budweiser Shootout had outlived its purpose, it was because the segment lengths made it boring -- and with Budweiser giving way to Coors Light as the pole sponsor, it seemed as good a time as any to retire the race altogether. It was still popular enough even though it was getting stale... so why not go out in style? Before things got worse? Too late. Read More »

It’s a Mix of Cheers and Boos for NASCAR’s 2009 Schedules

It’s a Mix of Cheers and Boos for NASCAR’s 2009 Schedules

NASCAR released the 2009 schedules for the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and truck series this week, and there were a few changes for each circuit as the sport moves forward. On the truck calendar, NASCAR hit a home run, and the Nationwide circuit was a stand-up double. The Sprint Cup schedule, however, was more of a weak ground ball to second base for the first out of the inning. Read More »

First Year Blues and Fantastic Freshmen

First Year Blues and Fantastic Freshmen

Richard Childress Racing is set to set sail with a fourth Sprint Cup team in 2009. The sponsor is on board in General Mills, and Childress expects to name a driver in the next week or two. (That driver is likely to be Casey Mears, and may involve a number and sponsor switch with the No.07 of Clint Bowyer; but in that case, Bowyer would probably take his cars, crew and points). In this day and age, multi-car teams are the ones winning races and championships. RCR is certainly in position to add a car, having put all three current cars in the Chase for the Sprint Cup a year ago and being in position to do so again with a little racing luck. Adding a new team to an established stable isn’t easy, though. Recent additions to powerhouse teams have had mixed results. Read More »

What Owners Should Expect From Drivers-And What Expectations Go Too Far

What Owners Should Expect From Drivers-And What Expectations Go Too Far

A couple of weeks back, I wrote about which drivers I might like to have should I own a race team. That kind of got me thinking about some of the things that teams owners face, and it was about then that I decided that I never, ever want to own a race team. A couple of things came up that gave me pause, though. First, a debate on our own message boards about what makes a driver ready for a Cup ride has been floating around. Then the lawsuit that Dale Earnhardt, Inc. filed against former crew chief Doug Richert brought to light some interesting clauses that that company puts in their contract. Which got me to thinking-what IS fair for a car owner to expect from his or her employees? After all, many of those employees sacrifice their family lives for a job they love. The driver and pit crew are in very real danger performing their jobs. How much more can a boss ask and still get anyone to work for him? Read More »

Is There a 48 in Kyle Busch’s Mirror?

Is There a 48 in Kyle Busch’s Mirror?

Kyle Busch has dominated the Sprint Cup landscape for much of the season. It’s a championship caliber year for Busch, with seven wins, 12 Top 5 finishes, and 13 Top 10s in 20 races. He’s on par with great seasons like Jeff Gordon’s 1997 campaign. Busch is certainly on top of the Sprint Cup world. However, thanks to the Chase, NASCAR’s answer to the NFL playoffs and possibly one of the worst ideas in professional sports except for maybe the designated hitter, Busch’s lead will be virtually erased in just five weeks. The 253-point lead Busch enjoys now will be reduced to just 50. Fair or not, the current system is going to send some of the series’ top talent gunning for Busch this fall. Read More »

Junior or Patrick–Marketability Matters

Junior or Patrick–Marketability Matters

Last week I started my very own hypothetical race team and picked my short list of the most talented drivers racing in Sprint Cup today. Any of the five would make a strong start for a new team for sure, and talent like that should attract sponsorship to the team as well. But I said I wanted to start with a two-car team, and being an upstart, I might not get all the top talent I’d like to have. So what to look for in a second driver? Well, part of success in today’s NASCAR is marketability. That’s right, the ability to look good on TV and push a product to its intended demographic has become increasingly important. I’ll admit, I’ve never quite gotten it--after all, shouldn’t driving ability be paramount? But it’s not always that easy. These days, in addition to being able to wheel a car like he stole it, a driver has to look good on television, be able to speak flawlessly to a group of VIP’s, act in commercials if the sponsor so desires, and do windows. Okay, so I made the last one up, but it’s not really that far off. Today’s driver cannot simply be a driver anymore. That’s why, with the notable exception of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., I paid special attention to drivers outside the typical NASCAR spotlight--the guys who always seem to find a ride because of their personal appeal. Here’s my list of five guys in Cup who have those intangibles needed to woo and impress sponsors and fans alike--even if they don’t always get the spotlight. Read More »

Picking Today’s Top Cup Talent

Picking Today’s Top Cup Talent

There’s always debate about who the “best” driver in the Sprint Cup Series is, and there are certainly many ways to look at it. I was trying to put together my list of the five drivers I think are the most talented, which got me thinking: if _I_ was putting together a team in today’s NASCAR, what kind of driver would I look for? First, I’d look for a driver with talent. That’s the obvious way to go. I think for a second team, I’d look for a driver with untapped talent who could keep the sponsors and fans happy. We’ll take a look at that guy next week. But first things first. If I could cherry pick any driver I wanted, I’d look at several factors, including experience, raw talent, drive, statistics and overall attitude. Based on those criteria, here are the five top drivers on my talent wish list, in order. Read More »

Has NASCAR Finally Found A Race It Could Fix?

Has NASCAR Finally Found A Race It Could Fix?

Fans can vote online this year for the Most Popular Driver award in 8 touring series other than Sprint Cup. That’s great. What’s not so great is NASCAR’s reluctance to put some drivers on the ballot at all. As of Wednesday of this week, Wallace wasn’t on the Nationwide Series ballot, despite being a series regular. Neither were Mike or Steve Wallace, also full-time drivers in the series. Many fans complained, and those names were added to the ballot, a week after voting opened. But what of the other drivers who have raced in the series? Where are their names? Read More »

Holding A Pretty Sign: My Day On a NASCAR Pit Crew

Holding A Pretty Sign: My Day On a NASCAR Pit Crew

“I’ll do it” Famous last words, and apparently they had just come from my lips. I was with the No. 28 U.S. Border Patrol team and driver Kenny Wallace a few minutes before the start of the Camping World RV Sales 200 on Saturday when I said those words, and I’d uttered them in response to the team’s realization that they were short a pit crew member--specifically they needed someone to hold the pit sign that tells the driver where to stop. So, before my brain could actually process what it was doing, my mouth said, “I’ll do it.” Read More »

Sprint Cup Teams Need Consistency in Their Drivers

Sprint Cup Teams Need Consistency in Their Drivers

As the Sprint Cup Series tackled the Infineon Raceway last weekend, four full-time teams pulled their regular drivers, installing substitutes that they felt would post a better result and score valuable points in the race to stay in the Top 35. DEI pulled Regan Smith for Ron Fellows, Chip Ganassi Racing pulled Reed Sorenson for Scott Pruett, and Haas CNC Racing moved Scott Riggs into the No. 70 while putting Max Papis in the No. 66. As the race started, the No. 66 and the No. 70 found themselves outside the Top 35, while the No. 01 was 30th in owner points and the No. 41 was 32nd. And, despite the efforts of these road ringers, the No. 66 and No. 70 left Sonoma outside the Top 35, while the No. 01 fell to 31st and the No. 41 to a precarious 35th. While the struggles of these four teams speak volumes as to how antiquated the practice of entering road course specialists in Cup races has become, it speaks to a larger issue, and that is the need of Sprint Cup teams to be consistent with the drivers they put behind the wheel. There are numerous Cup teams this season that have attempted to improve their performance with substitute drivers and driver by committee, yet none of them have managed to find improved performance as a result. Read More »