Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Numbers Show 2009 Season Most Competitive of NASCAR’s Chase Era

A quick observation that somehow waded into my head amidst the congestion and cloudiness of a mid-August head cold:

For as much as we, as fans and media, like to complain about the slanted nature of the sport circa 2009, notice that with Red Bull Racing’s win at Michigan, we’ve now had four first-time team winners this season. There’s been Phoenix Racing at Talladega, Michael Waltrip Racing at Charlotte, Stewart-Haas Racing at Pocono, the newly-minted Richard Petty Motorsports at Infineon and of course, Red Bull’s win at Michigan.

Flukes? Plate wins? Fuel-mileage victories? Rain-shortened triumphs? Hey, call ‘em what you will… a win’s a win.

And the way I see it, all we need is for Juan Pablo Montoya to finally break through for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and Marcos Ambrose to ring one for JTG Daugherty and we’ve covered all the new-to-the-sport bases. And honestly, those wins aren’t out of the question.

Along the same lines with the fluke wins, you can call some of these teams satellite operations, JV squads, conglomerates, affiliates… whatever. The point is that although the key power brokers may continue to build wealth, we have 13 different winners under nine, yes nine, separate banners (so much for the Big Four). That’s not too shabby. And figuring that Montoya, Ambrose, Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer could all conceivably snag one on any given weekend, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that we witness 19 winners spread amongst 11 teams.

Compared to the other years in the Chase era, we’ve already seen more separate organizations win already. Eight different organizations won at least one race in 2004 and ’05. That number was seven in 2006 and ’07. It dwindled to six last year. We’ve bested those with 13 races still left in the season.

So while the money might be tight, the competition is looking tighter. Sometimes it’s best to be thankful with what we’ve got, not what we think we’re missing.

And by the way, how does one get a head cold in mid-August? Your guess is as good as mine, but everyone at work tells me it has to do with air quality. Great. This can’t be gone fast enough.

Q: Matt, I read that Brian Vickers’s win was the first for the car No. 83 since Lake Speed in 1988. My question is, who else has won in that number? Anyone back in the day? I don’t remember many driving that car number and I’ve been watching since the late ‘70s. Thanks. – Myron, Brandenton, Fla.

A: As for wins, that’s it, Myron. Speed won his first and only Cup race in the ’88 Southern 500 driving the Wynn’s-sponsored Oldsmobile (self-owned, too). And then there’s Vickers’s nail-biter last weekend.

See also
Bowles-Eye View: Brian Vickers's Quiet Confidence Pays Off In Spades

In all honesty, the No. 83 is not a number steeped in tradition. Red Byron drove it for in the final four races of his career back in 1951; Tim Flock made a start at Daytona in it with no luck; LeeRoy Yarbrough drove it for Worth McMillion (who made numerous starts in it himself – and no, I don’t know the story behind the name) in the ’62 Southern 500; Joe Weatherly gave it a one-race go, as did Bobby Isaac; then Johnny Rutherford and Ramo Stott were in it for a few runs that you may remember in the mid- to late-‘70s; lastly, Ron Hornaday drove it in Fitz/Bradshaw’s one and only Cup start at Phoenix in 2002.

There’s some names there, but the No. 43 it ain’t.

Q: Clear up for us why Carl Edwards was penalized a spot under yellow at Michigan when he faked toward pit road but came back into line on the track. He did not cross the commitment cone and did not fail to meet a minimum speed. What was that? – Ann Florence

A: “Thaaaat’s pretty weak there.”

That was Edwards’s thought via in-car audio, and I agreed. However, according to Dr. Jerry Punch, that was a rule instituted earlier this year stating that if you fake toward pit road, you must blend back in to your original position or risk losing it.

It had everyone in the booth and most of us watching scratching our heads – and is a classic case of the sanctioning body over-policing a practice that has gone on forever. I’m going to keep my eye out for those as the season goes on, because that came out of left field for everyone, Edwards included.

Q: I really wish she [Lisa Mayfield] wouldn’t keep putting herself in these situations. It isn’t helping her case at all. I for one applauded her for standing up to Jeremy Mayfield, but she needs to stay in the background as much as possible. Thank you. – Tina

A: From everything I’ve seen, read and heard, Lisa Mayfield has more issues than Jeremy. Showing up drunk or high or whatever at his place and getting arrested certainly doesn’t do anything to sway my line of thought, either. In fact, it accelerates her (already quick) descent down the credibility scale. Nice character witness, NASCAR.

Ah, the Mayfields: Doing everything in their power to bolster the long-held and oft-unfounded view of “racing types” everywhere.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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