Race Weekend Central

Fact or Fiction: Has Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Entered the Ranks of NASCAR’s Elite?

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing is now among the NASCAR elite
FICTION… for now

Following a breakthrough campaign that early in the Chase pitted Juan Pablo Montoya against title favorite Jimmie Johnson for the championship, the No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi team was expected to repeat as title contenders in 2010. But as the DNFs have piled up, they’ve been unable to replicate the consistency that led to 18 top 10s and an eventual eighth-place finish in points.

Montoya had since rejoined average status, while teammate Jamie McMurray ascended to the upper echelon of the elite with wins in the biggest races the sport has to offer… until now.

With Montoya’s first win of the season – and McMurray’s subsequent sixth-place effort – Earnhardt Ganassi has shown the ability to win at almost every type of track, whether it be the intermediates, superspeedways or road courses. So while Montoya has not had the type of season many expected, McMurray has broken through and if the past month is any indication, both should compete for wins for the remainder of the season.

Critics may say that Montoya’s second career win proves as little as his first as it came at yet another road course, but reality is that there are less and less tracks that he is not competitive at. As strong as he was in 2009, Montoya finished the season with seven top fives. At this point, he already has five top-fives to go with two poles. His worst starting position over the past three weeks is third and despite seven DNFs, the driver has led just three fewer laps than he did all of last season. The problem with the No. 42 team isn’t speed, it’s consistency.

McMurray has had the same problem for much of 2010, but gets a pass with Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 triumphs. With those two career-making victories and three second-place finishes, the No. 1 team has shown potential, but six finishes of 30th or worse have made the Chase a mere afterthought.

That’s why the Earnhardt Ganassi team isn’t among the sport’s elite yet. But all is well, and they’re well on the way towards competing for multiple Chase berths and championships. Teams sometimes have good years and struggle to follow them up, But while Ganassi won’t make the Chase this season, three wins as an organization and multiple other chances at victory lane can only serve as the most promising sign of things to come at EGR.

Brad Keselowski will be your Nationwide Series champion

When Carl Edwards turned Brad Keselowski on the final lap at Gateway in July for his second win of the season, the Nationwide championship picture was as cloudy as it had been all year. For the next few days, until NASCAR handed down a 60-point penalty, Edwards even had a fighting chance. A second-place effort at ORP gave him a glimmer of hope, but despite a 10th-place finish at Iowa, Keselowski ran fourth and reopened the gap. Then came Watkins Glen – a race where Edwards had a legitimate shot at reeling in the series leader.

It never happened. Despite starting fourth, Edwards faced engine problems early and finished 33rd. Keselowski finished fourth.

Now, with 13 races remaining Keselowski has opened up a 327-point gap that will not be erased. Not only has Edwards not shown the consistency to close the deficit, Keselowski has shown no signs of slowing up, averaging a 5.3 finish on the season. The only driver who could have won the title from Keselowski this season would have been Kyle Busch, who has won nine races in 18 starts, but with four less starts he’s out of the picture. Edwards has had a solid season, but Keselowski’s has been better. Now the gap is wide enough that Keselowski can afford to slip up a race or two. It’s over, folks.

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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