Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What happened to the open wheel invasion in NASCAR and is the Cup Series Silly Season over?

What a difference not even a full season in the cup series has made when it comes to the open wheel invasion, there we were late last season talking about the sudden rash of open wheel drivers turning and burning for a shot at racing here in NASCAR, where not only the big money is, but the big exposure is, some of the car owners in NASCAR couldn’t put together deals fast enough to sign that next open wheel driver turned stock car driver in the Cup Series.

This all started with Ganassi a couple years ago in Chicagoland announcing that he has signed the former Indy 500 winner, IRL champion and F1 star Juan Montoya to driver here in NASCAR for his raceteam. Montoya was looking for better racing then the follow the leader of Formula 1. Then a year later, it was Patrick Carpentier being signed over GEM, Dario Franchitti becoming Montoya’s teammate, Sam Hornish Jr. leaving his IRL ride to come over to NASCAR at Penske Racing, of course he stayed with the same organzation, and of course, Bill Davis Racing signing Jacques Villeneuve… As a result, what a rookie corp NASCAR was suppose to have this season, from Patrick Carpentier, Dario Franchitti, Sam Hornish, to Jacques Villeneuve just to name a few.

In the same discussion, NASCAR was considering raising their age limit from 18 to 21 in NASCAR’s national series including the Truck Series, Nationwide Series and the elite series, the Cup Series. Now some of this had to do with the yet to turn 18 year old NASCAR Busch East Series Champion Joey Logano, the best thing to come along since sliced bread (thanks Randy LaJoie for giving him that name, of course he is living up to it, so long as JGR can stop putting him down with that Nationwide Series stunt at Michigan.

In both cases at least in my eyes, the limits that should be taken by NASCAR should have been rating each driver including the five open wheel drivers available, not by age, but by their experience level in stock car racing and yet as the Cup Series enters the final race before the 10-race chase for the Sprint cup championship (Richmond), suddenly the open wheel invasion is about to hit rock bottom.


This photo was taken by me earlier this season on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where Patrick Carpentier grabbed his first Cup Series pole. (Copyright: Brian Vermette at Racedriven.com)

Let’s be honest, while Jacques Villeneuve not qualifying for the Daytona 500, no sponsor and out at BDR was no surprise, the rest had at least a shot at making it, however it looks like no one has, from Dario Franchitti losing his #40 Ganassi Racing ride after they closed due to lack of sponsorship and just yesterday, Ganassi Racing announced that Dario will be moving back to the IRL in the #10 car replacing Dan Wheldon, who has signed with Panther Racing (Go win a championship next season Dan and show Chip he lost a good driver) and Patrick Carpentier, who has said that he is now a free agent, it seems that GEM is building a fourth car for Patrick pending sponsorship…Patrick has surprised me the most in his amazing pull it out qualifying including grabbing his first Cup Series pole at New Hampshire.

However, there seems to be only one driver who is signed for next season, Sam Hornish and yet with the exception of Charlotte and a couple of races, he is still learning, however the biggest story around him, could be coming true for a second year in a row, last season, the headline here on Racedriven.com read” NASCAR and Penske miss use championship provisional and owner points.” Where Penske took Kurt Busch’s owners points and moved them to Hornish’s #77 car, and yet he is still struggling to stay in the top 35 in owners points now in 2008, and yet, this move could happen again either with the #12 which has just been filled today with by David Stremme or possibly the #2 of Kurt Busch again, maybe even a team swap…and nothing happen their either, so what does this (open wheel invasion drivers not making it) say for the racing in NASCAR?

It says, NASCAR has some of the best drivers in the world racing here and it is just that damn good and tough to race in NASCAR, however with the exception of Sam Hornish Jr., the other three open wheel drivers didn’t start out by running at least a couple of races or even better, a full season in either the Truck Series or the Nationwide Series, could that have made a difference??? Who knows.

At the same right, Is the Cup Series Silly Season over? First, with the #20 JGR ride signing a new driver, that of 18 year old driver Joey Logano, the #12 Penske signing David Stremme and Reed Sorenson making a good move to GEM (I hope he finally gets a chance to succeed…), what’s really left beside the Ganassi Racing, which is no story?

Second, nothing I can think of with the exception of the #15 Paul Menard, DEI, Yates or???, Jamie McMurray, Roush-Fenway Racing for one year, Yates, or??? And quite possibly, Juan Montoya, if Ganassi racing shuts down???, That’s it for me here, hopefully Patrick Carpentier can find a ride and sponsor, he’s a good driver, he should here in NASCAR, comments.

- Racedriven