Saturday, January 17, 2009

Which NASCAR merger or alignment will be the strongest in 2009?

Over the past couple of months during the off-season, there seems to be a new trend in NASCAR due to the tough economy, the merging or for some, alignments of race teams. Merging race teams isn’t anything new in NASCAR, however since this past October, November, there has been a big spike in them, teams are trying to stay alive and with that, interesting partnerships are formed, deals have come together that otherwise in recent years might not have even been considered.

One of the most public merger happened last November, which unfortunately means the passing of the first of two iconic race team in NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt Inc., even though I am not a fan of any of the DEI driver lineup nor a fan of DEI since Dale Jr. left at the end of 2007, DEI still holds a place in my heart because this race team was created by the 7-time Cup Series champion, legend and one of my favorite drivers Dale Earnhardt, so when I read the official announcement from the team, it took me by surprise, DEI, along with Ganassi Racing is now Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

EGRFS will field a two-three-four car team (all in the top 35 in points) depending upon sponsorship (#1-Bass Pro Shop, #8-no sponsorship, #41-Target and #42- ½ the season with Wringly’s), although I might be wrong, I’m thinking it will be a two car team, the #1-Martin Truex Jr. and #42 Juan Montoya, unless the #8 can find sponsorship, all is being operated out of the Ganassi Racing shop and so that leaves the Dale Earnhardt Inc. building, yes it’s now a museum, great, that’s what DEI is reduced too.

Since then, several mergers and alignments have been announced and unfortunately yet again, fans will see the passing of another ironic race team, Petty Enterprises, Gillette-Evernham Motorsports has merged with the famous Petty Enterprises to field a four car team (#9-Kasey Kahne, #10-Unknown, #19-Elliott Sadler, and the famous #43- Reed Sorenson) which are all in the top 35 in points. GEM-Petty.

Some would say when Petty Enterprises moved to the old Yates Racing shop or when Boston Ventures bought into the race team that Petty Enterprises died, however I didn’t think so, it was still run by Petty with a private invester, however now Petty Enterprises is really no more, but unlike DEI, Petty Enterprises wasn’t a surprise, they were gone no matter what anyway including when they released Bobby Labonte.

However, two race teams have not gone the way of mergers, but instead gone with alignments in the same shop, I guess that might include Petty Enterprises depending upon how they formed that agreement, anyway the first unique alignment is Michael Waltrip Racing and JTG-Daugherty Racing, MWR will field two cars in 2009, the #55-Michael Waltrip and #00- David Reutimann (#00 was the #44, changed for sponsor Aaron’s), however MWR took the old #00 team and has changed it to the new JTG-Daugherty Racing which is one team, the #47- Marcos Ambrose team, the team will operate out of the MWR shop.

In the same right and specking of Bobby Labonte, Yates Racing and Hall of Fame Racing announced an alignment this past week, where along with Yates Racing’s #28, #38 and #98 (not sure if they are fielding all three cars or just two cars and who has owner’s points), the Hall Of Fame Racing #96 of Bobby Labonte will be operated together out of the Yates Racing shop, what an alignment, first all of the cars are running Fords, second will come on board the #96, Bobby Labonte with his championship provisional is the driver and the equipment is Roush-Fenway Racing with Yates motors, so how do you beat that when it comes to picking the strongest merger or alignment in 2009?

Photo Credit: Getty Image via Yahoo Sports.

Well, there is one more merger that happened months ago, last July in Chicagoland to be specific, how about the new Stewart-Haas Racing.

Besides watching Hendrick Motorsports because my favorite driver is Dale Earnhardt Jr., I will be keeping an eye on this two-car race team and my pick for the strongest merger or alignment in 2009, yes I think the new team featuring the owner/driver Tony Stewart in the #14 Old Spice/Office Depot (formerly the #70) and his new teammate and defending Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman in the #39 Army Chevrolet (formerly #66) is the ticket in 2009, both of these race teams most likely will be running Hendrick Motorsports equipment and support which is what the 3-time Cup Series Championship Jimmie Johnson (2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion) is running.

Do you agree? Did Tony Stewart make the right move? How soon will Tony Stewart win in the Cup Series? How soon will Ryan Newman win in 2009? All I can say is this coming 2009 season for Tony Stewart and Tony will be starting out 2009 with no owners points, however Ryan Newman will be in the top 35.