Thursday, March 26, 2009

The success, top 35 battle and the struggles five races into the 2009 Cup Series Season.

Last season for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, I wrote a series of four articles on what were the success stories, the top 35 battle for that golden ticket at each Cup Series race as I put it and the struggles at a couple different points during the season, the first article entitled “The success, the top 35 battle and the struggles after five races in NASCAR’s Cup Series.”, got picked up by the Chicago Sun Times online through a service which was a huge treat for me, so again for 2009, I am going to continue this series of articles throughout the entire 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season as if it never ended, so let’s get started.

We are five races into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and unlike last year which described as survival, this season is more described as a topsy-turvy season at least to begin with, so when I look at the drivers through the field so far, what are the success stories?

This must be a season for brothers, the Busch series if you will (thanks Darrell Waltrip for that idea), that would be Kyle Busch and his older brother Kurt Busch. First, most people know that Kyle Busch, how talented he is was and is going to be a contender not only weekly for victories, but a championship contender after last season, however the surprise here is Kurt Busch. Kurt has really come on in 2009, of course you have to include his dominating performance and winning the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta a couple weeks ago, which included his unwind lap, a victory lap in reverse and this from the man who made a snow angel at Bristol a couple years ago, it snowed at the track, get it.

Anyway Kurt has come on strong in his final year under contract at Penske Racing, is he staying or leaving too? At any rate, I guess some of these Dodge’s have finally gotten up to speed, let’s see how he does. Oh boy, when you talk about what shouldn’t be a surprise, but is, one name, Clint Bowyer, I saw him get his first cup series victory at New Hampshire in 2007, I completely underestimated Clint this year because he was with a new team, that does mean anything with this guy, what a run so far in 2009 and he’s third in points with a whole new group of guys to work with, I’m not afraid to admit when I am wrong, what a start to 2009.

Now, if you want to call this next one a surprise, you can if you want to because he is an owner/driver under the Chevrolet banner, yeah I’m talking about Tony Stewart. Smoke has even gotten my attention over the years, I’m even a fan of his, what a driver, so here in 2009, Tony has gotten off to a good start, he is contending for victories weekly with three 8th place finishes and is 7th in points. Of course smokes comments at Daytona about Goodyear were interesting too.

Here is one surprise going into the sixth race of the season, David Reutimann, 11th in points, running strong every week, what, say that again and do it with a smile please, he has four top 14 finishes including one 4th at Las Vegas, it’s good seeing MWR finally running good and hopefully on a weekly basis from here on out.

The top 35 battle and the struggles basically go hand in hand, if a driver and team is struggling, chances are, they are only just a few spots from the top 35 bubble spot (35th), so who makes the list?

There are some success stories here with the top 35, David Gilliland in the #71 TRG car is now locked in to the top 35 at Martinsville, he’s in 35th, but that’s huge, however one name when it comes to top 35 battle and success has to be A.J. Allmendinger, give it up for this guy, he was released from Rud Bull Racing last year, doesn’t have a full season sponsor yet, but is now locked in to the top 35 in points and is 16th in points, what a run, and this guy was a go or go home driver in the first 5 races and driving for The King, what a spot, there’s your success story after five races hands down.

Unfortunately, there are three names that come to mind right off the bat and not in a good way, first is Mark Martin that is now driving the #5 for Hendrick Motorsports and the second is Ryan Newman, who in a sense, is driving for the same organization, Stewart-Haas Racing, which runs Hendrick equipment. Both Martin and Newman before last week at Bristol found themselves on the top 35 bubble, there seasons have been filled with blown engines and blown tires. Newman’s blown tire a Daytona received huge headlines because when he blow a rear tire, he took his owner/teammate Tony Stewart with him, resulting in a Goodyear firestorm, enough said there, however there is some good, after Bristol, both drivers are starting their climbs back up the points standings with goods run at Bristol, hopefully Martinsville and Texas will work too. The third, the rookie last year, Scott Speed, he now finds himself outside the top 35 in points, 36th, so for Scott Speed, he will be a go or go home driver.

Before I end this first edition of success, top 35 battle and struggle stories, there are two drivers that really I feel need to be mentioned in some way, first is Joey Logano, in his rookie season driving the #20 Home Depot Toyota for JGR his now 34th in points, but Joey is doing a good job, he is logging laps, still making races and just trying to stay out trouble, he’s right on track despite being thrown into the deep end, the cup series.

The second driver is Dale Earnhardt Jr., I have to say, you can’t put him in either category, he is 19th in points after some bad finishes, but is picking it up. Normally this would be a good season for some, however not for Dale Jr.. It’s interesting, yesterday I stated clearly I am fully supporting Dale Jr. and I stand by that, but I also added a few tips, first, start from scratch with this COT car, second, it wouldn’t hurt if Dale Jr. put Tony Eury Sr. & Jr. both on top of the pit box every week, remember Tony Sr. was Dale Jr’s crew chief in the cup series years ago and third, work with your teammates. Tony Jr. is a good crew chief, but the team needs help, make changes, work with your teammates and one suggestion from another fan, put Tony Sr. on the pitbox for a couple of weeks and Tony Jr, on the #48 pitbox to watch what Chad Knaus does (Knaus is the best active crew chief in NASCAR), what a better person to learn from.

Will Dale Earnhardt Jr. win a NASCAR Cup Series championship in his career? YES period.