Wednesday, February 17, 2010

February 18 - They know they have lost

For the last couple of years, I've been compiling a list of daily trivia items related to the racing Petty family. Lee, Richard, Kyle, Adam, Maurice, Petty Enterprises, and Richard Petty Motorsports. Wins, narrow defeats, abysmal runs, birthdays, anniversaries, and deaths. I post the daily trivia on a couple of message boards and have had it running in the sidebar here on the blog.

As I double-checked my Petty trivia facts and sought out photos and YouTube clips tonight (Feb 17 as I type this), I realized how much epic NASCAR history in general occurred on February 18. While I'm sure media, NASCAR historians, trivia geeks, etc. knew the following, I didn't fully connect the dots until tonight that these three momentous races all happened on February 18. Not too much of a surprise - all were Daytona 500 races.

February 18, 1976 - "There's a fight!"

Bobby Allison, Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough battled for the lead early in the race. Bobby and Donnie got together, collected Cale, and all three slid through the sandy mud and standing water along the backstretch. Somehow, someway Donnie and Cale managed to get back in the lead lap. They found themselves again at the head of the field on the final lap of the race.

Of course, we all know the ending to what is arguably the most famous Daytona 500 of them all. Cale wrecks Donnie - or maybe Donnie wrecks Cale. Chicken or the egg - which came first? As a Petty fan, who hit whom didn't really matter because the King sailed by them and captured his sixth Daytona 500 win.

While Richard and his crew celebrated and the fans went mad with glee, Larry, Moe, and Curly got out of their cars, called each other names, threw helmets, grabbed ankles, and n'yuk, n'yuk, n'yukked it up. Ken Squire's succinct but genuinely emotional words still stick with me 30+ years later: "There's a fight! ...They know they have lost."



February 18, 1990 - "Something is amiss."

Dale Earnhardt ran well as a rookie in the 1979 Daytona 500 - the one described above. He was in the hunt again in 1986, but he lost to Geoff Bodine as the #3 Wrangler Chevy needed a splash of gas with just a few laps to go. But 1990 was his year...or so it seemed. Driving the back Goodwrench Chevy, he beat the field into submission by leading 155 of 199 laps. However, the race was 200 laps - not 199. He cut a tire a half-lap away from victory, and Derrike Nope...err...Derrike NoHope....umm...Derrike COPE stole the victory in what most say is the biggest upset win in Daytona 500 history.




As Squire noted in 1979, Earnhardt knew he had lost. He pulled up out of the groove, let the field steamroll by, and waited another eight years to get his only Daytona 500 win. (As a reminder Bank Truck, the King has SEVEN D500s to go with his SEVEN Cups.)

February 18, 2001 - "I just hope Dale's OK. I guess he's OK isn't he?"
  • A great race.
  • A first time win by Michael Waltrip.
  • Consummate teamwork between DEI drivers Waltrip and Dale Jr.
  • "The Big One" with about 25 to go involving a rollover by Smoke.
All of these points remain secondary in the history of NASCAR to the primary event of the day - the death of Dale Sr.



While I loathe Darrell Waltrip's bleating of boogity, boogity, boogity and his name-dropping for his brother's team and sponsors, I remain moved by his emotion of that day. He rightfully cheered for Mikey to hustle to the checkered flag. Immediately, however, his eyes and concern zipped to turn four to the wrecked #3 - even as the rest of the FOX booth team and cameras were late in recognizing the severity of what had just happened. Its difficult even now to understand if DW's meek utterance of "I just hope Dale's OK. I guess he's OK isn't he?" was said because of the emotion of Michael's win or because in his gut he knew it was bad inside the Goodwrench car.

Either way, 02-18-2001 remains among the top historical moments of all time in NASCAR. In his prime, I didn't like Earnhardt. Couldn't stand him. Didn't like his style, his terse interviews, his fans, etc.

I passed on him as a rookie in 1979 in favor of Joe Millikan - a former Petty late model sportsman driver and crewman. Big mistake on my part as Joe washed out of the sport in a few short years, and Earnhardt went on to match the King in championships (though once again Richard has SEVEN Daytona 500 wins).

But I still remember calling my long-time racing padner and fellow old school Petty fan in High Point (now in Charlotte), NC that evening. Neither of us were quite sure what to say - about Earnhardt or really even to each other.

Perhaps as expected, I've mellowed over time about Dale. I respect what he did, and I wish he were here to grab some of these spoiled, "I'm entitled" punks of today's drivers by the scruff of their neck.

With Sr's death in 2001, I think Ken Squire's comment in 1979 suddenly became applicable to everyone who followed racing: "They know they have lost."

Most folks' "Top Daytona 500 Finishes of All Time" generally include the 1959 inaugural race with Lee Petty as the winner, the 1976 race with Pearson besting Richard Petty, and 1988's edition where Bobby Allison beat son Davey to the line. But they also include the 1976, 1990, and 2001 races as well - sometimes with all 3 in the top 5 of all time. I just found it interesting the three of them all fell on February 18.

TMC

Monday, February 15, 2010

Thoughts about the beach

I wanted to title this entry Thoughts FROM The Beach. Because I wasn't in Daytona this weekend and am instead in Tennessee today where it is snowing yet again with 20ish degree temps, I opted for ABOUT vs. FROM.

A few final thoughts about Speedweeks...

The Good

The racing - let's lead with what matters. When the green was unfurled, the racing was pretty good. I'll leave the multiple GWC attempts debate to others. And the cut tires. And the average performance of Hendrick. But up front, the stuff was good. During the first attempt at a GWC, Truex, Harvick, Biffle, and Bowyer nearly wrecked. It looked like an XBOX video game. But they straightened it out, and let the others wreck behind them instead.

The history - I hope the trend continues and expands of NASCAR's showcasing its historical participants. Junior Johnson gave the command to start the engines. Richard Petty rode in the pace car (some debate as to whether he actually drove it or not). And Glen and Leonard Wood served as honorary starters. All very nice touches to the race.

It was great seeing The King back at the beach. He missed most of Speedweeks to be with his wife. But he returned Saturday and had a long segment on Speed TV Saturday. What was even more enjoyable was some good interviewing and father/son banter between him and Kyle.

I fully realize Richard is only a figurehead at Richard Petty Motorsports, but I'm still a sucker for seeing a competitive Petty-emblazoned team. Kasey Kahne is an A- driver on a B- team. I've never been big fan of his pretty-boy, Allstate-soccer-mom vibe. But he is the one who got the King back to victory lane in 2009, and his victory over Smoke in Thursday's duel was very cool to see.

Source: St. Petersburg Times at TampaBay.com


My true emotional loyalty is vested with the #43. So when A.J. Allmendinger got racey in the duels and then took the lead in the 500, I really got excited.

Sadly though, a quote by Red (Morgan Freeman's character in The Shawshank Redemption) returned to mind when A.J. spun it all by himself ending his chance for a great finish:
"Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane."
The Bad

Harry Connick Jr. did a fine job singing the national anthem - far better than many of the other posers NASCAR has rolled out in seasons past. Being from New Orleans, I know he was happy about the Saints Super Bowl win, but that did NOT give him the right to wear his fleur-de-lis hat as he sang the anthem. Good grief dude, have some respect for for the flag and nation for which you are singing. This was the second anthem FAIL in as many Saturdays. The guy singing the anthem for the Shootout didn't remove his hat either. Looking at the glass as "half full" though, at least HCJr. wasn't as disrespectful as this guy.


ESPN recovered greatly from 2009 in its coverage of Saturday's Nationwide race - despite Danicamania. On Sunday, however, FOX reminded me how sick I am of Darrell Waltrip. Where shall we begin:
  • Shilling for Mikey's teams and his sponsors? Mike Joy tossed him the news the #43 was slicing through the field. Rather than elaborate, DW instead chose to name drop NAPA along with Truex. The fact he does so repeatedly doesn't really surprise me anymore I guess. What really chaps me is FOX Sports allowing it to continue.
  • His openly biased cheering for Dale Jr. as the field headed for the checkers?
  • Possibly the most illconceived ad drop for the A-Team movie featuring Jaws and Hollywood Hammond? The original TV show was bad, the movie is unnecessary, and the "acting" of Waltrip and Hammond was just plain dreadful.
Ol' Charlie Dickens knew what he was talking about when he wrote "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times." Kasey Kahne, Allmendinger, and Elliott Sadler all ran fantastic in the first half of the race. However, the second half of a race is what really matters - specifically the last lap. And when the race ended, the RPM teams were nowhere to be found - except for ...cough, gag, wheeze... Paul Menard. I would never have bet Menard to be the highest finishing RPM car when the day began.

Ohhh yeaaahh - Over the last few years, Daytona and other tracks have held a pre-race concert for the fans. This year, the track really pulled a head scratcher by serving up wrestler Randy Savage.

Wait...that wasn't him? It was who? Well, it sure looked an awful lot like the Macho Man to me (click for reference pic).

The Ugly


Returning to the DW and Hammond theme, their trying to tell me a lie not once, not twice, but multiple times really annoyed me. Repeatedly they said no one left the track during the red flags for track repair. We're not stupid. TV told the truth as did Twitter. Plenty of folks left. No shame in that as fans had to catch planes, get back home, get back to work, were frustrated, were out of beer, etc. These clowns don't need to piss on my back and tell me its raining.

How about FOX TV in general? Most folks gave them props for staying on the air way beyond the expected coverage window, and I'll give them that much as a kudos. Let their broadcast included more potholes than the track surface itself. Let me enumerate just a few examples:
  1. Delayed mention of the track coming apart - Many drivers were telling their crews about the problem. Twitter was alive with fans and media scanning the drivers and posting what was said. All of this was happening a full 15-20 minutes before TV's first mention of the problem.
  2. Commercials - TV had 3 extra hours to pitch product. When the race returned to green each time, did they stay with race for extended period? Nope, they returned to commercial drops at the regular intervals as if the 3 hour delayed had never happened.
  3. Commercials part 2 - One Sprint commercial was to get real-time race updates. Actually, that was a pretty good pitch. Maybe I should sign-up for it because goodness knows I wasn't going to get real-time updates from the FOX guys.
  4. DIS repaving - The booth and hotel bantered the idea of repaving the track. The question I stupidly asked the TV was "When was it last repaved?" Seems to me that would have been a good piece of trivia to tell us. The producers of the Super Bowl have every doggone trivia minutiae imaginable for their announcers and color guys. FOX? Nope, we get A-Team ads with DW and Hammond, speculation about driver's babies, and repeat replays of the 1979 Daytona 500 finish. (For the record, the track was paved in 1978. Props to Monte Dutton for educating us in one of his articles Sunday.)
Austin Dillon's debut in the highly-anticipated return of a Richard Childress #3 black NASCAR entry made the highlight reels for all the wrong reasons. The kid likely has a big future (I've seen him run the wheels off a World Of Outlaws late model), but he didn't even make one lap in his new truck fielded by his granddaddy.



How 'bout it? Any additional highlights or lowlights I missed?

TMC

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Holey Cow! What a day, what a race!

Just a couple of hours or so after the 2010 Daytona 500 ended, and I'm still not sure how it will be remembered in the years to come.

Jamie McMurray did exactly what he was supposed to do. Prepare well, run well, draft well, pit smart, keep your nose clean and your tires up, be up front when it counts, and then win. He and his team did all of those things to perfection.

Plenty of bloggers, writers, radio guys, podcasters, and TV guys will analyze Jamie's win, the trivia point about the Earnhardt name being associated with the win (Teresa), his emotional victory lane interview, and the "aww man, so close" 2nd place finish by Dale Jr. So I'll leave that part of the race to them.

Instead, I'll focus on the other aspect of the race - and the one I think will stick to the race more than Jamie's win. The hole.

With plenty of Florida rain, wide ranging winter temperatures, a low race groove, and some great Goodyear traction, a pot hole developed between turns 1 and 2 about half-way through the race. After taking about 90 minutes to fix it, the drivers raced another 36 laps before the patchwork came undone. A second red flag period of about 45 minutes was needed to fix it a second time. Thankfully, the patch then held to allow the race to end with the great finish.

I'm not going to dog NASCAR or the track for the pothole or the repair. That kind of stuff happens, and it takes a while to repair it. While mildly embarrassing for the sport when view by NASCAR Noobs, its nothing to worry much about in the long term.

Race fans excel at finding ways to have a good time and find humor in all tough race situations. Rain delays. Fence or SAFER barrier repairs. Or potholes.

Instead of being at the track, I was sitting comfortably at home building calluses on my fingers from participating on Twitter. Some fantastic, one-line zingers were tweeted about about the hole. Here's a sample:
  • RyanMcGeeESPN - Just ordered "Holes" on NetFlix
  • XIANITY - This year's Daytona 500 has more cautions than a Johnathan Edwards sermon.
  • bobpockrass Dale Earnhardt Jr. has had so much free time today, he's shaved his beard and it's grown back.
  • RyanMcGeeESPN If Tebow was still at Daytona he could've healed the hole with the water from his tears.
  • bobpockrass Something tells me the word "D'OH" has been uttered more during the Daytona 500 than will be on The Simpsons tonight.
  • TheDalyPlanet Hey, with all the folks watching, we could probably trend #holepacolypse"
  • RyanMcGeeESPN Ordered my wife a dozen red roses from a Daytona florist for today. I may have accidentally ordered a dozen red flags. My bad.
  • Kenneth_Douglas I thought the 24 hours of Daytona was a couple weeks ago?
  • Jonathan_Howe Has NASCAR set up a number we can text to donate $10 to track repairs yet?
  • brantjames This reminds me of time they had to stop the Super Bowl cause the field cave in. Oh, wait. That never happened
  • TeamFordRacing Oh, it's looking like the Detroit highways.
  • MartySmithESPN Maybe Courtney Love will come play a post-race concert. #Hole.
I even made an effort to join The Hole's Amateur Hour. At the risk of wrenching my shoulder while patting myself on the back, I thought these were pretty good:
  • Waiting for next YouTube viral video Hole In The Ground / Looking like a fool / With your Hole in the Ground
  • Boogity boogity boogity let's go pavin' boys!
  • Daytona500 track repairs delayed as NASCAR awaits arrival of Recovery.org sign.
Did you hear or read any others? How about some fresh ones? Comment below.

Twitter may be silly. Twitter may be a trend. But during a long race day, Twitter sure was a place to have a lot of fun with friends, media, pundits, and even drivers. Join us for future races if you haven't already.

http://twitter.com/toomuchcountry

TMC

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bench Racing's 2010 Predictions

Here is the second annual, underwhelming, less than stellar, aluminum-standard, 2010 NASCAR predictions from TMC and Bank Truck:

Daytona 500 winner:
  • BT: Kasey Kahne
  • TMC: Dang, that was a good 'un. Might make a Petty/Ford out of him yet. Rather than echo BT, I'll pick Smoke.
Cup Champ
  • BT: GoGrandDaddy Mark Martin
  • TMC: Denny Hamlin, bad ACL and all
Chasers:

BT -
  1. 5 - Mark Martin
  2. 14 - Smoke
  3. 99 - Cuzzin
  4. 24 - Gordo
  5. 29 - Happy
  6. 48 - 4x champ and dad-to-be
  7. 9 - Kasey Kahne
  8. 17 - Kenseth
  9. 11 - Opie
  10. 18 - Rowdy
  11. 2 - Rowdy's brother, the Lite version
  12. 42 - The Columbian Target
TMC -
  1. JJ - ya think?
  2. Gordon - Jeff that is. Robby? Uh, not so much.
  3. GoGrandDaddy Martin
  4. Smoke
  5. Cuzzin Carl
  6. Hamlin
  7. Rowdy
  8. The Biff
  9. Kurt Busch
  10. Kasey
  11. Martin T-Rex Truex
  12. JoLo
Underachiever
  • BT: Dale Jr, Jamie Mc, T-Rex, Keselousy, and Danica (Nationwide, but had to mention anyway)
  • TMC: Brian Vickers, Clint Bowyer
Overachiever
  • BT: JoLo
  • TMC: Marcos Ambrose
Most Improved
  • BT: Kevin Harvick
  • TMC: Scott Speed
Penthouse to Outhouse
  • BT: Greg Biffle, Brian Vickers
  • TMC: Ryan Newman, David Reutimann
Rookie of the Year
  • BT: Who cares
  • TMC: Danica
Other NASCAR Nostradamus Nuggets
  • BT: KHI merges with Stewart Haas to become Stewart Harvick Racing, adds Harvick as 3rd cup car with Bass Pro Shops, brings full Nationwide and Truck operation with him
  • TMC: (1) Kasey Kahne re-signs with Richard Petty Motorsports. (2) No viable Cup rookies emerge, and Danica runs second half of Cup season as an uncontested ROTY candidate.
TMC's will/won't he win a race?
  • Martin Truex Jr. in his new ride with MWR - Won't
  • A.J. Allmendinger - Will
  • Ryan Newman - Won't
  • Clint Bowyer - Won't
  • Kevin Harvick - Will
  • Jeff Burton -Won't
  • Dale Jr. - Will
  • Marcos Ambrose - Won't
  • Brad Keselowski - Won't
TMC's over/unders
  • number of Schaefer cases consumed by tailgating crew for World 600 weekend: 3.5
  • number of DNFs for Paul Menard due to wrecks: 10

TMC

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ask Ask.com anything except about Ask.com

Yesterday, I read on Jayski about Ask.com's decision to part ways with NASCAR after a one-year stint as the sho-nuff search engine.
Ask.com leaves NASCAR: This time a year ago, Ask.com was preparing to make the splash of the season at Daytona. It had a custom-made motor coach, pretty girls dressed in red and white to act as Ask Ambassadors throughout the speedway, and up to 30 new 15-second ad spots. The eager search engine had seemingly thought of everything for its first year of an official partnership with NASCAR and a team sponsorship at Hall of Fame Racing. But as the industry rolls into Daytona this week for the start of the 2010 season, the major question will be: What happened to Ask.com? Despite trumpeting successful results from its sponsorships and advertising in NASCAR last year, the Barry Diller-owned company opted not to return this year, allowing its NASCAR partnership and team deal to expire after one year. A change in leadership -- CEO Jim Safka did the NASCAR deals last year but was replaced by president Doug Leeds in October -- led to changes in marketing. Ask.com spent about $15 million on its NASCAR sponsorships and activation last year, industry insiders said. Its official deal with NASCAR was in the low seven figures, while the team sponsorship cost Ask.com $4 million. The majority of NASCAR sponsors whose deals were up last year renewed, including Dodge, Unilever, DuPont, DirecTV, Kraft, and Procter & Gamble brands Gillette, Old Spice and Prilosec OTC. NASCAR also added Screenvision and Drive4COPD as new partners, with Screenvision being the official cinema ad agency and Drive4COPD, a group that drives awareness and screening for lung disease, serving as the official health initiative. Among the sponsors that didn't renew for this year: P&G brand Duracell, Best Western, Yardman/Cub Cadet, and Kellogg's, along with Ask.(Sporting News/NASCAR.com)(2-8-2010)
This news wasn't altogether earth shattering, and it hardly ranks among the top pre-season 2010 stories such as Danica's dalliance with a full-bodied...um, err, uh...oh yeah car, Dale Jr. will he/won't he...um, uh, ahem...oh yeah win again, and the 48 team's drive for five.

But its interesting nonetheless I suppose as the news reflects a bit of current economic news in the dot com space and a buzz metric for NASCAR in general.

I thought I'd search Ask.com for more information about their decision. This is a screen capture of my search results.

Interestingly, here are the first page of results from the same search phrase on Google.

Hmm.

TMC

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sponsored by Ken Sin

When NASCAR, Daytona International Speedway, and Anheuser-Busch monkeyed yet again with the rules for the Bud Shootout, one of the new rules for 2010 allowed former winners of the race to enter.

Among others who became immediately eligible for NASCAR's prime-time "We're back!" race on national TV was Ken Schrader. I like Kenny a lot because of his low-key, yet knowledgeable involvement with the sport.

Beyond his on-track talent, the best skill Ken has consistently shown over the years is his ability to draw sponsors with products that simply can't be good for you. Combining them all would seem to suggest folks should hang the nickname "Gluttony" on him.

For Saturday's night's Shootout race, Schrader was hired to pilot the #82 Red Bull Yota because Scott Speed wasn't eligible for the race - yet goodness knows Red Bull needed more exposure.

Going back to Kenny's start in the Cup series in the mid 1980s and working our way forward, let's have a look at some of his sponsors.

Junie Donlavey's #90 Ford - Sponsor: Red Baron frozen pizza

Hendrick Motorsports #25 Chevrolet - Sponsor: Kodiak smokeless tobacco

Hendrick Motorsports - Sponsor: Budweiser, The King of Beers (as it was still known back then)

Andy Petree's #33 Chevy - Sponsor: Skoal smokeless tobacco (props to K-Schray for double-dipping on the chew sponsors!)

Wood Brothers' #21 Ford - Sponsor: Little Debbie snack cakes from Collegedale, Tennessee (Oooh boy, I sure do like those oatmeal creme pies and banana twins though. Yum.)


MB2 Racing (co-owned at the time by Nelson Bowers from Chattanooga, TN) - Sponsor: M&M's candy

BAM Racing - Sponsor: Schwan's home delivery frozen foods

Now, don't me wrong. I'm not blogging as a prude who dines only on organic vegetables and free-range chicken. I have used - and will continue to use - products from Schrader's sponsors far more frequently than I'll purchase DuPont industrial products or a FedEx overnight shipping service. Its just that Kenny's entry in the Shootout caused me to reflect on all the "sin products" he's pitched over a 25 year career. *Burp* Excuse me. 

Disclaimer: Because our blog is named Bench Racing from the Volunteer State, I had to name-drop the Tennessee cities where I could. I figure you'll understand.

TMC

Friday, February 5, 2010

NASCAR's version of Who's On First

About this time a year ago, BankTruck and I made our 2009 pre-season predictions. Perhaps we'll get around to doing so again for 2010 before the checkered flag falls at Homestead in November.

To be honest, I'm having a hard time making predictions when I'm not really sure about who is running. After all the team mergers in 2008-2009 off season, I thought the craziness was over. Instead, as is often the case with NASCAR, 2009-2010 has resulted in even nuttier mergers, "alliances", and points swapping.

Here's a recap of what I think has transpired since Homestead 2009:

Richard Petty Motorsports - George Gillett's team (with minority interest held by The King) merged with Yates Racing. Or so it seemed. A.J. Allmendinger moved from the multi-personality #44 last year to the iconic #43 with majority sponsorship from Best Buy (shout-out to Paul on Twitter). Its taken a couple of years for it to happen, but this is the very scenario I hoped would happen when Red Bull Racing sidelined A.J. in favor of Mike Skinner in the spring of 2008.

With the change, RPM switched to Ford, now has an engine relationship with Roush-Yates, and picked up a full-time 4th car sponsor in Menard's home improvement chain. That's the upside. The downside can be reduced to one word: Paul.

Richard Childress Racing - With Jack Daniels retreating to Lynchburg, RCR's 4th car from last year was shelved for 2010 ... or so it seemed. In January, an announcement was made that RCR acquired an equity interest in FRR (but not a merger) and contracted for a “technical alliance” with FRR . As part of the alliance, the #07's 2009 points were transferred to a 2nd FRR car.

FRR still plans to run Hendrick Motorsports engines
. A-ha, finally a deal that makes sense! RCR gives up access to the #07 owner points from 2009. In return, Childress gets the opportunity to look deep inside an HMS engine…maybe. Perhaps this is a "technical alliance" that makes sense - at least for Childress. If that's the case, I suspect HMS may wait to install their motors in FRR cars until race weekend & then retrieve them before leaving to hedge this very risk.

Furniture Row Racing - An announcement was made this week that Doug Yates is also now a minority owner of Furniture Row (in addition to Richard Childress). As part of the ownership, Yates brings with him owner points from 2009 to transfer to a FRR team to guarantee it a starting spot in the first five races. But you may ask how can that be since Yates merged with RPM and Yates' points obviously went to Menard's #98? Not so fast my friend.

It seems RPM didn't merge with Yates - it simply acquired its assets (a legal/accounting terminology difference), hired Menard, transferred the Menard's sponsorship and adopted the use of the #98. Menard will apparently start the 2010 season in the #98 using RPM's owner points from Allmendinger's #44 ride from last year. As a result, Yates' points from last year remained available. So Doug Yates joined FRR as a minority owner, and FRR can now take advantage of those valuable yet intangible points.

If you are keeping score at home, that gives FRR three cars with guaranteed starts in the first five races of 2010. The #78 car with Regan Smith gets in by virtue of his 2009 performance. Cars two and three get in through the new equity positions of Childress (07) and Yates (98).

Roush-Fenway Racing - Because of the laughable 4-car team rule, Jack Roush was forced to shutter a 5th team that finished high in the 2009 points. RFR contacted Jamie McMurray's old #26 ride because the team no longer had value in NASCAR's eyes. Right? WRONG! The Cat in the Hat was essentially told the #26 had no remaining value as long as he owned it. However, in NASCAR's eyes and in an open market, the 2009 points had a lot of value. So Roush sold the team to a new outfit called Latitude43 Motorsports and transferred the 26’s points as part of the deal. Boris Said has been hired to race the team's car.

Despite Roush's not having any equity position in the new venture, NASCAR announced a "one time exemption" (cough...ahem...B.S.) allowing the new owner to use the points in 2010 earned by another owner in 2009. So in the end, Jack turned something worthless into something valuable. As the adage goes, he made chicken salad out of chicken s**t.

I realize all these mergers and alliances are a by-product of two things:
  • NASCAR's top 35 rule which guarantees a starting spot in the field to teams (not drivers) in the top 35.
  • A lingering, brutal economic situation where big dollar sponsors are as scarce as hunters in church on a fall Sunday morn.
Without franchises, the only thing of any value in NASCAR anymore is a guaranteed spot. What bothers me is the lack of clarity by NASCAR as to what qualifies as a valid transfer of points plus their stubbornness that franchises aren’t the way to go.

So here's who I think we've got as guaranteed starters for February through March to start the 2010 Cup season. Once the first 5 races are completed, we'll have to re-visit who is in/out of the top 35.

00 - Reutimann - Michael Waltrip Racing
1 - Jamie McMurray - using Martin Truex's points from last year
2 - Kurt Busch
5 - Mark "GoGrandDaddy.com" Martin
6 - David Ragan
7 - Robby Gordon - but only plans to run a part-time schedule
9 - Kasey Kahne
09 - Aric Almirola - but not in top 35 and has already lost his sponsor before the season even began
11 - Denny Hamlin
12 - Brad Keselowski - using David Stremme's points from last year
13 - Max Papis
14 - Smoke
16 - Possum
17 - Matt Kenseth - with new Crown Royal colors
18 - Rowdy Busch
19 - Elliott Sadler - with new sponsorship from Stanley Tools, Air Force, Hunt Brothers Pizza, etc.
20 - JoLo
21 - Bill Elliott - still part-time with Wood Brothers
24 - Jeff Gordon
26 - Boris Said - with 2009 points transferred from Roush
29 - Happy Harvick
31 - Jeff Burton
33 - Clint Bowyer
34 - John Andretti - FRR team #2 - points from RCR #07 team in 2009
38 - FRR team #3 - driver TBD - points from Yates #98 team in 2009
39 - Flyin' Ryan Newman
42 - Juan Pablo Montoya
43 - A.J. Allmendinger - with 2009 points from Reed Sorensen's #43 team
47 - Marcos Ambrose
48 - The 4x Champ
51 - Michael Waltrip - in part-time schedule and with new number (inverse of #15 from DEI years)
56 - Martin Truex, Jr. - with 2009 points from Michael Waltrip's #55 team
71 - Bobby Labonte - using 2009 points accumulated by David Gilliland and Labonte
77 - Sam Hornish Jr.
78 - Regan Smith - FRR team #1 with his own points from 2009
82 - Scott Speed
83 - Brian "Kris Kringle" Vickers
87 - Joe Nemechek - who has gone from Front Row Joe to Start/Park/Collect The (Neme)chek
88 - Dale Jr.
98 - Paul Menard - with 2009 points from A.J. Allmendinger's #44 team
99 - Carl Edwards

Driver/teams who now appear to be gone or off-the-radar for now:
  • #08 team with Terry Labonte
  • #96 Hall of Fame Racing - though I think they have points of their own that may end up being sold to someone
  • David Stremme (now reduced to wrecking on NASCAR for XBOX 360 from his couch)
  • Casey Mears
  • Reed Sorenson
  • David Gilliland

TMC