Tuesday, September 29, 2009
In recent years, NASCAR teams (especially at the Sprint Cup level) and sponsors have seemed to turn their focus to younger talent when it comes to choosing a new driver. That trend has probably been mostly initiated by sponsors looking for younger, hipper spokesmen for their products.
Mark Martin is showing race teams that younger may not always be the way to go, especially if the focus is to remain on the on-track results side of things and not just on a sponsor's desire to target the younger crowd.
Granted, the 2009 Chase for the Sprint Cup is only two races old, but Martin, the oldest guy in the Chase field at 50 years of age, looks poised to win his first Cup title. And that's after he tied Kyle Busch for most wins during the 26-race "regular season" with four.
In the two races since this year's Chase began, New Hampshire and Dover, the "old man" has a win and a second-place finish and has been the only driver to lead in points so far in the 2009 Chase. Not bad for a driver who is in his first full-time season since coming out of semi-retirement.
"I said in February before we got started that I was, you know, mentally the toughest I'd ever been," Martin said.
Martin isn't the only 50 or older driver getting it done on the national level in NASCAR either. Ron Hornaday, at age 51, is on track to win his fourth Camping World Truck Series title, the most of any driver in the series. It would be his second in three years.
Hornaday already has six wins in Truck Series competition through 20 races, so the driver in victory lane following truck events in 2009 has been Hornaday nearly one-third of the time. With 16 top-10 finishes to his credit, only has four finishes this season outside the top-10 so far this year.
Also worth mentioning, those six wins include a streak of five-consecutive trips to victory lane, the longest winning streak ever in Camping World Truck Series history and the longest in any of NASCAR's national touring series since the 1970s.
While many of their younger competitors may sometime seem to be all business and get stressed out worrying about on-track performance issues, according to Martin and Hornaday, they're just having fun.
"I feel like I’m the luckiest man in the world to compete on this level on this stage and have no thoughts other than I want to strap in that car every Sunday," Martin said.
Not long ago, Hornaday said that traveling from racetrack to racetrack in the Truck Series is like a vacation for he and his wife Lindy. He said the the kids were grown and now he and his wife were enjoying themselves from race to race and week to week.
While 50 is considered over the hill and most other professional sports (except for maybe golf), Martin and Hornaday are proving that they are in their prime since hitting the half-century mark.
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Louisville NASCAR Examiner
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Each of these teams placed one of its cars in this years Chase -- Penske the No. 2 car of Kurt Busch and RPM the No. 9 of Kasey Kahne -- but their Chasers seem to have a lot going against them already.
There appears to be a lot of confusion in the RPM camp since the team recently announced a merger with Yates Racing and a switch to Ford for 2010. As a move of disapproval, the team's vice-president has resigned. Also, several members of the engine shop have already departed, since the move to Ford means RPM will be shutting down its engine program and getting engines from the Roush-Yates group. The turmoil in the engine shop kind of leads to speculation around Kahne's engine woes at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday that resulted in a 38th-place finish, plummeting him to the basement of the Chase points standings.
Kahne's now in a whole, as far as the Chase goes, that will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for him to climb out of.
There are also other question regarding the atmosphere at RPM. It was revealed recently that fellow-RPM driver Reed Sorenson has been racing without a salary for the last few months.
No wonder Kahne is questioning his team's leadership and direction!
While Penske Racing isn't in the midst of a merger or a manufacturer change, the organization has managed to make at least one decision that is sure to hinder Busch's quest for a second Cup title for himself and a first for Penske.
Not long ago, crew chief Pat Tryson announced that he would be leaving Penske at the end of the year. Not long after that announcement, an announcement was made that he would head to Michael Waltrip Racing next year to be Martin Truex Jr.'s crew chief.
In some ways, it's understandable that a team owner not want someone who will soon be moving to another team be privy to technology the team is working on for the coming season. However, with a car in the Chase, is it a good idea to bar the crew chief from the shop except for Tuesday debriefings? I wouldn't think so.
Busch did manage at top-10 finish at New Hampshire Sunday, but that may be because it hadn't been long since Tryson stopped coming to the shop every day. Of course, all Chase drivers want to get as many points as they can whenever they can get them, but the clock may be ticking for Busch and the No. 2 team. It's probably only a matter of days before the effects of not having a full-time crew chief take their toll.
As any Chase competitor or former champion will tell you, championships are hard to come by. Why make the process even harder by putting your team at a disadvantage before the Chase even starts?
Saturday, September 19, 2009
The Chase is on. NASCAR's version of the playoffs has now begun. Now that everybody knows who makes it, and who doesn't, there is one more question: Who wins it?
Well lets see, I can probably narrow that down to a few drivers. Hendrick Motorsports drivers. They have the best shot out there, they have won several championships in just the last little bit, more than many teams couldn't even dream of. Now, I'm not saying they are going to win it, they might be beaten. Maybe Tony Stewart might beat him, oh, yeah that's right, he's in Hendrick equipment too. Hendrick equipment also runs through Ryan Newman, so Hendrick stuff is in almost half of the chase field.
Well, we all know Jimmie Johnson knows how to win the championship. In fact, he knows how to win it three times.....in a row. Now, Jimmie hasn't been on a roll like he has in the past years before the Chase, but that doesn't mean anything. I wouldn't count Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus out at anytime, or at least not for long. And they have proved that to us before.
And then there is Jeff Gordon. By the way, he is going for his fifth championship. He has never won one in the Chase format, but this year would be a good year to start. He's only won one race, but it shows that he has made improvement since last year, where he went win-less. If he wins it, he will have a lot to prove about his number 24 team.
And then, there's the old man. Mark Martin. What a phenomenal story. He has never won a championship before, but now, at Hendrick Motorsports, he has the best shot he can get. Although, he will have 2010 and 2011 to win it too. That's right. He just announced that he will return, just a day ago, for two more years. That is a nice confidence booster going into the chase. It also helps that he is leading the points going into the Chase too.
Don't forget Tony Stewart, he has had a wonderful year with his new team. He has proved that he can be an owner/driver and still win. He was the points leader until the end of the regular season, when Mark Martin had more bonus points because of more wins. But he knows how to win championships too, and he's always hungry for more.
So, watch out for the Hendrick boys, and the ones in HMS equipment. There might be another champion in victory lane at the end of the season, like Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Juan Montoya, and others, but they are going to have to win. Because the Hendrick equipment, is pretty hard to beat.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
JR Motorsports has always wanted to help out new comers into the sport. That's exactly what happened with Brad Keselowski. Team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr saw the talent that Keselowski had. And he took a chance with him. A lot of people questioned Earnhardt's decision, but no one has regreted the decision after that.
Well, Brad Keselowski went from a nobody to a major contender in both of NASCAR's top series. And the same thing may happen to Bires. If he finds sponsorship for a full time job, then he will most likely make it. After all, he is in Hendrick Motorsports equipment, with a great mentor in Dale Jr.
He is the perfect man for the job. A driver who has showed talent before in less-than-capable equipment, just as Keselowski did. He has impressed NASCAR's most popular driver, which is another plus. And he is someone who has nothing to lose. He just has to go out there, give it all he's got, and things will improve from there.
So now, we just wait. At first, we may not see a lot, as Bires still has a lot to learn. But as the weeks go on, and Bires continues to learn, we will see JR Motorsports in victory lane again, but this time, not with Brad Keselowski. And even more years down the road? Look for some type of deal that Brad Keselowski has for 2010.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
"Well, we did all we could do. We gave it a valiant effort. I'll be looking to win some races the rest of the season and hopefully go out with a bang."
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
"What's really hard to believe is there are guys like Mark Martin still in the sport that just last week made his 1,000 start in a NASCAR event; something like that is an achievement.
"For me, this weekend in Atlanta is more than just a landmark," Mendard said. "It's ironic that Johns Manville is on the hood this weekend, they have been a long time sponsor and good friends of mine throughout my career not only in Cup, but in early days of my driving career."
Brad Keselowski won many races with the JR Motorsports team. Brad Keselowski won three races this year, one of them being at a very tough track, the Monster Mile(above). He even won a cup race for James Finch. He was going slow, but things were good.
But then, for some reason, he just couldn't wait any longer. He made a move from HMS, the best team in NASCAR winning just about all of the races(at least it seems that way). But he still made his move, to a less successful team: Penske Racing.
But why? If he was going to race in IRL or any other non-NASCAR series, then Penske would be a good move. Don't get me wrong, Penske is still a good team winning races every now and then, but when you just came from a HMS based team, it kinda seems like a bad choice.
Now, will he be back at Hendrick? That is a possibility. Rick Hendrick made it very clear that he was going to get Brad back, because he is close enough to do so. Rick made sure that he had dibbs on Keselowski.
But is that what Brad wants? Was his plan to go to Penske and wait? If so, it makes his move more understandable, but not completely. So excactly, why did he do it if he was going back? Wouldn't it have been worth the wait?
And Brad and HMS may have parted ways forever, but something just tells me that that is not the case. But whatever happens, it depends on one thing, how well does he do at Penske? But, all I can do is speculate, I can't answer the question. Talk to me next year during the last race before the chase, then, I'll let you know.
First of all, Kudos to NASCAR for finishing the race. With 22 laps to go, the rain came. Fans, teams, drivers, announcers, and maybe even NASCAR were not so sure what to do. Would
And man, did they slip and slide. They did that and then some. Just ask Steven Wallace. He spun so many times, that it seemed like his sponsor got more air time than Marcos Ambrose’s sponsor. He wasn’t the only one. Kyle Busch spun around along with many other veterans. Carl Edwards almost wrecked the car at one point. It was certainly something to watch. It may have been long, but it definetly filled the spot of the cup race being gone. In fact, that was longer than most cup races every will be. The race went about one hour past the scheduled stop time. So much so, that ESPN ran out of commercials. Did you notice that there were not any commercials with the last few cautions?
But a lot of air time does not mean that it can be a good race. In fact, it can even make it worse during less exciting races, when commercials are almost a break for the fans as much as the announcers. But, it was a great race. In fact, prabably one of the most exciting races of the year, including both the Nationwide AND Sprint Cup races. It was definetly great to watch. I loved to see all the drivers hanging on to the cars sliding off the course and going 100+ miles per hour on the straigtaways and 40 miles per hour in the courners. And then they put the rain tires on…. Then cars were so out of control that they kept sliding off the track after each corner. There was never a dull moment during the race. In fact, there were still battles for positions. It wasn’t like they were single file and sliding around. They were side by side. Oh, by the way, don’t forget the double-file restarts. They were awesome too.
Now, rain tires can put on a good show, and hey if it doesn’t, at least you get a show. But, does that means they should go to the Cup Series? Maybe, but not yet. There still needs to be a lot of improvements with visibility and other variables to make these big CoT’s run in the rain. Sometimes, they can’t even run in the dry weather. But in a few years, maybe, just maybe, you see NASCAR’s top stars dive into turn one at Watkins Glen, in the rain.