NASCAR Rivals: Bobby Labonte Injured by Watkins Glen Mele’

August 13, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

With the laps dwindling down and the middle of the pack getting a little antsy, the field turned to complete mayhem with just 8 laps to go in the Centurion Boats at the Glen on Sunday afternoon. Michael McDowell spun David Gilliland as the two raced for position, setting off a chain reaction that left several cars crippled near the pit road entrance. Michael Waltrip, Bobby Labonte, Sam Hornish Jr, Reed Sorenson, Max Papis, Dave Blaney, and Joe Nemechek were also involved.

As seen in the video footage of the accident, Bobby LaBonte was left limping his way over to the infield care center. It was then learned that LaBonte was taken to the hospital in Elmira, NY with what Petty Enterprises VP Robbie Loomis described as discomfort in his rib and abdominal area, but NASCAR officials later stated that Bobby was released from the hospital and cleared to resume competition.

Rating the Race: Centurion Boats at the Glen at Watkins Glen

August 10, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

Kyle Busch made perfect on his efforts to sweep the road course races in the Sprint Cup Series this season as he nabbed his first career victory at Watkins Glen International on Sunday. He led four times for a race high 52 laps, giving him his 8th win of the season and making him the first driver to win the races at both Infineon and Watkins Glen in the same year since his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Tony Stewart, did it back in 2005. He also won the Nationwide Series race in Mexico City earlier in the year, making him the only driver in NASCAR history to win three road course races in the same season.

After rain canceled Friday’s qualifying session, the field lined up based on their order in the car owner’s points standings, setting Kyle Busch out on the pole position for the start of the race. Kyle led the first lap before handing it over to Dale Earnhardt Jr, who started on the outside of the front row. As Busch dropped back to third in the running order, Earnhardt gradually expanded his lead through the next 28 laps, but found himself in 6th after the field completed their first round of green flag pit stops.

Kyle Busch once again took the race lead on lap 30, and was still in charge when the first caution of the day came out on lap 47. NASCAR made the decision to waive the yellow due to debris on the track that was a result of some loose gravel that had been kicked up on the track. The caution was a huge break for Jimmie Johnson who had just pitted a few laps earlier when he had a rear left tire going down, but because he was running up in the top-five at the time, he was able to make his stop without losing a lap. Once pit road opened up, 14 cars remained on the track, including Johnson. Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart - running 1st and 2nd at the time - also elected to stay out.

Kyle Busch was still the race leader when the field went back to green, but the most impressive story to this point was Marcos Ambrose, who was driving the no. 21 Wood Brothers Ford. He was forced to start dead last due to the car’s position in owner points, but had worked his way all the way up inside the top-15 for the restart.

Kyle Busch moved to the side to allow his teammate, Tony Stewart, to lead a lap and pickup the 5 extra bonus points on lap 53, but Tony returned the favor and let Kyle go back by the following lap, and that was the only movement up front until the leaders again came into pit on lap 56. Juan Pablo Montoya and Jimmie Johnson each led a lap during the exchange of green flag stops. Johnson came into pit on lap 58, which handed the lead back over to Dale Earnhardt Jr.

With more than a 25 second lead, Earnhardt was the only car still out on the track that had not yet made his final pit stop. Despite continuing to lose a second per lap to the 2nd and 3rd place cars, Tony Eury Jr. - crew chief for the no. 88 team - elected to keep Earnhardt out on the track, but the call completely backfired when NASCAR waived the second caution flag on lap 64. The caution was again for loose gravel that Travis Kvapil kicked onto the track when he ran off the track. Earnhardt was forced to pit while the other race leaders remained out on the track, and with just 25 laps remaining, he lined up 37th for the restart.

Kyle Busch was once again deemed the race leader by virtue of Earnhardt’s misfortunes with Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman chasing him. With the laps dwindling down, it almost looked as though we might have another caution when Sam Hornish Jr. spun PJ Jones on lap 70, but both cars were able to get going again, and NASCAR saw no reason to bring out the yellow.

The complexity of the race changed on lap 77 when Ryan Newman got into the corner too hard, resulting in a single car spin in Turn 9. Unable to get his car restarted, he had several close cars as the rest of the field tried to avoid the stalled car as it rolled back out onto the track. NASCAR eventually brought out the third caution, and luckily, the entire field was able to get around Newman without hitting him.

The fourth and final caution came with just 8 laps to go when Michael McDowell spun David Gilliland, setting off a huge multi-car crash that involved 9 cars right near the pit road entrance. Michael Waltrip, Bobby LaBonte, Sam Hornish Jr, Reed Sorenson, Max Papis, Dave Blaney, and Joe Nemechek all got caught up in the mess, and LaBonte appeared to be mildly injured as he was seen limping back to the infield care center.

After NASCAR stopped the race under red flag conditions for more than 40 minutes, they finally got the race restarted with Kyle Busch still in the lead, and behind him were Tony Stewart, Marcos Ambrose, Juan Pablo Montoya, Martin Truex Jr, and Kevin Harvick. Busch took the green flag with just five laps to go with Stewart keeping within a couple car lengths for the first few laps. With about 2 to go, though, Busch started to pull away, and Stewart’s new task became keeping the no. 21 of Ambrose in his rearview mirror. Busch went onto take the checkers, and Stewart was able to fend off Ambrose to give Joe Gibbs Racing a 1-2 finish.

Marcos Ambrose fought off Juan Pablo Montoya to hang onto third, and JPM finished 4th. Martin Truex Jr. held onto 5th to earn his first-ever top-five finish at Watkins Glen. He was followed by the 2006 winner of this event, Kevin Harvick, in 6th. 7th place went to Denny Hamlin, who capped off a solid run inside the top-ten for most of the day. Jimmie Johnson rebounded from his cut tire earlier in the race to finish in 8th. AJ Allmendinger walked away with the best NSCS finish of his career in 9th, also giving him his second top-ten in the last 3 races. Carl Edwards completed the top-ten.

Other Notables:
Matt Kenseth had a pretty quiet day, but finished 12th ….. Kasey Kahne matched his best Watkins Glen finish with a 14th place run ….. Dale Earnhardt Jr. wound up 22nd after his team’s race strategy put him in the back of the field with just over 20 laps to go ….. Jeff Gordon had an eventful day. His team had to have NASCAR black flag him to get him into the pits for the first round of stops after the team’s radio became disconnected. Gordon’s car, unfortunately, handled much like the radio, as his struggles throughout the day led to a 25th place finish ….. Robby Gordon started near the back of the pack and never was able to find his way to the front, finishing with a very disappointing 27th place finish ….. Ryan Newman’s spin on lap 77 led to a 28th place effort, as that team continues to watch their Chase hopes keep slipping away.

Kyle Busch now holds a 242 point lead on 1st in the standings, while Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson both moved past Earnhardt Jr. to take over the 2nd and 3rd spots. Tony Stewart’s back-to-back 2nd place efforts have also moved him up to 7th overall, and he now has a 138 point cushion in the Chase standings. Matt Kenseth also moved up a spot to take over the 12th and final spot in the Chase, moving Clint Bowyer back down to 13th. He’s now 22 points out of the Chase.

Grades:
the Race: 75%
Drama: 74%
Coverage: 90%
Pre-Race: 81%

Overall Grade: 78.4%

Complete Results (from nascar.com):

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 1 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M’s 195/10 90 Running
2 9 20 Tony Stewart Toyota The Home Depot 175/5 90 Running
3 41 21 Marcos Ambrose Ford Little Debbie 165/0 90 Running
4 25 42 Juan Montoya Dodge Big Red Slim Pack 165/5 90 Running
5 16 1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 155/0 90 Running
6 11 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 150/0 90 Running
7 10 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Ground 146/0 90 Running
8 4 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe’s 147/5 90 Running
9 35 84 A.J. Allmendinger Toyota Red Bull 138/0 90 Running
10 3 99 Carl Edwards Ford Office Depot 134/0 90 Running
11 19 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 130/0 90 Running
12 13 17 Matt Kenseth Ford DEWALT 127/0 90 Running
13 30 01 Ron Fellows Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Red Head 124/0 90 Running
14 7 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge Budweiser 121/0 90 Running
15 20 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge Best Buy / Garmin 118/0 90 Running
16 18 26 Jamie McMurray Ford Crown Royal 115/0 90 Running
17 5 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet AT&T Mobility 112/0 90 Running
18 17 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 109/0 90 Running
19 22 5 Casey Mears Chevrolet CARQUEST / Kellogg’s 106/0 90 Running
20 37 10 Patrick Carpentier * Dodge Charter Comm. 103/0 90 Running
21 8 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 100/0 90 Running
22 2 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet National Guard / AMP Energy 102/5 90 Running
23 12 07 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet DIRECTV 94/0 90 Running
24 42 45 Boris Said Dodge Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil 91/0 90 Running
25 6 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet DuPont 88/0 90 Running
26 34 00 Michael McDowell * Toyota Champion Mortgage 85/0 90 Running
27 31 7 Robby Gordon Dodge Jim Beam 82/0 90 Running
28 14 12 Ryan Newman Dodge Kodak 79/0 90 Running
29 27 15 Paul Menard Chevrolet Quaker State / Menards 76/0 90 Running
30 32 77 Sam Hornish Jr. * Dodge Mobil 1 73/0 90 Running
31 40 6 David Ragan Ford AAA Insurance 70/0 90 Running
32 28 41 Reed Sorenson Dodge Target 67/0 90 Running
33 26 44 David Reutimann Toyota UPS 64/0 88 Running
34 33 66 Scott Riggs Chevrolet State Water Heaters 61/0 88 Running
35 15 8 Aric Almirola Chevrolet U.S. Army 58/0 88 Running
36 23 28 Travis Kvapil Ford Hitachi Power Tools 55/0 88 Running
37 36 96 P.J. Jones Toyota DLP HDTV 52/0 88 Running
38 39 78 Joe Nemechek Chevrolet Furniture Row Racing 49/0 86 In Pit
39 43 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota NAPA AUTO PARTS 46/0 82 Running
40 24 38 David Gilliland Ford DISH Network Turbo HD 43/0 81 Running
41 29 22 Dave Blaney Toyota Caterpillar 40/0 81 In Pit
42 21 43 Bobby Labonte Dodge Cheerios / Betty Crocker 37/0 81 In Pit
43 38 70 Max Papis Chevrolet Haas Automation 34/0 81 In Pit

Sprint Cup Series Standings (from nascar.com):

RANK +/- DRIVER POINTS BEHIND STARTS POLES WINS TOP 5 TOP 10
1 Kyle Busch 3254 Leader 22 2 8 13 14
2 +1 Carl Edwards 3012 -242 22 0 4 9 16
3 +1 Jimmie Johnson 3010 -244 22 3 2 7 12
4 -2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2985 -269 22 1 1 7 12
5 Jeff Burton 2945 -309 22 0 1 4 11
6 Jeff Gordon 2754 -500 22 2 0 8 10
7 +2 Tony Stewart 2744 -510 22 0 0 8 11
8 -1 Kasey Kahne 2713 -541 22 2 2 3 11
9 +1 Denny Hamlin 2689 -565 22 1 1 6 11
10 -2 Greg Biffle 2689 -565 22 2 0 6 9
11 Kevin Harvick 2670 -584 22 0 0 4 8
12 +1 Matt Kenseth 2628 -626 22 0 0 4 12
13 -1 Clint Bowyer 2606 -648 22 0 1 4 10
14 David Ragan 2539 -715 22 0 0 4 7
15 Ryan Newman 2424 -830 22 1 1 2 7
16 +1 Martin Truex Jr. 2419 -835 22 0 0 3 7
17 -1 Brian Vickers 2418 -836 22 0 0 3 5
18 Kurt Busch 2269 -985 22 0 1 3 5
19 Jamie McMurray 2231 -1023 22 0 0 0 5
20 +1 Elliott Sadler 2159 -1095 22 0 0 2 5
21 -1 Bobby Labonte 2121 -1133 22 0 0 0 1
22 +3 Juan Montoya 2117 -1137 22 0 0 2 3
23 -1 Travis Kvapil 2071 -1183 22 0 0 0 3
24 Casey Mears 2070 -1184 22 0 0 1 4
25 +1 David Gilliland 1979 -1275 22 0 0 1 2
26 -3 Mark Martin 1965 -1289 16 0 0 2 7
27 David Reutimann 1927 -1327 22 0 0 0 1
28 Paul Menard 1883 -1371 22 1 0 0 0
29 +1 Robby Gordon 1770 -1484 22 0 0 0 2
30 +1 Reed Sorenson 1736 -1518 21 0 0 1 2
31 -2 Dave Blaney 1736 -1518 21 0 0 0 2
32 Michael Waltrip 1682 -1572 22 0 0 1 1
33 Sam Hornish Jr.* 1674 -1580 22 0 0 0 0
34 Regan Smith* 1584 -1670 20 0 0 0 0
35 Scott Riggs 1549 -1705 20 0 0 0 0
36 +1 Patrick Carpentier* 1333 -1921 18 1 0 0 0
37 +1 Joe Nemechek 1272 -1982 19 1 0 0 0
38 -2 J.J. Yeley 1263 -1991 17 0 0 1 1
39 +1 A.J. Allmendinger 1226 -2028 14 0 0 0 1
40 -1 Michael McDowell* 1200 -2054 17 0 0 0 0

BallHype: hype it up!

Cup Qualifying Canceled; Said in the Show Despite the Rain

August 8, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

Corona Mexico 200 Practice

Though they may not admit it, several drivers in the Sprint Cup garage area were probably a bit smitten when NASCAR was forced to cancel qualifying for the Centurion Boats at the Glen at Watkins Glen International on Friday. The simple fact of the matter is that several drivers near the top at points are going to receive a better starting position that they likely would have, and while it still may not exactly give them a shot at winning Sunday’s race, it obviously provides a good path towards a better finish. That would be the guys like Greg Biffle and Kasey Kahne who historically get left in a position where they have to work just a little harder to keep their Chase hopes alive after a long day of racing at Watkins Glen. And, as for guys like Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and Kevin Harvick - drivers that are typically considered to be among the favorites to win anytime we go road course racing - they should be just as happy that there was no qualifying on Friday - or, at least they almost were.

Per the NASCAR rulebook, no qualifying means that the field will be set based on car owner points from top to bottom with the small caveat of the past champions provisional to be taken into account. Now, that was almost enough to keep the road course ringers from making their way into the show, but because Ron Fellows is replacing Regan Smith for DEI and PJ Jones is driving the no. 96 HOF Racing entry this weekend, both drivers had enough owner points to receive the opportunity to run on Sunday. Max Papis and Marcos Ambrose almost missed the cut as well, but with only 45 entries, they managed to squeeze by as well.

The two cars that failed to “qualify” were Brian Simo and Boris Said, both considered to be road course specialists. This marked the second year in a row that Said showed up at Watkins Glen only to watch Mother Nature end his weekend before he ever even started the engine ….. and, it was also the second year in a row that a veteran driver climbed out of their car to make room for Said’s talents and expertise. Last year it was Bill Elliott stepping out while Boris drove the no. 21 Wood Brothers car to a 14th place finish. This year, it was Kyle Petty sacraficing his no. 45 Petty Enterprises car - 40th in owner points - to give Boris yet another break.

“Boris is known around the world as one of the premier road-course racers,” said Robbie Loomis, vice president of operations at Petty Enterprises. “He’ll give us another great opportunity to assess our program. Everyone at Petty Enterprises is grateful to Boris for helping us out.”

BallHype: hype it up!

Race Preview for Centurion Boats at the Glen at Watkins Glen

August 7, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

Robby Gordon stops in the Pits at Watkins Glen
*Credit photo to Newscom.

This week NASCAR heads to Waktins Glen International for one of their two road course races of the season on the Sprint Cup Series schedule. The race comes just one week after NASCAR made history for itself when they raced in the rain last Saturday in the Nationwide Series in Montreal, which most critics feel came off as a huge success. As of right now there are no plans to break out the rain tires on Sunday, but there’s still plenty to look forward to with just five races remaining until the cutoff for the Chase.

Recent Winners:
2007 - Tony Stewart
2006 - Kevin Harvick
2005 - Tony Stewart

Recent Polesitters:
2007 - Jeff Gordon
2006 - Kurt Busch
2005 - “Rained Out”

the Usual Suspects:
Tony Stewart is in the midst of the longest winless streak in his Sprint Cup career, but that should be of little concern to the no. 20 team this weekend. ‘Smoke’ built up a bit of momentum for himself after a 2nd place finish last week at Pocono, and now he heads to Watkins Glen where he holds the best driver rating over the past 3 years and has the second best average finish amongst active drivers. He’s one three of the last four races at the Glen, along with a 2nd place finish in 2006.

The only driver to breakup Stewart’s winning streak at the Glen in the past four years was Kevin Harvick, the winner of this event in ‘06. In his seven career races at Watkins Glen, last year’s 36th place finish is his only run outside of the top-15. He also has four top-10’s in that span ….. Jeff Gordon is considered a threat to win at most tracks, but perhaps even moreso at road courses. Once dubbed “King of the Road”, Jeff has had a rough go of it with only one top-10 finish here since 2002, but he did win 3 of the 4 events prior to that stretch ….. The series points leader, Kyle Busch, was never thought of much as a road course racer heading into this season, but already in 2008 he’s managed to win the Nationwide Series race in Mexcio and then went onto win the Toyota Save/Mart 350 at Infineon. After a 33rd place run at Watkins Glen in his rookie season, Kyle has since rebounded with back-to-back top-10’s ….. Denny Hamlin has run here only twice, finishing 10th and 2nd in those races.

the Unusual Suspects:
Robby Gordon has been in dire need of some good runs for the sake of his own race team, Robby Gordon Motorsports, and many fans have long expected that success to come at one of NASCAR’s two road course events. Robby has six top-5 finishes in eight races run here, and even won the event while racing for RCR back in 2003. He currently has a string of three consecutive top-5 finishes at Watkins Glen.

Marcos Ambrose competed in his first Sprint Cup event earlier in the season at Infineon. Known for his road course specialties, Marcos didn’t disappoint, as he had a great top-five effort going until issues late in the race put an end to his day. This will be his first visit to Watkins Glen with the Cup Series as he once again fields the no. 21 Wood Bros. Racing entry, but there’s no reason to think he won’t rise to the occasion once again ….. Juan Pablo Montoya is always a favorite to keep an eye on at road course races as well. An incident with Kevin Harvick here last year put an early end to his day and he finished 39th, but that should be considered a one-off deal. He does have an Infineon win to his credit at the Cup level.

Road Course Ringers are sure to be a factor in any NASCAR road course race, regardless of the series. Though they don’t typically win these things at the Cup level, many of the drivers leave their mark with exceptional runs. Amongst the ringers included in this weekend’s entry list are: Ron Fellows (DEI) - two top-5’s in the last 4 years; Boris Said- finished 3rd in 2005; PJ Jones - finished 4th in 2002; and Brian Simo and Max Papis are on the list as well.

the Unusual Slackers:
Greg Biffle picked up his first ever top-10 Watkins Glen finish last year when he crossed the line in 10th, but each of his four starts previous to that were 30th or worse. His overall average here is 30.2 ….. When you think of road course racing, Kurt Busch isn’t a name that immediately jumps out at you as someone you need to avoid carrying on your fantasy roster, but like Biffle, he also has only one career top-10 at Watkins Glen. Four of his seven races here he has finished outside of the top-15 ….. Dale Earnhardt Jr. managed to put together a string of solid runs here at one point, finishing 3rd, 5th, and 10th from 2003 to 2005, but in 8 years of racing here, he’s finished 35th or worse three times, holding an average finish of just 20.6.

Best Driver Ratings:
1. Tony Stewart - 137.9
2. Denny Hamlin - 112.1
3. Jeff Gordon - 108.2
4. Robby Gordon - 106.3
5. Jimmie Johnson - 104.5

Best Driver Averages:
1. Scott Pruett - 5.8
2. Denny Hamlin - 6.0
3. Tony Stewart - 6.1
4. Mark Martin - 8.8
5. Robby Gordon - 9.4

Watkins Glen Facts:
- 8 of the 25 races at Watkins Glen have been won from the pole position. The last driver to do so was Tony Stewart in 2005, but before that it hadn’t happened since Jeff Gordon did it in 1998.
- 16 of the 25 races have been won from a top-five starting position.
- The deepest starting position a driver has ever come from to win at Watkins Glen is 18th. Steve Park did it in 2000.
- Jeff Gordon holds the track record for most wins with 4.
- Mark Martin holds the track record for most poles (3), top-five’s (12), and top-ten’s (16).
- The most different leaders ever during a race at the Glen was 12 - back in 1995.
- Chevrolet leads the manufacturer race at Watkins Glen with 14 wins.
- 5 drivers currently in the top-12 in points have never led a lap at Watkins Glen: Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, and Clint Bowyer.
- In the midst of a 35 race winless streak, Tony Stewart’s last victory came here at Watkins Glen in 2007.

Video of the last 7 laps of the 2007 Centurion Boats at the Glen race:

Six-Pack Challenge:
Winner - Tony Stewart
2nd Place - Robby Gordon
3rd Place - Marcos Ambrose
4th Place - Kyle Busch
5th Place - Carl Edwards
6th Place - Kevin Harvick

Lock of the Week - Tony Stewart
Sleeper Pick - Marcos Ambrose
Steer Clear of - Greg Biffle

BallHype: hype it up!

Road Course Ringers Flood Sonoma

June 18, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

Scott Pruett Will Compete in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway

As you tune into TNT this Sunday afternoon to watch NASCAR’s Cup race, your first inclination may very well be that you mistakenly tuned into the IndyCar Series race … but, wait … why are they driving stock cars, right? Well, don’t try to adjust the set or flip the channel, because that, my friend, is indeed the Sprint Cup Series, and that’s what we call road racin’.

See, for as long as I can remember, twice a year team owners go out and fetch themselves an experienced road course racer in an effort to tame the mountains in Sonoma, CA or the hills at Watkins Glen, NY, replacing their less-than-adequate Cup drivers that have never driven anything other than a stock car since the day they graduated from go-karts and late models.

Scrolling through this year’s entry list for the Toyota/Save Mart 350, though, at first glance it doesn’t really seem that bad. Of the 47 entries, all 7 of them are fairly familiar names to viewers that follow the Cup Series exclusively, but this year is unique in that there are also four drivers entered for the race that are full-time Cup drivers, yet they actually have more open-wheel and road course racing experience than they do driving the ovals (Patrick Carpentier, Dario Franchitti, Juan Pablo Montoya, Sam Hornish Jr), not to mention two more drivers that also have their share of experience in the open wheel ranks (Robby Gordon, AJ Allmendinger).

The most notable of the changes taking place amongst the teams this year is no doubt within the ranks of Chip Ganassi Racing, where Reed Sorenson - in his second season of Cup racing - has been replaced by one of the most famous road course ringers of all, Scott Pruett. Pruett has driven in 11 road course races in the Cup Series that have resulted in 3 top-five’s and 5 top-ten finishes, and also finished 3rd earlier this year in the Corona Mexico 200 in the Nationwide Series. He does not currently compete full-time in any of racing’s premier series, and is frequently used as a hired gun of sorts, often by Ganassi. Pruett’s also won three Daytona Prototype races this year alone, including the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

My gripe on this one doesn’t necessarily lie so much with the addition of Pruett to the team for the road course race, but moreso with the seclusion of Sorenson. I’m a huge advocate of the theory that if you hired a guy to be your driver, then for Pete’s sake, let him drive! It may seem like an unlikely scenario at this point in Sorenson’s career, but what happens if the day comes that Sorenson is competing to make the coveted Chase field? You can’t pull him from the race at that point, but with minimal road course experience under his belt, you’re hurting his chances of salvaging a decent finish and moving onward to stay competitive for the Chase. Granted, that’s far from the case this season as Reed currently sits 32nd in points, but to me it’s a clear cut case of Ganassi being near-sighted … meaning that he’s only looking at the here and now, wanting to increase his odds for a win on Sunday. But, whatever happened to planning for the future? Of course, they’re doing the exact same thing over at DEI where they’re replacing young Regan Smith this weekend with the likes of Ron Fellows. Different team, but I hold the same opinion.

One driver that I’m very particularly interested to see this weekend, however, is Marcos Ambrose who will be making his Sprint Cup Series debut behind the wheel of the no. 21 Wood Brothers Ford. Early in his career, Ambrose had driven in the open-wheel circuit, garnering the Formula Ford Euro Cup championship in 1998 and two V8 Supercar Championship titles in ‘03 and ‘04. He broke into the ranks of NASCAR through the Craftsman Truck Series in 2006 and then progressed to the Nationwide Series last year, where he finished 8th in points.  This year he currently sits in 13th with only 3 top-ten finishes through 16 races, but there have been several occassions where he’s looked promising, including his near-victory at the Corona Mexico 200 road course race where he finished 2nd.

And, of course, we cannot mention road course ringers without including the beloved Boris Said. Boris’ last attempt to compete in a Cup race came at the beginning of the year when he failed to qualify for the Daytona 500, but he did compete in the Nationwide Series race in Mexico, and as some of you may recall, Marcos Ambrose’s road to second traveled through the Boris’ back bumper. If you don’t remember what I’m talking about, go back and read “Ambrose is the Latest Said Head.” With no points on the line, if these two happen to cross paths at some point during the race, well, let’s just say things could get exciting really fast.

Other road course ringers on the entry list for this weekend’s race include Brian Simo, Max Papis, and Brandon Ash.

*Credit photo to Newscom.

NASCAR Taketh Away

April 24, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

Peyton Sellers won the season-opening Camping World East Series event this past weekend at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Easley, SC for Andy Santerre Motorsports. Following the race, however, NASCAR officials found that the 16-year-old’s car was in possession of an illegal shock, and NASCAR in turn stripped him of his victory. This is the first time in recent memory that I believe NASCAR has stripped a driver in any series of a win for any rules infraction, but the team definitely feels like they’re being made an example of.

Santerre said to reporters, “Needless to say we are shocked and disappointed. We are being made an example … We admit there was a rules infraction, but it was a shock to us with as much as it was unintentional and unknown prior to post-race inspection.”

The team is obviously disappointed that they have been penalized with the loss of their race win on top of whatever other penalties NASCAR decides to hand to them, but to make matters worse, they deemed the car with a  30th place finish. The win was then awarded to Sellers’ teammate and original second-place finisher, Austin Dillon – grandson to Sprint Cup Series car owner, Richard Childress.

In Other News:
- Due to the Nationwide Series’ race in Talladega and the
Craftsman Truck Series race in Kansas both being held on Saturday, Kyle Busch has conceded running the truck race this weekend. The series’ points leader will be replaced in the no. 51 Billy Ballew Motorsports truck by Shane Sieg. Shane has made 29 career starts in the truck series and has posted two top-ten finishes. One of those top-ten’s actually came behind the wheel of a Billy Ballew Motorsports truck last year at Loudon.

- Haas CNC Racing’s recent release of Jeremy Mayfield has left them scrambling for drivers week-to-week to fill the seat behind the wheel of their no. 70 Chevy Impala. The first week after firing Mayfield, they put Johnny Sauter in the car at Phoenix en route to a 37th place finish, and this weekend they’ll be hoping for better results with Ken Schrader at the helm. The team has recently locked on another driver for at least two of the season’s events with Max Papis scheduled to drive the car at both of the road course races in Watkins Glen and Infineon.

Wednesday Mid-Week Wrap

February 20, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

2/17 – Ryan Newman kicked off the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season by winning his first race in 81 races by bringing home the checkers at the Daytona 500.  Read More.

2/17 – Former NBA star John Salley has stated that he is in the early stages of negotiations of purchasing or starting a team in the Sprint Cup Series.  Read More.

2/18 – The Martin Truex Jr Foundation has announced the official launch of their “Tag! You’re It” campaign to benefit the Dove House Children’s Advocacy Center.  Read More.

2/18 – NASCAR has reported an entry list of 51 drivers for California in this weekend’s Sprint Cup race, 43 entries in the Nationwide Series, and 35 entries in the Craftsman Truck Series race.

2/19 – The International Race of Champions (IROC) Series has officially announced the termination of the series and will liquidate all assets in a 2-day public auction on March 7th & 8th.  Read More.

2/19 – The IndySeries is expected to purchase the Champ Car Series in a deal that could happen as early as this afternoon, though details have not yet been confirmed.  Read More.

2/19 – This weekend at Fontana, CA, Mark Martin will become only the 13th driver in history to make his 700th career start in a Cup Series points race.  Read More.

2/19 – Rusty Wallace Inc. has announced that Dale Ferguson will serve as the interim Crew Chief for their no. 64 Nationwide Series team driven by David Stremme, Max Papis, & Chase Austin.  Read More.

2/19 – Roush-Fenway Racing has announced that Travis Kvapil will drive the no. 09 Zaxby’s Ford F-150 in the Craftsman Truck Series race this weekend at California. Read More.

Wednesday Mid-Week Wrap

January 30, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

1/26 – Richard Childress has signed Stephen Leicht to compete in at least 2 races for his no. 21 Nationwide Series team.

1/26 – Dover International Speedway – known to racers as “the Monster Mile” – now has a 46’ tall statue known as “Miles” that will stand in the track’s newly created Victory Plaza.  The monument will be the largest attraction at any NASCAR track.  Read More.

1/26 – As Greg Biffle enters the final year of his contract at Roush Fenway Racing, he’s made it a point to state that while he’s listening to all options, staying with Roush is his first choice.  Biffle also talks about how the promotion of Robby Reiser is a huge plus for the organization.  Read More.

1/26 – Kenny Wallace has finally landed a ride in the Nationwide Series with Fitz Motorsports. The car number and sponsor have yet to be announced.  Read More.

1/26 – Team owner Chip Ganassi set a new record by winning three straight Rolex 24 events, this year with the team of Montoya, Franchitti, Rojas, and Pruett.  Read More.

1/28 – This year’s Daytona 500 will carry a record purse of $18,689,238 (about $300k more than 2007’s race).  Read More.

1/28 – The no. 19 Dodge driven by Elliot Saddler will have a tri-mary sponsors in 2008 with McDonald’s, Best Buy, and Stanley Tools all sharing the primary sponsorship role this year.  Read More.

1/28 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. is reportedly upset with the fact that DEI has supposedly removed any indications of his stint with the company since his departure from the team, though DEI claims it’s all a result of a mix-up.  Read More.

1/28 – Kyle Busch has announced that he will participate in the Track Walk at Las Vegas Motorspeedway on March 2. The Track Walk is an event held by the NASCAR Foundation in support of various charities.  Read More.

1/28 – NASCAR rookie Jacques Villeneuve has parted ways with his long-time agent, Craig Pollock.  Villeneuve stated that he no longer needs a manager to handle his affairs.  Read More.

1/29 – Juan Pablo Montoya turned in the fastest lap in the 2 days of Sprint Cup testing at Las Vegas Motorspeedway with a lap of 28.914 in the Tuesday afternoon session.  Read More.

1/29 – Max Papis, a car tester for Hendrick Motorsports, is reported to be looking for opportunities to run the road courses in the Sprint Cup Series this year in addition to his part-time Nationwide schedule for Rusty Wallace Inc.  Read More.

1/30 – Darlington Raceway has announced the debut of their “all-you-can-eat” ticket package.  Read More.

1/30 – “Inside Nextel Cup” on the Speed Channel has changed its name to “This Week in NASCAR” with Steve Byrnes taking over as the new host.  Drivers Michael Waltrip, Ken Schrader, and Greg Biffle will remain as panelists and will be joined by various Crew Chiefs, including Chad Knauss.  Read More.

1/30 – Braun Racing has signed Cup stars Brian Vickers, Kyle Busch, and Denny Hamlin to all run part-time schedules in the no. 10 and no. 31 Toyota Camri’s sponsored by Dollar General in the Nationwide Series this year.  Read More.



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