The tides of change reached the shores of motorsports this week as Anheuser-Busch announced that Budweiser will no longer serve as the official beer of the Anheuser-Busch series and that its thirty years of support for Kenny Bernstein Racing’s NHRA team has been put on the blocks. According to Anheuser-Busch this ends a historic association that over-takes STP’s 28 year sponsorship of NASCAR’s Richard “The King” Petty as the longest run between a racer and a sponsor.
Anheuser-Busch hasn’t announced who they’re going to throw their sponsorship behind for 2009. They may go with Kasey Kahne, who they sponsored in 2008, after the departure of Dale Earnhardt Jr. for Hendricks Motorsports at the end of 2007. But they estimate they only received around 12 million in benefits due to this arrangement, less than fifty percent of the exposure value they received using Dale Earnhardt Jr., so they might be looking around for someone they figure is a little more high-profile to help them return a little more value for their dollar.
Kasey Kahne is probably crossing his fingers and planning on Budweiser continuing their relationship, it’s hard to find sponsors in the current economic climate and I’m sure the last thing we wants to do is find a new sponsor for 2009. Budweiser on the other hand, is probably wishing Richard or Dale were still available, instead of being otherwise occupied.
Ahh, yes … another glorious Friday morning, and I think you all know what that means!. Yup, once again here with me are Bruce Simmons from Bruce’s NASCAR Bits & Pieces, along with Charlie Turner from On Pit Row, and we’re about to get ”Loose in Turn Three” yet again!
We’re coming off a pretty big weekend in NASCAR, and it’s given us plenty to talk about throughout the week despite a bit a slower week as it relates to the news itself. Right here at Do You NASCAR, we’re going to rehash a bit of the same. With Joey Logano coming off his first Nationwide win in only his third start, we’re going to look at the statements made by Joe Gibbs Racing and question whether or not the 18-year old kid is truly ready to take some seat time in NASCAR’s premier series. Over at On Pit Row, we’ll analyze the validity of Dale Earnhardt Jr. snapping his winless drought, and at Bruce’s NASCAR Bits & Pieces, we look at the recent statements made by NASCAR and decide whether or not they’re right to ask their drivers to keep quiet as it relates to their grumbles on the Car of Tomorrow.
So, sit back and buckle up tight. Three questions, three voices, and three different answer … we’re about to get Loose in Turn Three!
Joe Gibbs Racing has stated that we may see Joey Logano in a Cup car by the end of ‘08. Logano’s proven himself to be a rare talent, but is 2008 too early?
TZ: I’m usually a pesimist when it comes to issues like this, and it really all stems from watching Rick Ankiel come up as a Starting Pitcher with the St. Louis Cardinals organization back in 2000, only to watch him go through a meltdown in the post-season and ultimately ruining his pitching career. For me, this can easily happen with any athlete in any sport, even if they are named “Sliced Bread.” Logano’s going to be a star one day … it’s a given. But, when JGR’s already got 3 cars that could and should make the Chase and Logano working his way into the Nationwide Series, I don’t see the need to push him so early into a Cup car
Bruce: I’ve been dwelling on this very premise. If a driver is ready to compete on the emotional and talent level, then have at. If everyone things Logano is ready, then no, 2008 is not too early to test the waters. Yet I don’t think it matters when someone starts their burst onto the scene. It seems that some drivers flare big onto the scene and then become mediocre. If they manage to keep a multi-year flare going, it is still going to flare out as the sport keeps bringing in the young guns as the next latest fad, shuffling the drivers down a hierarchy of ‘fizzle and fade’. I think the new guys charge onto the scene and take chances. Then, they get smacked down when they cross the line, and they tone down. Then they comfortable and that’s when things change. But that’s MHO.
Charlie: The last young driver to have as much early buzz as Logano was probably Kyle Busch. Before that, Casey Attwood, maybe. Kyle went to Hendrick Motorsports and has been a star ever since. Attwood went to a new start-up team and new manufacturer - Evernham Motorsports in Dodge’s return to the sport - and it all fell apart. Joey Logano is going to start for one of the top two teams in the sport with maybe the best manufacturer. He’s already shown he can drive anything. He has actually had more testing time in CoT’s than Nationwide cars. He’s ready now. He’ll look good in that #20 next year too.
Follow the rest of this discussion:
- NASCAR has asked teams and drivers to tone down their complaints about the COT. Do you think NASCAR has a valid point?
(Bruces NASCAR Bits & Pieces)
- Dale Earnhardt Jr broke a NASCAR rule at the end of Sunday’s race at MIS, went unpunished and won the race. Do you have a problem with that?
(On Pit Row)
*Credit photo to Newscom.
2007 - Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards
2006 - Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne
2005 - Jeremy Mayfield, Greg Biffle
Recent Pole Winners:
2007 - Jeff Gordon, JJ Yeley
2006 - Jeff Burton, Kasey Kahne
2005 - Joe Nemecheck, Ryan Newman
Best Driver Ratings (from racingone.com):
1. Carl Edwards - 112.3
2. Kurt Busch - 106.8
3. Greg Biffle - 105.4
4. Jimmie Johnson - 104.7
5. Matt Kenseth - 104.1
Best Average Finishes (from racingone.com):
1. Carl Edwards - 7.3
2. Matt Kenseth - 9.7
3. Denny Hamlin - 10.0
4. Jeff Gordon - 12.5
5. Martin Truex Jr - 12.5
Most Wins - David Pearson (9)
Most Wins (Active) - Bobby LaBonte (3)
Most Poles - David Pearson (10)
Most Poles (Active) - Jeff Gordon (5)
Most Top 5’s - Cale Yarbrough (21)
Most Top 10’s - Bill Elliott (29)
Most Manufacturer Wins - Ford (30)
Track Qualifying Record - Ryan Newman (37.069 seconds / 2005)
- David Pearson, Cale Yarbrough, Bill Elliott, Rusty Wallace, Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, Dale Jarrett, and Mark Martin have combined to win 45 of the 77 Cup races at Michigan, or 58.4% of the races.
- The track record for a 400 mile race at Michigan is 173.997 mph, whereas the record for a 500 miler is only 139.254 mph. That’s an average 34 mph slower for that extra hundred miles! This weekend’s race is 400 miles.
- A Cup race at Michigan has gone caution free on three separate occassions, most recently in 1999. The most cautions at MIS? Only 10, which came in August of 2006.
- Five times has a Michigan race ended with only 2 drivers on the lead lap. The last time was in 1975.
- Roush-Fenway Racing has more wins at Michigan (10) than they do any other track.
- A driver has won from the pole position at Michigan 15 times. Last weekend at Pocono marked the first time this season such a feat had been accomplished.
Winner - Greg Biffle
2nd Place - Carl Edwards
3rd Place - Tony Stewart
4th Place - Kasey Kahne
5th Place - Matt Kenseth
6th Place - Jimmie Johnson
Lock of the Week - Carl Edwards
Sleeper Pick - Brian Vickers
Steer Clear of - Clint Bowyer
They are all the all-time leader in NASCAR for wins as an organization, they have 7 Cup championships to their credit, and they’ve been in operation since 1949. So, why is it that only a few months into the 2008 season, Petty Enterprises had looked as though they might be on the verge of crumbling? Maybe it’s because they haven’t visited Victory Lane since 1998. Perhaps it’s the fact that General Mills, the team’s #1 sponsor for a very, very long time, has already announced their departure from Petty to put their name on a new RCR car. It might have something to do with Bobby LaBonte, the cornerstone for Petty since 2006, looked as though he could be headed with General Mills. Or, it could be the fact that it wasn’t so long ago that the owner’s son, Kyle Petty, was asked to remove himself from one of the team’s cars for a race, after which he publically called out VP Robbie Loomis in several media articles.
Whatever it is that had us all thinking that Petty Enterprises had become a simple afterthought in the NASCAR circuit, we can put those notions to rest, because with their announcement on Wednesday afternoon has erased any doubts about their intent to compete in this sport. Petty announced the re-signing of LaBonte to a four-year contract extension, which many people believe could take Bobby to the near-end of his career, but the big announcement for the team was at the management level. Richard Petty has given up majority control of the organization to Boston Ventures in an effort to finally bring the team the capitol it has so desperately needed.
Boston Ventures has several interests in the media and entertainment industries, including investments in Six Flags theme parks, Motown Records, American Media Inc, and some others. While Richard Petty claims he will still be involved in the day-to-day activities of Petty Enterprises, Boston Ventures Managing Director, Barry Barker, has taken over as the new Chairman, and David Zucker will fill in as the CEO.
For LaBonte, negotiations with Petty have been ongoing and intensified earlier in the season when it was rumored that he would follow General Mills over to Richard Childress Racing. After finally coming to an agreement with the team, he cited the additions of Boston Ventures to the mix as a very large contributer to his decision. While he enjoys racing for Petty and would like nothing more than setup shop there long-term, just as any other racer desires, he felt like he needed better equipment to compete in. With Boston Ventures coming on board, he strongly feels like they can finally get the equipment they need.
“With Boston Ventures coming on board, it was definitely the thing that swayed me to stay,” he said. “They are bringing the things we need to move forward.”
While nobody is expecting an overnight miracle to result from this announcement, it’s good to think that Petty Enterprises could be back on the move. This is certainly a step in the right direction, and with LaBonte still competing for a spot in this year’s Chase, things are definitely looking up for Petty!
*Credit photo to Newscom.
We all know that Joe Gibbs Racing has established themselves as the powerhouse of the field at this point in time. We know that Roush-Fenway Racing has come a long way in figuring out this new car and that Hendrick Motorsports seems to have lost the edge that they had on everyone else last year. We’ve analyzed potential contractual signings every which way we could, and still found ourselves locked in a guessing game. Been there, done that, but perhaps one of the stories that we haven’t talked nearly enough about are two teams that are holding out hope of getting a driver into contention for the Chase for the Cup for the first time in their team’s history, and another that hasn’t fielded a Chase contender since 2004.
Once considered one of the top organizations in NASCAR, Yates Racing last visited Victory Lane back in the Fall of 2005 when Dale Jarrett drove the no. 88 car to a win at Talladega and the last time they were able to land a driver inside the top-12 in points was with Elliott Sadler back in ‘04. Since those days, the team has gone through a horrendous rebuilding stage and continue to struggle week in and week out to find primary sponsorship of their cars driven by Travis Kvapil and David Gilliland. Both are highly regarded as “underdogs” every Sunday when the series hits the track, and both have failed to land a top-five finish all season long. Still, they’ve continued to push forward, and have managed to turn a few heads along the way, particularly Kvapil. Coming into the season as a driver that nobody really paid much attention to, Travis admittedly got off to a rather slow start. But, something seems to have clicked within this team ever since a solid run at Phoenix turned sour and he finished 22nd. After that race, Kvapil sat 24th in points, but four finishes of 16th or better in the last six races - highlighted with a 6th place run at Talladega and an 8th place run in Darlington - have now moved Travis up six spots in the standings. He’s now 18th in points and trails 12th place, Tony Stewart, by only 150 points.
Red Bull Racing has been the team that quite a few people have been talking about as of late. With Brian Vickers and AJ Allmendinger behind the wheel for the organization, the team managed to qualify for only 40 races in a combined 72 attempts in their inaugural season in 2007. Coming into the season with both cars outside of the top-35 in points and forced to qualify on time, Allmendinger again missed out on the first three events of ‘08 before being replaced temporarily by veteran driver, Mike Skinner. Despite failing to finish inside of the top-25 in any of the five races that Skinner filled in, the move appears to have paid dividends. AJ has been able to take what he’s learned from Skinner and put it to good use on the track, first winning the All-Star Showdown at Lowe’s to make the cut for the All-Star event itself, and then scoring a career best 12th place finish last week at Pocono. Still, the focus of the media on this team has been placed with Brian Vickers, who appears to be on the verge of scoring the second Cup victory of his career. After a disappointing 2007 that brought him only 1 top-five and 5 top-ten’s, Vickers has been impressive on several occassions this year, though it may not always show up in the results column. He’s been strong on all of the superspeedways, but the team really started to turn heads when they established themselves as one of the dominant cars in the Coca Cola 600 before an equipment failure ended their day. Since then he’s bounced back with a 13th place effort at Dover and finished 2nd last week at Pocono. Brian has now moved up to 17th place overall and trails 12th by a mere 112 points.
Rounding out the list of underdogs making a charge towards the Chase is non-other than Petty Enterprises. Despite the fact that this team has more wins than any other organization in the history of the sport and a slieu of championships from when “the King” himself, Richard Petty, drove the car, the company hasn’t celebrated a win since 1999 when John Andretti won at Martinsville, and the closest they’ve come to a bid for the Chase was an 18th place finish in the standings last year from Bobby LaBonte. Now, nobody’s really sure who will drive the no. 45 car next year as Kyle Petty, Chad McCumbee, and Terry LaBonte have all failed to do much with the ride, but Bobby continues to press forward. Though he’s failed to score a top-ten all season long, he does have seven top-15’s and has gone the entire year without a DNF, something that has hindered the team in recent years. Additionally, he’s got six finishes of 18th or better in the last eight races, which started with a 12th place run at Phoenix, and LaBonte now resides in 19th in the standings, trailing his former Gibbs teammate in 12th by 159 points.
As many of the drivers in the top-12 continue to experience their share of misfortunes as they bounce back and forth between the bubble spots, this could be a prime opportunity for one of these teams to capitalize. But, with the recent emergance of guys like David Ragan, the resurgance of Matt Kenseth, and other perrenial Chase hopefuls such as Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr. standing between them as well, the guys currently in the top-12 may not be all they’ll have to contend with.
This week, Do You NASCAR also asks its readers …
1. Which driver in these 3 organizations will be the first to score their first / next win?
2. Are consistent top-15 and top-20 runs going to be enough to land a driver in the Chase field?
3. Which of these teams has made the best organizational move(s) in the last 2 years?
4. Will any of these 3 teams get a driver into the 2008 Chase? If so, who?
*Credit photos to Newscom.
2007 - Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr.
2006 - Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth
2005 - Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle
Recent Pole Winners:
2007 - Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman
2006 - Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman
2005 - Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson
Best Driver Ratings (from racingone.com):
1. Greg Biffle - 113.7
2. Matt Kenseth - 111.9
3. Mark Martin - 104.4
4. Jimmie Johnson - 101.5
5. Kyle Busch - 101.5
Best Driver Average Finishes (from racingone.com):
1. Carl Edwards - 9.1
2. Ryan Newman - 10.0
3. Martin Truex Jr. - 10.5
4. Tony Stewart - 10.6
5. Mark Martin - 11.1
Most Wins - Bobby Allison, Richard Petty (7)
Most Wins / Active Driver - Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Mark Martin (3)
Most Poles - David Pearson (6)
Most Top 5’s - Dale Earnhardt, Mark Martin (19)
Most Top 10’s - Richard Petty, Ricky Rudd (26)
Most Manufacturer Wins - Chevrolet (28)
Track Qualifying Record - Jeremy Mayfield (22.288 seconds / 2004)
TZ’s Six-Pack Challenge:
Winner - Tony Stewart
2nd Place - Greg Biffle
3rd Place - Jimmie Johnson
4th Place - Kyle Busch
5th Place - Martin Truex Jr.
6th Place - Jeff Burton
Lock of the Week - Tony Stewart
Sleeper Pick - Juan Pablo Montoya
Steer Clear of - Kevin Harvick
2007 - Jeff Gordon, Casey Mears
2006 - Kasey Kahne (x2)
2005 - Jimmie Johnson (x2)
2007 - Ryan Newman (x2)
2006 - Scott Riggs (x2)
2005 - Elliott Sadler, Ryan Newman
Best Driver Ratings (from racingone.com):
1. Jimmie Johnson - 120.2
2. Kyle Busch - 94.3
3. Mark Martin - 93.2
4. Kasey Kahne - 92.9
5. Carl Edwards - 88.6
Best Driver Averages (from racingone.com):
1. Jimmie Johnson - 6.8
2. Carl Edwards - 7.3
3. Bobby LaBonte - 9.3
4. Mark Martin - 12.1
5. Tony Stewart - 12.9
Most Wins - Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip (6)
Most Poles - David Pearson (12)
Most Top 5’s - Bobby Allison, Richard Petty (23)
Most Top 10’s - Richard Petty (31)
Most Manufacturer Wins - Chevrolet (353)
Qualifying Record - Elliott Sadler (27.948 seconds / 2005)
- LMS President, Humpy Wheeler, will step down following the Coca Cola 600
- Ken Schrader will debut Richard Childress Racing’s no. 33 car this weekend
- Sterling Marlin will reunite with Chip Ganassi Racing this weekend to fill in for the injured Dario Franchitti
- Brian Pattie will make his Sprint Cup Series Crew Chief debut at the helm of Juan Pablo Montoya
TZ’s Six-Pack Challenge:
Winner - Carl Edwards
2nd Place - Jimmie Johnson
3rd Place - Kyle Busch
4th Place - Kasey Kahne
5th Place - Mark Martin
6th Place - Tony Stewart
Lock of the Week - Carl Edwards
Sleeper Pick - Mark Martin
Steer Clear of - Ryan Newman
Richard Childress Racing won the fifth race of the season prior in Bristol prior to the Sprint Cup Series’ off-week, and after last week’s run in Martinsville, they’re now in control of the top two spots in the Sprint Cup points standings. But, that’s not what’s got them in the headlines this week. For a few years now Richard Childress has expressed interest in fielding a fourth race team in the Cup Series, and on Tuesday afternoon, they made that decision final.
In 2009, Childress will add the no. 33 Chevy Impala to their lineup, which already features the 07, 29, and 31 cars driven by Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, and Jeff Burton. About a month ago rumors began to surface that if RCR were to create a fourth team that Bobby LaBonte could be the primary candidate to drive that car for Richard based on their past relationships. LaBonte is currently in the final year of his three-year contract with Petty Enterprises where he drives the no. 43 General Mills Dodge Charger. Tuesday’s announcement from RCR have made things a bit more interesting with LaBonte, because their announcement entailed the fact that they have already signed General Mills as the sponsor of the no. 33 car for next year.
Typically losing a single sponsor may not always seem life-threatening in the case of most teams, especially when you’re talking about a team that’s compiled more Cup Series victories in their tenure than any other race team in NASCAR history, which is exactly where Petty Enterprises sits. Despite their rich history, however, it hasn’t gone unnoticed that the team hasn’t won a race since John Andretti pulled into victory lane back in 1999. That stat – combined with the current situation in which many teams in NASCAR have been experiencing sponsorship woes the last couple of years – could spell trouble with a capital “T” for Petty. The scenario presently facing the team means that they’ll probably have to start looking at sponsors that are less concerned with the on-track statistics that the team puts out there, and more concerned with other things that the Petty group has to offer, mainly surrounding their charitable functions such as the Victory Junction Camp.
Therein lies the problem for Petty. It’s already no big secret that they’re middle-of-the-road in terms of funding, and they’re not fully capable of equipping their drivers with top-of-the-line equipment every week. Now, when you start talking about removing a huge sponsor like General Mills from the equation, and it starts to become about as clear as mud as to why any top tier driver in the sport would want to run under those conditions.
RCR has won six Cup Series Championships – all at the hands of the legendary Dale Earnhardt. Although they haven’t had the head seat at the Awards Banquet table in New York since the passing of “the Intimidator”, they’ve been right there knocking at the door on several occasions. In the past two seasons they’ve won a nine combined races between their three teams, and haven’t had a car finish worse than 17th in those two years, which was Clint Bowyer’s rookie season in ’06. Compare that to Petty’s nine-year winless drought and the fact that LaBonte’s 18th place run last year was the best points finish a Petty car has had in over a decade, and all the sudden the deck really starts becoming stacked against Petty Enterprises. LaBonte is a former series champion himself back in 2000, but his last win came in 2003 with Joe Gibbs Racing, and the veteran driver will turn 44 years old this May. In all reality, he may see this as an opportunity to reignite his career.
Coincidentally, the very same day that we learned of RCR’s signing of General Mills for 2009, Petty Enterprises also announced that Chad McCumbee will replace Kyle Petty behind the wheel of the no. 45 Dodge for this weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway. There have been no mentions as to whether this is a one-time deal, or if the team has long-term plans of getting McCumbee some seat time in the Series, but the timing of this announcement strikes me as peculiar. The move could be merely the aftermath of Kyle failing to get his car inside the top-35 in owners points, and then missing the race in Martinsville. The other part of me, however, has a sneaking suspicion that this could be somewhat of an audition for Chad.
McCumbee is a regular to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, where he currently sits 13th in points with two top-ten’s in the four races the series has run this year. He also filled-in for Kyle last season at Pocono when he joined the broadcast team in the booth. My line of thinking here is that with the 45 car already outside of the top-35, then this team really has nothing to lose if McCumbee bombs. The organization as a whole, however, has plenty to gain in McCumbee if he were to run well and LaBonte were to leave Petty following this season.
The three RCR drivers are currently first, second, and twelfth in points with a combined 11 top-ten’s between them in the six races run so far this season. The two Petty Enterprise cars are currently listed twenty-first and fortieth in points with no top-ten’s between them.
This week, Do You Nascar also asks its readers …
1. Would signing with RCR in 2009 be the right career move for Bobby LaBonte?
2. What can Petty Enterprises do at this point to save their organization?
3. If RCR is unable to sign LaBonte for the no. 33 car, who are some other likely candidates?
4. Where would an RCR lineup that included LaBonte compare to Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Racing?
2/3 – NASCAR has announced their driver lineup for the 2008 Budweiser Shootout. The entry list includes a total of 23 drivers. Read More.
2/4 – Tony Stewart was awarded a “Brickyard” ring by IMS boss, Tony George, this past week at the Indiana Statehouse for winning the 2007 Allstate 400 in Indianapolis. Read More.
2/4 – Sam Hornish Jr. and wife, Crystal, had their first child. Addison Faith Hornish was delivered this past Monday, though originally not expected until February 10th. Read More.
2/5 – Cintas Corp. has signed a multi-year sponsorship deal with Gillett-Evernham Motorsports beginning in 2008. Cintas will now be the official uniform supplier for all three of the Evernham Sprint Cup teams as well as associate sponsors, including the primary sponsorship role for Patrick Carpentier at Atlanta in the Spring. Read More.
2/5 – Goodyear has recently announced their own diversity program that will provide high school students the opportunity to explore various career paths in NASCAR. The program will award at-track experiences, internships, and (6) annual scholarships. Read More.
2/5 – Hendrick Motorsports has signed Adrian Fernandez to drive the no. 5 Lowe’s Chevy this April for the Nationwide Series race in Mexico City. Read More.
2/6 – A 60-year-old man recently suffered a heart-attack and died while completing his fourth lap of the Richard Petty Driving Experience in Daytona. Read More.
2/6 – Gillett-Evernham Motorsports has hired former CEO of Lending Tree and former amateur driver, Tom Reddin, as the company’s new CEO. Read More.
2/6 – Jimmie Johnson attended the White House this Tuesday to meet with President Bush for the annual meet & greet that the President has with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion. Read More.
Petty Enterprises has long been a struggling team in NASCAR’s elite series, and there’s really not much else you can say about that. I mean, what they do off the track in terms of charity with their Victory Junction Camp is nothing short of phenomenal. What Richard Petty has meant to this sport is legendary. Kyle Petty is sure to have a future in the NASCAR media world. And, what this organization continues to do to help develop the sport has been key. There’s no denying any of those facts, but the evil truth remains … the truth that what they’ve failed to do is be able to put together a team that can go out there every week and compete with the best stock car drivers in the world.
I tend to get bashed for it every time I talk about Petty Enterprise, because – well, the fans adore this race team. I’ll admit – I quietly root for the numbers 43 and 45 to do well every Sunday, but this blog isn’t about who I’m rooting for. I’m not here to blow smoke up your ass, but rather deliver you with the truth. And, the truth is that this race team is likely to forever remain an underachiever. I’ve heard plenty of excuses about the team being underfunded, they don’t have the right sponsors, they’re not getting the fair breaks, they haven’t been able to land the right drivers, etc. Look, heading into the 2006 campaign, they went out and signed the 2000 Winston Cup Champion in Bobby LaBonte, and in those two years they’ve managed to nearly ruin his career. The truth is that the team’s focus is in the wrong place, no matter how noble that focus may be. Until that changes, fans of this team will continue to approach each week with the mindset that a top 20 finish means something.
Cup Series Roster:
No. 43: Bobby LaBonte – 17 years, 21 wins, and a Cup Series Championship in 2000. Very, very respectable … however, none of his success has come at the hands of Petty Enterprise. Since joining the race team in 2006, Bobby has managed only 3 top 5’s (none last year), and 11 top 10’s, and he hasn’t won a race since 2003. Okay, so that’s the negative. The positive? Well, despite not having a single top five finish to his credit last season, LaBonte still managed to finish the year ranked 18th in points which is a huge sign that at the very least he’s been running consistent. It’s also worth noting that he did look extremely well in quite a few different races last year, only to fall victim to mechanical failures or accidents in which he was not at fault. The average race fan has probably chalked this point in Bobby’s career up to him just basically giving up and going out there only to remain close to the sport, but nothing could be further from the truth. His determination to make this program work is evidenced by the fact that he’s agreed to run a part-time Nationwide Series schedule this year behind the seat of the no. 21 car for Richard Childress. It’s been quite sometime since LaBonte ran outside of the Cup Series, so it should be interesting to see if his Nationwide experiences can translate to better success in the Sprint Cup Series. I’d continue to look for the no. 43 team to make a strong run at cracking the top 15 in points this year.
No. 45: Kyle Petty – No offense to the son of one of racing’s greatest drivers of all-time, but to put it mildly, that’s all he is – the son. Twenty-Nine years running in the Cup Series, and Kyle has managed only 8 wins, the last of which came all the way back in 1995. In fact, prior to his third place finish at Lowe’s Motorspeedway last May, you’d have to go all the way back to 1997 to find Kyle’s last top five finish! That’s amazing. He’ll start the year out with guaranteed starts in the first five races of the season due to finishing 2007 ranked 35th in owner points, but once those five races are over, things could turn quite sour for him. He managed to qualify in only 29 of the 36 races last season, and that third place finish I mentioned earlier was also his only top ten. Basically, anyone out there that may still be holding their breath thinking that this could be the breakout season for Kyle Petty needs to go see their shrink. He’ll be lucky if he can hang onto that top 35 spot.
Driver Roster: D
2008 Outlook: D