Bryan Davis Keith and Tony Lumbis · Monday November 10, 2008
Rookies in the Starting Lineup: Marcos Ambrose (18th), Regan Smith (21st), Sam Hornish, Jr. (33rd), Scott Speed (38th)
Unofficial Finishing Positions: Marcos Ambrose (18th), Regan Smith (23rd), Sam Hornish, Jr. (33rd), Scott Speed (40th)
Rookie of the Race: Marcos Ambrose. Choosing to forego official Rookie status for 2009 to get the Aussie more track time in a Cup car is a decision that is already making JTG Daugherty Racing look good. Ambrose, who again timed his way into the field this weekend as the second fastest of the go-or-go-homers, enjoyed a largely uneventful run for the majority of Sunday’s race.
Until Lap 274, that is.
On Lap 274, Juan Pablo Montoya made contact with Casey Mears that sent the No. 5 Chevrolet spinning into oncoming traffic. The resulting melee involved every single rookie candidate on track; Regan Smith narrowly dodged the mess, while Sam Hornish, Jr. spun and Ambrose suffered front end damage after making contact with Scott Riggs. Scott Speed got the rawest end of the deal, as he ended up with David Gilliland’s Ford literally resting on the hood of his car.
Despite the damage, Ambrose’s crew managed to keep him on the lead lap, and by race’s end Ambrose scored an 18th place finish, his career best result on an oval and only the third Top 20 finish for the No. 00/No. 47 team this season. Taking official rookie honors was Regan Smith, who finished two laps down in 23rd.
Writer’s Take: After seeing how the No. 00 (now No. 47) chewed up and spat out Michael McDowell earlier this season, I was very skeptical about Marcos Ambrose taking the wheel of this ride full-time. But, three races into his tenure as the team’s full-time driver, Ambrose has raced his way into and finished all of his events; and frankly, he’s provided some of the most stable driving the team has seen since it opened the year with David Reutimann. Ambrose’s involvement in the Lap 274 incident was entirely out of his control, and his ability to power home to a lead lap finish was impressive. I’m still not convinced that Ambrose and the No. 47 team are ready to go Cup racing full-time in 2009, but their performance over the last three weeks has definitely not hurt the stock of NASCAR’s favorite Aussie.
Rocky Rookie Performance: Scott Speed. Sure, Sam Hornish, Jr. took out Elliott Sadler and spun out during the “Big One” on Lap 274. But Scott Speed’s run on Sunday was both uglier and more disappointing than Hornish’s latest struggles. Speed, who took over the No. 84 Red Bull Toyota late this season — which, with A.J. Allmendinger behind the wheel, was among NASCAR’s most improved teams — was slow for the entirety of the race, nearly four laps off the pace when disaster struck. Speed, whose Toyota was engulfed in smoke from cars wrecking in front of him, plowed into the back of David Gilliland’s Ford so hard that he ended up with Gilliland’s car parked on top of his. The devastating wreck left Speed with a 40th place finish and continued his struggles at the Cup level. In four career starts, Speed has yet to crack even the Top 25, while Allmendinger, the man he replaced, has become the “A” performer in the GEM camp. For a driver with the dedicated backing of a billion dollar sponsor, top equipment, and an ego too big for the humble ranks of ARCA, Sunday was just another example of Speed failing to live up to his — and his own — hype.
Rookie Wreck of the Race: Scott Speed. Forget wreck of the race. Speed’s snowplow move on the No. 38 car may well rival Sam Hornish’s demolition of sand barrels at Watkins Glen for most dramatic wreck of the year. Well, second behind Michael McDowell’s Texas crash, that is.
Who Wasn’t Here?: Patrick Carpentier and Michael McDowell.
Every rookie who attempted the Checker Auto Parts 500 made the show in Phoenix this weekend. Former ROTY contenders Patrick Carpentier and Michael McDowell still remain among the NASCAR missing, however…
Rookie Quote of the Week:
After qualifying, Marcos Ambrose answered a popular question amongst double duty drivers about if the Nationwide series helps their performance in Sprint Cup. He also shares his thoughts on working with Michael Waltrip Racing.
Does running the other race help you out at all?
“No, it actually hurts because the two cars are so much different. I actually didn’t practice the second practice in the Nationwide car just so I didn’t get those bad habits. It’s a balance, sometimes it works for you and sometimes it doesn’t. I think here the two cars are so different I just prefer to keep them separate.”
Are you getting more comfortable with the people you are working with?
“Yeah, they’re out there and they are understanding what I need to go fast and everything so it’s a good combo — and we’re just growing into each other. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
UNOFFICIAL Raybestos Rookie standings:
Hornish, Jr. 201
Carpentier 184 (DNS)
McDowell 169 (DNS)
Franchitti 97 (DNS)
UNOFFICIAL Driver Points Standings
Regan Smith: 34th (0)
Sam Hornish, Jr.: 35th (0)
Patrick Carpentier: 38th (0, DNS)
Michael McDowell: 39th (0, DNS)
Aric Almirola: 43rd (-1, DNS)
Marcos Ambrose: 46th (+2)
Dario Franchitti: 49th (0, DNS)
Chad McCumbee: 54th (-2, DNS)
Scott Speed: 55th (0)
Next Up: The final event of the 2008 season is upon us as the Sprint Cup Series heads to Homestead, Florida for the Ford 400. For the rookies, it will put a close on a season that they probably would like to forget, although there is still unfinished business to take care of next week. Sam Hornish, Jr. is the only 2008 R.O.T.Y candidate left who has a guaranteed ride in 2009 and would like to go into the offseason on some kind of high note. His rookie counterpart, Regan Smith, will most likely use this race as one last audition for next year. If DEI cannot find a sponsor for the No. 01 car, Smith will probably not be resigned. Aric Almirola, Marcos Ambrose, and Scott Speed will be looking to use the South Florida event as a springboard into their first full season in NASCAR’s highest level next year.
Qualifying Next Week: It certainly has been a rough year for Regan Smith, but the one positive note is that he has kept his No. 01 in the Top 35 for virtually the entire year, including next week’s event. His teammate, Aric Almirola, will also enjoy that same advantage next week, as his No. 8 team is guaranteed a spot as well. Brad Keselowski is making his second start in the No. 25 Hendrick Chevy and will have to put his car into the field on time. Chad McCumbee, who may be in the No. 45 car full-time in 2009, will also be in that ride at Homestead and will need to qualify as well.
Tony’s Top Finishing Rookie Pick: Marcos Ambrose. Tony took note of Ambrose’s quiet, steady approach at Texas that yielded the Nationwide Series regular his best career-oval finish, and believed he could continue that momentum. Ambrose did, posting a career-best Cup oval finish for the second consecutive race.
You Make The Pick: Marcos Ambrose. Great minds think alike.
Tony’s Pick for Next Week’s Top Finishing Rookie: Next week will conclude one of the most difficult seasons to predict a top rookie finisher, given the fact that there was no consistent frontrunner in that category and the guy that did take home the honor usually wasn’t even in the Top 20. So for the final time in 2008, I will make my prediction and go with Sam Hornish, Jr. While Smith certainly has the most to gain from a good run this Sunday, I don’t have any confidence in the performance of the DEI cars on an intermediate track. The guy who has been good in that category, however (and I use the term “good” loosely) is Hornish. If this team can avoid bad luck, I think they can pull off the type of finish that will give them some type of hope to get them through the offseason.
|Event||Track||Tony’s Pick||Finish||Reader’s Pick||Finish||Top Finishing Rookie||Finish|
|Daytona 500||Daytona||Regan Smith||37th||Dario Franchitti||33rd||Sam Hornish, Jr.||15th|
|Auto Club 500||California||Sam Hornish, Jr.||43rd||Sam Hornish, Jr.||43rd||Regan Smith||31st|
|UAW-Dodge 400||Las Vegas||Patrick Carpentier||40th||Sam Hornish, Jr.||41st||Dario Franchitti||33rd|
|Kobalt Tools 500||Atlanta||Dario Franchitti||33rd||Sam Hornish, Jr.||25th||Sam Hornish, Jr.||25th|
|Food City 500||Bristol||Regan Smith||26th||Sam Hornish, Jr.||29th||Aric Almirola||8th|
|Goody’s Cool Orange 500||Martinsville||Sam Hornish, Jr.||28th||Aric Almirola||42nd||Regan Smith||14th|
|Samsung 500||Texas||Regan Smith||35th||Michael McDowell / Regan Smith||33rd / 35th||Patrick Carpentier||28th|
|Subway Fresh Fit 500K||Phoenix||Michael McDowell||34th||Michael McDowell||34th||Sam Hornish Jr.||20th|
|Aaron’s 499||Talladega||Aric Almirola||33rd||Sam Hornish, Jr.||35th||Regan Smith||21st|
|Crown Royal 400||Richmond||Patrick Carpentier||43rd||Patrick Carpentier||43rd||Regan Smith||21st|
|Dodge Challenger 500||Darlington||Regan Smith||29th||Regan Smith||29th||Michael McDowell||28th|
|Coca-Cola 600||Lowe’s||Michael McDowell||32nd||Michael McDowell||32nd||Sam Hornish, Jr.||13th|
|Best Buy 400||Dover||Regan Smith||21st||Michael McDowell||30th||Sam Hornish, Jr.||18th|
|Pocono 500||Pocono||Sam Hornish, Jr.||42nd||Sam Hornish, Jr.||42nd||Michael McDowell||27th|
|LifeLock 400||Michigan||Regan Smith||32nd||Michael McDowell||37th||Sam Hornish, Jr.||22nd|
|Save Mart 350K||Infineon||Patrick Carpentier||23rd||Sam Hornish, Jr.||31st||Michael McDowell||21st|
|Lenox Industrial Tools 301||New Hampshire||Regan Smith||27th||Marcos Ambrose||DNQ||Aric Almirola||23rd|
|Coke Zero 400||Daytona||Michael McDowell||25th||Patrick Carpentier||14th||Patrick Carpentier||14th|
|LifeLock 400||Chicagoland||Michael McDowell||25th||Patrick Carpentier||30th||Patrick Carpentier||30th|
|Allstate 400||Indianapolis||Sam Hornish, Jr.||37th||Patrick Carpentier||18th||Patrick Carpentier||18th|
|Sunoco Red Cross 500||Pocono||Regan Smith||25th||Sam Hornish, Jr.||26th||Chad McCumbee||17th|
|Centurion Boats At The Glen||Watkins Glen||Patrick Carpentier||20th||Patrick Carpentier||20th||Marcos Ambrose||3rd|
|3M Performance 400||Michigan||Sam Hornish, Jr.||22nd||Marcos Ambrose||43rd||Sam Hornish, Jr.||22nd|
|Sharpie 500||Bristol||Aric Almirola||13th||Sam Hornish, Jr.||37th||Aric Almirola||13th|
|Pepsi 500||California||Patrick Carpentier||18th||Sam Hornish, Jr.||31st||Patrick Carpentier||18th|
|Chevy Rock and Roll 400||Richmond||Patrick Carpentier||25th||Patrick Carpentier||25th||Michael McDowell||20th|
|Sylvania 300||Loudon||Regan Smith||23rd||Michael McDowell||27th||Michael McDowell||18th|
|Camping World 400||Dover||Michael McDowell||29th||Michael McDowell||29th||Michael McDowell||29th|
|Camping World RV 400||Kansas||Patrick Carpentier||29th||Michael McDowell||DNQ||Patrick Carpentier||29th|
|AMP Energy 500||Talladega||Regan Smith||18th||Patrick Carpentier||DNQ||Aric Almirola||13th|
|Bank of America 500||Charlotte||Sam Hornish, Jr.||22nd||Regan Smith||23rd||Sam Hornish, Jr.||22nd|
|TUMS Quik Pak 500||Martinsville||Aric Almirola||20th||Regan Smith||42nd||Aric Almirola||20th|
|Pep Boys Auto 500||Atlanta||Scott Speed||34th||Regan Smith||30th||Sam Hornish, Jr.||24th|
|Dickies 500||Texas||Sam Hornish, Jr.||23rd||Sam Hornish, Jr.||23rd||Brad Keselowski||19th|
|Checker Auto Parts 500||Phoenix||Marcos Ambrose||18th||Marcos Ambrose||18th||Marcos Ambrose||18th|
2008 Score: Tony 8, Readers 6.
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