The Frontstretch: Scott Wimmer Is Worthy Of A Better Shot by Kurt Smith -- Friday June 26, 2009

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Scott Wimmer Is Worthy Of A Better Shot

Kurt Smith · Friday June 26, 2009


While Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was being interviewed on 60 Minutes, he said that there’s a Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or a Jeff Gordon on short tracks around the country.

In sports—in the entertainment industry in general—there are thousands of talented people who toil away for the best years of their lives and never get noticed. And obviously, no one knows their names, or maybe they manage to make a splash for literally just a shade longer than 15 minutes and are then forgotten. Luck matters more than everything else in both show business and professional sports. All of the big name record companies rejected the Beatles.

But with NASCAR’s two development series probably receiving more attention and relative coverage than in possibly any other sport, save for perhaps college football or basketball, the story of the driver who performs and does everything he is asked and yet is still not offered a legitimate shot at the big time is often there for everyone to see.

Scott Wimmer is that ongoing story right now.

At 33, Wimmer’s chances of ever landing a quality Cup ride are diminishing. He has been booted out of his Nationwide ride at Richard Childress Racing, and this year he will drive a half dozen races for JR Motorsports and the rest of the season for Key Motorsports, a team that does not currently have the resources of an RCR. As his finishes reflect lesser equipment, his prospects are likely to shrink. It won’t be long before his excellent part-time record in the RCR No. 29 is forgotten.

Whatever reason RCR had to let Wimmer go, it would have been difficult to complain about his performance.

In 2007, driving 23 races in the Holiday Inn 29, Wimmer scored seven top 5s and 14 top 10s. He finished 14th in the standings…and together with Jeff Burton, won the owner’s points title for RCR. Wimmer finished third at Dover, second at Gateway, fourth at Nashville, second at Milwaukee and fifth at Bristol…so there wasn’t any question that Wimmer could get it done on the tracks that are toughest on drivers. But he didn’t win a race, you say? Here’s the list of Nationwide regulars who won a race in 2007: Jason Leffler and Stephen Leicht. And both ran 35 races to Scott’s 23.

Scott Wimmer was one of the few Nationwide-only drivers to win a race in NASCAR’s second series in 2008.

Had Wimmer run the full schedule in 2007 and averaged an 11th place finish every week—not unreasonable considering he had been doing just that—he would have finished second in the Nationwide standings…ahead of David Ragan, David Reutimann, Marcos Ambrose and all of the Nationwide regulars. He wouldn’t have put up much of a challenge to Carl Edwards for the title, but he would have fared better than anyone else. It would have been nice to see another Nationwide regular in the thick of it.

In 2008, driving 23 races in the Holiday Inn car, Wimmer finished 17th in the standings, and pulled off that rarity of being a Nationwide-only driver that won a race with his victory at Nashville. No one ahead of him in the final standings started fewer than 30 races. Had he run a full schedule and averaged a 12th place finish every race—again, about the average for what he was running—the only drivers that would have finished ahead of him would have been Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, and Brad Keselowski. That’s two Cup stars and a driver who will definitely be in Cup soon.

And remember, in 2007 and 2008, Wimmer was racing against a field heavily populated with full-time Cup drivers. Six of the top 10 in the Nationwide standings in 2007 were Cup regulars. In 2008 there were five. Of the full-time Nationwide-only drivers, only Brad Keselowski in 2008 averaged more points per race than Wimmer did in either of the two years. And Brad had been sitting in marginally (although only marginally) better equipment.

Generally when drivers perform this well, a Cup team will let go of an aging veteran to offer an opportunity to a driver who seems to have a bright future. Wimmer had hung tough with the big boys, outperforming many of them and all of the Nationwide regulars for two years. He was rewarded with a loss of his Nationwide job and being passed over for Casey Mears in a Cup ride. Mears has yet to score a top 5 this season.

It’s wrong, of course, to say that Wimmer has never had a shot at Cup racing, having driven for two years for Bill Davis Racing and then briefly for Morgan-McClure.

Other than at Daytona, Wimmer didn’t break the bank in the 22 car. He did finish a surprising third in his first Daytona 500, even leading a few laps in the race. Bill Davis wasn’t bad at Daytona then—he’d won the 500 just two years before with Ward Burton in the car—but Scott did his job in the sport’s biggest show. I’m sure Caterpillar was happy with the result.

Beyond that, Wimmer didn’t achieve anything spectacular in the 22. But Bill Davis Racing was unquestionably in decline by that point, and was running a single car operation in a field full of multi-car teams. Dave Blaney took over the 22 in 2006, and scored a grand total of two top 10s that year…and that was with an extra car (Michael Waltrip’s 55) in the BDR garage to get notes from.

After Wimmer was informed late in 2005 that he would be at BDR the following season, Davis fired him by mail in late October. At that point in the season, most of the other owners had worked out who would be in their cars, and Wimmer was forced to take over a fledgling Morgan-McClure ride to stay in Cup racing. That team lost its sponsor mid-season and would fold soon after.

So the Wisconsin native’s experience in Cup racing has been with two teams that were long past contending for strong finishes and are both defunct today. Maybe he’s had a better opportunity than Jason Keller, but that hardly seems justified for a driver that often outdrives Cup regulars in the Nationwide Series.

Scott Wimmer presses on. In his debut for Key Motorsports—a team that has shut its doors on more than one occasion for lack of funding—he started last and had driven the car into the top 15 before getting taken out when Tony Raines lost a tire. In Vegas, he finished 11th—the best finish that team has scored in 14 years. In his one race in the 5 car this year, he finished ninth at Darlington, one of the truest measures of a driver’s skills.

He may not be Jeff Gordon, but Scott Wimmer has proven that he is a capable and consistent racecar driver. When he has the equipment, he performs. In a perfect world, that should land him in a competitive Cup car or, at the very least—with all due respect to Curtis Key—a top level full-time Nationwide ride.

And if it is sponsors—who know little about racing other than it’s expensive—that have blocked that from happening, they really ought not to be allowed to make such decisions. Please don’t tell me that Jack Daniel’s, the manufacturer of a product that intoxicates people, has a problem with someone that has a five year old DUI on his record. And please tell me that going to a desert on the other side of the planet to visit with our soldiers counts for something. No one goes to such lengths just for PR.

Putting inadequate or inexperienced drivers in Cup cars because sponsors like their faces is a part of what’s wrong with NASCAR today. You can bet Wimmer wouldn’t get knocked around like a pinball at Martinsville, as many open-wheelers do.

Unfortunately for Scott, that’s modern day racin’.

Kurt’s Shorts

  • There are several tracks on the circuit that many fans have a low opinion of, like Pocono, Fontana, or the road courses. With all due respect to New Hampshire people, Loudon has just never done it for me. It’s flat and wide and it doesn’t look right watching drivers go that slow through the turns on a mile track. But far be it for me to question why it has two races, given the devotion of New England racing fans. Race on.
  • With RPM probably moving completely to Toyota eventually, that leaves Penske Racing as the lone prominent Dodge team. What happened to the determination Dodge had to make a splash in the sport starting with Evernham back in 2000? I mean, besides the government taking over the car companies.
  • The Frontstretch newsletter reported two separate stories on Tuesday, first that Jack Roush is still deciding whether to let Jamie McMurray go to Yates to fit the four car per team rule, and then that Hendrick is looking to possibly place Brad Keselowski in a Stewart-Haas “satellite” ride. Uh…what’s wrong with this picture? The four car per team rule is, frankly, stupid.
  • You know, when my softball team drops one like we did yesterday, I totally get Kyle Busch. Maybe I need to do some growing up myself.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


©2000 - 2008 Kurt Smith and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

06/26/2009 07:43 AM

Great column, Kurt. Good subject matter and a telling commentary on the state of the Nationwide series and the choices of drivers behind the wheel in Cup. I’m sorry to say I didn’t know Scott Wimmer was that good. Maybe he’ll get a good ride yet.

06/26/2009 09:46 AM

He’s always been an interesting case. I think part of it is your last paragraph, plus aside from the Daytona performance, which let’s face it, restrictor plates are a crapshoot and often is the “one shining moment” for teams like BDR, Morgan McClure, and Finch.

I think with Wimmer a few things come into play. One, he’s a weird little fella, kinda like a cousin of the Bodines. The DUI is what it is, especially when you make your living as a professional driver. I’m with you that there ought to be some turning of the page, but it is what it is. When I see Wimmer, I see Peter Principle. He is a serviceable Nationwide driver, would be damn good in the trucks and below, but when he gets with the big boys, he fades. He’s in that grouping with the Greens, Mike and Kenny Wallace, Todd and Brett Bodine, and Randy Lajoie. I think it’s a shame that the Cup guys gobble all of the top Nationwide rides, but in this crap economy, sponsors need Jeff Burton piloting the Holiday Inn car, not Scott Wimmer. If the Nationwide was as intended, a feeder league for Cup, He’d thrive and meaybe get groomed for a Cup ride. As it is, he’ll never be above a 2nd tier Nationwide driver as long as Cup guys cherry pick.

Gotta say the way racing is now, it is nothing short of astonishing to see David Reutimann prosper as he has this year.

06/26/2009 10:53 AM

In the nas$car of today it doesn’t matter how good you can drive. You have be young and have a pretty marketable face. That’s why the older core fans are leaving the sport. And it will only get worse. Scott Wimmer deserves a chance. What has Casey Mears done besides be the nephew of Rick Mears?

06/26/2009 11:05 AM

I liked the article on Scott Wimmer. I definitely don’t think he has had a fair shake. When he got with BDR he had Ward Burton and Dave Blaney as teammates. We all know where that ended up. Ward was let go, Dave was let go, Scott placed third in the Busch series and moved up to Cup alone. In the meantime he had offers from other topnotch teams but was trying to be “faithful” to Bill since he started him. What a mistake. Like the article says, Bill sent him a letter in the mail releasing him at the end of the season when two weeks early told the press that Scott would be in the car the following year. This seems to be the story of his career. One bump after the next. For those of you that don’t think Scott has the talent to do it I would love to Scott get into Jimmy Johnson’s or Jeff Gordon’s car for a few races and let them get into a Morgan-McClure or BDR level car. Lets see who is successful then!? And if you have ever met Scott as a fan you will know he always takes the time to stop and sign autographs. Unlike some of those wonderful Cup drivers that speed by on their golf carts. By the way, I didn’t see any of them over in Iraq two days before Christmas visiting troops. The “wierd little fellas” Scott Wimmer and Geoff Bodine were!

06/26/2009 12:38 PM


Please don’t take my comment about the “weird little fellas” to heart. They are all good drivers, how else would they get to that level? The lower rung guys are usually the most personally accomodating and friendly, shoot, i can recall talking to Ricky Craven and his wife at Daytona back in the day for about 15 minutes, but that doesn’t show on tv all the time. And I think it is great that they do the USO tours. But to kinda blow your let’s see Gordon in BDR cars argument, well, in a way Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman are blowing that notion clear out of the water. Yes I know the 14 and 39 have Hendrick power plants, but do you really think Rick Hendrick is so benevolent as to give Stewart better equipment than his current stable under the HMS banner? Heck no! Stewart Haas is probably #3 in line for GM (pre-financial crunch) behind Hendrick and RCR.

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