The Frontstretch: Four Burning Questions: Last Chances, Bogus Records and Musical Numbers by Mike Lovecchio -- Thursday April 21, 2011

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Who is this latest addition to Turner Motorsports?

Turner Motorsports has burst onto the NASCAR scene this season, mainly utilizing the inability of Cup Series regulars to earn points in the Nationwide Series to gain national recognition. After seven races the team has three drivers in the top 5 in points and Jason Leffler and Justin Allgaier currently sit 1-2. Over on the Truck Series side, while the results may not be quite as impressive, drivers Ricky Carmichael and James Buescher have a combined four top 10 finishes in seven starts. There’s no doubt that Turner Motorsports has become a force in NASCAR with an impressive driver line-up that also includes Kasey Kahne and Mark Martin in spot starts as the team continues to grow. Thursday the team announced the addition of a driver few may remember, but was once considered a potential star at Hendrick Motorsports. Blake Feese was a part of a strong group of developmental drivers for Hendrick , along with Boston Reid and Kyle Krisiloff. He immediately burst onto the stock car scene earning an ARCA win in just his second start and added to that with an exciting win later in the year at Talladega. But as quick as Feese burst onto the scene, he disappeared after failing to record a top 10 in 14 combined starts between the Nationwide and Truck Series.

In 13 Nationwide starts between 2004 and 2005. Feese had seven DNFs and an average finish of 31.7. Suddenly he no longer had a ride with Hendrick Motorsports and sat out 2006. Returning to ARCA in 2007, he earned top 10 finishes in all four of his starts, but without proper funding couldn’t find a full-time ride. He made a spot start in the Truck Series in 2009, finishing 12th for Billy Ballew, but again found himself without a ride…until now. It won’t be full-time, but Feese finally finds himself in a position where he can make a name for himself again in the Truck Series with Turner Motorsports. Still only 29-years-old, he will make spot starts, beginning at Nashville in July.

It will be a small sample size of what Feese may be able to do behind the wheel, but it will be perhaps a final opportunity for him to prove himself. If he can show the talent that Rick Hendrick saw when he signed him to a developmental deal, Turner Motorsports may have found themselves a diamond in the rough.

When is a record not a record?

Last weekend’s race at Talladega has already been talked about to death, but here’s my two cents. The two-car draft has to go. I’ve never been a big fan of it. I never was a fan of big-pack racing either, but given the choice of the two, I would have to choose the traditional pack racing. It’s just boring to watch for the first 95% of the race. Not only is it boring, but racing is not correct word for what we saw last weekend for the first ¾ of the race. Drivers are just riding around, momentum and swaps to cool the engines down the only reason for lead changes. And that leads me to my final gripe.

Is there a more skewed stat than the past two spring Talladega races providing the most lead changes in NASCAR history? Sure, they are statistical lead changes, but what driver is actually intending to pass? For the first 150 laps…very, very few.

Jimmie Johnson in the No. 5?

If it’s not confusing enough trying to remember who’s in what car year in and year out these past few seasons, imagine trying to figure it out each weekend. We may get just that during All-Star weekend as teams and drivers may look into switching numbers to help promote their sponsors. Rumors are floating around that it will be Jimmie Johnson in the No. 5 at Charlotte and Mark Martin in the No. 25 as Lowe’s would like to promote their special promotion for a 5% discount for those using their credit cards. So does this set a dangerous precedent?

Could there be any truth to to the rumors Jimmie Johnson might run the No. 5 at Charlotte later this season?

While on the surface it may not seem like it because certain car numbers are registered to certain teams, we may one day see a time where drivers swap numbers (possibly within a team) to promote sponsors in a new and exciting way. While it may affect team owner points, teams have found loopholes in the owner points system for years and could figure out a way to make it happen and ensure they earn all necessary points for the proper driver and team (the No. 48 team wouldn’t do it in a points race if they risk winning the driver title, but not the owner’s championship). It’s not even a guarantee Johnson makes the swap at Charlotte, but if he does (and it works) don’t be surprised to see it happen again down the line.

Who should I keep an eye on this weekend?

The great thing about Easter weekend (aside from all your traditional Easter activities of course) is the Nationwide and Truck Series races. Much like your standalone Nationwide races, there are fewer than usual Cup regulars in the field, giving more younger drivers a chance to shine. This weekend at Nashville there are five Cup drivers (Carl Edwards; Kyle Busch; Joey Logano; Brad Keselowski; David Reutimann) in the field and with no Cup race, all eyes will be on the younger generation of Cup Series hopefuls. Some guys to keep an eye on this week, because of quality of ride and fan appeal:

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Josh Wise: No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet
Brian Scott: No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Mikey Kile: No. 30 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet
Austin Dillon: No. 33 KHI Chevrolet

Contact Mike Lovecchio

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