The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Driver Report Cards : Part Three by Matt McLaughlin -- Wednesday May 23, 2007

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Matt McLaughlin's Driver Report Cards : Part Three

Matt McLaughlin · Wednesday May 23, 2007

 

Hey race fans, it’s that time again – with the regular season nearly half complete, the two weeks of racing at Charlotte is as close to a midterm break as we’re going to get. As such, it’s the perfect chance for Frontstretch Staff Writer Matt McLaughlin to evaluate most full-time drivers’ seasons in Nextel Cup and give them a report card on their progress. In Part Three of his four-part series, Matt continues his alphabetical look at drivers’ seasons, studying the inconsistency of Jamie McMurray straight on down to Ricky Rudd’s consistent lack of success.

_For Part One of Matt’s Driver Report Cards, please click here

_For Part Two of Matt’s Driver Report Cards, please click here.

Jamie McMurrayB. Although wildly inconsistent, with five Top 10s offset by three finishes outside the Top 30 in eleven races, McMurray's season beats his 2006 effort, which was just consistently awful. Plus, you have to figure if there's any Ford team that's going to get their arms around this CoT nonsense, it's going to be Jack Roush and his boys…it's just a question of when.

Casey MearsF. It's got to suck to be Mears right now. All three of his teammates have won races this year; in fact, Hendrick has dominated the season to date. However, Mears is mired in 35th in the points with just one Top 10 finish, one race led, and an average finishing position of 29th. How bad is it for this guy? The one decent run Mears had going ended when his own teammate wrecked him.

Paul MenardD. Menard has failed to qualify for three races this season, and to date, his best finish is a fifteenth place result at Texas. But he's got this much going for him: at least he shares a last name with his sponsor. With Junior and Bud bailing on D.E.I. at the end of the year, Papa Menard may have to pony up even more scratch.

Juan Pablo MontoyaB-. Let's keep in mind that this guy is a rookie – and he had some very good runs early in the season, most notably his fifth place finish at Atlanta. But the success seems to be going straight to Montoya's head, and his natural arrogance is coming to the forefront once again. Remember, this is a guy who was unrepentant after wrecking his teammate to win the Busch race in Mexico, one of a long line of egotistical transgressions these last three months. The fact the fans boo Montoya doesn't have anything to do with his ancestry…it has everything to do with his driving style. Even more importantly, Montoya’s fellow drivers seem to be losing respect for him, especially over the last month: that has longterm repercussions. You know what Juan Pablo Montoya translates into in English? “David Ragan.” If only it was Alex Zanardi rather than Montoya who carried NASCAR's diversity hopes on his shoulders.

Joe Nemechek - C. Pity Joe Nemechek. Once the standard bearer for Ginn Racing, with Mark Martin now the point guy Joe has been demoted to second string benchwarmer. With an average finish of 24th in 11 races, Nemechek has shown that he's ready to battle with all the other midpack contenders who never get any TV time, but in this industry, that doesn't equate to job security with the latest pack of pretty young white boys looking to hustle their way into the series.

Ryan NewmanB-. This season got off to such a slow start, Newman's name was high on the entrants of the Silly Season trade list. But with little fanfare, Newman has suddenly posted three consecutive Top 10 finishes heading into this weekend's 600. (He hadn't managed to do that since Loudon, Dover, and Talladega in the Fall of 2005.) With the No. 2 car showing some strength as well, it may just be that Penske South is finally getting things turned around.

Kyle PettyD. To Petty's credit, I think he's finally begun to realize his heart really isn't into this game, at least as far as driving. He's done what he can, but his acceptance of a TV gig with TNT while someone else drives the car is his first step towards an overdue retirement from the cockpit. Don't get me wrong; if Petty were to win a race, I'd be leading a big brass band parade down Main Street. He's a classy and compassionate guy, but given the legacy of his grandfather and father, he never had a chance to live up to expectations. Given the tragic loss of his son, you also can't blame him for losing focus.

David RaganD-. It's tough enough to be a rookie, but to be a rookie driving the car of the evergreen Mark Martin, who had put Jack Roush Racing on the map since the team's inception, is even harder. Unfortunately for Ragan, he’s managed to piss off just about every driver in the series week after week with stupid moves that prove he's got better equipment than he has talent. Let's hope Ragan doesn't find himself hitting the same tragic end that Kenny Irwin did trying to prove he belongs where angels fear to tread.

Tony RainesC-. Another example of NASCAR's Peter Principle. Do you stay in one of the lower series and fight for titles, or do you move up to Cup and prove you're not ready for prime time? Well, the bucks to run poorly in Cup beat the money to win races in the Truck Series. Trust me on that; it ain't the mirrors.

David Reutimann - C. Reutimann has only failed to qualify for three races so far, a veritable miracle considering he drives for Michael Waltrip Racing. But with an average finish of 34th, I don't expect to see this guy walking on water any time soon. You know, maybe if he put down the phone and stopped taking pizza orders during the race…?

Scott RiggsD. Sure, Ray Evernham's team is in disarray right now, but Riggs is the weakest of the three sisters. He has one Top 10 finish, is mired 36th in the points and failed to qualify for Darlington. Something tells me this is going to get over before it gets better.

Ricky RuddD. Once a driver decides to retire, it's probably best he stay retired and not further diminish his reputation. Rudd was a championship contender in his day, and he even had some notable success with Robert Yates Racing, with whom he rejoined forces this season. But the results this time around haven't been pretty; Rudd has finished outside the Top 25 in ten of this season's eleven races and hasn't led a lap yet this year. Robert Yates is supposedly discussing a merger with D.E.I.; I hope that works out. Otherwise, he might soon be discussing a merger with Enron.

Come back Friday for the fourth and final installment of Matt’s Report Card Series.

_For Part One of Matt’s Driver Report Cards, please click here

_For Part Two of Matt’s Driver Report Cards, please click here.

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mmack
05/24/2007 07:39 AM
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Matt, you are DEAD ON right about Juan Pablo Montoya and his attitude. We who saw him in the open wheel ranks in CART and F1 could have told you NASCAR fans about that. This is a guy who whined about being paid less than his teammate Ralf Schumacher at Williams, when Ralf had MORE WINS than JP at the time. I can’t wait to see the fan reaction if he punts Dale Jr. out of a race. The Talladega beer can salute to Jeff Gordon will look tame when that happens!