The Frontstretch: Did You Notice? ... Montoya's Nightmare, Logano Losing Steam, And Disbelieving A Championship Dream? by Thomas Bowles -- Wednesday November 5, 2008

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Did You Notice? … Juan Pablo Montoya’s sophomore season has officially become a nightmare? Of drivers who’ve started all 34 races in 2008, Montoya has the most DNFs with nine. Eight of those have been caused by crashes, including four in the last five races that have wrecked – literally – any supposed on-track improvements for the No. 42.

Any guesses as to who’s second on the DNFs list? Surprise, surprise … it’s David Gilliland, with eight of them — including seven wrecks — in 34 starts. So I guess it should come as no surprise that the two ran into each other in Texas, huh? Both drivers are also struggling to get full-time sponsorship for 2009; but with credentials like that to sell, it’s no wonder they’re having trouble with people signing on the bottom line.

By the way, it’s nice NASCAR kept its precedent by parking Gilliland for intentionally causing the wreck between the two of them. In case you forgot, the move comes six months after they doled out the same punishment for the Michael Waltrip / Casey Mears incident at Richmond, in which Waltrip rammed the No. 5 car in retaliation for some short track contact. While both acts were dangerous, the speeds at Texas make it even more imperative that on-track retaliation to that degree just can’t be tolerated.

The only issue I have with the whole thing is why the heck it took them so long. Replays clearly showed that Gilliland came down and slammed into the quarterpanel of Montoya’s car. But not only was the No. 38 car allowed to circulate for several laps, NASCAR initially imposed a five lap penalty before deciding to park the car. All it would have taken for me is one set of replays and that car would have been in the garage – no questions asked.

Did You Notice? … How pessimistic most fans are about this year’s title Chase? Even though Carl Edwards chopped 77 points off of Johnson’s lead after Texas – a completely unexpected turn of events – the reaction from most fans is that the championship is still wrapped up. Of course, that’s far from being the case. Now 106 behind with two races remaining, Edwards is one more 15th place finish from making this a real title Chase heading to Homestead. However, there’s been so much written about Johnson in perfect position to seal his third straight title that most have already tuned this race out.

Of course, it doesn’t help that as we pointed out “last week,” the two would be a razor-thin 21 points apart under the old system. It just goes to show that, like it or not, this playoff system is failing to resonate with the fan base five years after its creation.

Did You Notice? … Joey Logano was the worst on-track performer at Texas this past weekend? Since practicing in the Top 10 at Richmond before rain washed out qualifying, Logano has now proceeded to finish 32nd, 39th, and 40th in three Cup starts. When the 18-year-old struggled in two races in the No. 96 Hall of Fame Toyota, we were supposed to believe the equipment wasn’t good enough. But now, Logano came home the equivalent of dead last with an organization that put all three of its full-time cars in this year’s Chase.

And not only has Logano struggled in Cup, but his Nationwide Series effort has slowed down a bit. After three Top 2 finishes in his first five races, Logano hasn’t finished higher than 4th since July, leading only 40 laps in the last twelve Nationwide Series races.

The way things are going, Joey Logano may not be the guy in the Home Depot seat come 2009.

Clearly, Home Depot execs have to be getting a little nervous in private about whether they might be rushing this kid a little too soon. In the meantime, my spies in the garage have told me about two big name drivers with loopholes in their contracts, proven veterans that might still be available to slide into the No. 20 car at this stage of the game. Would Gibbs be willing to go for either one of them as a one-year fix? The next two weeks will tell the tale.

Did You Notice? … Dodge has just two Top 5 finishes in the eight playoff races? Even the new engine isn’t helping their cause, as Kurt Busch showed en route to a trip to the garage on Sunday. Even though none of their teams made the Chase, the manufacturer had hopes to steal a win through Busch, Kasey Kahne, or Ryan Newman. Instead, Kahne’s getting battered in his race for 13th in points with David Ragan, Busch seems to want out of his seat at Penske, and Newman’s already got one foot out the door on his way to Stewart-Haas Racing.

With rumors flying about a possible GM-Dodge merger, it’s questionable whether the Charger will even be raced on the Sprint Cup Tour in 2010. But at this point, how relevant are the Dodge teams now anyways?

Did You Notice? … That other than DEI’s valiant effort at Talladega, none of the teams struggling for sponsorship in 2009 have made much of a serious on-track impact. Bill Davis Racing’s No. 22 car hasn’t had a Top 20 finish in six races. Petty Enterprises failed to qualify the No. 45 car this weekend. Chip Ganassi hasn’t had a Top 10 finish in the Chase. And so on, and so on …

What that leads to is a deadly cycle – no good finishes leads to no exposure – that keeps sponsors from signing on the dotted line. After all, what company would want to align itself with a team it never sees on television?

Until next week…

Contact Tom Bowles

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Carl D.
11/05/2008 08:26 AM
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Thomas…

I’m sure you are sworn to secrecy concerning the info about the veteran drivers who might be able to step in for Logano. And I would never try to pry that info from you. Okay, I’m lying. Could one of them be a driver who once drove for Gibbs? Maybe a driver who signed a contract extension before the economy tanked and Chrysler became junk in the stock market as well as on the racetrack? Inquiring minds want to know…

marshall
11/05/2008 10:45 AM
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I hardly think Joey Lagano has forgotten how to drive . Isn’t it far more likely that he is simply trying to get in as many uneventfull laps as possible to learn the ropes in Cup . Logano is a lock for the Gibbs ride in Cup next year .

Lack of exposure is indeed slowly killing a number of NASCAR teams . Wouldn’t you think that the tv networks could figure out that their shortsighted slaveish devotion to the top two or three in the god-awfull chase is destroying the sport and many of the teams in it .

cons1
11/05/2008 11:37 AM
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I understand that Reutimann is only partially funded for next year. Now there is someone who has really upped his game and been getting some attention. I hope that means he will get the rest of the sponsorship he needs for next year.

Carl D.
11/05/2008 11:37 AM
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Marshall…

I think you’re right in that Logano is a lock for the #20 next year. Even if he’s not very successful right out of the gate, he’s what the sponsor wants… young and promising for the future. Hell, they’ve already filmed commercials with him. I guess it was just wishful thinking on my part to see my favorite driver in a competitive car once again.

Mike In NH
11/05/2008 11:42 AM
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I doubt we’ll learn much about Logano this week, since he’s not entered for this weekend’s race.

Kevin in SoCal
11/05/2008 01:06 PM
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Of course, it doesn’t help that as we pointed out “last week,” the two would be a razor-thin 21 points apart under the old system. It just goes to show that, like it or not, this playoff system is failing to resonate with the fan base five years after its creation.

NASCAR fans in general just dont like change of any kind; that goes against history and tradition. The ONLY change in the last 8 years that the fans seem to like is the SAFER barriers.

tom1194
11/05/2008 01:14 PM
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Logano isn’t losing steam, he never had the steam. It is ridiculous the hype NASCAR and the press has instigated with that kid. Very much like Atwood. To be compared to sliced bread is not always a compliment, sometimes it is used to make fun of someone that others brag about that has yet to be proven. So if other cup drivers are calling him that…

Don
11/05/2008 03:22 PM
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Lagano never impressed me at all, I think he was just a flash in the pan.

Gerry Blachley
11/05/2008 04:22 PM
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sliced bread for a good Italian is a no no. The kid is a lot of hipe with some talent, The chase is stupid, but if you think Na$car give a dam your dreaming, come on Bruton buy the mess and lets go racing, hell lets invert the field and see how good the over hiped drivers are?

Tiamat
11/06/2008 11:06 AM
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Logano was overhyped by Gibbs and NASCAR … The commercial for the Nationwide series that was ONLY about him was soooo sickening that I skipped some of the races that he was entered in …

Logano’s daddy bought him the best equipment that money could buy … That’s why he ran so well in lower series … Then Gibbs bought him & put him in the East series as well as one ARCA race … With the Gibbs money, he had the best car in those fields and would naturally dominate …

Based on the hype machine, we were led to believe that Joey would win his first Nationwide and Cup races …

But, the truth has shown us that he’s just another kid who benefited from daddy’s money …

Sorry, but an 18yo kid that doesn’t own a house just does NOT make me want to go to a home improvement store … Does Joey even know how to change a light bulb ??

I still don’t know why Gilliland has a full time Cup ride and Petty keeps insisting on putting McCumbee in the 45 car, esp after he DNQ’d in the spring (and he’s annoying in the Truck series) …

 

Contact Tom Bowles

Recent articles from Tom Bowles:

Did You Notice? ... A Return To Richmond, Post-Spingate And Quick Hits
Did You Notice? ... Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Did You Notice? ... Drivers Still Make A Difference... But Silly Cautions Don't
Did You Notice? ... NASCAR's Free Agent Lynchpin, Uncomfortable Reality And Gambling
Did You Notice? ... Toyota Trouble, Limping Into Action And Testing The Waters

If you want to know more about Tom Bowles or to view all of his articles here at the Frontstretch, check out his archive and bio page.

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