The Frontstretch: Second Fiddle: Around the Busch and Craftsman Truck Series by Toni Montgomery -- Thursday March 24, 2005

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Second Fiddle: Around the Busch and Craftsman Truck Series

Toni Montgomery · Thursday March 24, 2005

 

It’s Busch week so all I will say about the trucks is “Wow!” and “I told you so.”

Thanks to the differing tire strategies of the teams, the end of Saturday’s Busch Series race was kind of wow too, especially the out of nowhere, slicing and dicing Carl Edwards. Jimmie Johnson is still trying to figure out how he ended up three wide and if I didn’t know better I’d swear to anyone that Edwards literally just appeared there out of nothing.

Big congratulations also go out to Michel Jourdain Jr. for posting his first top ten finish. After four less than spectacular runs, Jourdain was beginning to have doubts if this was all going to work out and sorely needed this boost. Not only did he get a top ten, he was the best in show. Jourdain followed nine Cup drivers across the line to finish tenth and post the highest finish of the regular Busch boys.

Which brings me to my next subject. Buschwhackers. This whole subject gets more convoluted all the time. A few years ago it was easy to pick out a Buschwhacker and his team. They were the Cup drivers who ran part time in events they selected, in a part time but well funded car, often with assistance from their or some other Cup Series pit crew.

These days there are likely some who would argue with me that Jourdain wasn’t really the highest finishing Busch regular because Edward’s won and he and his team are running the series full time. Edwards gets us into the same debate that raged over Biffle last year. Yes, he’s running full time in Busch, but he’s also running full time in Cup which makes him different than the other Busch drivers who are not running Cup at all or may be running only a few events here and there.

So for the sake of this argument, in my column, Jourdain is a Busch regular and Edwards isn’t. But Edwards isn’t really a Buschwhacker either in the way I’ve always used the term. I’ve always meant it to describe those Cup drivers who come in and take purse money and points from the Busch teams without using either to try for a Busch championship. I never came up with a term for Biffle last year and I’m still working on it to refer to Edwards this year. Double Dipper maybe. Yeah, I like the sound of that.

Kevin Harvick was the first Double Dipper only his situation was different. He was a Busch regular running for the championship when he was unexpectedly bumped up to Cup after a death in the family. No one gave it a thought to come up with a term for him because somehow he still seemed like a Busch regular just filling in for a Cup team.

Biffle on the other hand was in Cup already but wanted to run some Busch races. When his team secured a sponsor that wanted to run full time, Biffle had to be Superman. Understandably he didn’t want to do it again so Edwards got lucky this year. Edwards was also technically in Cup already although only for the last third of last season..

His situation contains yet one more wild twist as he is ineligible for the Raybestos Rookie program in Cup because he has run too many races and yet is a competitor for the award in the Busch Series. Normally someone competing in a higher series wouldn’t be eligible for rookie honors in a lower one, but Edwards doesn’t actually have all that much Cup experience since this is his first full season. So after last weekend you have to think we have a driver who could potentially be Nextel Cup Series Champion and NASCAR Busch Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year. If that isn’t wild I don’t know what is.

Besides the emergence of Double Dippers, the whole Buschwhacker situation is much more confusing than it used to be. While the drivers other than Edwards are still doing things the same way by picking and choosing their races, the teams they are driving for have changed drastically.

Michael Waltrip is almost the exception, running part time in his own ride. He is the sole driver of his Aaron’s Dream Machine in spite of brother Darrell’s best efforts and the car is also part time. The operation isn’t. Michael Waltrip Racing, or the Sherrill’s Ford Posse as he sometimes calls it, is a team with employees and a regular crew. No borrowed pit crew here. So what do you suppose they do with the extra time they gain by not going to every race? I’d guess they work on massaging those cars and perfecting pit stops.

Joe Nemechek also runs his own operation similar to Waltrip’s but his cars see more track time than he does as he sometimes puts other drivers in them, especially as part of a driver development program.

A few of the Buschwhackers are running in part time cars owned by their Cup Series owners like Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, and Mark Martin. Jeremy Mayfield is running for both Cup Series owner Ray Evernham and splitting a Rusty Wallace owned car with Jamie McMurray.

From there things get more complex. Some of the Buschwhackers are running with full time teams while splitting the ride, often with a young driver who has already has a contract with a Cup owner and is in a development program. Some of these teams are regular Busch teams like Brewco or Fitz-Bradshaw who have affiliations with Cup teams. Some of these teams are branches of Cup operations like RCR or Hendrick Motorsports.

Then there are the regular Busch teams with the regular Busch drivers. Some of those aren’t always what they seem either, like Braun, which runs Shane Hmiel full time as a Busch regular but is affiliated with DEI. Defending champion Martin Truex Jr. and his Chance 2 team are also affiliated with DEI.

Like it or not, as the relationships get more involved and more confusing, the Buschwhackers get more entrenched. As separating their teams from the regulars becomes more difficult, so does the concept of limiting their participation by making rules to favor regular Busch teams and drivers.

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