Toni Montgomery · Thursday July 28, 2005
As you read this I am on my way to St. Louis and the Wallace Family Tribute 250 at Gateway. It's actually my first live race this season, which is pretty surprising for this late in the game. Usually I'd have at least been to Pocono for qualifying day but the change in schedule due to the impound doesn't suit me. Anyway, that's another column sometime. For right now, I'm off to the races and pleased as punch that I'll actually be seeing a Busch race and not a Cup practice session.
Thanks to Gateway being a stand alone weekend that just happens to occur during the final off-weekend of the Cup season, there are few Cup drivers planning to run this race. There is Rusty Wallace of course, but since the race is named for his family and it's the only time he'll have ever raced a major event in his hometown, I can accept that. Brother Mike also gets the pass for his name being the same as the race. There's Carl Edwards of course, but then there is always Carl Edwards because he is a full time Busch driver. There is Sterling Marlin who will be taking over for Tim Fedewa in the No. 12 FitzBradshaw Racing Dodge. I'm sorry to see a regular like Timmy go, but the team was struggling and they gave him more of a chance than anyone else probably would have. Sterling may or may not have been planning to run here in another FitzBradshaw entry, but in any case he makes a logical choice since he'd already been driving for the team and had a partner, Scott Lagasse Jr., available to take over his regular ride.
Beyond that there is only Jason Leffler, who has been fairly regular in the No. 32 Braun Dodge since Shane Hmiel's departure, and Michael Waltrip. Waltrip is either a workaholic or was afraid they couldn't fill the field without a few Cup drivers showing up. I shouldn't dump on Michael that way. I believe these were my own words a few weeks ago:
"Honestly, the presence of Cup drivers has slimmed down the number of teams in the Busch Series to a degree that it's possible they wouldn't even have a full field without the Cup teams some weeks"-Second Fiddle, July 15.
Those words were echoed by Waltrip on television the next day during the New Hampshire 200 broadcast while he was defending the large numbers of Cup regulars racing in the Busch Series lately. (Mikey? Is that you out there reading? Because the other alternative is that I'm thinking on the same wavelength as Mikey and that sort of scares me.)
I was proven wrong when a full field ran at Pikes Peak without any Cup drivers except Edwards. This week's race has 49 drivers on the entry list and only the above mentioned five Cup drivers, not counting Busch regular Edwards, are on it. Some of the teams that run Cup drivers will still be there, but with their second or developmental drivers behind the wheel instead. So there are obviously plenty of drivers to fill a field without the Cup guys.
As for teams, an interesting phenomena has been occurring. Roughly half of the Cup drivers that have been running Busch races have done so in part time cars that run only when they do, and yet when they are not entered, there are still enough cars to fill the field. It appears there are a number of teams who are not showing up to the Cup heavy companion events, but rather staying home, saving money, and showing up to stand alone events where they have a better chance of getting in the show.
No matter how it comes about, this will once again be a Busch show. I'm glad. If I'd wanted to watch Cup practice I could have made a short drive to Pocono instead of flying all the way to St. Louis.
Before I head off into the wild blue for the weekend I just wanted to leave you with one tidbit of information. I've said before that Martin Truex Jr.'s comeback from a dismal start of the season to points leader is amazing. Not only is Truex the points leader, he is also the leader in money won, laps led, miles led, victories, top five finishes, top ten finishes, and number of races led. That all serves to explain why he is the points leader. It's the old rule that if you go out and try to win every race, the points will take care of themselves. Somewhere in this age of "points racing" that lesson has mostly been forgotten.
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