The Frontstretch: Rating the Nextel Cup Rookies: California Edition by Tony Lumbis -- Monday September 3, 2007

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Rating the Nextel Cup Rookies: California Edition

Tony Lumbis · Monday September 3, 2007

 

Rookies in the Starting Lineup: A.J.Allmendinger (18th), Paul Menard (20th), David Reutimann (28th), David Ragan (33rd), Aric Almirola (40th), Juan Pablo Montoya (42nd)

Unofficial Finishing Positions: David Ragan (12th), A.J.Allmendinger (18th), Paul Menard (24th), Aric Almirola (31st), David Reutimann (32nd) Juan Pablo Montoya (33rd)

Rookie of the Race: David Ragan. After starting a dismal 33rd, David Ragan slowly made his way into the Top 10 by Lap 104. The AAA team would experience a "yo-yo" type of night for the rest of the race, dropping as low as 36th after a pit road speeding penalty, before coming home in 12th position. Saturday night's finish marked Ragan's sixth Top 15 finish of 2007 and his tenth top rookie finish of the season.

Tony's Take: Ragan was hardly a blip on the radar during much the Sharp AQUOS 500 except for when it counted. After fellow rookies David Reutimann and A.J. Allmendinger both looked like they would take home top rookie honors, it was the kid from Georgia who stole the show by the time the checkered flag flew. Legitimizing his performance, Ragan even had his No. 6 Ford Fusion running in the Top 10 for a potion of the night. This is the type of run I expect from this team from here on out for the rest of the season. When I spoke to Ragan back in June, he stated his expectations for both he and his team to improve when returning to tracks for the second time this season. In the five races that fit in that category so far, the Rookie of the Year candidate has only a pair of 12th places finishes to show as his best performances. You know Jack Roush will want to see a vast improvement in the final three months of the season.

Rocky Rookie Performance: Juan Pablo Montoya. Juan Pablo Montoya's California conundrums began before Sunday's race even started. The engine on his No. 42 Dodge Charger expired on the first lap of his qualifying effort, relegating him to a 42nd starting position. On race day, while entering pit road for the first stop of the evening, Montoya, who barely made up ground from his starting position, was entering his stall with his Big Red machine at the same time Carl Edwards and his own version of big red were exiting. The two cars collided, significantly damaging the Columbian's Chip Ganassi ride. The team was never able to recover as Montoya limped home to a disappointing 33rd place.

Rookie Wreck of the Race: David Reutimann. After missing the show at Bristol, it appeared that David Reutimann and his Burger King team was back with a vengence. The No. 00 Toyota Camry blasted through the field and into the Top 10 by the halfway point, even leading a lap during a round of pit stops. The potential career best performance for Reutimann came to a screeching halt on lap 181 when Jeff Gordon ran into Jeremy Mayfield on the front straightway, pushing the No. 36 car into Reutimann. Reutimann could only hold on helplessly as his car went spinning uncontrollably through the infield. The team could never recover from the incident and only mustered a 24th place finish.

Who Wasn't Here?: Everybody was here!
For the first time since the Michigan race in June, all rookies who attempted to qualify made the race. One noteworthy item: A.J. Allmendinger, who has been struggling to make races this season was the highest qualifying rookie in 18th. It was also the second consecutive race that Allmendinger, one of NASCAR's many California natives, has made. He credited his Busch practice laps for helping to get him in the show for the Nextel Cup event and the Busch experience seemed to carry over into the race as well. Allmendinger brought home a career best 18th place finish on Sunday, crushing his former best performance of 31st.

Rookie Quotes of the Week:
A.J. Allmendinger on his unusual weekend double, driving Chip Ganassi's Dodge in the Busch Series and his Red Bull Toyota in Nextel Cup.

Most Cup guys say they can't learn anything from the Busch car to the Cup car. “Well, most of ‘em didn’t come from Champ Car and sitting in a closed roof car for the first time this year. It obviously showed good for Juan and it helped him and that’s why he’s been doing so well. Hopefully it’s my turn. Toyota, they were great because they know that they don’t have the capacity right now for Busch cars. So instead of holding me back they know that I need time and Red Bull, everybody there pushed for it, and it’s great to know that because by me running the car even though it’s not a Toyota in the Busch Series, I’m only going to help the Toyota car that I’m in when it comes to the Cup Series.”

Do you have a relationship with Chip Ganassi?
“I’ve spoke to him here and there a little bit but it really kind of formed between my business manager, Tara Ragan. She’s known Chip for a long time back in the Champ Car days and when they said they were going to close the 42 car down, (she) kind of called and inquired about it. The Red Bull guys, they supported it completely and it came together Tuesday night. This is just me trying out to learn and get some more races under our belt in this Cup car.”

UNOFFICIAL Raybestos Rookie standings:
Montoya 217
Ragan 194
Menard 175
Reutimann 153
Allmendinger 99

Next Up: It's the all important final race before the Chase as the series heads to Richmond for the Chevy Rock and Roll 400. No rookie driver this year could duplicate Denny Hamlin's brilliant 2006 freshman performance as none of the five 2007 ROTY contenders will be battling for a Chase position. That does not take away from the importance of this race however. This event in Virginia's capital city represents another track that the rookies will see for the second time this year. In the spring, all rookies qualified, however none finished better than 16th. Expect to see better results this Saturday night.

Tony's Top Finishing Rookie Pick: I really thought that Paul Menard would come into his own on Sunday, but he was never a factor, especially surprising after his D.E.I. teammates, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Martin Truex Jr., came home with top 6 finishes. After a 20th place starting position, Menard never challenged for a strong run, running in the 30s for most of the night before eventually coming home in 24th.

You Make The Pick: This was a tough night all around. Fifty percent of you thought Juan Pablo Montoya would bring home top rookie honors. He had his share of problems however, as was documented earlier, meaning that neither of us receive a point. You maintain your one point advantage heading into Richmond.

Tony's Pick for Next Week's Top Finishing Rookie: David Ragan leads the rookies with top finishes on tracks less than a mile this year, besting his counterparts at the first Bristol and the Martinsville races. I think he will add Richmond to his solid short track resume and come home as the top finishing rookie this weekend.

Event Track Tony’s Pick Finish Reader’s Pick Finish Top Finishing Rookie Finish
Subway Fresh Fit 500 Phoenix David Ragan 41st —- —- Paul Menard 25th
Aaron’s 499 Talladega David Reutimann 32nd —- —- David Ragan 17th
Crown Royal Presents The Jim Stewart 400 Richmond Paul Menard 16th Juan Pablo Montoya 26th Paul Menard 16th
Dodge Avenger 500 Darlington Juan Pablo Montoya 23rd Paul Menard 31st Juan Pablo Montoya 23rd
Coca-Cola 600 Charlotte Juan Pablo Montoya 28th No Pick DNS Juan Pablo Montoya 28th
Autism Speaks 400 Dover David Ragan 14th David Ragan 14th David Ragan 14th
Pocono 500 Pocono A.J. Allmendinger 39th David Ragan 26th Juan Pablo Montoya 20th
Citizens Bank 400 Michigan David Ragan 21st David Ragan 21st Paul Menard 12th
Toyota / Save Mart 350 Infineon Juan Pablo Montoya 1st Juan Pablo Montoya 1st Juan Pablo Montoya 1st
Lenox Industrial Tools 300 New Hampshire Paul Menard 39th David Reutimann 38th David Ragan 15th
Pepsi 400 Daytona David Reutimann 26th David Ragan 12th David Ragan 12th
USG Sheetrock 400 Chicagoland Paul Menard 42nd David Ragan 25th Juan Pablo Montoya 15th
Allstate 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Juan Pablo Montoya 2nd Juan Pablo Montoya 2nd Juan Pablo Montoya 2nd
Pennsylvania 500 Pocono David Ragan 33rd Juan Pablo Montoya 16th Juan Pablo Montoya 16th
Centurion Boats At The Glen Watkins Glen Juan Pablo Montoya 39th Juan Pablo Montoya 39th Ron Fellows 4th
3M Performance 500 Michigan David Reutimann 23rd David Ragan 18th David Ragan 18th
Sharp Aquos 500 California Paul Menard 24th Juan Pablo Montoya 33rd David Ragan 12th

Season Scorecard: Tony 5, Readers 6

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Don
09/03/2007 11:01 AM
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How do they figure out who is the rookie of the year?

Tony L (FS Contributor)
09/03/2007 01:39 PM
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Hi Don,

You ask a great question and it's not as complicated as it may seem.

First, Whenever a ROTY candidate attempts to qualify for a race they get one point, even if they don't make the race. Next, the ROTY candidates are awarded a maximum of 10 points, based on how they finish compared to the other ROTY candidates in the field. The first rookie that crosses the line gets the 10 points, second gets nine, third gets eight, and so on. On top of that, the rookies are awarded bonus points in races they finish in the top ten. If they win, that's ten points, second place earns nine, and so on until we get to one point for tenth. So you can see, the max ROTY points a driver can earn is 21 points if they win a race.

In addition, they only count the points for the top 17 races for each rookie, so technically, a rookie could run half the races, and if they did good enough, they could still score more points than any other ROTY candidate.

Finally, at the end of the season, 50 points are divvied up between all the rookies. These are awarded by a board of five officials, based on both the candidates on track accomplishments and their off track attitude. The driver with the highest ROTY score is then awarded the Raybestos Rookie of the Year and the award is presented at the Nextel Cup awards Banquet at the end of the year.

Hope this helps!