Tony Lumbis · Monday September 22, 2008
Rookies in the Starting Lineup: Patrick Carpentier (17th), Sam Hornish, Jr. (25th), Regan Smith (26th), Michael McDowell (28th), Marcos Ambrose (29th)
Unofficial Finishing Positions: Michael McDowell (29th), Marcos Ambrose (32nd), Regan Smith (37th), Patrick Carpentier (41st), Sam Hornish, Jr. (42nd)
Rookie of the Race: Michael McDowell. The freshman for Michael Waltrip Racing beat all of his ROTY counterparts, but it probably didn’t seem like it was that good of a day or both he and his team. After starting in the back, McDowell battled a very loose Camry early in the event, and found himself already two laps down before the halfway mark. Crew chief Peter Sospenzo was able to adjust on the Champion Mortgage during the race’s second half; but in the end, it was too little, too late as the Arizona driver could not do any better than 29th, five laps off the pace. However, the run was good enough to earn him his sixth top rookie finish of the year.
Tony’s Take: I was very close to not even awarding a rookie of the race award this week, as all the freshmen pretty much turned in pathetic performances all around. Patrick Carpentier was strong very early, but apparently became intimidated at the lone sight of Jimmie Johnson as he lost control of his No. 10 Dodge in front of the hard charging No. 48 Chevy. What many may not have noticed is that Marcos Ambrose made his presence known for a bit, breaking the Top 20 around lap 200. However, he could not keep a grasp on the Monster and ran into a set of serious handling problems, as the Wood Brothers Ford eventually fell back to 32nd by the end of the race. With Regan Smith having mechanical issues and both Carpentier and Sam Hornish, Jr. suffering wrecks, Michael McDowell was the last man standing and took home top rookie honors. But despite claiming those bragging rights for a week, his team drops out of the Top 35 in owner points heading into Kansas City. Last week, I said that this race was going to come down to who could set their car up the best coming out of practice; and with almost every rookie falling a lap down in the first segment of the race, it appears that nobody was able to step up to the task.
Rocky Rookie Performance: Regan Smith. For most of the race, Regan Smith’s name was hardly even mentioned, and that’s a good thing considering how this race turned out for the rookie contenders. Like most of the field, Smith also battled a car that was way too loose, and paid for it in the form of falling off the lead lap early. However, he and crew chief Dan Stillman seemed to find the cure for “loositis” better than the other rookies in the field. After the cross flags flew, the No. 01 team suddenly appeared poised for a solid Top 25 finish. The comeback was halted, though, when a piece of a ring and pinion, possibly from the No. 11 car, went straight through the radiator of Smith’s Chevy and required a mandatory stop to the garage. The team was able to replace the radiator, and Smith would return, finishing 37th. However, he was left to wonder what kind of finish he could have brought home just two days before his 25th birthday.
Rookie Wreck of the Race: Sam Hornish, Jr. Following the theme of the afternoon for these rookies, Hornish battled a loose race car and fell behind very early. But things would go from bad to worse for the Mobil One Driver when he left a souvenir in the form of a back bumper cover on the frontstretch after contact with Brian Vickers and David Reutimann. Seriously, fans — this thing is probably on eBay already, check it out. Anyways, in addition to the bumper, Hornish soon found that he also did not have all four tires inflated heading into turn one and brushed the wall, bringing out the afternoon’s seventh caution. Hoping to get some more air time for his loyal sponsor, Hornish also brought out the very next yellow flag when he spun and hit the inside retaining wall. Safe to say, it was a bad day for the Ohio native as wound up in 42nd spot.
Who Wasn’t Here?: Nobody. All of the rookie contenders made the field at Dover this week; although looking at it from a “Monday Morning Quarterback” perspective, most of them probably wish they watched this one from their couch.
Rookie Quotes of the Week:
Sam Hornish, Jr. comments on his tough day in Dover:
“This car was really loose all day and ended up kind of getting squished up in between the No. 83 car and myself. We broke something, and ended up hard into the wall down in one and two. I’m not blaming the 83, but I don’t know if he got loose or we were kind of both loose coming there off the corner. Anyhow, it’s one of those things. Not a very good day for the Mobil 1 Dodge. The car was just terrible after the damage then. I didn’t want to be out there and cause a wreck for somebody else. As loose as it was before that, it was twice as bad afterwards [smiles]. Just fighting it all the way around out there and hoping that we can get some of these bad days behind us. We haven’t been able to break out of this slump for a little while. Our piece was loose all the way around. [There was[ only one point in the race where we were a little bit tight in the middle of the corner. It was like you’ve got to pretend like there was an egg between your foot and the gas pedal not to give it any throttle, because it would snap around.”
UNOFFICIAL Raybestos Rookie standings:
Hornish, Jr. 184
Franchitti 97 (DNS)
UNOFFICIAL Driver Points Standings
Sam Hornish Jr.: 35th (-2)
Regan Smith: 34th (-1)
Patrick Carpentier: 36th (0)
Michael McDowell: 39th (0)
Aric Almirola: 43rd (-1, DNS)
Dario Franchitti: 46th (0, DNS)
Next Up: The series heads to the nation’s midsection for the Camping World RV 400 at Kansas Speedway. (No, you’re not in an episode of Groundhog Day — it’s the same title sponsor as this past week’s event in Delaware). While this track does have similar characteristics as Chicagoland, this year’s rookies will see this place for the first time in a Sprint Cup car this weekend. After their disaster in Dover, the rookies hope that they have the courage to start another race, the heart to fight to the checkered flag, and the brains to figure out the right setup that will take their car to the front — stabilizing a tornado-like season that seems to be spiraling out of control. Sorry, I couldn’t contain the Wizard of Oz comments, as they really are appropriate for a rookie class that can’t seem to do anything right this year. But the first years will hope that the wide sweeping turns of Kansas will give them a breath of relief from the tight curves and bumpy ride at the Monster Mile.
Qualifying Next Week: Michael McDowell may have won this week’s rookie honors, but his team still drops out of the Top 35 — meaning Regan Smith will be the only R.O.T.Y candidate who is locked into the field on time. Also trying to qualify into the field will be Marcos Ambrose, who will make his seventh start of 2008 and second in the Wood Brothers No. 47 team car next week. This combination worked pretty well earlier in the year, when Ambrose qualified 24th for the Brickyard 400 driving the “B-Squad” car.
Tony’s Top Finishing Rookie Pick: I said that Michael McDowell would rebound from his subpar finish last week at Loudon with top rookie honors. Ironically, while he did fulfill part of that prediction this week, the No. 00 actually finished two positions worse than it did in New Hampshire despite winning the weekly award.
You Make The Pick: You also thought that McDowell would look to regain the momentum he showed with a Top 20 finish two weeks ago at Richmond. As a result, your accurate prognostication prevents me from pulling even with you with only eight events remaining this season. That maintains your one point advantage in what will prove to be a tight race all the way to Homestead.
Tony’s Pick for Next Week’s Top Finishing Rookie: I would really like to say that Regan Smith will bring home a good finish for the week of his birthday, especially since he is the only rookie that is locked into the show at Kansas. However I just cannot see that happening given DEI’s horrendous performance at the intermediate tracks this year. Instead I will take a risk and go with the somewhat faltering Patrick Carpentier who is coming off of finishes of 31st and 41st at Loudon and Dover respectively. Carpentier brought home a solid 18th place finish at Fontana, the last track the series raced at that is similar in nature to Kansas City.
|Event||Track||Tony’s Pick||Finish||Reader’s Pick||Finish||Top Finishing Rookie||Finish|
|Daytona 500||Daytona||Regan Smith||37th||Dario Franchitti||33rd||Sam Hornish, Jr.||15th|
|Auto Club 500||California||Sam Hornish, Jr.||43rd||Sam Hornish, Jr.||43rd||Regan Smith||31st|
|UAW-Dodge 400||Las Vegas||Patrick Carpentier||40th||Sam Hornish, Jr.||41st||Dario Franchitti||33rd|
|Kobalt Tools 500||Atlanta||Dario Franchitti||33rd||Sam Hornish, Jr.||25th||Sam Hornish, Jr.||25th|
|Food City 500||Bristol||Regan Smith||26th||Sam Hornish, Jr.||29th||Aric Almirola||8th|
|Goody’s Cool Orange 500||Martinsville||Sam Hornish, Jr.||28th||Aric Almirola||42nd||Regan Smith||14th|
|Samsung 500||Texas||Regan Smith||35th||Michael McDowell / Regan Smith||33rd / 35th||Patrick Carpentier||28th|
|Subway Fresh Fit 500K||Phoenix||Michael McDowell||34th||Michael McDowell||34th||Sam Hornish Jr.||20th|
|Aaron’s 499||Talladega||Aric Almirola||33rd||Sam Hornish, Jr.||35th||Regan Smith||21st|
|Crown Royal 400||Richmond||Patrick Carpentier||43rd||Patrick Carpentier||43rd||Regan Smith||21st|
|Dodge Challenger 500||Darlington||Regan Smith||29th||Regan Smith||29th||Michael McDowell||28th|
|Coca-Cola 600||Lowe’s||Michael McDowell||32nd||Michael McDowell||32nd||Sam Hornish, Jr.||13th|
|Best Buy 400||Dover||Regan Smith||21st||Michael McDowell||30th||Sam Hornish, Jr.||18th|
|Pocono 500||Pocono||Sam Hornish, Jr.||42nd||Sam Hornish, Jr.||42nd||Michael McDowell||27th|
|LifeLock 400||Michigan||Regan Smith||32nd||Michael McDowell||37th||Sam Hornish, Jr.||22nd|
|Save Mart 350K||Infineon||Patrick Carpentier||23rd||Sam Hornish, Jr.||31st||Michael McDowell||21st|
|Lenox Industrial Tools 301||New Hampshire||Regan Smith||27th||Marcos Ambrose||DNQ||Aric Almirola||23rd|
|Coke Zero 400||Daytona||Michael McDowell||25th||Patrick Carpentier||14th||Patrick Carpentier||14th|
|LifeLock 400||Chicagoland||Michael McDowell||25th||Patrick Carpentier||30th||Patrick Carpentier||30th|
|Allstate 400||Indianapolis||Sam Hornish, Jr.||37th||Patrick Carpentier||18th||Patrick Carpentier||18th|
|Sunoco Red Cross 500||Pocono||Regan Smith||25th||Sam Hornish, Jr.||26th||Chad McCumbee||17th|
|Centurion Boats At The Glen||Watkins Glen||Patrick Carpentier||20th||Patrick Carpentier||20th||Marcos Ambrose||3rd|
|3M Performance 400||Michigan||Sam Hornish, Jr.||22nd||Marcos Ambrose||43rd||Sam Hornish, Jr.||22nd|
|Sharpie 500||Bristol||Aric Almirola||13th||Sam Hornish, Jr.||37th||Aric Almirola||13th|
|Pepsi 500||California||Patrick Carpentier||18th||Sam Hornish, Jr.||31st||Patrick Carpentier||18th|
|Chevy Rock and Roll 400||Richmond||Patrick Carpentier||25th||Patrick Carpentier||25th||Michael McDowell||20th|
|Sylvania 300||Loudon||Regan Smith||23rd||Michael McDowell||27th||Michael McDowell||18th|
|Camping World 400||Dover||Michael McDowell||29th||Michael McDowell||29th||Michael McDowell||29th|
2008 Score: Readers 5, Tony 4.
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