Tony Lumbis · Monday November 17, 2008
Rookies in the Starting Lineup: Scott Speed (2nd), Regan Smith (26th), Chad McCumbee (28th), Brad Keselowski (31st), Aric Almirola (40th), Marcos Ambrose (41st)
Unofficial Finishing Positions: Scott Speed (16th), Brad Keselowski (23rd), Regan Smith (34th), Aric Almirola (35th), Chad McCumbee (39th), Marcos Ambrose (42nd)
Rookie of the Race: Scott Speed. In an attempt to secure a starting position for Scott Speed in the first five events of 2009, Team Red Bull elected to put veteran Brian Vickers in Speed’s No. 84 team, while the rookie drove the No. 83 normally driven by his teammate. The move paid off, as not only did Vickers put his teammate’s car back into the Top 35 in points, but Speed enjoyed the best weekend of his short career in sunny South Florida.
It all started on Friday, when Speed put his Red Bull Camry on the outside pole for the start of the Ford 400. However, the young rookie fell back a little at the start of the race and in typical Scott Speed fashion this year, stayed off of everyone’s radar for virtually the entire event. But this time, the California native quietly hung around in the front half of the pack; and as day turned into night, Speed’s Toyota tightened up and finally drove to his liking. When the evening was over, Speed had crossed the finish line 16th, a career high that obliterated his previous best of 30th at Martinsville during his Sprint Cup debut.
Note: Regan Smith was the only Rookie of the Year candidate in the field on Sunday, thus bringing home the top rookie honor by default. It was his 11th such honor of 2008, tying him with Sam Hornish, Jr. for the most this season.
Writer’s Take: It looks like all Scott Speed needed was a little change in scenery, as the start in his team car this past weekend resulted in what was by far his most successful race to date in the Sprint Cup Series. This is what we all expected from the brash rookie who has patiently waited out his run in the ARCA series to get his chance — a division which he once claimed was a “piece of cake.” In his first four events in NASCAR’s top series, it appeared that the heavy stock cars in Cup might be a little more than Speed expected, as each of his finishes were 30th or worse. He ended the season in style, however, with a solid run straight off the truck, giving his competitors and fans a glimpse of what I think they can expect in 2009. Even more importantly, his No. 84 team is now in the Top 35 in owner points and will be guaranteed a spot in the first five events next season, giving the R.O.T.Y. candidate a great opportunity to start out 2009 on the right foot.
Oh, yeah; it’s almost easy to forget that this year’s R.O.T.Y. battle has come to a close. Unofficially, Sam Hornish, Jr. leads his rookie counterpart by two points in the standings. However, the final call is made by the panel of experts who will judge the candidates based on performance as well as behavior in the garage and off the track. I think this panel will face a difficult decision, but for all the wrong reasons. Several months ago, the Frontstrech Newsletter pointed out that no Rookie of the Year Candidate had finished in the Top 10, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished so late in the season in decades. Unfortunately, the 2008 Rookie Class will now carry the distinction of never finishing in the Top 10 for the entire year. While the winner of this prestigious award can still be proud, they will accept it knowing that there is a lot of work to be done in 2009; that is, if there is even a 2009 to work towards in the case of Regan Smith. Stay tuned to Frontstretch.com for the official word on who will win the award this season.
Editor’s Note: The award was given to Smith following the conclusion of the Ford 400 race at Homestead.
Rocky Rookie Performance: Chad McCumbee. McCumbee was auditioning for the No. 45 ride in 2009 one last time on Sunday, and it certainly did not go well. The young rookie could not get a handle on a consistently loose race car on Sunday, and came home in 39th position, four laps off the pace. No word on who will be in the famed Petty ride next season — but McCumbee is still considered a candidate.
Rookie Wreck of the Race: Marcos Ambrose. The Australian has enjoyed a run of solid finishes since taking over the No. 47 Camry (formerly the No. 00) for Michael Waltrip Racing. Unfortunately, he could not end the season on a high note. That’s because on lap 168, Ambrose made contact with the No. 41 car driven by Reed Sorenson coming off of turn two. Sorenson had a run on the outside, but Ambrose did not appear to see him as he moved up the track and into the Target Dodge. The contact turned the Little Debbie Toyota into the wall, destroying the front right corner of the car and ending Ambrose’s hopes for a strong finish. The damage forced the team to take the car behind the wall for extensive repairs; they would return to the event, but due to the lack of attrition could only manage a dismal 42nd place. The most damage was done in the owner points, however, as the accident and resulting finishing position left Ambrose and Co. just one spot outside of the Top 35.
Who Wasn’t Here?: Sam Hornish, Jr., Michael McDowell, Patrick Carpentier
Sam Hornish, Jr.’s No. 77 Dodge was a lot tighter in qualifying than he expected, leading to a slow speed which resulted in the rookie’s second DNQ of the season (the first was at the second Talladega event). Hornish, who had virtually clinched the Rookie of the Year points battle coming into Homestead, made the R.O.T.Y. panel think twice about crowning the former open wheel star with the award after missing two events in 2009 (compared to Regan Smith, who did not miss any). What had to be more disappointing for Hornish is the fact that the intermediate tracks had been his strong suit all year long. Instead, the entire team will have to think about a disappointing end to this frustrating season until February.
Meanwhile, Michael McDowell and Patrick Carpenter ended the season as they started — on the outside looking in. McDowell wasn’t scheduled to start until the season’s sixth event following the retirement of Dale Jarrett. Unfortunately for McDowell, the executives at Michael Waltrip Racing soon changed their mind on making the former ARCA star the future of the organization.
Meanwhile, it was a blown tire in the Gatorade Duel 150 that ended Carpentier’s chances of making the Great American Race. Ironically, it was this DNQ for the final restrictor plate race of the season that sealed his fate with Gillett-Evernhamn Motorsports.
No word on the future of either of these rookies.
Rookie Quote of the Week:
Scott Speed on his career best finish:
“We had a really good car all night. The first half of the race we were a little loose getting into the corners, but as the sun went down and it got cooler out, the car tightened up a bit. This was a good race for us. We finished every lap, stayed out of trouble, and came home with a good finish. I felt like I had a really good feel for the car and learned a lot, so it was a nice to end the season on a high note.”
UNOFFICIAL Raybestos Rookie standings:
Hornish, Jr. 200
UNOFFICIAL Driver Points Standings
Regan Smith: 34th (0)
Sam Hornish, Jr.: 35th (0, DNQ)
Patrick Carpentier: 38th (0, DNS)
Michael McDowell: 40th (-1, DNS)
Aric Almirola: 42nd (+1, DNS)
Marcos Ambrose: 45th (+1)
Dario Franchitti: 49th (0, DNS)
Chad McCumbee: 52nd (+2)
Scott Speed: 55th (0)
Next Up: Yet another season has gone by, as 2008 came to a close on Sunday night in Homestead. The next event will be the Daytona 500, which will be here before we know it. As of right now, there are only two candidates that will be running for Rookie of the Year next year — but they are good ones. Former Formula One star Scott Speed will go head-to-head with young sensation Joey Logano, who takes over the legendary No. 20 Home Depot Camry as Tony Stewart moves on to run his own team. So far, the field competing for this award may be small in quantity — but should be high in quality.
Qualifying Next Year: Brian Vickers may have only had a subpar 32nd place finish, but it was enough to get the No. 84 team back into the Top 35 after Marcos Ambrose had problems. Therefore, Scott Speed will have a guaranteed starting spot for the first five races of 2009 — including the prestigious Daytona 500. Of course, owner points were never an issue for the No. 20 team, where Logano will inherit a car that is in an enviable ninth position in owner points.
Tony’s Top Finishing Rookie Pick: It’s a good thing I clinched the win over you last week, because my pick of Sam Hornish, Jr. for Homestead didn’t exactly pan out. I never thought Hornish would DNQ on the type of track that has been his strong suit; but I shouldn’t be entirely surprised, either. This season has been one of disappointment for all drivers who entered 2008 as a rookie candidate. It seems only appropriate that Hornish ended his season on such a low note, perhaps giving the entire team a reminder of the work they have to do in the offseason.
You Make The Pick: You didn’t want to risk your pick with either of the R.O.T.Y. candidates, as the majority of you went with Brad Keselowski, who had a surprise top rookie finish a few weeks ago at Texas. Keselowski almost pulled off the feat again — but his 23rd place finish ended up second to Scott Speed.
So, after you dominated for most of the season, my “Jimmie Johnson-esque” late season charge gave me the win by two points. After two seasons, it’s all tied up between you and I at one “championship” apiece. Thank you again to all the readers for your support this year. The poll numbers hit record numbers this season, and I truly appreciate your involvement. It’s not over yet, however, as the year-end rookie reviews (as depressing as they will be) will be out next week. Then, we’ll do it all over again starting in February!
|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|
|Camping World RV 400||Kansas||Patrick Carpentier||29th||Michael McDowell||DNQ||Patrick Carpentier||29th|
|AMP Energy 500||Talladega||Regan Smith||18th||Patrick Carpentier||DNQ||Aric Almirola||13th|
|Bank of America 500||Charlotte||Sam Hornish, Jr.||22nd||Regan Smith||23rd||Sam Hornish, Jr.||22nd|
|TUMS Quik Pak 500||Martinsville||Aric Almirola||20th||Regan Smith||42nd||Aric Almirola||20th|
|Pep Boys Auto 500||Atlanta||Scott Speed||34th||Regan Smith||30th||Sam Hornish, Jr.||24th|
|Dickies 500||Texas||Sam Hornish, Jr.||23rd||Sam Hornish, Jr.||23rd||Brad Keselowski||19th|
|Checker / O’Reilly Auto Parts 500K||Phoenix||Marcos Ambrose||18th||Marcos Ambrose||18th||Marcos Ambrose||18th|
|Ford 400||Homestead||Sam Hornish, Jr.||DNQ||Brad Keselowski||23rd||Scott Speed||16th|
2008 Score: Tony 8, Readers 6.
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