The Frontstretch: Rating The Nextel Cup Rookies : Pocono Edition by Tony Lumbis -- Sunday June 10, 2007

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Rating The Nextel Cup Rookies : Pocono Edition

Tony Lumbis · Sunday June 10, 2007

 

Rookies in the Starting Lineup: Paul Menard (15th), David Reutimann(23rd), A.J. Allmendinger (29th), Chad McCumbee* (35th), David Ragan (39th), Juan Pablo Montoya (41st)

Unofficial Finishing Positions: Juan Pablo Montoya (20th), Chad McCumbee (25th), David Ragan (26th), Paul Menard (28th), David Reutimann(38th), A.J. Allmendinger (39th)

Rookie of the Race: Juan Pablo Montoya. Montoya was one of the slowest cars on Friday, starting 41st, putting him among the last of the cars to qualify on speed. The Texaco Havoline driver and team did not panic, however, as the Columbian used the day's first long stretch of green flag racing to methodically work their way into the top 30. By the end of the rain soaked day, Montoya had earned his fifth Top 20 finish of the year and was the highest finishing rookie for the sixth time in 2007, tying him with David Ragan in the second category.

Tony's Take: The Pocono International Racway had once been referred to as the "Pocono Zone" because of its odd configuration and unusual weather patterns that don't seem to exist anywhere else on the circuit (Note: The Pocono Mountains was about the only location in Pennsylvania where it rained on Sunday). This year's rookie class had to believe that they were in a bad episode of the Twilight Zone as well, as most of them spent the majority of the day in the back of the pack trying to figure out the "tricky triangle." If there is a brightside, Montoya was the able to adapt better than any of his counterparts, going from worst on qualifying day to first among rookies on race day. In the garage area on Sunday morning I took notice that Montoya spent a significant amount of time speaking with teammate David Stremme; and he was obviously asking the right questions. Meanwhile, David Ragan and J.P. Montoya have been trading best rookie finishes back and forth this year in what has been a tight ROTY battle at the top. It could by the latter's ability to adapt well to difficult tracks that makes the difference so far.

I would like to give an honorable mention to Chad McCumbee, who recovered from a blown tire to win the Pocono 200 ARCA race on Saturday and then brought No. 45 Petty Enterprises entry home to a respectable Top 25 finish during his Nextel Cup debut on Sunday.

Rocky Rookie Performance: A.J. Allmendinger.
The No. 84 team came OH SO CLOSE to pulling a rabbit out of the hat with a Top 10 finish on Sunday, as they attempted to stretch their fuel mileage, while waiting for the rain to fall as they were running in the Top 10 near the halfway point. However, the fuel ran out too early and the rain came too late as A.J. Allmendinger was forced to coast in on fumes, just laps before the skies opened up. The rest of the day would not be as exciting for the Team Red Bull as Allmendinger spent much of it at the rear of the pack, trying to figure out how to navigate the track's unusual layout. Despite the dreadful result, there were some positive points to take from the weekend. It was the fifth consecutive race that Allmendinger has made the show, while some of the best known names in the business went home during the majority of that process. Also during the race, I heard a lot of encouraging communication over the team's scanner, as both crew chief Rick Viers and spotter Tim Fedewa reported to the driver that his lap times were steadily improving as the race continued. All signs show that momentum is on this team side. Hopefully the results will be as well, sooner rather than later.

Rookie Wreck of the Day: None.
For the second consecutive week, not a single rookie competitor was involved in an on track incident. Kudos to each freshman driver for this accomplishment, especially considering that both tracks are two of the more challenging venues on the circuit.

Who Wasn't Here?: Nobody.
David Reutimann and Paul Menard ended their two race DNQ steak and joined their fellow rookies for the race this weekend. Note that D.E.I. replaced Tony Eury, Sr. with Dave Charpentier as crew chief on the No. 15 team this past week. Menard responded with a solid qualifying effort, so it will be interesting to watch to see if this trend will continue.

Rookie Quotes of the Week:
I had the opportunity to interview two of the ROTY candidates, A.J. Allmendinger and David Ragan, this past weekend at Pocono. Included below are excerpts from both of those interviews. Keep an eye out on Frontstretch.com and the Frontstretch Newsletter for information on when both interviews in their entirety will be available. You won't want to miss them.

A.J. Allmendinger on racing at the Pocono International Raceway:
"…This place right now, I'm just wondering what the heck I'm doing around it, because there are so many nuisances and how bumpy some of them are. Its not easy to get these things around a race track as it is, but some of the ones that they get in (like Pocono)...its just madness…its craziness. Turn 3 I'm struggling with, that thing is so bumpy and bouncing and sideways."

David Ragan on his communication with crew chief Jimmy Fennig on Race Day:
“He makes all the calls. He'll ask for my input on occasion, but Jimmy knows just through experience, and that is something that maybe takes just a little bit of heat off of me when I'm on the race track racing, that I don't have to be playing situations out in my mind about pitting. I'll leave that up to Jimmy or (car chief) Bobby Bakeeff…so all I have to do is worry about taking care of the race car and getting it to the end of the race. Yeah, Jimmy makes all the calls.”

UNOFFICIAL Raybestos Rookie standings:
Montoya 151
Ragan 145
Menard 92
Reutimann 81
Allmendinger 63

Tony's Top Finishing Rookie Pick: As previously mentioned, I was a few rain drops away from making it five in a row with the rookie picks. Things didn't pan out so well for both A.J. Allmendinger and I as he went from head of the class straight to detention, coming home last among the rookies. Allmendinger and his team made it interesting enough where I can assure you, this will not be the last time I pick him this year.

You Make The Pick: The readers could not take advantage of my rare slip up as 56% of you chose David Ragan as the top finishing rookie while Juan Pablo Montoya was second among voters with 19%.

Next Up: The Citizens Bank 400 at the Michigan International Speedway. Michigan's 2-mile D-shaped oval provides a wide racing surface with multiple grooves that competitors love to compete at. This will be a welcomed change for this year's rookies as they just completed a four race streak that included "The Track Too Tough to Tame", then a 600 mile event, "The Monster Mile" and "The Tricky Triangle." Drivers will also be able to rely on notes taken early this year at Fontana, the sister track to Michigan.

Tony's Pick for Next Week's Top Finishing Rookie:
David Ragan finished as the top finishing rookie at the other D-shaped oval in Fontana back in February, despite spinning out early in the race. Look for Ragan to keep his Ford Fusion facing the right direction at Michigan and come home first among the rooks.

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

Season Score : Tony 3, Readers 1.

  • Chad McCumbee is not running for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year because of his part-time status for the 2007 season. However, for purposes of this piece, if you have a yellow stripe on your rear bumper, you are considered a rookie and fortunate enough to have me write about you each week.enough to have me write about you each week.

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John Harlan
06/11/2007 02:18 PM
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I think Chad McCumbee deserves rookie of the race honors rather than just honorable mention. True, JPM started further back and moved futher forward than Chad, so I can’t argue with the statistics. But if you look it from the standpoint of the fact the McCumbee is a kid (can he even buy a beer after the race?) starting in his no kidding first cup event ever vs. a seasoned F1 champion, the imponderables make Chad’s day a little more impressive in my book.