The Frontstretch: Ten Points To Ponder ... After Chicagoland by Tommy Thompson -- Monday July 14, 2008

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Ten Points To Ponder ... After Chicagoland

Tommy Thompson · Monday July 14, 2008


1. Difficulties With Rejection? – New York City and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel’s Grand Ballroom have once again been selected as the site for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards Ceremony, to be held December 5th, 2008.

Guys… isn’t this the same place that has time and time again rejected your attempts to bring Sprint Cup racing into their backyard? Don’t you know when you are not wanted?

2. Hey Joe! – Kyle Busch’s victory Friday night in the Dollar General 300 at Chicagoland Speedway was the 13th win of the year for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Nationwide Series. The win tied the record 13 victories set just last season by Richard Childress Racing; however, their wins have been accomplished in just the first 20 events of the 35-race Nationwide Series schedule. Include the eight Sprint Cup Series wins, and JGR race cars have visited Victory Lane 20 times in the 2008 NASCAR season.

So, Joe…How’s that transition to Toyota going so far this year?

3. AWOL – The United States Navy has informed JR Motorsports, co-owned by Rick Hendrick and NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr., that they will sever their four-year sponsorship of the No. 88 Nationwide Series Chevrolet team driven by Brad Keselowski at season’s end.

That leaves an interesting question. Will those 88 Navy recruits scheduled to be sent to boot camp as part of the Junior Division now be disbanded, and the personnel allowed to opt-out of their military obligations?

4. Jail House Romance – On Thursday, it was made official that Tony Stewart will be a 50 / 50 partner with Gene Haas of Hass CNC Racing beginning next season, and the newly organized racing organization will be renamed Stewart – Haas Racing. Smoke’s new business partner began a two-year prison sentence in January on tax evasion charges at a Federal Prison in Lompoc, CA.

Boy, did those negotiations have to be awkward…what with the burly prison guards, two way phones, and shatter-proof glass separating them!

5. Just Not Presidential – It does not appear that Barack Obama or any other candidate for President of the United States will be sponsoring the No. 49 BAM Racing Toyota, attempting to run at least a part-time NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule. “BAM Racing has decided to heed the advice of the overwhelming response by fans to keep politics out of racing and continue to focus on several other exciting sponsorships soon to be announced,” stated the owner of BAM Racing, Beth Ann Morgenthau, after a report surfaced an independent marketing agent had offered deals to all three presidential campaigns to sponsor the car.

Wait a minute…when has politics been kept out of racing?

6. Oh, Come On…Spit It Out! – Stopping short of just announcing that 18-year-old Joey Logano will replace Tony Stewart in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, JGR owner Joe Gibbs said, “For me personally, Joey is a candidate for anything. I think we have a total of 32 tests he’s been in Cup cars. I don’t think there is one incident ever where he hasn’t stood out.”

Isn’t the suspense killing you?

Ryan Newman was keeping “mum” on his plans for 2009 at Chicagoland.

7. Analytically Speaking – Ryan “Rocket Man” Newman, driver of the Penske No. 12 Dodge, is still undecided as to where he will be driving next season following the expiration of his contract with Penske Racing at the end of 2008. This past week, Newman disclosed that he has three valid offers — besides the option of re-signing with Penske — still on the table. The soon-to-be free agent finished 10th Saturday night at Chicagoland, and reiterated his desire to be with a team that has the ability to perform at a championship level for him. The defending Daytona 500 winner did not exclude re-signing with his present team, however. “I see potential to win a championship where I’m at,” Newman explained. “That potential just hasn’t proven to be as high as other organizations. That’s a statistical fact. It’s just what I have to do to put myself in the best position to move forward.”

Statistical fact? Oh yeah, Newman is an engineering graduate from Purdue University. Those people talk like that.

8. Fact Or Fiction – Rumors circulated during the last week that Dale Earnhardt, Incorporated had commissioned the investment firm of Bear Stearns (though the company was taken over by JP Morgan and no longer exists) to seek an investor or buyer of the company. Max Siegel, DEI’s President, refuted the reports and insisted that, “We haven’t engaged anybody. People obviously approach us — they’re approaching everybody. We’re looking to be around for a long time in the future. We’re feeling pretty damn good about where we’re going, competition wise.” Siegel also confirmed that he held a meeting with the DEI contingent of drivers assuring them that the recent rumors were not true.

Hmm. Veteran part-time driver Mark Martin has confirmed that he will leave DEI for Hendrick Motorsports next season. Martin Truex, Jr. is still not signed, and it is known that other teams are interested in bringing him into their organizations. It is unclear as to whether the U.S. Army will return as the primary sponsor on the No. 8 car, and the No. 01 of Regan Smith is without a sponsor for next season. John Menard is talking with Roush Fenway to take his sponsorship money — and son Paul Menard — to Roush Fenway Racing, along with the No. 15.

How do these rumors about outside owners get started, anyways?

9. Lead Free – The No. 96 Hall Of Fame Toyota driven by J.J. Yeley was penalized with a pass through penalty before the start of the 400 at Chicagoland for what was reported originally as a suspicion the team had employed the old “lead-in-the-water-bottle” trick to pass minimum weight requirements. As the old story goes, that bottle could later be swapped out following pre-race inspection for legitimate and lighter ones to allow for less overall weight in the car.

Following the 400-mile event — in which Yeley finished 24th and on the lead lap — NASCAR met with car co-owner Tom Garfinkel, and official Randy Pemberton soon confirmed that there would be no other actions by the sanctioning body concerning the issue. “We’re comfortable with that team, and we feel like they weren’t trying to pull the wool over our eyes,” said Pemberton.

That’s all fine and dandy, but NASCAR needs to “get the lead out of their butts” and make these decisions before the start of the race.

10. What Else Is There To Say? – With Kyle Busch’s win at Chicagoland in the 400, he has now won seven of the 19 Sprint Cup races run this season. Busch has recorded 12 Top 5 and 13 Top 10 finishes, with two pole positions, while jumping out to a 262-point lead in the championship standings. And just for kicks, the 23-year-old has won five times — including last Friday night’s win — in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, as well as twice this year in the Craftsman Truck Series.

Ten Points to Ponder has no sarcastic, witty, humorous or profound statement to offer this week on Kyle Busch’s astounding season thus far, except to say…


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07/14/2008 08:17 AM

RE: Mark Martin!

If he REALLY wanted to run for a “championship” IN 2009, you woulda’ thunk he would have signed with a TOYOTA TEAM!

Not that crappy Bow Tie car!


07/14/2008 10:25 AM

No offense to Newman, but leaving an existing organization with a history such as Penske for an unproven deal at Stewart-Haas just might not be the smartest move. More than likely will be outside the top 35, and sure they’ll have Hendrick support and everything, but that hasn’t exactly been a field of daisies for that bunch for the last 3-4 years.

Kevin in SoCal
07/14/2008 12:55 PM

Regarding #9, supposedly the lead-in-the-water-bottle was found minutes before the start of the race, and NASCAR had but seconds to make a decision whether it was intentional or not. How many correct decisions are you going to make with only seconds to spare, without the benefit of hindsight?

Mike In NH
07/14/2008 01:17 PM

Hank – I can see why Newman is leaving. Penske hasn’t really been competitive most of the year after the 500. The Penske name is no longer enough to make people want to sign on the team – or to be a sponsor. Winning does count.

Now, an RCR ride might seem more likely to win, say the experts, but then again, the experts also thought it would be a while before JGR would be up to speed on Toyotas, and that Junior would win a bunch this year.

07/14/2008 04:19 PM

I’m betting that Newman signs with RCR and becomes the fourth in that stable.

07/14/2008 06:26 PM

Hey Douglas!

Yes, Toyota has one the most races of any manufacturer this year (8). However, the count is Kyle Busch 7 and Denny Hamlin 1 and both driver for Joe Gibbs. NO OTHER Toyota team has won this year!

In other words, Kyle Busch is dominant and he happens to drive a Toyota.

It remains to be seen whether or not Toyota can be considered dominant at the cup level for this year.

D Jones
07/14/2008 06:43 PM

Re: #4. Too funny. Yours is the first comment I’ve read about Haas being at Club Fed. I wonder if people out of loop found it odd that the other team owner was not at the press conference for Tony’s big announcement.

Kevin in SoCal
07/15/2008 12:58 AM

Its funny how last year it was all about how Hendrick was running away with the races in NASCAR, not Chevy. But this year, its all about Joe Gibbs Racing, but people complain about Toyota.

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