The Frontstretch: Ten Points To Ponder ... After The Off Week by Tommy Thompson -- Monday July 21, 2008

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Ten Points To Ponder ... After The Off Week

Tommy Thompson · Monday July 21, 2008

 

1. Belt Tightening – It is a safe bet that not all the economic dominoes have fallen for the NASCAR community quite yet, as financially slumping General Motors attempts to identify cost-cutting measures while seeking to generate $15 billion in savings through 2009. This past week, the automaker has informed both Bristol Motor Speedway and New Hampshire International Speedway that they will not renew promotional agreements with them for 2009 and beyond, and rumors persist further cuts will be forthcoming within their motorsports program.

Oh, well … before you get all upset, remember it isn’t just NASCAR “fat cats” feeling the GM pinch. The American icon also announced that they would be discontinuing health care benefits for some of their fixed income retirees 65 years old or more. In comparison, that kind of makes NASCAR’s GM problems seem trivial…doesn’t it?

2. Thanks For The HelpNASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston, commenting on the impending cutbacks by GM, appears to be taking a nothing-to-worry-about approach to the worsening news. When asked about the situation, he claimed, “NASCAR has served [GM] well, and they are getting a good return on their investment. And they know NASCAR has a huge audience and loyal fan base eager to buy their products.”

Ummm… Ramsey, they’re going broke! How good is NASCAR serving them?

3. Belly Up To The Bar – Despite earlier speculation that Anheuser-Busch, Inc. would either cut back or leave NASCAR as a big time corporate sponsor following its purchase by the Belgian brewer InBev, it appears their support in motorsports will continue after all. Anheuser-Busch has made it known they have inked a multi-year agreement to continue on as the sponsor of the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona, the traditional kickoff to the NASCAR Cup racing season in February — and additionally, they are reported to be increasing support they of Kasey Kahne’s World of Outlaws Sprint Car program.

Good…at least the beer and hard liquor industry is sticking with NASCAR. With this downturn in the economy, their products will be needed.

4. One Trick Pony? – Despite last year’s dismal showing in its maiden season competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Japanese car builder Toyota has driver Kyle Busch leading the series, with his two teammates — Tony Stewart (10th) and Denny Hamlin (12th) — presently in the running for the Chase to the Sprint Cup Championship.

Is this evidence of drastic improvement at Toyota Research and Development…or a testament to the Joe Gibbs Racing organization?

5. Smooth Move! – Remember back in June of 2006, when Brian Vickers announced that he was leaving the formidable Hendrick Motorsports No. 25 Chevy to drive for the startup Red Bull Racing Toyota team? He was quickly replaced by Casey Mears, Jimmie Johnson’s best friend who was supposed to complete a dominant foursome at HMS for 2007 and beyond.

Well…outside of the super-competitive Toyotas of Joe Gibbs Racing, Vickers is the other real bright spot for the manufacturer. After failing to qualify for 13 races in ’07 and finishing 38th in points, this season Vickers finds himself 14th and only 95 markers out of 12th place — making him a strong contender for the Chase to the Sprint Cup Championship.

Mears? The 30-year-old driver of the No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevrolet is 24th in points with no hope of making the playoffs, and has been given his release from Hendrick Motorsports effective the end of this season.

Who would have thunk it?

6. Tell Us Already! – Reigning Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman — who has announced that he is leaving his No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge for parts still unknown — had a section of Lincoln Way West (named in honor of President Abraham Lincoln) in his hometown of South Bend, Indiana rededicated in his name this past week. Newman — who insisted at the ceremony that he has not signed with any team owner and does know where he will land next season — said shortly afterward that he respects Tony Stewart both on and off the track, and that he believes Stewart would be a “good boss.” When asked his thoughts on being reunited with his former crew chief from Penske Racing, Matt Borland — now competition director at Haas CNC — Newman responded, “Matt’s always been a good friend. Obviously, we had a parting of the ways from a competitive level a couple years ago. He’s a great friend. Does it impact it [my decision?] Yeah. There’s a friend over there, that’s something to consider.”

So…when is the announcement, Ryan?

After being dumped from a couple of rides since, Jeremy Mayfield is longing for his days back with the No. 12 team at Penske Racing. Could a second time around go any better? And will Roger even dare to find out?

7. Forgiveness? – Though Newman will be out of the No. 12 Alltel Dodge next season, the list of possible candidates to replace him at Penske is becoming more impressive. Former Ganassi driver David Stremme, DEI driver Martin Truex, Jr. and Hendrick Motorsports lame duck Casey Mears are all names being bandied about the rumor mill these days. But now, there’s a wild card; none other than Jeremy Mayfield, who had a falling out with the organization and left before the end of the 2001 season. Mayfield has let it be known that he would like a “do over” at Penske, and strongly indicated he’d like to try again in an interview with ESPN this past week.

“If I had a dream team, I’d go back to my No. 12 car days at Penske. I wish I had that opportunity now,” he said. “There were a lot of things that happened, things between [Michael] Kranefuss and Roger [Penske] and me not getting along with Rusty [Wallace]. As a driver, I could have done a lot of things differently. I wish I had that opportunity over again, and I definitely wouldn’t be leaving there, I can tell you that.”

Well, let’s see…Mayfield has competed in the Chase twice since leaving Penske, and has five wins as well as 96 Top 10 finishes in the Cup Series. The rest of the candidates I mentioned have a total of one, two, and 69.

How big is that heart, Roger?

8. No Place Like Home – 2003 Cup Champion Matt Kenseth traveled home to Wisconsin during the off week, competing in and winning the prestigious Miller Lite Slinger Nationals at Slinger, WI. The win was Kenseth’s fourth in the prestigious late model race, tying him with Dick Trickle, Joe Shear and Lowell Bennett for wins in the annual event.

Note to younger race fans: Dick Trickle is more than just a name…he is said to have won as many as 1,200 races in his career. But although winning twice in the now-Nationwide series, he never scored a victory in NASCAR’s Cup division.

9. Kyle, Kyle Kyle…- Current Sprint Cup point leader Kyle Busch did not have a lot of success racing this past week, as he struggled with an ill-handling late model at Slinger, WI and finished sixth in the Craftsman Truck Race at Kentucky, driving the Miccosukee Resort and Gaming Toyota for owner Billy Ballew. But when asked why the Cup driver chose to spend his off week racing in the CTS, Busch pulled no punches — as usual.

“I want to keep Billy up front and no one else can do it,” Busch said. “I think it’s cool that as long as he’s been in the sport, he’s finally got a chance to win a championship, and I want to help him keep that alive. He’s been around so long and he’s never had a full-time driver capable of winning him a championship — I’d like to be the one to do it for him.”

Really, Kyle…no one else?

10. Long Road Ahead – Just remember, race fans, there’s no more weekend breaks in the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule until the season-ending race at Homestead-Miami on November 16th … just in time for Thanksgiving!

Hope you got your “honey do” list caught up this past weekend!

Contact Tommy Thompson

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dawg
07/21/2008 01:09 AM
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Perhaps you can tell me just which “teammate” Rusty, the Rooster did get along with? He seemed to think that they’re relationship with him, should be like George Hincappe’s was,to Lance.

MrBreeze
07/21/2008 02:25 AM
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I’ve got to agree with dawg. Ryan Newman didn’t make any bones about not caring for Rusty either. Rusty obviously didn’t like it and Ryan didn’t care. :)

Michael
07/21/2008 06:55 AM
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The sudden rise of Toyota from also ran to world beater in NASCAR , is the result of a product that was already good meeting a team that could use it effectivley . The Gibbs team was able to focus and refine what was already there .
Much as Tony Stewart will do at Stewart Haas . The foundation was there , they just need Tony to focus their resources .

M.B. Voelker
07/21/2008 12:45 PM
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There have only ever been two drivers who could find the speed in Billy Ballew’s trucks — Kyle Busch and Shane Hmiel (which may say something about the caliber of the potential career Hmiel chose to throw away). Experienced drivers like Kenny Wallace and young stars like Martin Truex Jr. have run those trucks without success.

So Kyle is probably justified in saying no one else can do that job in the 51 truck. Especially if you add in the factor of finding someone else who will work for the same paycheck Kyle asks — which is nothing but the trophy if he wins it.

FS_Amy
07/21/2008 03:56 PM
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I don’t think you can judge Wallace and Truex’s performance accurately based on the one-off rides they had here and there-it takes time to gel with a team.

That team had a full-time driver lined up to run for the championship this year-until Kyle decided he wanted to drive it and would do it for free-basically putting the driver the team was going to sign out of work-it would have been his full-time ride, not like Kyle driving it when he feels like it. Would they have contended? Who knows-my guess is they would have contended heavily. Chalk up another one for the spoiled kid.

aircrewman
07/21/2008 04:39 PM
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“I want to keep Billy up front and no one else can do it,” Busch said. “I think it’s cool that as long as he’s been in the sport, he’s finally got a chance to win a championship, and I want to help him keep that alive. He’s been around so long and he’s never had a full-time driver capable of winning him a championship — I’d like to be the one to do it for him.”…….yea.. FS amy that sounds just like what a spoiled kid would do……PLEASE !!!! …ROWDY winswhathesin!!!!

FS_Amy
07/21/2008 04:50 PM
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No sin in winning…just in that attitude…despite what Kyle thinks, I’m guessing the driver they had lined up would have contended for the championship as well.

aircrewman
07/22/2008 08:10 AM
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I think the attitude is refreshing…anymore the rest of those guys act like it’s a sunday drive and they should be drinking hot tea with their pinkie finger sticking out….anyway I don’t think kyle done the other kid to much harm…if anything he might learn something…

M.B. Voelker
07/22/2008 10:49 AM
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Billy Ballew runs 2 trucks. If he had a full-time driver with sponsorship lined up why is the 15 playing musical drivers again?

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