The Frontstretch: Ten Points To Ponder After ... Martinsville by Tommy Thompson -- Monday October 20, 2008

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Ten Points To Ponder After ... Martinsville

Tommy Thompson · Monday October 20, 2008


1. Talking About Times Getting Hard! – Johnny Benson took command of the Craftsman Truck Series championship points battle, at least temporarily, by winning the Kroger 200 at Martinsville Saturday afternoon. Benson, driver of the Bill Davis Racing No. 23 Toyota Tundra, left the track with a 65-point lead in the CTS driver’s Championship. He leapfrogged Ron Hornaday, Jr., who finished 29th after running out of gas with three laps to go. For the first time this season, the series point leader had no primary sponsorship on his race truck.

Geez … you would think that the series points lead and five wins on the season would get you some darn good sponsorship, wouldn’t you?

2. And Then There Was One? – On the heels of Dodge pulling out of the Craftsman Truck Series earlier this year, Ford Motor Company has followed suit and opted to discontinue financial support for its CTS teams in 2009. The news leaves Toyota and the ailing GM brand Chevrolet as the only two auto manufacturers supporting race teams in the CTS.

So basically, the Craftsman Truck Series, which is also losing Craftsman as the series sponsor at season’s end, is one financially strapped automaker away from becoming the Toyota Tundra Truck Series.

3. Mixed BagNASCAR announced a change of format last month in the Budweiser Shootout that would place the top six teams in owner points representing each manufacturer in the race. Previously, the Shootout participants primarily consisted of drivers that qualified for the pole position the previous season. At this time, the lineup for next February’s popular exhibition race would consist of the Top 12 Chase contenders. However, such drivers such as David Stremme, who will replace Ryan Newman in the No. 12 Penske Dodge, will be in the Shootout — not Newman. This season’s Daytona 500 winner will miss the festivities because he’s leaving Penske for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009. Assuming drivers remain with their current teams, Chad McCumbee would also be Shootout eligible, and either David Gilliland or Travis Kvapil would be included in the prestigious 24-car field.

Ryan Newman showed off his new colors for 2009 alongside Tony Stewart last week. But don’t look for the No. 39 to make its debut in the Shootout next year.

That’s a different type of NASCAR diversity!

4. Racing Economics – In the face of the current economic downturn that is making it problematic for team owners to find the financial backing they need to survive — one that includes possible takeovers or mergers involving three of NASCAR’s four participating auto manufacturers — it was reported that NASCAR is considering reducing the number of cars in the starting lineup for each race. However, NASCAR president Mike Helton denies that there is any consideration by the sanctioning body to cut Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series fields to 28 and Sprint Cup Series lineups to 36. “First of all, it wasn’t a report, it was somebody’s opinion from the garage area and it was not a NASCAR opinion. We’re not looking at reducing the fields,” responded Helton on the issue.

But should the economic slump continue to worsen, will reduced starting lineups even be NASCAR’s decision?

5. Not A Good Mix – Todd Palin, husband of vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, served as an “honorary race official” at Martinsville, VA during the running of the TUMS Quik Pak 500 Sprint Cup event. It is the third time in a little over a month that a NASCAR event has recognized a member of the John McCain / Sarah Palin Republican campaign team. John McCain was at New Hampshire, Cindy McCain was at Charlotte, and Sunday, Todd Palin made his appearance.

Hmm. Does NASCAR not know that there is a good reason that other major sports organizations in this country do not choose to blatantly support politicians or political parties… and is there anything good that can come from unnecessarily alienating a good percentage of your fan base?

6. Do We Ever Really Know Why? – For the ninth time in the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup, qualifying was canceled due to rain Friday at Martinsville, resulting in the starting lineup for the TUMS Quik Pak 500 to be set by points. This season has shattered the previous record for rained out qualifying days of five set in 2002.

Points to Ponder attributes this phenomenon simply to global warming…or black holes…or something.

7. Slim Pickens – Former F-1 driver and budding stock car racer Scott Speed made his Sprint Cup debut at Martinsville, finishing 30th, seven laps down to the race leaders. Speed piloted the No. 84 Red Bull Toyota, the ride recently vacated by A.J. Allmendinger. Allmendinger, on the other hand, is filling the seat of the No. 10 Gillett Evernham Motorsports Dodge for the last five races of 2008 until Reed Sorenson, currently driving for Ganassi, arrives for the 2009 season. Allmendinger equaled the best finish the No. 10 had recorded all season, coming home 14th.

Though the 26-year-old has no contract with any Sprint Cup team for next season, he has four more outings to continue to impress potential employers. However…considering the teams available, how good are his chances of doing any better than the No. 10 team, or for that matter, his former No. 84 team?

8. Good Plan – Jimmie Johnson on the No. 48 team’s approach to the treacherous .526-mile Martinsville Speedway in respect to his position as the points leader going into the race: “We were going for maximum points.”

Mission accomplished, as Johnson not only won the race, but also led the most laps. Now, that’s the kind of planning that will win you a championship…or three.

9. Can’t Argue With Success – Not only was Johnson victorious Sunday at Martinsville, his Hendrick Motorsports teammates didn’t do too shabby, either. In fact, all four of the HMS drivers finished in the Top 6, with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finishing second, Jeff Gordon fourth, and Casey Mears sixth.

And next year, Mark Martin will be driving for HMS. Can Rick Hendrick do no wrong?

10. What’s That Sound? – There are now four races remaining before the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion is crowned. Jimmie Johnson, already the back-to-back defending Cup Champion, has extended his lead in the driver’s championship points race to 149 over his closest rival, Greg Biffle.

OK … if the Fat Lady isn’t singing she is at least starting to hum, now!

Contact Tommy Thompson

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Today on the Frontstretch:
NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment
Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
Going By the Numbers: A Week Without Racing Can Bring Relief But Kill Momentum


©2000 - 2008 Tommy Thompson and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

10/20/2008 09:25 AM

SMI doesn’t own Martinsville.

Managing Editor
10/20/2008 10:23 AM

Thanks SBF! The mistake has been corrected accordingly.

Thanks for writing and reading FS!

10/20/2008 11:03 AM

FYI…Sarah Palin dropped the ceremonial first puck at the Philadelphia Flyers home opener to a mixture of boos and applause.

stan schmidt
10/20/2008 12:51 PM

Bad enough that qualifying got rained out but that gave johnson the number 1 pit stall. Like he needed the help. If qualifying gets rained out pit selection should be picked out of a hat. Might make the race a little more interesting.

10/20/2008 07:02 PM

Back during the bad old days. Most southern states had some form of tests. Designed to disenfranchise large numbers of their populations. It might be time to bring them back. This time to disenfranchise the IDIOTS. If your vote is in any way influenced by the fact that Mr. Palen has been blessed by NA$CAR. Then you’d qualify. Anyone who seriously believes that Mr. Obama is a Muslim would also gualify.

10/20/2008 09:31 PM

Certainly nothing good can come from alienating half your fan base by allowing someone who considers small town America as a bunch of fearful Bible clutching, gun toting hicks, to be Grand Marshall at a Nascar event.

As opposed to someone who’s family business actually supports a Nascar track (PIR) and is one of the largest wholesalers of a beverage company that has supported Nascar over the years.

What could Nascar be thing?

Kevin in SoCal
10/21/2008 04:00 PM

If Obama isnt a Muslim, he sure reads a lot of pro-Muslim books.

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