1. Artifacts – Dale Earnhardt Inc.’s. driver of the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., has agreed to contract terms with his current employer that will keep him with the organization and his team at least through 2009. Last week, rumors had Truex Jr. agreeing in principal to resigning with DEI, leading to a vehement denial from Truex Jr. himself and a reported heated discussion with DEI’s President of Global Operations Max Siegel, who was accused of leaking the story to media outlets. But Friday, it was Truex who was singing a far different tune.
“I’m excited and I’m glad to put an end to all the rumors and get rid of all the speculation and solidify my position at DEI,” he said following the announcement that he would remain with the organization. “I’m looking forward to running the Bass Pro Shops No. 1 the rest of this year and next year. I’m looking forward to doing great things with the company and moving forward.”
No word on whether the New Jersey native – who was rumored to be a frontrunner for rides at Childress, Penske and Stewart-Haas had he decided to leave his current ride – has an option to become the curator of the predicted museum that the DEI race shop would become with the departure of Dale Earnhardt Jr. this season.
2. Talk To Your Father – Still unsigned at DEI is the driver of the No. 15 Menards Chevrolet driven by Paul Menard. The team sponsor is Paul’s family-owned company founded by his father, John – who also is the company’s President. Menards is the third largest home improvement chain of stores in the country behind Lowe’s and Home Depot.
How do those contract negotiations work? Dad, ummm… can you increase my allowance?
3. It’s How You Play The Game – NAPA Auto Parts, despite advance reports that had the company deserting Michael Waltrip Racing and Michael Waltrip’s No. 55 Toyota after this season, has announced that they will return for 2009 with MWR even though Waltrip has struggled throughout the season to stay within the Top 35 in owner points. “Michael Waltrip is a terrific spokesman and brand ambassador for NAPA,” said Bob Susor, president of NAPA Auto Parts. “In fact, our research indicates that Michael Waltrip and NAPA Auto Parts have become synonymous to many race fans.” Waltrip finished 39th at Watkins Glen Sunday.
See, kids… winning isn’t everything!
4. Appropriately Named – Former Cup Series driver Johnny Benson is putting together a “dream season” in the Craftsman Truck Series. The veteran maintained his points lead and won his third race in a row, the Toyota Tundra 200 in Nashville, Tenn. Saturday evening. It was Benson’s fourth victory in the last five races.
Benson, who has not been in the rumor mill for a Sprint Cup ride, was victorious in the Toyota Tundra 200 in his Bill Davis Racing No. 23… a Toyota Tundra!
5. Unfabricated Drama – Benson’s impressive winning streak aside, the Craftsman Truck Series title, as it historically has been, remains wide open. Benson has a not-so-secure 45 point lead over second-place driver, Ron Hornaday. Third-place driver Matt Crafton is a mere 91 markers behind Benson, with positions back to Ford driver Rick Crawford, in seventh, 250 points or less out of first place with 10 races remaining.
Bet on NASCAR not implementing a Chase to the Championship format in the Craftsman Truck Series anytime soon.
6. Nostalgic – Tasmanian Marcos Ambrose had quite a weekend. He won his first ever Nationwide Series race on a fuel strategy call at the Watkins Glen road course event on Saturday, driving the No. 59 Ford for the non-Sprint Cup affiliated team owned by Tad Geschickter with new partner Brad Daugherty – the ESPN race announcer. Ambrose then took the famed Wood Bros. Racing No. 21 Ford to a top-five finish in the Centurion Boats at the Glen Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen, N.Y., finishing third while battling two-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart for the second position.
How cool was it to see that Wood Bros. No. 21 racing hard amongst the leaders on the last lap of a Cup race again? But was it as cool as seeing the red/white/blue STP paint scheme in victory lane one more time – even on a Ford?
7. Road Tease – Early on during the road-course race in New York, Earnhardt Jr. had members of Earnhardt Nation standing on their feet rooting hard. He took the lead from polesitter Kyle Busch on the second lap and, for a time, took a commanding lead at the Glen. Earnhardt Jr., who has never won a Sprint Cup road-course event, led 33 laps on the day; but in the end, the No. 88 team employed the wrong pit strategy, and Junior finished 22nd in the running order. The finish dropped the sport’s Most Popular Driver to fourth in the Sprint Cup driver points standings.
Nothing to sweat for the Nation, though; Junior is still firmly in Chase contention and… there are no road-course events in the 10 race Chase to the Sprint Cup.
8. Quick Learners – Busch sped away from teammate Stewart on the last restart of the Centurion Boats at the Glen with five laps remaining, taking his eighth Sprint Cup win of the year and sweeping both road-course events held in 2008. Besides Stewart’s runner-up position, the third Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driven by Denny Hamlin had a top-10 run… finishing eighth.
What happened to the learning curve that JGR would need to get up to speed with their switch from Chevrolets to Toyota this year?
9. Diversified – Four road-course “ringers” were brought in for this year’s running of the Watkins Glen road race to do battle with the NASCAR Sprint Cup regulars. Though none have ever been victorious in a NASCAR Cup road-course event, it has not deterred owners desperate for points from employing them in one-race deals. This year’s contingent of closed circuit experts fared no better than the previous ones. Ron Fellows was the highest finishing “ringer” in 13th, followed by Boris Said (24th), PJ Jones (37th) and Max Papis (43rd).
Apparently, NASCAR has some pretty good road racers in house!
10. Stupendous – The Watkins Glen win is not only the eighth Sprint Cup victory of the year for the young Las Vegas “Hot Shoe,” but his 16th in NASCAR’s top-three series overall in 2008. Additionally, the phenom is the first driver to win three road races in one season (including his Nationwide Series win in Mexico City).
With 14 Sprint Cup events alone left… 10 Points to Ponder will find it necessary to repeat previously used superlatives from here on out when reporting on Busch.