Did You Notice? A ray of hope in the midst of NASCAR’s testing ban? The logical assumption when the policy was announced was that every one of the sport’s big-time owners would pull out the bulldozers and start building race tracks themselves. But to everyone’s surprise, one of the power players of the “Big Four” – Jack Roush – immediately came out and said he wouldn’t even think of breaking ground on one anytime soon. And not only would Roush resist loosening up the purse strings, he admitted he’d be more than happy to permanently resist skirting around the ban in general as long as everyone else ends up doing the same thing.
That’s a first step to the type of toned-down financial competition we need at this stage of the game. If only Gibbs, Hendrick and Childress would sit in the same room and follow that type of example, we’d be all set. The problem is, it’s going to take just one of them doing a little “extra” behind the scenes to start up the money war all over again. Let’s hope they all can hold off in the best interest of the sport, though…
Did You Notice? Larry Carter left Roush Fenway Racing only to be “rehired” at Yates? So, in other words he got transferred to the “B” squad. In other Yates Racing news, Todd Parrott has officially left the organization for which he once won a championship with former driver Dale Jarrett. Where he lands is unknown, but that departure for me removes one of the last links to when this team was a successful independent organization. Newer fans don’t understand that in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, Parrott was right up there with the likes of Chad Knaus, Bob Osborne and Greg Zipadelli as one of the great crew chief minds in the business. Unfortunately, the last few years have seen him hang on too long with an organization that lost its money, its power, and its direction – and never quite could get it back until Roush up and took them under his wing.
Also, while we’re on the topic of Yates Racing did you see they’re cutting down to just two cars for next season? I’ve heard that talk for a while now, and the move would put the beleaguered David Gilliland on the chopping block. If it’s a battle between Gilliland or Travis Kvapil for that spot, it’s a no-brainer that Kvapil gets the nod. Not only has the No. 28 car run better than the No. 38 for most of the season, but Gilliland endured a flurry of late-season crashes and mechanical failures in between intentionally wrecking Juan Pablo Montoya at Texas. Failing to finish eight times this season, Gilliland has yet to develop into the type of star power driver some expected after a surprising Nationwide (then Busch) Series win at Kentucky back in 2006.
Did You Notice? Rick Hendrick’s impassioned plea on the pre-race show Sunday for Congress to bail out the Big 3 automakers? When NASCAR’s championship car owner is making a statement like that, you know the sport’s future hangs in the balance with each debate up on Capitol Hill.
Did You Notice? No Rookie of the Year in any of NASCAR’s top-three divisions won a race this season. Regan Smith, Landon Cassill and Colin Braun had varying levels of success, but combined to lead just 20 laps in over 80 races. That’s part of the reason why the sport is suffering from a lack of excitement right now; when you have the same drivers in the same cars running up front every week, your product is going to wind up bound to fail. With Joey Logano and Scott Speed attacking the Cup Series in 2009, hopefully one of them will figure out a way to become the first freshman to visit victory lane since Montoya in 2007.
Did You Notice? Jimmie Johnson has more wins since 2002 (40) than Jeff Gordon has during this entire decade (32)? Debate all you want about whether Johnson should be listed among the all-time greats, but there’s no such argument over who’s number one at Hendrick anymore.
Did You Notice? The No. 5 car driven by Casey Mears suddenly came alive at the end of the season, scoring seven top 15s in the last nine races as opposed to seven in the first 27? I just find that stat a little curious considering Mark Martin is suddenly going to be inheriting that seat for 2009; and you know, he needs the best equipment money can offer to succeed…
Did You Notice? Drivers clamoring for a ride that may never be available? No less than four different wheelmen have been mentioned in conjunction with the final open seat available – Earnhardt Ganassi’s No. 41. But with the Target sponsorship moving over to the No. 42 and Montoya, who’s to say that team will even have the money to run come Daytona 2009? Personally, I think AJ Allmendinger would be a great fit over there, but I’m increasingly doubting whether anyone will get the chance.
Did You Notice? The early layoff totals – once projected at over 1,000 employees in NASCAR’s top-three divisions – have turned out to be far lower than expected. But don’t be fooled; some teams are clinging to hope they’ll get a deal done by the end of November. If not, well… that number could still easily become a reality.