Hendrick, Hendrick, Roush, Hendrick, Gibbs, Hendrick, Stewart… Hendrick.
Oh yes, don’t forget Petty.
It seems like those names are all that exist in the Sprint Cup world. And yet, I’ve noticed an odd blip on the radar this year. It’s been getting bigger and more persistent. Could it be? Has another multi-car team managed to nudge its way into the headlines? Almost….
Roger Penske is no newcomer to the field, bringing entries to the Cup Series since 1972, yet he has never enjoyed the superstar status achieved by the more notable Hendrick. Rousch and Gibbs multi-car powerhouses. Oh, there are trophies added to the display cases on a regular basis, but not in the astounding numbers the other big names have managed.
However, it just might be that this is the year. The year where Kurt Busch rediscovers the joy of multiple victories and the year when Sam Hornish Jr. masters the fine art of keeping his car pointed in the right direction.
Have you seen it?
Cameras have captured the Blue Deuce at the front of the field since the checkers flew in Daytona and there was even a sighting of the elder Busch brother in victory lane at the spring Atlanta race. Oddly enough, where Hornish earned his nickname of Sideways Same last season, he strutted the No. 77’s stuff Saturday and won the Sprint Showdown. David Stremme, the third teammate, even made it look plausible that Penske might do a 1-2 punch at the Showdown.
My world is coming unhinged.
I’m not upset, per se, simply disjointed. I’ve been eyeing the competition for the 2009 season with a bit more than a jaded eye this year. Even though the Dodge family has been represented by huge racing names throughout the years, the cache of sporting Petty, Evernham or Penske simply hasn’t translated into racing dominance in years. At the end of his career, I got comfortable with the idea that maybe Rusty Wallace could run up front, but he wouldn’t win a second championship. Nor would Richard Petty’s son or Ray Evernham’s next great driving discovery set the kinds of records that the Chevy teams have.
However, with the new R6P8 motor under the hood, it seems that the Penske boys are poised to make a statement for the near-extinct manufacturer and etch a spot into the NASCAR map for their never-give-up owner.
The fact is, I welcome this diversion.
It diminishes the monotony of Sunday afternoon when there is one more team capable of taking home the trophy. It’s even better when the driver hasn’t jigged the hat dance in far too long or possibly ever.
I can’t comfortably state that Stremme will find his stride this year… that might be asking a bit too much, but when I’m seeing the near look-alike No. 2 and No. 77 cars at the front of the field week after week, it just feels like change is in the air.
Change? In NASCAR? Is it possible? Could be.
It’s been six years since Ryan Newman amazed us with his eight wins in Penske’s No. 12. Seems to me, it’s time for this dark horse stable of the Sprint Cup roster to be great again.
I think this sounds pretty good: Penske, Hendrick, Rousch, Gibbs, Stewart, Petty.
I think it’s going to happen.