2009 Ride: No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge
2009 Primary Sponsors: Verizon (no logos), Star Trek (Richmond, Darlington)
2009 Owner: Roger Penske
2009 Crew Chief: Roy McCauley
2009 Stats: 33 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s, 6 DNFs, 32nd in points
Best Finish: 13th – California, February
Average Finish: 25.0
High Point: When looking at last season’s performance, it’s hard to choose a high point in David Stremme‘s lackluster year. It would probably be a toss-up between his best finish of 13th at Auto Club Speedway in February, where he led three laps, and a great run spoiled by a late-race pit stop at Talladega in early November. With three laps remaining in that one, Stremme found himself sitting solidly in sixth, but he was forced to make a pit stop for fuel and ended up bringing the No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge home in 22nd. On the bright side, the veteran led 10 laps during the race, one of just three he’d lead all year long in 33 Sprint Cup starts.
Low Point: It’s bad enough for a driver to know they’re being replaced at the end of the season, but it’s a whole different ballgame when they get that pink slip a little earlier than expected. With just three races left in 2009, Stremme was removed from the No. 12 Verizon Dodge to make way for Brad Keselowski, his full-time replacement at Penske Racing for 2010 and beyond.
Left with nowhere to go, Stremme found himself filing for unemployment with a rough-looking resume – showing just three top-10 finishes in 108 Sprint Cup Series starts. Picked up for a one-race deal, he then attempted to qualify the James Finch-fielded No. 09 Miccosukee car for the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. But the 32-year-old driver was one of five who failed to make the field, crashing during his qualifying attempt in what was a performance-based audition to earn the ride for 2010.
Summary: Stremme’s season was full of disappointments and low-level performance, and as a result, he was not only replaced for the upcoming season but was booted out of his ride before the last one three races before it ended.
Here’s all you need to know about the Indiana native’s tenure with Penske: he took a car in the No. 12 Dodge that won the Daytona 500 in February, 2008, and guided it to a total of zero top-10 finishes in 33 Sprint Cup starts one year later. Whether lack of chemistry with crew chief Roy McCauley was to blame, overall problems within the Dodge program, or just poor performance inside the cockpit, the bottom line is Stremme didn’t get the job done in high-level equipment, with one of the sport’s biggest sponsors in Verizon – and that’s why he ended the year on the outside looking in after his second chance in the Cup Series quickly turned into a nightmare.
Off-Track News: In July, Stremme purchased a new home in North Carolina, where he hired out-of-work members of the racing community to help move him into his new place. Then, in early December, he participated in the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla. Kyle Busch won the race, while Stremme finished 27th after completing only 206 of the scheduled 300 laps.
Team Ranking: Third. When comparing Stremme’s performance last season to that of team leader Kurt Busch, it’s hard to believe the two could possibly race for the same organization. Though his other Penske Racing teammate, Sam Hornish Jr., finished just four positions ahead of him in the points standings, Hornish scored more top-10 finishes last season (seven) than Stremme has in his entire Sprint Cup Series career (three).
2010 Outlook: At this point, 2010 does not look good for Stremme on the Cup level. Since being fired from Penske, there has been little news about his plans for the upcoming season as most Silly Season rides have already been filled. In October, Stremme mentioned he would be open to a Nationwide or Camping World Truck series ride if that’s what it took for him to continue to race, and that may be the only chance he has to hit the track when February comes. Rumors persist Rusty Wallace Inc. could be his new home if sponsorship materializes to put him behind the wheel of one of their Toyotas.
Additionally, McCauley, Stremme’s former crew chief, has been replaced on the No. 12 by Jay Guy for the upcoming season. However, McCauley will remain with Penske Racing in some sort of leadership capacity.
2006 Frontstretch Grade: C-
2007 Grade: C-
2008 Grade: N/A
2009 Grade: F