This weekend, Roush Fenway Racing took the top two positions at Dover for just their third Cup Series victory of the year. That follows an unprecedented performance last weekend at New Hampshire; back then, four of the team’s five drivers finished in the top 15, the best run the team has had in any CoT race to date. After months of searching the writing finally appears to be on the wall; after a sluggish start, Roush Fenway Racing has turned the corner and is now running quite strong with the new car configuration. It almost appears as though Roush Fenway is intentionally hitting its peak… at exactly the right time.
Ultimately, there were 13 cautions during the race, which made a run at the record number of cautions for the race and tied the highest total of cautions for the year. Greg Biffle led after the drop of the green flag, but only held the point for the first four laps, after that Hamlin dominated the race, leading 138 of the 200 laps. His only real challenge came late in the race when Martin Truex Jr. stayed out on a late race caution and tried to use track position to his advantage. Hamlin restarted sixth but quickly moved back to the front and assumed the lead for the final time on lap 186. Truex was able to hold onto second, Matt Kenseth finished an unassuming third, Mike Bliss had a strong effort to finish fourth and Reed Sorenson put in a workmanlike fifth-place run.
With the playoffs moving full steam ahead towards round 2 this weekend, the strategy for your team shouldn’t change all that much. While the Monster Mile has been known to cause damage to its fair share of racecars, it usually doesn’t take too much of a toll on Chase contenders. One or two will most likely take a hit, but the majority will be near the front and finish in the top 15 or better. Which ones have that extra leg up on the rest of their playoff competition, though? Find out in this week’s edition of Fantasy Picks ‘N’ Pans.
At a press conference Tuesday, Kasey Kahne will be introduced as the front man for the most popular beer in the world. The 27-year-old from Enumclaw, Wash. inherits the role of Earnhardt, as the series’ Most Popular Driver is off to hawk PepsiCo products instead for 2008 and beyond. The multi-year deal has the beer company now sharing space with Allstate, replacing Dodge Dealers as the primary sponsor of Kahne’s No. 9 car after seven years on the hood.
On a lazy Sunday afternoon at Chicagoland, one of the most dramatic championships in open wheel history had just reached an eye-popping conclusion, with the third turn of the last lap finally settling a battle that brought excitement to an all-time high. But the 2007 IRL trophy hadn’t even been dusted off for its rightful owner, Dario Franchitti, when he was asked the question most racing aficionados already had the answer to: Would he be moving to NASCAR? The Scotsman was noncommittal in his response, but just the hesitation in his voice revealed the answer he’s not yet able to say out loud: all indications are the open wheel racer is on his way to the world of stock cars. According to published reports, a five-year offer from Chip Ganassi Racing has been put on the table, and sponsorship is in place for Franchitti to make the jump from IndyCar to a series with just a little different type of chassis.
After the bullring that was Bristol, the series heads out to the west coast for another race on the wide open California Speedway. Your fantasy team could be taxed, as the race to the Chase winds down to its inevitable conclusion. No question about it, the pressure’s on. Drivers on the bubble will be running conservatively but intelligently, while the drivers on the outside looking in will simply be going for broke. Then, there’s that strange category of drivers already locked in – they’ll be going for the win to try and garner those extra bonus points for the Chase. As the racing community heads straight for the desert heat, can Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards continue their own current hot streaks? Will Kevin Harvick be able to finish solidly enough to ensure a place in the Chase? This week’s edition of Picks ‘n’ Pans offers our insights into which drivers offer the best and worst for your fantasy team this weekend.
Sponsors spend a ton of money getting their name and logos painted onto cars in the Nextel Cup series. Some of them pay more than $30 million, in fact, just to spend a full season on the hood of a top-flight team. However, it appears as though some people in the garage area feel as though that large amount of cash is purchasing more than paint on a car, or perhaps a simple sponsor appearance at a national office. No, that type of money appears to take a team one step further – to the point of purchasing favoritism from the ones who make the calls in NASCAR each weekend. Sound a little crazy to you? It doesn’t to Jack Roush, the legendary NASCAR car owner who had no problem raising such concerns on live television last weekend.
The new track surface was the focus of much pre-race hype at Bristol… and it lived up to every bit of it. All race long, cars were spread from the top to the bottom, with three-wide racing taking place more than we had ever seen before at the half-mile bullring. Jason Leffler led for the first 14 laps following the drop of the green flag, putting himself in position as the favorite while leading a race-high 81 laps on the day. At the end of the race, it was Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne and Leffler duking it out up front, putting on an amazing race for the lead. At one point, the three drivers went four-wide with a lapped car, leaving onlookers stunned and the crowd rocking in Thunder Valley.
After a marathon weekend at Michigan, it’s time for a sprint-like turnaround and a trip to everyone’s favorite bullring, Bristol Motor Speedway. Michigan had its share of surprises for fantasy teams, with drivers like Dave Blaney, Bobby Labonte and Brian Vickers making appearances in the top 10. But not to be outdone, old reliables like Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, and Carl Edwards were there, too, continuing to cruise along towards the Chase – and hopefully helping the chances for a season-ending trophy of your own. But this weekend at Bristol, no pick is truly a “safe bet;” you can expect both anything and everything to happen. Just one nudge on the bumper and your team’s best driver could be spinning down the standings… taking your team with him. Still, there are certainly drivers you want to make sure to have in your arsenal, along with ones to avoid.
It was announced this week that the No. 8 will be staying at DEI for the foreseeable future, and therefore will not be on the side or roof of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s car next year when he begins driving for Hendrick Motorsports. Much to the disappointment of Riki Rachtman and the majority of Junior’s legion of fans, an agreement could not be reached between DEI and Hendrick Motorsports that would allow the number to be transferred over to Hendrick so that Junior might be able to continue driving with the number for at least the next five years of his career. According to Junior, the stumbling block in the entire process was his stepmother, Teresa Earnhardt. Try as he might, it appears that Junior is going to be haunted by his stepmother for at least the rest of this season.