Whether it be in the television booth or on the track, 2007 was a forgettable year for Kyle Petty. Despite handing over his ride for a handful of races to explore what it will undoubtedly be a post-NASCAR career as an analyst, Petty returned behind the wheel and fought hard each week down the stretch to stay inside the Top 35 in car owner points. In a year filled with hardship, the highlight of Petty’s season came at the Coca-Cola 600 in May, when the 47-year-old driver recorded his best finish (third) since Dover, 1997.
Frankly, David Ragan should consider having the opportunity to become a full-time Cup driver his highest point. At the time he was named to replace Mark Martin in the No. 6 last season, Ragan still wasn’t even allowed to race at some of the tracks on the NASCAR circuit due to inexperience. But any doubts as to whether Ragan was a deserving replacement got settled quickly. He started off at Daytona with a fifth-place finish, mostly because he was able to avoid the melee of wrecking cars coming off turn 4 on the final lap. But luck counts; and just like that, the freshman was immediately off to a solid start.
2007 would’ve been considered a great success for Nemechek – if only he could’ve repeated his Daytona 500 performance every weekend. Entering his fourth full season with newly-named Ginn Racing (formerly MB2 Motorsports), the year began with a challenge. When Mark Martin and Regan Smith were signed to split duties in the No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet, Nemechek was asked to stay with the program, but switch rides – to a brand-new third team. Driving a then-unsponsored No. 13 Chevrolet, the thought behind the arrangement for Nemechek was directly related to “Front Row Joe’s” stellar qualifying record, leading team owner Bobby Ginn to believe his driver could put the car into the field on time and avoid falling victim to the Top-35 qualifying rule.
Juan Pablo Montoya got his first NASCAR victory in just his third week of the season – when the Busch Series visited Mexico City. No matter what camp you were in, you had to think he’d be a threat on the road courses, and Montoya proved that theory correct when he followed up that victory with a Nextel Cup road-course win at Infineon Raceway in June.
The 2007 season was just an OK season for our Circle Bar Racing MaxxForce Diesel team. In our defense, most of my team was put together very late in the offseason, so we kind of had our backs up against the wall the whole time. With that said, being able to get into the top 10 in the final race of the season was a neat thing. Obviously, our expectations were much higher than that, but I feel we did everything we could to be successful. I just can’t thank my MaxxForce team enough for all the effort they put into our trucks and pit stops all season. They were amazing considering everything they were up against.
Menard’s best finish of the season was at Michigan International Speedway, where he finished a career-high 12th in the Citizens Bank 400. Starting back in 38th, he methodically worked his way up through the pack, even leading a lap in the process – one of only three he’d lead all season in the Cup Series.
Without a doubt, edging out Kyle Busch by 0.005 seconds in the Pepsi 400 was the highlight of the 2007 season for McMurray. After being sent to the back of the field for passing under the yellow line, he made his way back through the pack and – with a well-placed bump or two from teammate Carl Edwards – was able to push ahead of Busch for his second career victory, snapping a 166-race winless drought. McMurray also found success early in the season, scoring three straight top-10 finishes in late March and early April to collect a total of five top 10s in the first nine races of the year.
Memorial Day weekend has seen a Mears hoist a trophy before: Casey’s uncle, Rick Mears, won the Indianapolis 500 no less than four times in his career. But in 2007, Casey Mears staked his own claim to the Winner’s Circle, grabbing his first career Nextel Cup win in the Coca-Cola 600. Mears’ parents joined him in Victory Lane – as did longtime friend and now-teammate Jimmie Johnson – for one of the most emotional celebrations of the year. After all, what are friends for?
Kasey Kahne is getting sued for an incident in which he pushed a 62-year-old security officer to the ground. Is this another get-rich-quick scheme for private citizen versus NASCAR celebrity, or a troubling sign of a young driver’s immaturity?
In a year where Jeremy Mayfield only managed to qualify 13 times in 32 attempts for Bill Davis Racing while driving the No. 36 360 OTC Toyota, his switch to the Haas CNC Racing No. 66 Best Buy Chevrolet was by far the high point of the season. Previously piloted by Jeff Green for the first 32 races, the No. 66 was firmly implanted in the Top 35 in owner points when Jeremy took over, guaranteeing him a starting spot in the remaining four events of 2007. Results were immediate; in only his second race in the No. 66 Chevy (Texas), Jeremy tied his previous best finish of the year, coming to the checkers in 22nd place.