The high points of Sterling Marlin’s year came early in the season. Racing with his new team at Ginn Motorsports, he started the season without any owner points. This meant he would have to qualify by speed to get into the race. After qualifying 38th in the Daytona 500, Marlin finished 17th. Throughout the next four races, Marlin continued to qualify by his speed results. He was the only driver outside of the Top 35 in owner points to qualify for all five races. His best finish of the season was 13th, which was in the Dodge Avenger 400 at Darlington.
In the 17th race of the season, the Lenox Industrial Tools 300 at New Hampshire, Lepage achieved his best start and finish of a difficult 2007. Lepage timed his way into the race, putting down a lap of 30.125 seconds and a speed of 126.433 mph to place 37th on the starting grid. Although he ended the day six laps behind the leader in 35th, Lepage finished better than some more notable and better-funded competitors to bring in a $69,500 payout.
The high point of Terry Labonte’s 2007 season was simply being asked to come out of retirement to strap in for Michael Waltrip Racing. Waltrip himself was struggling to qualify for races, let alone accumulate Nextel Cup points with his new Toyota team; desperate for answers, he called upon the 50-year-old Labonte to jump behind the wheel of the No. 55 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota. Labonte wound up coming back for both road courses – two of his all-time favorite tracks – as well as the prestigious Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
A victory is extra special for Matt Kenseth, who is known more for his rock-solid consistent finishes rather than the dominating double-digit win seasons main rivals Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon have put up through the years. So, his two victories at the Auto Club 500 in Fontana and the season finale Ford 400 in Homestead will surely stand out from the rest of the 2003 champ’s accomplishments – especially when one considers who was atop the pit box during those feats.
After Bobby Labonte scored just one top 10 in the first 22 races of 2007, the addition of Doug Randolph as crew chief met with some immediate positive results. Labonte scored a ninth-place finish in Randolph’s debut at Michigan, and followed it up with another top 10 at Bristol and an 11th-place finish at California. That all led up to Labonte’s 500th career start at Richmond, where he finished an admirable 16th; unfortunately for Labonte, that was where the magic fizzled; he finished in the top 15 just once more in the 10-race Chase.
Kasey Kahne went winless, scoring his lone top five at the Bristol night race in August. At least he can take some consolation from the fact that it wasn’t a fluke; for that race, at least, he looked like the Kasey Kahne everyone expected for ’07, leading 305 of 500 laps after starting from the pole.
While optimism was high at the onset of Toyota’s inaugural Cup season – led by past champion Jarrett – things just never seemed to materialize. After using up all of his past champion’s provisionals, the newly formed No. 44 team had to rely solely on “timing in” to get into the field for most of the season. While DJ did manage to qualify in on time for 18 of the 24 races that he participated in – often at the expense of one of his teammates – he never started in the top 20 until late September. At Dover, he qualified 19th; the following week at Kansas, DJ and the No. 44 UPS Camry started 13th. These late-season qualifying improvements culminated in a third-place start in Atlanta, the 33rd race of the season – setting Jarrett up for a late season “surge.”
2007 was a good year for the Circle Bar Racing team and the No. 14 Power Stroke Diesel Ford by International. It was a great year for Circle Bar Racing to have two of its trucks, with our teammate David Starr in the top 10 in the points and the No. 14 truck in the top five in the points. We had a good strong finish at Homestead with third place, and it was just a good year for us. My hat’s off to [Ron] Hornaday for winning the championship and [Mike] Skinner for second. Those guys had great years, and earned top finishes all year, and ultimately deserved to battle it out for a championship.
Denny Hamlin’s lone win of the season came at Loudon this July, and was definitely the high point for the season as much as finishing positions were concerned. Leading 46 laps, Hamlin outdueled the Hendrick Motorsports crowd to finally cash in on a Car of Tomorrow victory after falling short to Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson on several occasions in the spring.
Jeff Green and the No. 66 team struggled through the first four races of the year, but hit on something in the first Car of Tomorrow event at Bristol. After qualifying ninth – his best start of the season – Green came home in sixth position. The top 10 did not come easy at the World’s Fastest Half-Mile; Green fought back from a lap down, moving up three spots over the final 12 laps to earn his best finish of 2007. He’d wind up matching that twice more over the course of the season, placing sixth at both Phoenix and Loudon – also CoT events.