NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: Mourning the Pettys, Moving the Banquet & Putting Off the Nationwide CoT

Petty Enterprises will reportedly merge with Gillett Evernham Motorsports by the end of the year, effectively ending their run in NASCAR. Meanwhile, the Wood Brothers are dropping to a 12-race schedule in 2009. What does losing these teams mean to the sport -or is it an inevitable part of its continued evolution?

The Keith Plan for the Nationwide Series: An Overview

Over the course of 2008, be it in my weekly columns for Frontstretch or my reporting ventures from the racetrack, I have focused on the Nationwide Series. Despite its many flaws, I continue to find the division truly fascinating, a combination of national superstars battling with the ranks of driver development and local racers. I have no doubt that the Nationwide Series can go beyond being a Saturday appetizer for a Sprint Cup race; and I have a plan to turn it into the truly unique racing series that it can and should be.

Happy Hour: The Best 2008 NASCAR Stories That You Will Soon Forget

When the question “what is the biggest news story of 2008” came up, plenty of things came to mind in the short time provided for answers. Easily, Jimmie Johnson’s third straight title was the winner, but there were other memorable moments, including: the mess at the Brickyard; the meteoric rise and fall of Kyle Busch; a winless season for Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth; and Johnny Benson and Clint Bowyer winning titles in the lesser series. However, after our chat I got to thinking (always a dangerous thing). Memory is short, and we tend to forget things at an astonishing rate. Most of us couldn’t remember what we wore two days ago, unless we had set clothes for each day of the week. With that in mind, there are some memorable moments in the 2008 season that we’ll have most certainly forgotten by 2013.

Kenny Wallace Driver Diary: Grateful for 2008’s Highlights

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I really want to look at the things I have to be thankful for. Two weeks before the Daytona 500, I didn’t have a ride. We pretty much stunned the nation with our big upset in qualifying for the 50th annual Daytona 500. That was a big feather in my cap. I was down in Daytona and pretty resigned that I was just going to run the Nationwide race, and we ended up starting eighth for the Daytona 500. I’m grateful for that. Then early in the year, Armando Fitz went broke and I could have missed a lot of races – but I never missed a beat.

10 Points to Ponder… After the 2008 Ford 400 at Homestead

2. Circling The Wagons – Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Inc. announced last week that they will merge their operations for the 2009 Sprint Cup Series, creating an organization known as Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. The newly formed team is expected to field four cars. Presently, Ganassi has Target on board next season for his No. 41 team, with a driver yet to be named for next season. Additionally, Juan Pablo Montoya will have Wrigley’s back in ’09 for select races, but still is looking for sponsorship for the remainder of the year. DEI has Bass Pro Shops returning to the No. 1 Chevy driven by Martin Truex Jr. and no primary sponsorship to date for the No. 8 assumed to be driven by Aric Almirola. Rumors abound that Montoya may actually drive the Target car, with Almirola inheriting the sponsorship from Wrigley’s for his own team.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: 2008 Ford 300 at Homestead

Carl Edwards did everything he could to try and steal his second consecutive Nationwide Series crown. Qualifying on the outside pole, Edwards ran in the top five all race long and led a third of the race (66 laps). Edwards also managed to pass Kyle Busch’s vaunted No. 18 Toyota with 34 laps to go on an intermediate oval, scoring his second consecutive win and seventh of the season. But it wasn’t enough.

10 Points to Ponder… After the 2008 Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix

1. Monkey See… Monkey Do – The nip and tuck championship battle between Ron Hornaday and Johnny Benson Jr. continues after the two squared off at Phoenix Friday night in the Lucas Oil 150. The fact the two Craftsman Truck Series drivers continued their points fight was made more remarkable after Hornaday incurred significant damage to his Kevin Harvick Inc. Chevrolet on the first lap of the race. Repairs to Hornaday’s truck took 29 laps to complete, and he wound up finishing 25th, 34 laps down. However, a lap 87 wreck with TJ Bell sent Benson behind the pit wall for extensive work on his Bill Davis Racing Toyota. The current point leader did return to the track to salvage a 26th-place finish in the final running order – winding up one position behind Hornaday.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: 2008 Hefty Odor Block 200 at Phoenix

Carl Edwards talked all week about how his No. 60 team had to be perfect the next two weekends if they had any shot of scoring a second consecutive Nationwide title. And while there were minor hiccups, the No. 60 group did everything they could, leading the most laps and dominating the second half of Saturday’s event to score Edwards his sixth win of the season.

Nuts for Nationwide: Phoenix Racing Living Up to Its Name, On the Rise Once Again

A long-time team member remarked “I’ve been with James [Finch] every race, I met James years before, he had no money when I met him. Been with him the whole time. He told me, I’m going to stick it out or quit. So, we talked about it, and we made this deal.” The deal was with Mike Bliss, and it was one that I as a writer criticized. Bliss was in the top five in Nationwide points driving for Fitz Motorsports’ No. 22 car, while Phoenix Racing was struggling. And in his first race in the No. 1, Bliss finished much like Marlin, three laps down in 24th at Texas. But the struggles ended there. Since that first race in Fort Worth, Bliss has posted 12 top-10 finishes for the team, including a runner-up finish at Dover in September. Riding this momentum, the No. 1 team has also climbed from 22nd to ninth in the Nationwide Series owner standings, while Bliss remains at fifth in driver points.

Matt McLaughlin Mouths Off: The Nationwide Series is Worth Saving

If things are grim in the Cup garage, things in the Nationwide garage border on apocalyptic. The litany of bad news arriving from that side of the fence makes recent issues of the Wall Street Journal look like Mad magazine. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is cutting back from two cars to one full-time effort and a part time team due to lack of sponsorship. His driver, Brad Keselowski, is currently highest in the Nationwide Series among full-time competitors. If the biggest name in NASCAR can’t secure sponsorship, that doesn’t leave a lot of hope for the smaller teams.

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