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.
I’m conflicted. The 2008 NASCAR season is finally over. “Finally” for me has a few different meanings. Mainly, it has been a hectic and exhausting year, balancing working and writing while trying to maintain some semblance of a semi-normal social life. Secondly, because this has been, after 26 years of watching this sport, the most painfully long season I can remember. I feel that there were more lows than highs unfortunately, but then again, such is the sad state of affairs we find our self in at this point in history. I am also taken aback by some of the irony – or coincidence – whatever label you wish to apply to it, that I have seen this year in NASCAR.
Tough times have arrived for U.S. corporations, and thus NASCAR as well. This has prompted some of the sport’s best known and respected personalities to come to the aid of stock car racing’s most important partner – the U.S automobile manufacturers. As the heads of the Big Three car builders gathered in Washington D.C. yesterday with hats in hand to beg for further financial aid to stay afloat, a “grassroots” campaign kicked off within the NASCAR community to encourage fans to support Chrysler, Ford and GM in their quest to be the next segment of the U.S. economy to get in on the new trend of taxpayer-backed loans.
After 36 points-paying events, nine months, and 14,493 miles of racing, the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup season is finally in the books. When the smoke cleared, it was Jimmie Johnson winning his third consecutive championship, tying Cale Yarborough as the only drivers in history to accomplish that feat. Behind him, Carl Edwards finished second but won the most trophies, with a total of nine checkered flags captured throughout the year. In contrast, Jeff Gordon snapped his streak of at least one win per season at 14, while Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick were some of the other notables who got shut out of victory lane. However, none of those drivers mentioned got left out of our final Power Rankings poll of the season. As you might expect, Johnson was unanimously voted number one on our list; but where did the other drivers mentioned wind up? Read on to see if your wheelman shone in the Florida sun or got sand kicked in his face in the final edition of our 2008 Power Rankings.
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.
The Desert Southwest held a couple of different surprises for the racers this weekend. Rain and gale force winds threw a lot at the teams; but when all was said and done, it was status quo for the No. 48. Jimmie Johnson led the most laps and won the race handily, all but securing this year’s title heading to Homestead. That dominance was also enough to put almost all of our panel votes behind the point leader, putting him securely in the top spot again this week. But with one week to go, there was quite a bit of movement behind him. Read on to see if your driver was cool and collected or caught in the cactus on rattlesnake hill in this week’s Power Rankings.
Very rarely do you see a former champion show so much admiration for another. But when Kurt Busch finished runner-up to points leader Jimmie Johnson this weekend at Phoenix, he admitted that the No. 48 team was “something special,” and told fans to tune in or come to watch NASCAR’s next big dynasty. It’s true that nobody has been able to touch Johnson, Chad Knaus and Co. in the Chase, and this week’s race was no different. Carl Edwards finished in the top five yet again, but lost points to the two-time defending champion, who won his seventh race of the year and increased his point lead to a nearly-insurmountable 141. Johnson and Edwards have certainly been in a league of their own these last few weeks, but who else has been HOT as the season winds down? Check out this week’s edition of Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup, Chase Edition to find out.
Each week, we’ll go through media reports, interviews, PR, and all our own stuff to find the best quotes from the Sprint Cup race, capturing the story of how the weekend unfolded. It’s the most original commentary you’ll ever find: the truth, coming straight out of the mouths of the drivers, crew members and car owners themselves. This week, here’s a sneak peek at what a select few were thinking following the Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 presented by Pennzoil at Phoenix International Raceway.
Last week, when Dale Earnhardt Jr. commented that the length of the season is too great, the first thought that entered my mind, was “Shut up and drive.” But then, I really thought about it. The more I thought, the more I realized… maybe Junior was right. The argument you usually hear about the 38-week season (including two exhibition races) is that it’s hard on race teams, keeping drivers and crew members away from their families for too much of the year. There is really no time off at all for most teams, as the month and a half after the season ends is spent getting ready for Daytona testing in mid-January, and after that, Speedweeks is just around the corner, and it’s crunch time.
History repeated itself for the third time in a row, as the winner at Atlanta in the fall headed to Texas the following week and won again. That victory this week by Carl Edwards stole a couple of first-place votes away from Jimmie Johnson, but didn’t move him out of the top spot just yet. Meanwhile, Jeff Burton’s drive to the championship is done – that is, if you believe the voters in this week’s poll. But just how far did Burton fall? And what Roush Fenway driver made an appearance in our top 12 for the first time? Read on for the answers in this week’s version of the Power Rankings.