Did You Notice? In a story I first broke last April to many doubters, ESPN.com confirmed Tuesday night Tony Stewart will indeed leave Joe Gibbs Racing after a decade and jump ship to Haas CNC. Things remained on track almost exactly as I reported — Stewart will own a 50% share in the organization, with the driver of the second car almost universally expected to be Ryan Newman.
Daytona International Speedway once again played havoc with drivers over the Fourth of July weekend. As the action heated up late in the race, some couldn’t find help getting to the front, some couldn’t get out of their own way, and some simply couldn’t stomach 400 miles around the 2.5-mile superspeedway. Was that crash enough to knock Greg Biffle out of this week’s Top 15 — or would Martin Truex Jr. be the odd man out following a 150-point penalty that all but eliminates him from the Chase? And then, there’s the small matter of Tony Stewart turning sickly; while JJ Yeley did an admirable job filling in, was a late-race wreck the final straw that took him outside our Power Rankings chart?
There were fireworks before and after the finish of Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, as 11 cautions – most of them late – led to a mini-demolition derby of sorts which changed the outcome of the race. Helping some while hurting others, those last-minute wrecks completely changed the placement of several of our Hot/Not drivers this week. Most notable of those was Jeff Burton, whose consecutive top-15 streak ended at Daytona when he was wrecked not once, but twice during the race. Who else suffered mightily after watching their car turn into a piece from the junkyard, you ask? Well, here is this week’s look at the hot, the warm and the cold after a hot and sticky Saturday night in Daytona Beach.
1. The Other Big Three – American automakers GM, Ford, and Chrysler have just about reached the panic stage, as their financial well-being becomes a critical concern. GM stock has lost approximately 75% of its value over the last year, Ford Motor Company has seen a 50% decline of stock value in the last three months, and Chrysler is expected to either file bankruptcy or sell off what profitable segments of the company they can. NASCAR’s Chairman and CEO Brian France, speaking on whether there’ll be continued support from the “Big Three” in the sport considering their financial crunch, summed up the situation by saying, “…we’ll just have to see.”
Daytona marks the beginning of the second half of the season. This is often the time of year when people reevaluate their fantasy teams and decide if they are in a strong position or if it is time to make wholesale changes and revamp their rosters. Daytona also scares a lot of owners because there is always the looming danger of the Big One that can destroy a fantasy team’s hopes in a single wreck. Read on to see which drivers our experts chose to serve up a big plate of points for your fantasy team in this week’s Picks ‘N’ Pans.
The LENOX Industrial Tools 301 was billed as a race that went “the extra mile,” but it’s actually all the miles that didn’t happen which led to a major jumble in both the race — and our power rankings. With rain wreaking havoc on the final running order, you had Kurt Busch, Michael Waltrip, and JJ Yeley as the top three finishers with just 284 laps completed — a wild conclusion to a wacky finish at the Magic Mile of the Northeast. But could any of the weekend’s big surprises gain enough momentum to enter the top 15 in our exclusive list? Read on to find the answers you seek, and see if you agree with how the Frontstretch writers voted this week.
It was Kyle Busch who reestablished himself firmly atop the rankings this week, coming off his series high fifth victory of the season. Behind him, main rival Dale Earnhardt Jr. slipped from first to third after failing to execute a successful fuel mileage strategy two weeks in a row. Around them, it was pure mayhem as several drivers moved up and down on the basis of their road-course expertise. On the other end of the spectrum, Kevin Harvick’s bonsai dive into the hairpin that ended the victory chances of Tony Stewart and Jamie McMurray cost him his spot in the Chase; but did it cost him a spot in our Top 15? Read on to find the answers and see if you agree with how the Frontstretch writers voted this week.
While drivers like Marcos Ambrose and Ron Fellows appeared to have cars capable of top-10 finishes, it was the usual frontrunners near the top of the leaderboard by the time the day was over — including race winner Kyle Busch. Who else stayed “HOT” this week? And what teams near the bottom of the Top 35 appeared to have a shot this weekend at a road course, but still struggled? Check out this week’s edition of Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup to find out.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. snapped a 76-race losing streak at Michigan on Sunday with a fuel mileage win; but should NASCAR have allowed Junior, who passed the pace car on more than one occasion in an effort to conserve fuel, to retain the top spot?
Did You Notice? And I know it’s been mentioned countless times already, but three days later I still can’t get over the irony of Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning his first race for Rick Hendrick on Father’s Day. The bond these two share has been well-documented, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize what was on both of their minds during that special day. I mean, just think about what Junior said in Victory Circle; the first points-paying win in two years, to the point where a monkey was clearly lifted off his back, and he referenced Happy Father’s Day about three times.