A lap 3 crash at Texas changed the championship picture dramatically this week, as leader Jimmie Johnson lost over 100 points of the margin he carried into the race. Did Johnson lose his edge, or did Texas simply draw out what should be a foregone conclusion?
It’s been 11 months since we last saw Kyle Petty step behind the wheel of a Sprint Cup car, finishing 39th at Phoenix in his 829th (and possibly final) Sprint Cup start. Three months later, he was out of any management role at Petty Enterprises, a merger with Gillett Evernham all but ending his attachment …
It’s hard to imagine the Cup season could begin in an environment so different than it did just a year ago. This nation is well and truly trapped in the depths of an economic recession that has altered the American Dream like nothing since the Great Depression. I vow here and now not to dwell too much on the economy in my columns. I know just about all of you are enduring the same things my friends and family are going through, and spending plenty of sleepless nights as a result. I know race fans turn to races for a few hours of respite from the gloom, and read these columns hoping for an occasional insight or chuckle served up amongst the usual tidal wave of cynicism and truly tortured analogies. I pledge to try to entertain you… but I do not live in a vacuum.
Depending on what you believe, Petty’s Cup career may be far from over after all. The LATEST rumor, as of January 2nd, was that E&M Motorsports would field Kyle in the No. 08 Dodge in as many as 14 races – with Wells Fargo as a sponsor. That, however, has been denied, with multiple sources saying nothing’s been signed for 2009 as of yet.
Let’s start with Jimmie Johnson. While I refuse to compare Jimmie to Cale Yarborough, for the two are incomparable, it is at this time that I formally congratulate Jimmie Johnson for winning three Cups in a row… Sprint Cups that is, not Winston Cups, for they too are incomparable.
For so many millions of us, favorite athletes become so much more. Role models for our kids, our communities, ourselves; they’re put on a pedestal of success we can only wish to achieve. Through them, we choose to live our wildest dreams, placed in a fantasy world in which a larger-than-life persona can show us the joys of perfection. Every once in a while, we get lucky in love, and the dream never dies. Our idols leave the sport we love at the top of their game, and we’re allowed to remember the end just the way we want it – like a fairy tale. But more often, the bubble bursts and we find out the truth – that these drivers we worship are human, too, unable to fend off the inevitability of age and time. And that makes it so much harder when you see their careers come crashing down.
Did You Notice? That the way Kyle Petty’s career is ending is very reminiscent of… Darrell Waltrip? Before I covered this sport through TV and print, I made no secret of the fact Waltrip was my favorite driver. His fall from grace in the years leading up to retirement (save for a few races in ’98 with DEI) was painful to watch, especially for a kid that idolized him growing up.
There was a stunning admission made by Patti Petty, wife of NASCAR driver Kyle Petty, reported Sept. 29 in the Winston-Salem Journal. With a few choice words, she changed the landscape of racing’s royal family, giving us pause to reconsider what, to this point, we’d assumed was a fully functioning unit. But perhaps functional is no longer the right word to use in this case. It seems Petty will soon depart from Petty Enterprises — a team he once helped run — but is not doing so voluntarily.
4. Like A Swiss Watch? – Non-Chase eligible driver Martin Truex Jr. led 29 laps at the Kansas Speedway, and spent a large segment of the event battling for positions within the top 10 before a broken transmission on lap 231 of the 267-lap race relegated the driver of the Dale Earnhardt Inc. No. 1 Chevrolet to a 43rd-place finish. Truex was the ONLY DNF on the day. Since its inception, NASCAR has held exceptionally long races to test the limits of not only the drivers, but the machines as well. Apparently, 400 miles of high RPM racing is “no sweat” for today’s precision engineered racecars… how about 800 miles?
It was rather fitting that Greg Biffle’s sponsor this week was Turbo HD from Dish Network with the way he dusted Jimmie Johnson. I was reminded of The Dukes of Hazzard episode when Bo and Luke have to retrieve Cale Yarborough’s stolen turbo with special pop-it valve (to date, nobody is sure what this means) that was stolen by the Jethro Brothers. Apparently, the Jethros must be in cahoots with Roush Fenway Racing, as it appears to have found its way onto Biffle’s No. 16 Ford Fusion. Just look at the impromptu power move he put on the No. 48 car! But while things were looking up for the one they call, “the Biff,” some of the other Chase contenders were looking only at the immense virtual load of manure they were about to have dumped on them — not unlike Biff in Back To The Future.
The latest news out of Petty Enterprises Inc. has Chad McCumbee penciled in to drive the No. 45 Dodge in place of Kyle Petty at Pocono. This is the second unscheduled absence in as many weeks by the 30-year NASCAR Cup veteran, and very possibly an indication that his career as a driver may abruptly be coming to a close. The 48-year-old Petty, who for the second year in a row took six races off to be a color analyst for TNT’s Sprint Cup broadcasts, had also been scheduled to race last week at Indianapolis. Instead, two-time Cup champion Terry Labonte — who relieved Petty during his TV sabbatical — drove the car in what was an apparent last-minute decision by team management. At the very least, the son of stock car legend Richard Petty appears far from a lock to drive for the team in 2009 — or even for the rest of 2008.
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.”