The 2009 Sprint Cup season officially kicked off Sunday afternoon with the running of the Daytona 500; and with that, the battle for the Top 35 is on. For those of you new to the sport, the Top 35 teams in owner points are locked into the starting grid each week. For the first five races of the season, NASCAR uses the owner standings from the previous year, then reverts to the current season’s standings from there on out. So while the Top 35 are locked in for the first few races, the jockeying for position has begun with the bubble teams in an effort to transfer into a locked in spot when the series visits Martinsville in a month and a half. Read on to see who improved their position and who is already behind the 8-ball in this week’s edition of the Bubble Breakdown.
You’d think that over the offseason, it’d be hard for the Top-35 situation to change as no one would be accumulating any more points. But in an offseason filled with teams folding, merging, and selling off their “locked-in” places on the starting grid, the landscape of Who’s In and Who’s Out looks completely different than it did when I left you back in November. Several teams that were out of the Top 35 after Miami have gained access to automatic spots, while others have seen their points go to different cars within their own teams. It’s all enough to leave you more than a little confused. So, without further adieu, let’s clear the air and preview the Top 35 for 2009.
The 2008 season wasn’t a huge success for Travis Kvapil, but it was his best points finish in three full-time seasons in the Cup Series (he drove for Penske in 2005 and PPI Motorsports in 2006).
The 2008 Sprint Cup tour is now officially in the books. And as with all sports, there were many surprises as well as disappointment throughout the year. So, as the holiday season descends upon us and the thundering of NASCAR’s engines fades away for another offseason, let’s take a moment and look back upon the past 10 months of racing, seeing who among the sport’s middle and bottom-tier teams exceeded everyone’s expectations – and who didn’t quite live up to them.
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 Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Jimmie Johnson is determined to rebound from a bad week while Carl is hoping to dominate again and continue to close the points margin on Johnson. Meanwhile, the rest of Hendrick and Roush Fenway look to establish their dominance and seal the manufacturers’ championship for their make, while the non-Chase crowd is still pushing to continue the trend of having at least one Chase race won by a non-Chase qualifier every year since its inception. Also, expect to see some aggressive moves by those drivers who are not employed for next year. Read this week’s Picks ‘N’ Pans to see which drivers will score the most points and which ones will be visiting Checker Auto Parts after the race.
The intermediate track-heavy run to the finish is underway this week, and the heavy reliance on downforce and the resultant “aero push” that comes from being in traffic will be prominent this weekend. Now that the race for the title is pretty much a three-man battle – with Carl Edwards barely within shouting distance – the majority of playoff contenders are going to be pushing for wins the rest of the year. The top 10 drivers in average finish at Atlanta are loaded with Chasers, which means that the potential for a non-Chase race winner is once again rather limited. There are some diamonds in the rough that aren’t too far back, though, so making the right midpack choices for your fantasy roster can pay off handsomely for gamers this weekend.
The new and modern way of determining a series champion heads to the race track that has been on the Cup schedule the longest as it travels to Southern Virginia for the second and final trip to Martinsville. Fantasy gamers are once again on edge because they face the daunting possibility that their driver can be caught up in someone else’s mess, causing a weekend of ruin through no fault of their own on this half-mile short track. At least most of your team won’t be distracted by the mounting pressure of the Chase. At this point, the championship is down to a three or four driver race; everyone else in the field is either gunning for a victory or testing things to get a head start on next year. The worry for fantasy players, of course, is that their driver will be testing and have a failure before the race is over. But for the top three left battling for the trophy, failure is no longer an option.
Jeff Burton and Jimmie Johnson waged a spirited battle for a few laps after the final restart before points leader Johnson apparently decided discretion was the better part of valor.
Ron Hornaday Jr. took the checkered flag 0.960 seconds ahead of Johnny Benson to win the Camping World RV Sales 200 Saturday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet held off a hard-charging Benson in a three-lap shootout to win his second consecutive race. Travis Kvapil, Erik Darnell, and Rick Crawford rounded out the top five finishers.