Blog Entry

Idle Thoughts: Hot start to the season for some

Posted on: April 26, 2011 3:30 pm
Edited on: April 27, 2011 3:23 pm
By Pete Pistone

Since turnabout is fair play, let’s take a look at the flip side of those who have started off 2011 on a disappointing note . Rather than being labeled as one of the season’s early underachievers, this group of drivers have come out of the gate strong and in some cases already exceeded expectations.

The trick now, of course, is to maintain this stellar pace for the next 18 races and find their way into the playoffs by grabbing a spot in the Chase field.

It won’t be easy and we’ve seen some terrific starts over the years go by the wayside when drivers melted down in the heat and pressure of the summer months in the race to the Chase cut-off race in Richmond.

But as the schedule rolls around to Saturday night’s first visit of the season to RIR, these five drivers are in the “so far, so good” category:

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

It’s becoming more obvious with each passing week that the resurrection of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Sprint Cup career is not just a passing fad but a real trend. These are not one-off solid finishes Junior is putting together in the early season rather a complete reversal of the problems that plagued him over the nearly last three years. The No. 88 team has become one of the most cohesive units in the Cup series and crew chief Steve Letarte deserves a great deal of credit for putting together such a united crew. Earnhardt’s confidence has never been higher and with the equipment at his disposal and the team behind him there’s every reason to believe his long winless drought will end very soon and a run for a title is in the cards.

Kurt Busch

It’s been more of a struggle in recent weeks than it was when he was so dominant during Speedweeks, but Busch has stayed competitive and finds himself inside the Top 5 in the standings after eight races.  That’s not to say there hasn’t been some testy conversation between Busch and crew chief Steve Addington or that the Penske Racing Dodge has been perfect off the hauler every week. But as the lone Dodge team and with only teammate Brad Keselowski , who is off to a tough start, to lean on, Busch and company should be proud of what they’ve done in the early going. However their game needs to step up a notch or two over the next two months to maintain their spot.

Ryan Newman

After missing the Chase a year ago Newman has roared back in 2011 and has given Stewart-Haas Racing something to shout about. His boss and teammate Tony Stewart hasn’t lived up to his expectations but Newman has been consistently fast and found himself in the front of the field to the tune of three Top 5 and four Top 10 finishes. Perhaps the most encouraging sign for Newman has been his performances at a wide variety of track layouts. Whether it’s a superspeedway, short track or an intermediate-sized speedway, Newman’s been a factor in the No. 39 Chevrolet.

Juan Pablo Montoya

The Montoya of 2009 is back and them some this season. The Earnhardt Ganassi Racing driver put on a clinic two years ago with a perfectly executed plan throughout the regular season to make the Chase. That same strategy is in full swing this year with crew chief Brian Pattie plotting Montoya’s journey through the first 26-race in hopes of securing a playoff spot and then taking the reigns off his driver for a title run. Montoya has not endured the wild swings in performance that plagued him last year and so far engine reliability – and power – has been nearly perfect. He’ll of course challenge for road course wins in Sonoma and Watkins Glen later this summer but don’t be surprised if Montoya’s first oval track victory comes in 2011 as well.

Paul Menard

Those who keep waiting for the wheels to come off Menard’s impressive season might have a long wait ahead. There doesn’t appear to be any reason why Menard and crew chief Slugger Labbe cannot continue generating the performances that have taken them to the 11th spot in the Sprint Cup Series standings heading into Richmond on Saturday night. There have been many outings where Menard was the best of the potent Richard Childress Racing bunch and adding a fourth team to the stable hasn’t seemed to deplete any of the resources from the organization’s overall effort as was feared by some. Put Menard’s name at the top of the list of potential first time winners this season and either through a Top 10 in the standings or a Wild Card, the No. 27 team has a very legitimate shot at making the Chase in its first year of operation.


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Since: Jul 26, 2007
Posted on: April 28, 2011 1:20 am

Idle Thoughts: Hot start to the season for some

revrag, Nationwide titles are like winning the AAA World Series.  They're minor league, and no one except true believers ever remember them.  With everything he's been given, "Junior" really hasn't done that much.

Since: Jul 26, 2007
Posted on: April 28, 2011 1:17 am

Idle Thoughts: Hot start to the season for some

ohyeah!, you know why people root for "little E".  It's because of the name.  They think that if they root hard enough, this undertalented whiner will become as big a man on and off the track as his daddy.  And since the Earnhardt name sells a lot of stuff, it's in NASCAR's best interest for him to be "competitive".

Don't be surprised if the NASCAR bigwigs go the David Stern route and make sure "LIttle Talent E" is in the Chase this year.  That way, they sell more uh, "stuff".

Since: Sep 3, 2010
Posted on: April 27, 2011 2:40 pm

Idle Thoughts: Hot start to the season for some

Wow i thought the race was at RIR this weekend not ROR haha

Since: Aug 15, 2006
Posted on: April 27, 2011 12:51 pm

Idle Thoughts: Hot start to the season for some

Until he wins and wins consistently you cannot calm he is back to his pre-2005 form.  Sorry, he is running well right now, but as we have seen in the past, a nose dive is possible at anytime.

Let's wait until he wins a race before we crown him the comeback King,Queen Princess of NASCAR.

Since: Apr 11, 2007
Posted on: April 27, 2011 12:38 pm

Idle Thoughts: Hot start to the season for some

Jr. Nation-

Like Jr., Im a Redskins fan.  I will always root for the Skins and I expect you to always do the same for Jr.  That being said- when people point out to me that the Redskins stink, I look at their record over the last few years and have to begrudginly agree.  That doesnt mean I have to stop rooting for them, that doesnt mean they will always suck, but the facts are the facts, Jr nation.  Your driver just aint that good...

Since: Oct 12, 2006
Posted on: April 27, 2011 11:54 am

Idle Thoughts: Hot start to the season for some

How original revrag28.....the mama's basement and hot pocket comment. Lot of time must have gone into coming up with that line no one has used before....try this, if his name WASN'T Earnhardt, no one would give a rats arse about Jr. He is a classic underachiever who has long acted as if his right in Nascar should be granted and not earned. His career is average at best.....Greg Biffle has more wins than him in a shorter period of time and that's not a name that pops to people's mind as a career successful driver. So calm down a little and keep waiting for the day Earnie wins again so you can go back to smoking his ring of fire.

Since: May 27, 2008
Posted on: April 27, 2011 11:48 am

Idle Thoughts: Hot start to the season for some

Oh yeah and by the way.  Those 18 CUP wins make him 42nd all-time in wins.  Tied with the likes of Harry Gant and Neil Bonnett.  Yeah, he really stinks!!  PLEASE PEOPLE.  You want to say that you do not like him.  Fine!  But just look at the facts, Junior has had a very successful racing career.  Plus, I am sorry but I believe we are about to see a championship run this year.  Certainly is going to win races and I think what he has gone through, the lack of success over the past four years, that has fuled his fire.  People like you idiots that are not willing to look at the facts, you people have fueled that fire!  Please keep being ridiculously blind to the numbers for Junior Nation.  Thanks!

Since: May 27, 2008
Posted on: April 27, 2011 11:27 am

Idle Thoughts: Hot start to the season for some

IF Dale's last name was not Earnhardt, 18 Sprint Cup wins and two Nationwide championships would be considered a very good career.  Not sure how he was silver spoon fed?  Your thoughts are typical though.  Typical of a jealous loser!  No matter what he does, people like you will have some reason why we should discount any success Junior may have.  Same crap!  you are an idiot and too little of a person to admit when someone is successful.  Most likely because you are a loser who lives in your mother's basement and eats hot pockets!!

Since: Apr 18, 2010
Posted on: April 27, 2011 10:53 am

Idle Thoughts: Hot start to the season for some

Seems everyone wants to compare Junior to the Phoenix coming out of the ashes. Not only is he given the best equipment,  he was even given the best crew chief. Letarte and Jeff Gordon were fixtures, now Gordon is running 13th.. not to mention poor Mark Martin, who is left with lance McGrew, basically the crew chief Junior didnt want anymore. Well, one of the many crew chiefs Dale has had that he didnt want around anymore. Why in the hell do people keep pulling for this Silver Spoon crybaby?? 

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