Posted on: August 26, 2008 11:41 am
 

Clint Bowyer's new ride for 2009

Clint Bowyer is moving to the 33 car in 2009 and here's what it will look like. Casey Mears moves into the 07, but it doesn't look like they plan to makes any changes from the current 07 scheme, so thus no pics.

Clint Bowyer's 2009 paint scheme

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: August 25, 2008 11:37 am
 

Bristol musings

A couple of thoughts about some of the weekend happenings at Bristol.

1. Casey Mears to RCR

Now this, of course, had been speculated about since it was announced that Mears would not be returning to Hendrick Motorsports.

This weekend it became official, along with the announcement that he would move into Clint Bowyer's Jack Daniel's sponsored 07 car, while Bowyer would move into the new 33 car. That had also been rumored for quite some time because General Mills, the sponsor of the 33 car, did not want to sponsor Mears considering he's been driving a Kellogg's sponsored car this season.

What did come as a surprise to many was that Bowyer would take his points with him. As of right now, Mears will be the driver guaranteed a starting spot in the first five races next season, while Bowyer will be forced to qualify on speed.

After giving it a little thought, this actually does make sense. My guess is that Jack Daniels did not want to give up Bowyer and one of the concessions to do so was that they would keep the points Bowyer earns, thus not getting penalized by possibly missing a race with a new driver that is not locked in. After all, they're not the new sponsor.

But there's more. Speculation is that RCR could be working on something behind the scenes, perhaps buying an existing team that is locked into the top 35 but that was having trouble finding sponsorship and was unlikely to run next season. I'm sure we'll hear more on that.

The other part of the equation is that it appears Bowyer's current pit crew, including crew chief Gil Martin, will not be moving over with him to the 33. Now that doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, but it's possible (probable?) that the Nationwide Series team, with whom Bowyer leads the point standings, gets a promotion.

2. The Race

I don't know about you, but I thought the race was a bore again. I mean, thankfully, Edwards and Busch were able to provide some late theatrics, but just like last year, once all the contenders made their way into the top 10 or so, there was no racing.

Everything stabalized once the top cars found their way to the front and shortly after a restart, they all spread out and can't really challenge each other.

Look at what happened once Edwards took the lead. He ran away with the thing. Busch, who dominated nearly all night leading 415 laps, couldn't even mount a charge.

Speaking of Busch and Edwards, I didn't think Edwards did anything wrong. He gave Busch a little nudge. We've all seen far worse things at Bristol. Busch would have done -- and has done -- similar things during a race. That's just short-track racing.

I had the feeling Busch would react the way he did, which was a bit over the top the way he was banging into Edwards on the cool-down lap. I could certainly see why Busch would be upset considering he lost the race after dominating all night, but that was just ridiculous. I'd have preferred he just said "what goes around comes around" and be done with it.

The on-track scuffle and the name calling was just childish.

 

 

 

Posted on: August 15, 2008 11:52 am
Edited on: August 15, 2008 3:58 pm
 

Silly Season update

OK, so now that we know that Ryan Newman is officially joining Tony Stewart at his new operation, all the "A-list" drivers are off the market with two high-profile rides still available (RCR and Penske).

It don't say three high-profile rides because it's almost a certainty that Joey Logano is moving into Stewart's 20 seat at Joe Gibbs Racing.

At RCR, the prevailing sentiment for some time has been that the new car is earmarked for Casey Mears. But if that's the case, it sure is taking a long time to make that announcement official. Childress has had a sponsor lined up for a few months now, while Mears' relase from Hendrick has also been known for a while.

From what I've been hearing and reading, General Mills, the sponsor of RCR's new fourth car, is balking at having Mears drive its car seeing as he's been driving for cereal rival Kellogg's this season. So it's been rumored that Jack Daniels, Clint Bowyer's current sponsor, would instead sponsor Mears and Bowyer would get the General Mills sponsorship.

My guess is that might not be sitting too well with Jack Daniels. In Bowyer they have a Chase contender. In Mears they'd be getting a driver who can't even crack the top 20 in points over at Hendrick Motorsports.

So it's been rumored that Jack Daniels may jump to Newman's new car, with UPS joining RCR. If that doesn't happen expect UPS at Stewart-Haas, possibly Penske, though I think that's a longshot. Where almost assuredly you will not see UPS is back at Michael Waltrip Racing.

But back to the RCR opening. Mears is the last available of those who've been strongly linked to the new ride. Who knows, maybe RCR will pull a rabbit out of his hat and sign a Juan Pablo Montoya, Dario Franchitti, Reed Sorenson, Matt Kenseth, David Ragan, Jamie McMurray, Scott Speed or A.J. Allmendinger.

Montoya has a long relationship with Chip Ganassi and says he not looking to move elsewhere but you never know. Sorenon's status at CGR is still iffy, though he says working deal. Franchitti is free for the taking.

Then there's the Roush Racing trio. With Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle recently signing multi-year extensions, by the end of the 2009 season Kenseth, McMurray or Ragan will have to be gone as NASCAR's four-team limit per organziation takes effect in 2010. Kenseth and McMurray are signed through 2009, Ragan reportedly is not signed for next season. On top of that, Roush currently has sponsors for only four teams for next season (at least that we're aware of). Based on performance, McMurray would seem to be the most likely cut loose, but he says he's not looking to move and Roush is mum. There have been some whispers that Kenseth wants out, but it's hard to imagine Roush giving him up while still under contract.

Over at Red Bull Racing, its young talent is making big strides and Speed, especially, is becoming a hot commodity. Speed is tearing up the ARCA circuit and also has a Truck win in his so-far short stock-car career and has a personality sponsors will love. If Red Bull doesn't move him up soon, somebody will swoop  and steal him away. It has Allmendinger nervous that he could be out of a job, but Red Bull is dragging its feet letting him know what's going on.

And finally, who's going to replace Newman over at Penske? The front-runner in the rumor mill is David Stremme, because he's working as a test driver for Penske, but I'm not sold.

The thing about the Penske organziation is that it knows how to keep a secret. It could very well make a huge splash at any moment that we never saw coming. Remember when they signed Kurt Busch a few years ago. Nobody in the media had a inkling that was imminent. It came out of left field.

That's unlike much of the silly season news this season. The media has seemingly known where drivers are going even before they do. By the time an official announcement is made, the news has been reported weeks in advance.

If the Mears deal with RCR falls through, it's possible he lands at Penske though he's also been linked with Petty Enterprises, either for a third car for that organization or as a replacement for Kyle Petty.
 
As you can see, there's still plenty of maneuvering to be made. Stay tuned.

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: August 7, 2008 11:42 am
 

J.J. Yeley and Martin Truex Jr.

Those who managed to pry themselves away from the Brett Favre coverage for a minute, might have noticed a few NASCAR Silly Season hit the wires late Wednesday.

Martin Truex Jr. will remain with DEI in 2009. I never really expected Truex to move. Unless he just absolutely despised the upper management, it didn't make sense. This isn't some underfunded organization trying to stay afloat. This is an organization with some cache that wants Truex as its centerpiece. He's solidly in the top 35. If he jumped to another team, there's a good chance he'd lose the security of being locked into the first five events of the season. 

And then there's J.J. Yeley, who was released from his ride with Hall of Fame Racing.

Some guys, no matter how successful they may have been at lower levels of racing, just aren't quite cut out for racing at the Cup level. And in the case of Yeley, that's a shame, because he's the kind of guy you'd like to see succeed.

But it was clear fairly early that it probably wasn't going to work out. In 2005, when Gibbs began to test out who would replace Bobby Labonte, Yeley didn't exactly take advantate of his opportunity, finishing no better than 25th in four races and never finishing on the lead lap.

When given the same opportunity in the same car, Denny Hamlin's star skyrocketed. He took the opportunity and ran with it, snagging three top 10s in his first five races in the car. 

That should have really been all Gibbs needed to know, but Yeley lucked out when Gibbs opted to expand to three teams, giving a ride to both Hamlin and Yeley at the urging of Tony Stewart, who owned all or part of the three different cars Yeley drove during his USAC championship days.

Yeley's first full season in the car continued to show the huge divide between him and his fellow rookie teammate. While Hamlin racked up two wins and 20 top 10s and finished the season ranked third in the standings, Yeley finished 29th in the standings with just 3 tops 10s.

I don't know if another Cup team will be willing to recycle him in 2009. If Newman isn't already locked into the second Stewart-Haas ride, would Stewart be willing to give his former protege a shot?

Rather than another Cup ride somewhere, I'd like to see what Yeley could do with a prominent Nationwide team first. Is IndyCar an option? I wish him the best because I think he could be a fan favorite with a little bit more success.

Posted on: August 5, 2008 1:29 pm
 

When fandom and work collide

So CBSSports.com senior college basketball writer Gary Parrish was featured in a Q&A on A Sea of Blue, a site dedicated to the University of Kentucky athletics.

What struck me was the following response --

ASOB -- You're from Olive Branch, MS, which is only a few miles from Memphis.  Did you grow up a Memphis fan or did you root for one of the Mississippi schools?

GP -- "I'm actually from Horn Lake, MS, but now I live in Olive Branch.  Same thing really.  But anyway, yeah, I grew up a Memphis fan. Keith Lee was my childhood hero, Penny Hardaway too.  But when I got out of college -- and before I got this job at CBS -- I covered the Tigers for five seasons for the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, and the 'fan' aspect totally disappeared.  I mean, sitting courtside at this years national title game should've been one of the highlights of my life.  But it wasn't.  I was indifferent to the whole thing, and I don't say that in an attempt to prove I'm impartial.  It kinda makes me sad, actually, because the main reason I wanted to be a sports writer was because I loved sports, and I don't really love sports anymore.  Don't get me wrong.  I love my job and consider myself lucky to have it.  But I have no emotional interest in any team in any sport anymore, and sometimes I wish that wasn't so because there's something nice about living and dying with a team." 

In a way I'm like this too, though not to the point where I don't root for anybody in any sport. After 10+ years in the sports media, while I still have teams I follow religously (see the logos of my favorite teams above), I don't get the sense of fulfillment I enjoyed in my youth.

I especially lived and died by the Miami Dolphins. Losses were especially painful. But through last year's 1-15 season I was numb to it and basically just shrugged it off. Perhaps it's just maturity. With three kids I have more important things to worry about than whether the Dolphins win or lose (though I'd still much prefer they win).

Perhaps if they ever turn the corner and become good again I'll feel that tinge of excitement, but it just hasn't felt the same since Dan Marino left (and Packers fans, trust me, though it's a bit ugly right now, a few years down the road you're going to feel the same way about Favre).

Which brings me to auto racing.

I find it hilarious the varying opinions whenever I write my Power Rankings of who I like and who I dislike. Some think I love Roush Racing. Some say I love Hendrick Motorsports. Others believe I have a vendetta against RCR. It goes on and on.

But quite honestly, what has happened to me over the years with auto racing is that I've become more appreciative of the sport as a whole, especially in the years since Dale Earnhardt Sr. died.

It's no secret since I've written it in a previous blog that I was a huge fan of Earnhardt growing up. And I was diehard. It was Dolphins 1, Earnhardt 2 in my book. So much so that when shopping for cars when I came of age, I wouldn't touch Ford and owned mostly GM products through the years.

That's no longer the case. I've come to my senses and realized how dumb that really was. I've missed out on some pretty good car deals

In any case, all these drivers, manufacturers, teams and whatnot are the same in my book nowadays. I just want to see some exciting. down-to-the- wire races. I don't care if it's Junior battling Kyle Busch or Scott Riggs vs. Dave Blaney, as long as I see a good show, I'm happy.

Posted on: August 4, 2008 3:58 pm
 

Weekend musings

Let's see here, a little history was made when the Nationwide Series race in Montreal became the first NASCAR points race run in the rain. I'm already planning for Pete Pistone and I to discuss it in this week's Feud as he feels strongly the race shouldn't have been run. I found it very intriguing, though clearly there are still some kinks to work out if NASCAR ever plans to run in the rain again. 

I caught the X Games off and on throughout the weekend. When ESPN first began televising the X Games so many years ago, I thought it was lame, but I've changed my tune. I'm a convert. I've come to the realization that those are some amazing feats those athletes are performing. It looks like loads of fun and I know I certainly couldn't do what they do.

I don't know that skateboarding, motocross, rally, etc. will ever become mainstream, but I think a lot of close-minded folks are missing out.

The event I got the biggest kick out of was the X Games closed-course rally. The rain delay at Pocono was perfectly timed to allow me to catch the quaters, semis and final. They battled in head-to-head heats and I have to say I really got into it, probably more so than the Pocono race, even though I had no clue who these guys were.

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: July 31, 2008 12:20 pm
Edited on: July 31, 2008 11:11 pm
 

Thoughts on the 2009 IndyCar schedule

I personally don't like the direction IndyCar has headed adding more and more road- and street-course events.

Eight races on the 2009 schedule will be of the twisty-course variety. That's three more than the series had in 2007. And there's a possibility a ninth road-course race is added (more on that a few graphs down).

Michigan (oval) got dropped before this season with Australia (road course) a very late addition. How late? Australia wasn't even confirmed as an event on this year's schedule until Wednesdays' announcement of the 2009 schedule. However, the race won't count toward the championship. So basically it's an exhibition, but anyhow, moving on .... 

Then came the merger with Champ Car adding two more road courses -- Long Beach and Edmonton.

In 2009, yet another road course (Toronto) has been added while another oval (Nashville) has been dropped. 

And from the sounds of things they'd like to add more road/street courses as Terry Angstadt, president of the IRL's commercial division, said the series was interested in expanding into Cleveland and Houston, which most certainly would be street races.

Also, Australia isn't currently on the 2009 tentative schedule. However, the series and organizers are still in negotiations. So there very well could be a ninth road course in 2009. And maybe next year the event would actually count in the standings.

Speedway Motorsports seemed somewhat stunned to see a couple of its tracks -- Las Vegas and New Hampshire -- excluded from the schedule. In particular, Las Vegas was looking to host the season finale. But apparently negotiations fell through because the series wished to run on the Vegas road course rather than utilize the oval, which is what SMI wanted to showcase.

I prefer the IRL in its original incarnation, when it featured only ovals. I didn't pay much attention to CART aside from the Indy 500 back in the day.

Over the past 10 or so years, with its oval-dominated schedule, IndyCar had managed to pull some of my attention away from NASCAR, but if it's going to trend back toward road courses now that it has finally gobbled up Champ Car, I can't say it's going to hold my interest as much.

Category: Auto Racing
Tags: IndyCar, IRL
 
Posted on: July 29, 2008 11:13 am
 

Stewart update

Just a quick update on my blog from a couple of days ago about how Tony Stewart lit up a couple of USAC officials

He was placed fined $10,000 and placed on probation, but no suspension. Here's the complete story -- http://www.sportsline.com/autoracin
g/story/10912137

An apologetic Stewart has offered to pay for new radios and uniforms for USAC officials.

I think Stewart has proven he's a good person at heart, but around the track he sometimes lets his emotions get the best of him.  But what Stewart did at the USAC event went a bit too far. He can be angry and yell all he wants, but to get physical with somebody who's just trying to do their job is crossing the line.

Now I actually like it when an athlete shows some personality, that's why the celebration antics of a Terrell Owens or Chad Johnson don't bother me one bit.

In the big scheme of things, these are games. It's entertainment. On some level it's meant to be fun.

Category: Auto Racing
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com