Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Stremme is back

It is official that David Stremme will return to the Sprint Cup as a full time driver beginning next year, taking over the duties of Ryan Newman in the Penske #12 car. He has been the test driver for Penske for most of the current season, as well as a steady hand at the wheel of Rusty Wallace's #64 Nationwide Series car.

Many fans may ask why Stremme? He seemed to be involved in almost every wreck at every track in his rookie year, and in the first two races of his sophomore year. However, in the final thirty weeks of the 2007 season, before he was forced to give up his Ganassi/Sabates seat for Dario Franchitti, he seemed to put his perceived recklessness behind him and begain showing that he could perform competitively. In other words, many Stremme watchers felt as though he was released from his Cup ride just as he was getting good.

To be fair, Ganassi Racing needed to do something in terms of sponsorship and adding new energy to the team, so Franchitti seemed like a good idea at the time. But that didn't work out.

This may work out for Penske. Stremme has shown in the Nationwide Series that he is a competitive driver, and as the test driver for Penske's Cup teams, he has had plenty of seat time in the Sprint Cup car. He is aggressive enough to compete at the Cup level, without being as over-aggressive as he was in his rookie year in that series.

Were there other good choices to fill the #12 seat? Certainly, there were. There is a widespread fan movement--okay, one or two guys commenting in every comment section they can find--to put Jeremy Mayfield back in a Cup ride. But Jeremy has made it clear that he will not race unless he is with a team that can guarantee that he will make it to the Chase, so we can assume that if he was considered for the ride, he might have turned it down. The same goes for Ward Burton, who is happy where he is and will race in Sprint Cup only if it is with a championship team. On the younger side, Brad Keselowski was reportedly sought for the #12 car and turned it down, holding out for a ride with Hendrick in 2010.

Stremme, unlike Mayfield and Burton, is still young, still able to learn, and still learning. Penske can, with Stremme, look further down the road to the future than they would have been able to do with an older driver. We feel Penske's confidence in Stremme is well earned and well deserved, and wish him success in his born-again Cup career.

Strangely enough, the formation of Stewart-Haas Racing has potentially brought about a chain of events that will bring some result to NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program. Joey Logano's move to the #20 JGR Cup car, and Stremme's move to the #12 car, will leave openings for African American up and coming drivers Marc Davis and Chase Austin in the Nationwide Series next year. Both drivers have shown good results in the Hooters Pro Cup, ARCA, and the Camping World Series as developmental drivers for Joe Gibbs and Rusty Wallace Racing. If nothing else, their presence in the Nationwide Series will give NASCAR a much needed public relations boost.

1 comment:

Clance' said...

I have to tell you, Dave getting a ride again makes me as happy as Ryan going to Tony.
It's about time. Letting him go made me so mad at Gnassi ~ That 40 car is full of bad karma now.