As you may have noticed, I have been unable to post anything lately, due to lack of internet access. T'herefore, we will try to take care of several different subjects, including some photos from the 2009 Good Times Auto Show in Old Colorado City, while we have the opportunity.
As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase qualifying season winds down to its final race, there is still plenty of drama. Of Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Juan Montoya, Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch, two will not make the cut at Richmond Saturday night, so we know these nine drivers will be giving it their all. Carl Edwards could also be included in this group, but, no matter what happens with the other drivers, he can clinch his berth with a mid-pack finish or better.
We know that Kyle Busch will truly make it an all or nothing run for his team at Richmond, so we will have to say the driver with the toughest task in trying to make the Chase is Brian Vickers. He hasn't had a top five finish at Richmond in a Cup car,. and he almost needs to have bad luck happen to one or more of the other drivers who are currently in the top twelve in points. We would like to see him in the Chase, because we think he could bring some additional excitement to the championship season. At the same time we would hate to see any ot the drivers who are currently in the top twelve not make the cut, so we are, as usual, emotionally conflicted.
Tony Stewart's team's performance seems to have fallen off some since his victory at Watkins Glen. They may already be feeling the pressure of the Chase. We should remember that most of the members of Stewart's pit crew have never experienced being on a winning team prior to this year. They are still working out some kinks and some glitches, and hopefully they will get all of their bad stuff out of their system before the final ten races. We should also remember that we expected this to be a team building year for Stewart-Haas racing, and they have gone beyond all expectations. Most of us doubted that Stewart would make the Chase in his first year as a team owner, but those doubts have been dashed, as not only is Stewart in first place for the qualifying season, but his team mate Ryan Newman has a very good chance of making the Chase as well.
Jeff Gordon is boring. There, I said it. Certainly, he and his team have done well to stay in the top three in points throughout the season, but that is expected of the 24 team. We predicted that his fire would be back this season, but it seems to be smoldering. We also predicted that he would win the championship this year, which he still could very well do, but not while he is content with finishing in the top ten every race. Not when he is competing against the likes of Stewart and Johnson. He could step it up during the final ten races, and we hope he does. I have to say, however, that if he was not already locked into the Chase, I would rather see a more exciting driver in the final twelve.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr won't make the Chase, but we have seen some improvement since Lance McGrew came on board as his crew chief. It was fun watching him race with everything going good for him at Atlanta. Nobody rides the rim so close to the outside fence as well and skillfully as Earnhardt does, and it was fun to watch him do so at Atlanta. If he and his team continue to improve, we could see him back as a contender next year.
Atlanta showed us that these new cars can race wheel to wheel on an intermediate track, and they can race for the lead on the track, under green flag conditions. That was probably the best race we have seen on an intermediate track this year, as the Sprint Cup car is coming into its own. I have a feeling the performance of the car will continue to improve, and soon we will forget all about the aero cars. The only problem is parity. As predicted, the parity built into the CoT, CORN, or Sprint Cup Car (whichever one choses to call it), has resulted in separating the good drivers from the mediocre. There are no tweaks a crew chief could make to give Reed Sorenson or Elliott Sadler a chance to compete with a Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, or Jimmie Johnson.
Speaking of Reed Sorenson or Elliott Sadler, Richard Petty Motorsports will be merging with Yates Racing next year. As the tentative drivers' roster implies, the drivers for Petty-Yates will be Sadler, Kahne, Allmendinger, and Menard in Yates powered Fords, and Sorenson will be looking for a ride. This means that Kahne, who was a Ford man before he was a Dodge man, will be back in Ford, Sadler has an excellent lawyer, Allmendinger will get another chance to rise in the ranks with yet another manufacturer, and Menard's daddy is a great sponsor. We will think positively about Sorenson, who would be an excellent replacement for Brad Keselowski at JRM in the Nationwide Series, and we think that this would be an excellent opportunity for him to get that Nationwide Series Championship that so narrowly eluded him a few years ago.
Kahne, we might remember, was the subject of a lawsuit by Ford regarding his contract as a Ford driver, when he first went to Evernham as a Dodge driver. The merger also means that he will have driven for four different Cup Series teams without making a move from one team to another.
Sadler, we may remember, drove for Yates before he drove for Evernham. The number 44, driven by AJ Allmendinger, was once a Yates car number, and will be again. Ironic how things turn full circle, isn't it?
We can't close without remarking on the excellent finish at Bristol a few weeks ago. We got to see two excellent drivers race each other for the win, in a clean but intense battle. Mark Martin is a class act, and races the way he gets raced. If you race him clean, he will race you clean. So shame on those fans who would have rather seen a wreck at the end of the race than the exciting wheel to wheel racing it was.
One more thing. I will be keeping the double file restart poll up until the end of the season, so we can see every instance of the restart at every type of track. I do believe I have the poll set up so you can vote as many times as you like. I will think of an additional poll to put up in the meantime, possibly about the NASCAR wives. The criteria for this poll will include more than being eye candy, as in how involved the wife is in the driver's career. However, there will be a slot marked "other" so you can write in your favorite eye candy wife. Eva and Nicole will be included because of their near cat fight in the pits a couple of seasons ago.
Until I get a chance to get on line again, enjoy the races!