Friday, August 7, 2009

Sprint Cup 2009, Race 22: Watkins Glen, a Different Kind of Racing for Sure!!!

From the land of mystic waterfalls and glorious wooded glades, the NASCAR drivers must exercise a rare skill only employed twice a year, as they must be able to negotiate right turns on the venerable upstate New York racetrack.

The Sprint Cup tour continues its Northeastern swing headed to Watkins Glen for road racing action. While this event marks the second road racing event on the 2009 schedule, the character and feel of Watkins Glen is radically different from that of Infineon Motor Speedway in California’s wine country.

Forty six cars are entered including a slate of road racing “ringers” drivers who are not part of the regular tour who supposedly have road racing expertise from their experience in other racing series. While some are calculated moves for some teams to advance in owners’ points, what difference does it make for the usual “start and park” gang which has switched seats for this event?

Among the following, are there any driver/team combinations that will genuinely be competing for a top ten finish on Sunday?

P.J. Jones will pilot the #04 car as a second entry for Robby Gordon. Jones has attempted to succeed at the Cup level before and had a regular gig in the truck series.

John Carter has a Ford entry with Terry Labonte racing in car #08.

Ron Fellows, perennial road racer, enters car #09, a Dodge for James Finch. The Finch team has been guilty of “park and ride” entries, but also has a stunning victory when Brad Kesolowski nudged out Carl Edwards for a dramatic win at Talladega.

Max Papis mans the #13 Toyota with GEICO sponsorship for Bob Germain.

Tommy Baldwin’s Toyotas have been pretty much relegated to “start and park” status, but this weekend road racer, Brian Simo drives the #36 car.

An upstart team with no history this year has owner Brad Jenkins entering car #37 driven by driver Tony Ave in the #37 Long John Silver’s Toyota.

Michael Waltrip sits out his ride in the #55 Napa Toyota putting Patrick Carpentier in his seat for owner points.

Phil Parsons’ #66 Toyota will start and park with Dave Blaney at the helm.

Kevin Buckler fields two teams with David Gilliand in the #70 Chevrolet and Andy Lally driving their usual number, the #71 Chevy.

Pity Joe Nemechek, with his loving mom part of every week’s effort, now operating as an independent team struggling for sponsors, one of the sport’s well known underdogs will surely only put in a token appearance before slipping behind the wall.

None of these entries attract much excitement just clutter in the field. Three cars will be going home and almost certainly they will come from this list of odds and ends.

Some drivers have reputations as good road racers. Some like surprisingly Jimmie Johnson are terrible on road courses. What worked in the past might be somewhat mitigated by last year’s switch to the “car of tomorrow.”

Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and Mark Martin are multiple winners at the Glen with robby Gordon and Kevin Harvick also having won races but once. Kyle Busch would surely be another driver to watch given his success at Infineon.

Somehow, this looks like Tony Stewart’s event. He’s ready for another win to solidify his first place standing and move to lock up the best position possible in the chase, but Jeff Gordon is in third place in points despite being snake bitten in several races this yeara. His quiet consistency keeps him close to the top despite just one win. Gordon must win more races to look like he’s in serious contention for his 5th championship.

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