Friday, January 22, 2010

2010 NASCAR Season -- Noteworthy News as Season Nears

Race fans, are you starting to feel the itch just a little? We have but two more silent weekends before engines roar in Daytona. One month from now, we’ll be in the thick of it!

NASCAR is unveiling a substantial change to the Sprint Cup race car. Going into the future visiting yesterday, it looks like the wing is going bye-bye while a conventional spoiler will be put back in service. We await NASCAR’s rationale for doing this. Fans have not taken to the look of the so called “Car of Tomorrow” citing the wing as not looking “NASCAR.” This writer is more disturbed by the front air dam with its little strings to hold it in place giving the race car the look of a mutated snowplow. NASCAR will test the new spoiler design on March 23 and 24 at Charlotte Motor Speedway after which time implementation plans will be announced.

In more moves aimed at “back to basics” racing, the bump draft rule at Daytona and Talladega will be eliminated. Daytona cars will be using larger restrictor plates cranking up the horsepower.

There are still some drivers and teams that don’t have arrangements for next year; here’s a few. The Front Row racing operation intends to race two cars and switch to Ford. No word yet what will become of Hall-of-Fame racing that had an arrangement with Yates last year. Meanwhile, Roush-Fenway found a buyer for the #26 car, Bill Jenkins, Latitude 43 Motorsports with Frank Stoddard as crew chief. Horsepower will remain Roush/Yates keeping the ride a Blue Oval effort. Boris Said is a likely frontrunner for the driver’s position.

Front Row racing intends to run two full-time Ford rides also with Roush/Yates power. Travis Kvapil will return to drive the #34 car. Long John Silver sponsors this ride. Their second effort will feature rookie driver, Kevin Conway, supported by Extenze Male Health in car #37. They will attempt to buy out a defunct ride for owner’s points.

The departure of Martin Truex Jr. to Michael Waltrip racing opened a spot for Jaime McMurray who will race the #1 Chevy for Earnhardt/Ganassi.

Bill Elliot, in addition to running his part time schedule with the “legendary” Wood Brothers may enter the #6 car into the Shootout since David Ragan does not qualify, and important move for Roush sponsorship exposure.

ABC/ESPN announced it is switching most of its races that had aired on ABC to ESPN. The only races remaining on ABC will be Saturday night affairs: Bristol, August 21, Richmond, September 11, and Charlotte, October 16. This move surely hurts those few who don’t have access to cable during the part of the long Sprint Cup season where race results really matter. However, NASCAR has not thrived on local ABC affiliates. Some local stations have interrupted late running races for the sake of their local news and some local stations in markets that station management sees NASCAR as not a first tier sport do not sufficiently publicize the broadcasts. ESPN will provide constant hype and support. Pressures like long running races due to rain delays won’t be as much of a factor. Many fans agree that since the ESPN gang resumed covering NASCAR in 2007, the coverage is cold and stiff compared to their coverage from the network’s infancy in 1981 through 2000. While we’d hardly single out any of their on-air personalities as unappealing, they don’t as a team, convey the kind of fun and enthusiasm nor the connection with race fans they did when play-by-play announcer, Bob Jenkins worked with Benny Parsons and Ned Jarrett in the booth with Dr. Jerry Punch as the #1 pit reporter. Today’s coverage has so many players for each telecast, loads of gizmos and technology tricks, the coverage seems to overwhelm the race.

After Jimmie Johnson winning his unprecedented fourth consecutive championship, the 2009-2010 off season has been relatively quiet. There isn’t the sense of overreaching doom that troubled automakers and a weak economy had last year. The big consolidation was announced long before the end of the season as Yates and the Gillette/Petty operation branded as Richard Petty racing merged forming a four car Ford team. This move leaves Roger Penske’s operation with the #2, 12, and 77 cars as the only Dodge entries left in the field. The Milwaukee Mile no longer had financially viable promoters to continue the Nationwide and Camping World Truck races at that long standing venue.

Major Sprint Cup Teams for 2010:


Richard Childress Racing
#29 – Kevin Harvick, Shell/Pennzoil
#31 – Jeff Burton, Caterpillar
#33 – Clint Bowyer, General Mills/Cheerios, BB&T

Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing
#1 – Jamie McMurray, Bass Pro Shops
#42 – Juan Pablo Montoya, Target

Hendrick Motor Sports
#5 – Mark Martin, Go
#24 – Jeff Gordon, DuPont
#48 – Jimmie Johnson, Lowes/Kobalt Tools
#88 – Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mountain Dew, Amp Energy Drinks, Army National Guard

Stewart/Haas Racing (Hendrick Motor Sports affiliate)
#14 – Tony Stewart, Office Depot/Old Spice
#39 – Ryan Newman, U.S. Army


Penske Racing
#2 – Kurt Busch, Miller Lite
#12 – Brad Kesolowski, Verizon (no postings)
#77 – Sam Hornish Jr., Mobil 1


Richard Petty Motorsports
#9 – Kasey Kahne, Budweiser
#19 – Elliot Sadler, Stanley Tools
#43 – A.J. Allmendinger, Best Buys
#98 – Paul Menard, Menards

Roush/Fenway Racing
#6 – David Ragan, UPS
#16 – Greg Biffle, 3M/Red Cross
#17 – Matt Kenseth, Crown Royal
#99 – Carl Edwards, Aflac/Subway

Front Row Racing
#34 – Travis Kvapil, Long John Silver
#37 – Kevin Conway (ROTY), Extenze Men’s Health Supplement

Latitude 43 Motor Sports (Roush/Fenway affiliate)
#26 – Boris Said?, Erik Darnell? -- TBD


Joe Gibbs Racing

#11 – Denny Hamlin, FedEx
#19 – Kyle Busch, M&M’s
#20 – Joey Logano, Home Depot

Red Bull Racing
#82 – Scott Speed, Red Bull
#84 – Brian Vickers, Red Bull

TRG Racing (Michael Waltrip Racing Associate)
#47 – Marcos Ambrose, Little Debbie

Michael Waltrip Racing
#00 – David Reutimann, Aaron Rents
#56 – Martin Truex, Jr., NAPA Auto Parts

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