Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sprint Cup 2012: Race 3 - Viva Las Vegas

The biggest lesson from the first two races of the 2012 season is that it is way too soon to draw any lessons from what’s happened so far. The fellows at, Bill Kimm, Mark Aumann, and David Caraviello call attention to the futility of making the chase after two races for drivers not in the top 30 by the second race, and how much the first two races set the tempo for the season looking particularly at how Kevin Harvick’s and Kasey Kahne’s seasons have misfired so far. Well, take a look at how the cars are lined up for Sunday, Kahne starts on the pole and Harvick starts third. What better assurance of heading for a solid finish at the end of the race that a good start? Besides that, the organizational support for both these drivers is very strong. Kasey Kahne with his crew chief, Kenny Francis, are awash in resources they’ve never had before while Kevin Harvick has the flagship ride for the Richard Childress team.

Also worth noting, this weekend, Dodge will unveil its new Sprint Cup car for 2013. Chrysler is throwing a party, but who’s going to be there. Roger Penske is moving his two entries to Ford next year leaving a hapless start and park operation by maverick driver/owner Robby Gordon left as the only remaining Mopar ride. Earlier, Gordon announced his intention to sell his team, and its status is far from healthy. Meanwhile, who would possibly move to Dodge and face having to setup a Dodge engine program. Richard Petty Racing’s deal runs out with Ford at year’s end, but its hardware is provided by Jack Roush. The only other team getting any mention is Chip Ganassi’s Earnhardt/Ganassi operation which is engaged in a joint engine building operation with Richard Childress. The Earnhardt heritage leans heavily toward remaining Chevy. Is Dodge is a position to attempt to offer a deal to any existing team that would e too good tor turn down mindful that it would need to setup its own engine operation and face the same challenge that has led Penske to choose Ford in the first place. For Dodge to remain at Sprint Cup, the prospect of gaining existing teams does not look like a strong option, but then the option would be to field what would amount to a factory team of its own, but where would the resources come from?

Perhaps in its current state of contraction, NASCAR’s #1 series can only truly support three manufacturers. Once upon a time, there were Plymouths, Mercurys, Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles, and Buicks active in NASCAR most of which won championships. However, beneath the brand name and what autonomy each brand had, it was essentially a three way conflict between Ford, GM, and Chrysler. That a fourth manufacturer could fit in has always been shaky witnessing American Motors short excursion with Bobby Allison among others in the 1970’s.

Starting Field
(Position, Car #, Driver, Make)
1           -- #       5         Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet
2          -- #        8         Kyle Busch, Toyota
3          -- #       29        Kevin Harvick , Chevrolet
4          -- #       88        Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet
5          -- #       15        Clint Bowyer, Toyota
6          -- #       48        Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet
7          -- #       14        Tony Stewart, Chevrolet
8          -- #       20        Joey Logano, Toyota
9          -- #       16        Greg Biffle, Ford
10        -- #       56        Martin Truex Jr., Toyota
11        -- #       17        Matt Kenseth, Ford
12        -- #       51        Kurt Busch, Chevrolet
13        -- #       55        Mark Martin, Toyota
14        -- #       22        A.J. Allmendinger, Dodge
15        -- #       9          Marcos Ambrose, Ford
16        -- #       24        Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet
17        -- #       11        Denny Hamlin , Toyota
18        -- #       39        Ryan Newman            , Chevrolet
19        -- #       1          Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet
20        -- #       2          Brad Keselowski, Dodge
21        -- #       99        Carl Edwards,             Ford
22        -- #       31        Jeff Burton, Chevrolet
23        -- #       33        Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet
24        -- #       47        Bobby Labonte, Toyota
25        -- #       21        Trevor Bayne, Ford
26        -- #       27        Paul Menard,   Chevrolet
27        -- #       43        Aric Almirola, Ford
28        -- #       78        Regan Smith, Chevrolet
29        -- #       42        Juan Montoya, Chevrolet
30        -- #       83        Landon Cassill, Toyota
31        -- #       10        David Reutimann, Chevrolet
32        -- #       13        Casey Mears, Ford
33        -- #       26        Josh Wise*, Ford
34        -- #       38        David Gilliland, Ford
35        -- #       34        David Ragan, Ford
36        -- #       49        J.J. Yeley, Toyota
37        -- #       93        Travis Kvapil, Toyota
38        -- #       36        Dave Blaney, Chevrolet
39        -- #       98        Michael McDowell, Ford
40        -- #       87        Joe Nemechek , Toyota
41        -- #       32        Ken Schrader, Ford
42        -- #       37        Timmy Hill*, Ford
43        -- #       30        David Stremme, Toyota
Did Not Qualify                                                        
44        -- #       23        Scott Riggs, Chevrolet
45        -- #       7          Robby Gordon, Dodge

For the hype about the new FR-9 engine, these qualifying results don’t speak well for Ford’s power in qualifying. Notice how well Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing are doing with Toyota power. The established teams are clearly in control with only two small or new operations in the top 30 with Landon Cassill in 30th for the new BK Racing, Regan Smith in the Furniture Row team’s car that won Darlington last year in 28th with hardware from Childress, while Kurt Busch represents the independents well in 12th place. None of the major teams have a single entry below 29th, Juan Pablo Montoya in the #41 Chevrolet which crashed during practice. And what has this column had to say about reducing the number of starting entries?  Below #30, how many teams can truly be called competitors?

Racing conditions should be superb on Sunday with temperatures in the mid 70’s and mostly sunny skies.

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