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Friday, November 17, 2006

Three Drivers that want to keep racing

Martin Truex Jr: After a frustrating season, the #1 team is finishing strong. Dale Earnhardt Jr says he will have the best car at Homestead. Both DEI teams are running well and should be solid next year too.

Carl Edwards: His worst finish during the Chase is 18th. He has 19 top tens this year, but 6 in the last nine races alone. I don’t think it matters much who his crew chief is. It seems like Edwards’ (and probably Biffle’s) problems stem from equipment more than anything.

Ken Schrader: Schrader simply likes to race. Next year he will share his ride with Jon Wood, so this is essentially his last full-time year. Much like Ricky Rudd and Terry Labonte, Schrader’s full-time career will end with very little attention.

And three that already have their hunting trips planned:
Michael Waltrip: With new ownership and an under funded team, Waltrip was expected to struggle this year. Struggle doesn’t describe the complete disaster of 2006. Waltrip had one top 15 finish, missed two races (plus buying his way into another), had 7 DNF’s and an average finish of 30.9. At least he can enjoy a Whopper, a Coke, a slice of Domino’s and look to next year.

Ryan Newman: Zero wins, two top fives and two poles. After a third at Daytona, things never got better for Newman. The Intrepid experiment can’t entirely explain the struggles of this team. Newman has the talent to win anywhere. Right now anywhere sounds like a beach far away.

Ray Evernham: Sure Kasey Kahne won six races and made the Chase, but he also had 5 DNF’s and several hard crashes. Scott Riggs sprinkled good runs (7 top tens, 2 poles) with frustrating finishes (8 sub 30 finishes). Oh yeah, there was also that whole ugly Jeremy Mayfield episode.

Scenarios for Jimmie Johnson this weekend:
He finishes 12th or better he is guaranteed to win the title.
He finishes 20th or better and neither Kevin Harvick nor Denny Hamlin can catch him.
He finishes 32nd or better and still wins, because face it, Matt Kenseth won’t run better than 13th.

- Last week many Nascar websites and blogs were covering the fluffy Jeff Gordon-Ingrid Van DenBosch wedding this week. It has very little interest to me, but at least it involves one of the most famous drivers in the sport. Nascar.com and Duane Cross decided why stop there? Cross wrote nearly 500 words on Britney Spears and Kevin Federline. This has zero to do with Nascar and is awful, even by Nascar.com’s standards.

-Next year in select races there could be as many as 17 drivers with 3 years experience or less. That could get interesting. Consider the weekends when Regan Smith drives for Mark Martin and Jon Wood replaces Ken Schrader. That’s trading 1370+ starts for two drivers yet to make their Cup debuts. For context, there are 12 such drivers this year. In 2004 and 2005 there were 10 each year. What’s more, there will be eight drivers in their first full year in Cup (David Reutimann, Smith, David Ragan, Paul Menard, Wood, David Gilliland, Juan-Pablo Montoya, and AJ Allmendinger).Trouble in Turn 2 indeed.

Finally, I am traveling home to Minneapolis for the week. I hope to post daily, but am not sure I will get to watch the race. I am celebrating Thanksgiving on Sunday and it would be poor form to pass on turkey. On a side note, will Banquet air their pot-pie commercial with Tony Stewart this weekend? I have to think this is the worst two weeks for processed turkey product sales.

If posting turns sporadic next week, be assured it will resume when I’m back. I have lots of big picture NASCAR stuff to take on to get through the off-season. In the meantime enjoy the race and your own Thanksgiving time. Thanks to those that consistently read my writing, I do appreciate it.