Junior and Junior No More

Looks like Hendrick pulled the trigger. Tony Eury Jr. is out as crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Lance McGrew will replace Tony on an interim basis beginning with the race in Pocono. Brian Whitesell will be assuming crew chief duties this weekend at Dover.

I know this may get me into some hot water with Dale Jr. fans that may or may not read The Park, but what if Dale Jr. continues to struggle and have bad runs like he has, then what?

Lots of discussion to come among the NASCAR community, message boards, call in shows…this will be the topic of much discussion this weekend.

One More Time

Mark Martin will return in 2010 to run another full year for Hendrick Motorsports. Initially when Mark decided to come out of semi-retirement, he was going to run a full season in 2009 and a partial season in 2010. Looks like Mark may be having a good time and signed up for the full season next year. Of course this news didn’t surprise me in the least. Mark seems to have a renewed desire and energy it didn’t have after he left Roush. I mean look at this year so far…one win, 3 poles, and 5 top tens in 10 races. And who knows what the rest of the season holds for Mr. Martin. There is quite a bit more racing left. Watch out boys….Mark Martin is back.

Halfway Point

The season is now at the halfway point so I thought it would be a good time to look how things have shaped up over the last 13 races.  I would have to say Kyle Busch is leading the pack both in standings and wins so far with 4 wins.  While researching some things this morning about Kyle, I wondered where all the heavy hitters were this year compared to last year so here we go.

2008 Standings (after 13 races) (2007 points standing in red at this same time last year)

  1. Kyle Busch            10th                  
  2. Jeff Burton             5th
  3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  14th
  4. Carl Edwards         6th      
  5. Greg Biffle             18th
  6. Jeff Gordon            1st
  7. Jimmie Johnson     2nd
  8. Clint Bowyer          8th
  9. Denny Hamlin       4th
  10. Kevin Harvick        9th
  11. Tony Stewart         7th
  12. Kasey Kahne          29th

What a difference a year makes for some drivers.  This biggest jumper has to be Kasey Kahne.  This team struggled last year after coming off a 6 win season in 2006.  It has been refreshing to see Kasey back challenging for wins.  I would also have to give kudos to Greg Biffle as well as Junior for where they are compared to last year.  As you can see they were both outside the top 12 sitting 18th and 14th respectively.  I am surprised a little bit by Matt Kenseth’s fall from the top 12, but he has had some bad luck this year.  This wouldn’t be the first time Matt was out of the top 12 and had to fight his way in. 

While I was elbow deep in all of this statistical stuff, I thought I would see how the big teams are fairing compared to this time last year.  As we all know there were a couple of high profile changes at both Hendrick and Gibbs.  Kyle Busch stepped into the #18 after being vacated by J.J. Yeley while Dale Jr. stepped into Kyle’s car.  Gibbs also made a manufacuturer change as well.  So 2008 was going to be a tale of two drivers and to be honest this tale is not a disappointment (for the Kyle Busch fans) so far.  How it will end remains to be seen, but I have a feeling it is only going to get better.

One of the biggest surprises for me has to be the HMS drivers.  I was sure the team would have multiple wins from multiple drivers, but alas HMS has only win coming from Jimmie Johnson at Phoenix.  I was sure Junior would have his first win in almost two years and Jeff would have at least one maybe two under his belt.  And perhaps Casey would have a win as well.  This time last year, Hendrick had 9 wins (3-Jeff, 4-Jimmie, 1-Casey, 1-Kyle).  HMS was dominating the series last year, but as with anything the winds of change have blown through the garage. 

Gibbs who already has 5 wins this year (4-Kyle, 1-Denny) with Tony right there challenging for his first win of the season.  Gibbs made a big move from Chevy to Toyota and I am sure this isn’t a fact that has been overlooked by any of this.  Many thought Gibbs would struggle with the Toyota, but from this race fan’s point view this isn’t the case.  Gibbs had NO WINS this point in the season last year.  I belive Tony will win this season if he can’t stay out of trouble and out of the way of the #19 team (wink, wink).  The biggest question however that will come from JGR is will Tony be back in 2009?  It remains to be seen, but if I was a betting gal, my money would be on somewhere else.

I musn’t forget Roush who got caught watching the paint dry (movie reference-Hoosiers).  His teams were struggling and seemed to be behind with regards to the COT, however this is not the case.  Matt Kenseth was the only driver this time last year with a win compared to now where Carl Edwards is the only driver who has won from the Roush camp with three wins so far this season.  Even though Carl may be the only driver with a win, all the Roush cars seemed to be performing better.  Greg is back in the top 12 and sitting in 5th place at the moment compared to 18th a year ago.  David Ragan seems to be coming into his own as a driver.  He is still outside the top 12, however he has improved quite a deal of the last year.  Matt has been stuggling a little this season and that can be attributed to several things.  First and foremost this is the first year with his new crew chief, Chip Bolin.   This is going to take some time for Matt to get comfortable with him.  As for Jamie, I don’t look for him to be at Roush next year.  He looks good at times and others not so much.  If he does leave Roush, I would believe he could find another team to drive for.

I know there are several other teams who seem to be having great years including RCR.  All three RCR drivers are in the top 12 and are competing for wins every single week.  Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer have already nailed down wins this year for RCR.  This time last RCR had two wins including the fantastic finish at Daytona 500.  It has been a long road for RCR since 2001, but as history has shown, that which does not kill us makes us stronger.  I really thought DEI would be competitive.  Martin Truex had a phenominal year last year with his first win and making The Chase.  However, DEI has struggled.  Martin is currently sitting  15th in the points.  Paul Menard is 27th.  Mark Martin who shares the #8 ride with Aric Almirola is sitting 24th.  And I know Junior nation is probably smiling on all of this, but I think there will be changes with DEI in the future and DEI will shine once again.

One more thing…Kyle has won 10 races over the three series this year (4 in Cup, 4 in Nationwide, and 2 in Craftsman).  He is leading the Cup standings and sits 2nd in the Nationwide Series.  Could he pull off the double championship?  Time will tell, but if anyone has a legitimate shot this year it’s Kyle.

Whew..that was a lot of information, but worth it all.  I hope the next 13 races are as exciting as the first 13.