by Matt Mercer, Special To NASCAR commentary and driver pictures, 2012 NASCAR schedule, video, Bench Racing With Steve and Charlie
I'm the former blogger of The Catfish Show NASCAR Blog and a contributor to On Pit Row. Follow me on Twitter: @mattmercerMay 9, 2008 1:10 pm UTC 4 Comments
Yours truly made the journey to Rockingham last Sunday to witness history, the return of racing to the rechristened Rockingham Speedway. While I hope the race is shortened a bit heading into future years (312 laps is too many for these cars, 250 would be excellent – and still longer that most) I hope it will still attract this sort of young gun all-star field it did this year. In that light, based on my own personal observations from the infield, the garage, and pit road (hey, this new gig is awesome!) I am ranking the top young drivers in the race that I see going on to bigger opportunities down the road. Given that this race was contested on a track that hadn’t seen official racing in years, I feel it was a good measure to see who could withstand the pressure and who can manage a race the best. Here we go:
Honorable mentions: Matt Carter, Billy Leslie, Scott Speed, John Wes Townley
Each of the four had circumstances that kept them from my top 5 list, be it accidents (Speed) or early trouble (Leslie), or simply not running as well as the top 5 (Carter, Townley). Speed may have a Cup ride in his future, but he went out early, so he isn’t on my top 5. Leslie and Carter ran well early in the race, but faded as the race went on. Townley, in my opinion, is Todd Kluever with three names. He may get pushed beyond his talent level, and won’t last.
5. Matt Hawkins – I didn’t know much about Hawkins before the race Sunday, but he looked like a driver who can make the most out his equipment during this race. He seemed to be driving a smart race, and didn’t bang up his car so that he would fall late in the race. Hawkins looks like he may need a little more seasoning, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him advance within the next year.
4. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Stenhouse is a talent, but the fact he drives for Roush could hurt his growth potential unless he signs with another team. He is making a solid transition to stock car racing, and I believe he will be going Truck racing for Roush at some point soon. But I don’t see him sticking with Roush long-term, simply because Colin Braun is ahead of him and a Cup ride may be out of the question. Here’s an interesting scenario, how about Stenhouse ending up with his open-wheel owner, Tony Stewart, in a few years?
3. Michael Annett – I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t sure Annett was everything he was billed to be simply because I hadn’t seen enough of him to make a judgment. That’s out the window now, as I became very impressed with him during the race, particularly how he worked his way into the top 5 and really got better as the race progressed. I think Annett could step into a Truck right now and compete for top 10s.
2. Austin Dillon – What gives Dillon the tiebreaker over Annett in my mind is Dillon just turned 18 days before the Rockingham race. I had done a bit of research into Dillon prior to the race, most of his notoriety had been his use of the #3 – some don’t like it, but those people never believe anyone except Dale Earnhardt drove with that number. I think it’s cool that he is using it, as a way to honor his grandfather’s underappreciated career as a driver. Dillon won at Greenville Pickens Speedway in the Camping World East Series a few weeks ago, and has been a force on the dirt tracks in the southeast as well. I would be interested to see if he drives an RCR Nationwide car next season, once he gets a little more experience. He’ll be hard-pressed to rise as fast as the number one driver, but certainly has the opportunity if he possesses the talent. I think he just might.
1. Joey Logano – Seriously, you expected anything else? The kid’s the real deal. Leading 257 of the 312 laps was insane, and it felt like he led even more. Visually, that car was flying around the track… prompting a running joke between myself and my buddy to wave bye periodically. I got my trusty cell phone and used the stopwatch function, and almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Logano at some points was running almost a second faster than second place, and the top lead I clocked him with was 20.6 seconds… when he nearly lapped the field. Of course, it helped that Denny Hamlin’s Cup team was on hand to pit the car, the #20 Nationwide team was on hand to lend moral support, the Venturini team was looking like they just won the lottery. An interesting side note to that is seeing Wendy Venturini not stray far from that pit stall. Still, bringing this back to Logano, Gibbs has to run this kid in every Nationwide race from Dover through Homestead. I know I’ve heard something about 18 races, but if at all possible, it needs to be more. If it becomes a legitimate possibility that he steps up to Cup for 2009, that will only help. I’ll go out on a further limb, and says Gibbs brings out an R&D car this year for Logano to run, most likely at Richmond, as he has done before. It’s easy to see what Mark Martin saw years ago, and why Gibbs pushed so hard to sign him. Soon, the rest of the racing world will see as well.
So, there is my list. Agree? Disagree?
Photo credit: ARCARacing.com
by Charlie Turner
Thanks for stopping by OnPitRow.com and the Bench Racing with Steve and Charlie blog. The best NASCAR and IndyCar news and opinion, exclusive pictures and video. I'm Charlie Turner. Follow me on Twitter @onpitrowMay 8, 2008 3:02 pm UTC 3 Comments
The next time you are at the gas pump, wringing out your wallet for a few measly gallons of the cheap stuff ($3.79 a gallon today in our little town) remember the little people of NASCAR, who are struggling right along with you. Right.
I’m one of those people who buy their gas ten bucks at a time. That used to last me awhile – now, not so much. But I’m bored. Stopping every day at the Speedway helps me pass the time. And that brings me to my Rant for the day. Sorry Bob, I have to steal your handle for a post.
Today as my 2.64 gallons of low-test was rushing into the tank and the “dollars spent” countdown flew by – $10-$9-$8….$4-$3-$2-$1…..$.99……$.98…..$.97…….$.96…..$.95 – are YOU getting pissed yet? Just exactly how little – what, fraction of a quarter of a gallon of gas, is that pump spitting into my tank that takes over 1 second to meter out? Strictly as a PR move the Petroleum Retailers Association should re-set those pumps to slow down when they get to the last 2.5% of a gallon – or 10 seconds, from the end. I hate that.
Thank you, I’m better now. Thanks to a tweet from Team Ford Racing at Twitter is thispost by Earl Barban, crewman of the #28 Ford at Yates Racing. Travis Kvapil’s Fusion will be sponsored at Darlington by by Lafayette Ford and painted in 60′s retro Fred Lorenzen livery. How cool is that?
Mike Maruska has a nice interview with John Newsome. Its pretty funny, but not as funny as this ditty at One Lugnut Short. There’s plenty to write about this week so I’m sure we’ll be back. There’s still a chance to win a 5o Years of the Great American Race DVD too.
Photo credit: Icon Sports Media, Inc.
by Steve Wronkowicz
I am co-host of the syndicated radio show: ON PIT ROW. Over ten years on the air and three on the net; see what can happen when I don't let the facts get in the way of my opinions.May 5, 2008 4:33 am UTC 12 Comments
Hollywood couldn’t have scripted the weekend’s racing any better.
NASCAR’S doubleheader at Richmond International Raceway along with ARCA’s return to Rockingham Speedway proved to be a great weekend. Friday nights Nationwide Series race at Richmond was entertaining enough throughout; but came to a old time ending. For all you old-schoolers out there; Kyle Busch and Steven Wallace played some bumper tag during the race and then, partook in a post race helmet grabbing–finger pointing–screaming incident. The Saturday highlight shows ran with the video of Shrub sticking his head into Wallace’s car and Steven grabbing Rowdy’s helmet; only to see Kyle jerking his head free and nearly falling on his butt. All this on a Friday night.
Saturday’s Crown Royal presents the Dan Lowry 400 at Richmond again provided for some exciting racing through much of the event and had set itself up for an entertaining finish. Denny Hamlin was dominating the race–leading every green flag lap until a slow leak developed in his right front tire. Hamlin decided to ignore the slowly deflating tire until it was too late and the tire blew out on the race track.
“You don’t have days like this,” said Hamlin, “Dominating days like this just don’t happen. There’s just nothing you can say other than it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Hamlin’s troubles set up a battle between Dale Earnhardt; Jr and Kyle Busch to determine who would go to victory lane. Junior was looking to get his first win in two years and Shrub was looking to post another win for Joe Gibbs Racing. What happened was a last lap skirmish that has Junior lovers and Junior haters seeing two very different race endings–an ending that saw Clint Bowyer take home his second Sprint Cup trophy. Lovers are looking to hang Busch from the nearest engine hoist and haters are applauding him for his hard driving style.
Which as usual leads us to this weeks short and sweet BUZZ ON PIT ROW:
Who was to blame for the Shrub and Junior dust up?
Then to finish off the weekend, the ARCA ReMax Series re-opened “The Rock” to competitive racing and saw future Cup star 17 year old Joey Logano dominate the race in his Venturini Motorsports Chevy. Sprint Cup vetren Ken Schrader came in second as only five cars finished on the lead lap. For more on the ARCA event check out arcaracing.com. and listen to INSIDE ARCA via live stream Tuesday at 8pm ET immediately following ON PIT ROW which can be heard on selected radio stations in the Midwest or right here at onpitrow.com from 5 to 7pm ET.
photo credit: Icon Sports Media, Inc.
by Charlie Turner
Thanks for stopping by OnPitRow.com and the Bench Racing with Steve and Charlie blog. The best NASCAR and IndyCar news and opinion, exclusive pictures and video. I'm Charlie Turner. Follow me on Twitter @onpitrowMay 3, 2008 3:28 pm UTC 8 Comments
17 year old Joey Logano topped qualifying today for the ARCA RE/MAX Series’ Carolina 500 at Rockingham Speedway.
Young Joey has been the fastest all week at the resurrected North Carolina Speedway and will lead a field of 50 starters for Sunday’s race. Here’s what he had to say about this week.
“We actually came down here and did some fuel mileage testing at the
Rock,” said Logano. “I haven’t done much racing this year but we did a
lot of testing-probably ten times so far this year. I turn 18 on May
24th and then I can start running Nationwide races. This is Venturini’s
car and we’ve had a good relationship with the Venturini family so it’s
fun for me to get back out there and run a little bit. This is my first
time driving for [the Venturini family]. Big Bill and Little Bill are
great guys and it’s like a family atmosphere in the ARCA garage so I’ve
Those Nationwide Series races will be contested in Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas.
The starter for tomorrow’s race will be Joe Gibb’s Racings’ – for now - Tony Stewart. If Stewart leaves JGR, as appears more likely almost every hour, Logano may well be his replacement on the Cup team. Just an added bit of interest for an already, much anticipated race on Sunday.
We’ll have the winner of the Carolina 500 as a live guest on this week’s INSIDE ARCA. Listen to it live right here at OnPitRow.com Tuesday night at 7pm edt.
Photo credit: arcaracing.com
by Steve Wronkowicz
I am co-host of the syndicated radio show: ON PIT ROW. Over ten years on the air and three on the net; see what can happen when I don't let the facts get in the way of my opinions.May 2, 2008 8:27 am UTC No Comments
The Rock lives again.
Thanks to new owner Andy Hillenburg; Rockingham Speedway will again roar to life this weekend as the ARCA RE/Max Series visits the famous racetrack that is held near and dear by many NASCAR fans. After a four year absence of competitive racing, the city of Rockingham has embraced this revival of big time stock car racing.
There are several twists to the ARCA event. Bringing back two day knock out qualifying will be a hit amongst fans. Qualifying, that at last count, would see fifty-seven cars vie for fifty starting positions. That’s right FIFTY starting spots. While NASCAR has vehemently held to its forty-three car fields, ARCA and The Rock will venture where few have been willing to go in recent years.
Charlie has long beat the drum for expanded fields in the Sprint Cup Series; it took Hillenburg and ARCA to realize that bigger may well be better. There are some inconveniences involved. There are only forty-three pit stalls, so poor qualifying teams will be sharing pit space until cars start falling out of the race. The front runners will be lapping back markers within laps of the start, causing some huge traffic problems. But this race has all the makings of a must attend event, from both a fan and team standpoint.
Hillenburg was a guest ON PIT ROW on April 29th and made a point of mentioning that this event could become one of the best attended “one off” races for drivers who don’t normally drive on the RE/Max circuit. Kenny Schrader and Bobby Hamilton, Jr. will compete. Tony Stewart will be on hand to wave the green flag; while Stewart crew chief Greg Zippadelli will be piloting the pace car. Ricky Rudd will be parading in the 51st starter with a lucky fan in the passenger seat.
When asked about the possibility of Rudd tossing the passenger and starting the race, Hillenberg replied:
We will only have enough fuel in the car for Ricky to make the required parade laps; therefore ensuring that doesn’t happen.
On-track testing begins at 2pm on Friday. The first round of qualifying is set for 11am on Saturday, with the second round slated for 2:30. The green flag is set for noon on Sunday to be televised on SPEED. Be sure to tune in to our ARCA Insider Phil Parsons and the rest of the SPEED team for live coverage.
Fifty cars – FIFTY. If ARCA can pull this off, then NASCAR will need to take a serious look at expanding their fields as well. It will give more teams and more importantly, more sponsors more for their sponsorship dollars. And we all know it’s not about the dollars–it’s about how many dollars – and cars.
photo credit: rockinghamspeedway.com