by Chris Leone, Special To NASCAR commentary and driver pictures, 2012 NASCAR schedule, video, Bench Racing With Steve and Charlie
I do weekly Fantasy Pick'Em columns here at OPR, as well as the occasional opinion and analysis piece. I also provide the IZOD IndyCar Series coverage. For more on that, head to my site, OpenWheelAmerica.com. My Twitter handle is @christopherlion.March 1, 2012 11:58 am UTC No Comments
This won’t be team owner Roger Penske’s first time with Ford in NASCAR, either. From 1994 to 2002, Penske fielded Thunderbirds and Tauruses for primary drivers Rusty Wallace, Jeremy Mayfield, and Ryan Newman. The relationship started off hot, as Wallace would win eight races in 1994 and 15 in his first three years as a blue oval driver. He would add eight more victories from 1997 to 2001, while Mayfield would add three more from 1998 to 2001 and Newman would take his first career victory in 2002.
Penske left Ford after the 2002 season to join Dodge, then only two years into its return to NASCAR and struggling to establish a solid footing in the sport. The brand would succeed at Daytona, sweeping the front row in 2001 and winning in 2002 with Ward Burton, and had a championship challenger in 2002 with Sterling Marlin. But all that promise didn’t lead to much; Marlin’s third place in 2001 points made him the only driver to crack the top 10 either year.
The switch would pay immediate dividends, as Newman would match Wallace’s feat by winning eight races with a new manufacturer in 2003. Wallace would add a win himself, and where Dodge had only scored 10 wins with 10 cars in 2001 and 2002, Penske had nearly doubled the brand’s win total in 2003 alone with two cars. Kurt Busch would join the team in 2006 and have a handful of good seasons with the team, Newman would add a Daytona 500 win in 2008, and Penske Racing would become far and away Dodge’s most prominent and important team as the 2000s went on.
Meanwhile, many of Dodge’s other teams would either leave the brand or fall off the map entirely. A series of sales and mergers turned former flagship teams Evernham Motorsports and Petty Enterprises into the same entity, which joined the Ford ranks in 2010. Chip Ganassi Racing would merge into Dale Earnhardt Inc. in 2009, switching to Chevrolet. Bill Davis Racing defaulted on its Dodge contract by running Toyotas in the Craftsman Truck Series, eventually joining them in Sprint Cup in 2007. Other teams, like Melling Racing, Ultra Motorsports, and A.J. Foyt’s NASCAR operation, simply folded.
Penske has worked with just about every major company in motorsports. In fact, he has a history of establishing long relationships with brands, then ending them for something better. It’s happened more than once in the past few years; the most notable instance came last year, when the team dumped a long association with Mobil 1 to resume a partnership with Pennzoil that had ended after 1990.
This move has huge implications for everybody involved, particularly the manufacturers. For Ford, it’s a signal that they’ve come all the way back after a handful of lean years. As recently as 2008, Ford only fielded eight full-time cars, lowest in the series. While five of those came from the perennial contender Roush Fenway Racing, Wood Brothers Racing would cut to a limited schedule for 2009 and beyond, and the two Yates Racing cars wouldn’t exist beyond 2009. But Richard Petty Motorsports and Front Row Motorsports (theoretically a continuation of Yates Racing) would add seven cars in 2010, while Roush would keep its fifth car alive through a transfer of owners’ points. That would give Ford 12 cars for 2010; adding the two Penske teams to this year’s Fords, the brand will have a powerful 14 car lineup in 2013.
The story is much more bleak for the lame-duck engine manufacturer. In 2008, Dodge had 13 full-time, fully funded, and competitive Sprint Cup teams. Five years later, Dodge will be left with only one: Robby Gordon Motorsports, whose participation in the series is limited at best. Unless they makes a serious play for an existing team to switch manufacturers, or gives a smaller operation a major boost, Dodge may be all but gone from stock car racing’s highest level next season.
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.August 1, 2011 7:24 pm UTC 4 Comments
Friday night’s Nationwide race at Lucas Oil Raceway was looking to become a very memorable event. Not only was it quite possibly the last NNS race at the facility but it had some long green flag runs that aren’t usually seen at short tracks. The racing was good and ESPN’s coverage wasn’t. Not only does The Worldwide Leader have a penchant for going to commercial at all the wrong times; but it also employs one of the greatest understatement artists of all time.
Rusty Wallace has had a tough time transitioning to the broadcast booth. Unlike many of his contemporaries such as Ricky Craven, Dale Jarrett, Darrell Waltrip or Phil Parsons; Wallace isn’t able to pass along his vast racing knowledge to the television audience.
His lack of polish and broadcast acumen aside; he continues to struggle with having to comment on his own race team in general and his son in particular. It was no more evident than in Fridays race when he was too quick to lay blame on James Buescher for bumping Stephan Wallace thus propelling Wallace into prone teammate car.
Not only did the replay show that while Buescher did hit Wallace it was well before the latter ran into Annett; but the elder Wallace kept trying to sell the audience on his son’s innocence. It became embarrassing as Rusty then tried to divert the audiences attention by lamenting how much money it just cost him to have his two cars wrecked.
ESPN should not allow parents to be commenting on their children’s races–period.
Photo Credit: BethAnne Heisler/ON PIT ROW
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.March 1, 2011 7:46 am UTC No Comments
Gordon had gone 66 races without seeing victory lane. Not a long time for some of the sports veteran drivers but an eternity for the four-time Cup champion. Interestingly Gordon hasn’t won a championship as a driver since he became a Cup car owner. Gordon is part owner of the #48 team that has won five championships since he won his last.
There was a time in the sport that the cries of “anyone but Gordon” were heard loud and clear well before the statement came to be used for Gordon’s protege Jimmie Johnson. But with the long winless streak now behind him the question is has Gordon moved into the next level of fan recognition?
There seems to be a point in a lot of athlete’s careers where they move from a polarizing figure to the beloved veteran and it seems that Gordon may have made that move with his win this past week in Phoenix. Other drivers have been there; from Darrell Waltrip to Rusty Wallace to Dale Earnhardt, Sr., drivers who early in their careers had a “love ‘em or hate ‘em” persona. Then a defining moment moves them into a new realm of fan acceptance.
Many times it revolves around a single win, championship or moment after suffering months or years of toil. Hardship and lack of success for a period of time after a career full of triumphs somehow makes the fans find a new respect for their former nemesis. The phenomenon isn’t relegated to the sport of racing; but can be found throughout the sporting world. Athletes like Reggie Jackson, Brett Favre and Jimmy Conners all have seen the acceptance of fans at a new level once their heyday has been completed.
Gordon may be beyond another championship; but never again will you hear fans bemoan him his victories. Gordon has proven once again that he can win a race and for NASCAR fans a smattering of them as he winds down his career will be just fine, thank you.
As an aside–Is it just me; or does Jeff look a lot like Ray Evernham in the above picture?
photo credit: BethAnne Heisler/ON PIT ROW
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.February 12, 2011 8:24 am UTC 3 Comments
Annett takes over the #62 Nationwide Series ride for owner Rusty Wallace that Brendan Gaughan drove in 2010. Once again NASCAR is showing how two-faced it can be with its drug/alcohol policy.
Annett was charged with DUI after being involved in a traffic accident and blowing a .32 when the legal limit is a .08; four times the legal limit. He has not had his day in court; so all the innocent until proven guilty talk is still appropriate. However; that fact has not deterred NASCAR in the past from “suspending now and asking questions later” when a driver or crew member has connection to drugs instead of alcohol.
Drivers have been to quick to chastise their own when the talk of drugs are associated with them. Annett’s probation doesn’t seem to be raising the same ire of his fellow drivers. Arguements have always been that drivers have to rely on the good judgment of their competitors while at speed on the track.
How can Annett’s competitors feel confident on the track racing him at Daytona where on-track speeds hover near the 200 mph mark? NASCAR has indicated that along with the probation they may ask Annett to participate in random drug/alcohol testing. Isn’t that NASCAR’s standard procedure?
Maybe having Rusty Wallace proclaim that Annett, “doesn’t have an alcohol problem” is enough for NASCAR officials, drivers and crews to have confidence in Annett’s decision making. Along with Wallace’s car ownership and his TV work he must also have become an expert in alcoholism detection and treatment. Wallace refused to suspend his driver because he was afraid to loose sponsorship money needed to fund his Rusty Wallace Racing teams.
Annett brought with him a sponsorship deal and without Annett in the car that sponsorship money, in theory, would be gone. What this gets down to is Pilot Travel Centers is running RWR and if the sponsor is running the team; then in essence that sponsor is running NASCAR and the decisions it makes.
Once again NASCAR has brought its credibility into question. The NFL has had no problem suspending its stars for questionable off field activities; just ask Ben Rothlisberger or Michael Vick. We all know that NASCAR continually compares itself to the football league; so why not now?
Annett should have been suspended for a period of time to investigate the incident and his ability to make decisions on the race track. And he should have to be evaluated by someone other than his unqualified team owner. Blowing four times the legal limit is not having an extra beer at a party. It is serious over consumption.
At least some of Annett’s competitors have to be wonder about their safety when they take the track with him out there…and that just isn’t right.
photo credit: Icon Sports Media
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: @mattmercerJuly 8, 2009 6:26 pm UTC 5 Comments
This may be for Chicagoland, but I’m still hung up on the finish of the Coke Zero 400. If you’re reading this you know the deal. Kyle Busch comes out of turn 4, blocks Tony Stewart, Stewart moves to the outside, Busch tries to block, gets spun, get’s clobbered. Twice. The finishes of these plate races has officially jumped the shark. We now know that the leader at the end of the race will end up in the wall just before the start/finish line. It’s not anyone’s fault, per se. The drivers have voiced frustration at NASCAR for the situation they’re put in. I began thinking, is there anything that can change? I started looking at some plate races from the late 90s when the fad was diving below the line on the front and backstretch. Perhaps the most famous example was Jeff Gordon diving below race leader Rusty Wallace with 11 laps to go heading into turn 1 with a slowed Ricky Rudd on the apron. Gordon was just a few feet from Rudd when Wallace moved up, gave Gordon the room on the inside, and watched him win his 2nd Daytona 500. Today, Rusty says he wouldn’t have given Gordon the room. If the yellow-line rule is lifted, would we see a situation like that again? Who knows. I just know that something’s got to be done to change the finishes of these races, because I’ll take the money in my pockets and bet someone all the money in theirs that the finish at the fall race at Talladega will look very similar to those that saw Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart end up in victory lane instead of Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch.
Now it’s your turn to do battle with Steve and Charlie, along with who else might show up. 100 words, 100% attitude. Let’s roll:
1. Will someone get killed during one these plate race finishes, as suggested by Carl Edwards?
2. Has the yellow-line rule outlived its usefulness?
3. What will Martin Truex Jr. do in his first year at MWR?
4. Does Chicagoland deserve a second race ahead of Kansas?
Photo credit: Icon Sports Media
by Art Almond, Special To NASCAR commentary and driver pictures, 2012 NASCAR schedule, video, Bench Racing With Steve and Charlie
Awright y'all... I'm tha crazy dude that is known as... "Drawer-Dude" I draw funny pictures of this racin' cartoon character that I created... known as "PIT-ROAD-TOAD! You can see more Toad-Toons at my blog site... RACIN' RUCKUSApril 22, 2009 4:44 pm UTC 3 Comments
As far as restrictor plate tracks go…Talladega is the “Mac-Daddy”! Constructed in the in 1960’s over an old abandoned airport, this track offers some the best restrictor plate racing NASCAR has to offer. At 2.66 miles this the largest oval track raced in today’s NASCAR events.
Often referred to as simply… “Dega”… it is owned by International Speedway Corporation, and controlled by the France family. This facility can seat up to 175,000 fans.
Speeds in excess of 200 mph were a one time commonplace at Talladega. Talladega Superspeedway has the record for the fastest recorded speed by a NASCAR stock car in a closed oval course, with the record of 216.309 mph set by Rusty Wallace on June 9, 2004. Wallace circled the 2.66-mile trioval in 44.270 seconds! Go Rusty!
Above the TOAD offers up a plate of his own “restricted” fuel flow!