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.February 15, 2010 1:48 pm UTC No Comments
Almost nobody expected Jamie McMurray to win the 2010 Daytona 500. It was his first race with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing after four lackluster years as the fifth driver at Roush Fenway Racing, and nobody knew whether or not the combination would work out.
Chip Ganassi was the first owner to give McMurray a shot in Cup, promoting him in 2002 when Sterling Marlin was injured, and McMurray rewarded him by winning in his second career start. But it took McMurray almost five years to win again.
He’s never made a Chase (despite coming close for Ganassi twice in the mid-2000s), and plenty of folks thought his career was dead in the water after the four years of middling performance at Roush.
The combination of Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Chip Ganassi Racing before last season was also a huge question mark, although Juan Montoya’s consistent performance throughout the regular season and early part of last year’s Chase answered his side of the equation. Martin Truex Jr., on the other hand, struggled desperately to perform, and left the team for Michael Waltrip Racing at the end of the year.
This opened the door for Ganassi to bring back McMurray, and he rewarded the racing magnate’s judgment by winning the biggest race of the year.
Now, the biggest question is what kind of team McMurray’s will be for the next 35 races of the season.
Glory at Daytona can be used to propel a driver into the championship hunt. Ernie Irvan and Davey Allison used their 1991 and 1992 victories, respectively, to assert themselves as legitimate championship contenders. Irvan in 1991, Allison in 1992, and Sterling Marlin in 1995 (the year of his second consecutive 500 win) had their best career finishes in points coming off of Daytona victory.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a great season in 2004 after winning the Great American Race for the first time. His six wins that year were a career high, and although he slipped two positions in the final standings from his career-best third in 2003, he was a legitimate title contender the whole year.
Jimmie Johnson’s 2006 victory in the race led to his first career Cup title, despite regular crew chief Chad Knaus being suspended for the race. Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett each won the first race of the season the year after winning championships, in 1999 and 2000 respectively.
But plenty of drivers have seen their triumph at Daytona lead to a long dry spell.
Let’s start with last year. Sure, Matt Kenseth also won the next week’s race at California, but he missed the Chase for the first time in his career as well. Neither Ryan Newman (2008) nor Kevin Harvick (2007) have won points-paying Sprint Cup races since their respective Daytona 500 triumphs.
Michael Waltrip wasn’t able to turn either of his Daytona 500 triumphs, in 2001 and 2003, into season-long success, falling to 24th and 15th in points those two years, respectively. His win in fall 2003 at Talladega remains his final Cup win to date.
The worst season by a Daytona 500 winner in recent memory, however, belongs to Ward Burton, who finished 25th in points after his triumph in 2002. Burton started the season by leading at least one lap in the first five races, but 15 finishes outside the top 10 in the first 19 races of the year killed any hopes he had of championship contention. By the end of the next season, he was no longer employed at Bill Davis Racing.
The big question, then, is this: Will Jamie McMurray have a Sterling Marlin type of season after winning the Daytona 500, or a Ward Burton year?
We know that Chip Ganassi’s equipment is stellar in every racing series he enters. His IZOD IndyCar Series teams have won the past two championships, his Rolex Sports Car Series team is always contending for the title, and Montoya elevated the Sprint Cup team to a new level last year. The equipment and resources are certainly available.
McMurray’s also got a fire inside after the past four years at Roush. He needs to prove that he’s still “got it,” or perhaps that he ever “had it” at all; three of his four wins in Sprint Cup came on restrictor plate tracks, where anything can happen. This currently puts him in a category with Waltrip, as both were marketable mid-pack drivers who collected all of their mid-career victories in plate races.
McMurray needs to return to the form that nearly propelled him into the first Chase in 2004, and the Ganassi equipment has to stay as strong as it was last year. But if one or both of those things doesn’t happen, we could see yet another fluke Daytona 500 victory.
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 @onpitrowApril 20, 2009 8:03 am UTC 4 Comments
Marlin made it to lap 54 before finding the wall too tough to turn down. Smacking the turn three wall brought out the first of six cautions and earned him my Wall Bait award of the race.
My pre-race favorite for the Wallie was Reed Sorrenson, but Reed stayed off the concrete and finished 12th. Nice job in the Richard Petty Racing no. 43.
Next week it’s Talladega Superspeedway. Who’s your pick for the Wall Bait trophy at the Big Track? There can be only one.
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.February 10, 2009 1:25 am UTC No Comments
- NASCAR’s version of the old shell game has fans, and teams, guessing who is in and who is out of the top 35 owners points.
You remember the shell game don’t you. A huckster has three shells or cups or whatever to hide one ball. The mark has to follow the ball as the huckster moves the shells around and around until the mark is totally confused and picks the wrong shell. Along the line somewhere the huckster has preformed some slight of hand and mercy on the mark.
NASCAR has taken on the role of huckster this off season with its owners points. They have moved the top 35 around and around; preformed some slight of hand and given Top 35 status to some interesting folks; most notably Bobby Ginn. You remember Ginn don’t you; he’s the, probably well intended, car owner who came into the sport with a butt-load of money only to leave a couple of years later with nothing to show for it except a quasi-merger with Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and a batch of hacked of drivers, crew members and fans.
Now in an even shadier move NASCAR has approved the “partnership” of Ginn with Richard Childress Racing. Ginn has brought the Top 35 points of the #01 car with him and has transferred them to the new #33 team. Clint Bowyer now doesn’t have to worry about qualifying for the first five races. What he does have to worry about is having Bobby Ginn as a car owner; even if it is in name only. Clint–go ask Sterling Marlin about Ginn.
And that brings us to this week’s BUZZ ON PIT ROW:
Did NASCAR handle the reallocation of owners points correctly?
photo credit: Icon Sports Media
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 14, 2008 7:45 am UTC 6 Comments
Congress needs to step in and right this wrong that’s being perpetrated on the sporting public.
In the midst of hearings to determine whether baseball players used steroids and if a certain football team taped practices of other teams, there is one topic that is much more important to look into. And its being ignored completely. Our esteemed members of congress need to convene to revamp the national holiday schedule.
As the culture of the United States changes, no longer can people relate to Presidents Day. Many US citizens don’t have the faintest clue about Lincoln or Washington. Labor Day–forget it–not much of a work ethic these days.
Congress needs to change these National Holidays, and we could probably add a couple of those “bank holidays” as well; to something that the average American can relate to. National Sports Days.
The National Sports Days plan would give every American six days off work, for sporting event patronage. Need to have the day off after the Super Bowl? That Monday could be one of your NSD days. I know that translates into “National Sports Day day”. Do you work the night shift and your team makes it to the World Series? Use your NSDs to watch, or attend.
Later today two of my favorite races will be televised by SPEED, live, and I will not be able to watch. I love The Duels. The format for qualifying for The 500 is unique, a bit convoluted, but unique, none the less. There have been many years where the results have had little interest to me, as far as who made the race and who didn’t. My guy would be in; but it was just a lot of fun to watch as desperate people had to resort to desperate measures to make THE race.
Tuesday ON PIT ROW, I picked Boris Said to win the 500. Yeah, I know, there was no gaurantee he would even be in the race. That’s what makes seeing this race so important to me. I want to see what Boris, and Herman, and Sterling, and all the others do to try and get themselves, their cars and their sponsors into The Great American Race.
Hello–Ted–I won’t be into work today. Write me up for a NSD. Oh and I’ll take one on Sunday too, if you have the unmitigated gall to schedule me to work. I’ll be watching the Daytona 500 and talking about it via live blog.
Be sure to log in to onpitrow.com on Sunday starting at 2pm ET. We had a great time with the live blog during the awards banquet. This will be even better.
Photo credit: Robert Leberge/Getty Images/NASCAR