With the closure of four teams (07, 26, 44, supposedly 96, and the 7 may only run a partial schedule), we are left with only about 31 full-time, fully-sponsored teams from 2009 returning this season. While that may sound bleak, the economic situation has provided numerous low-budget, start-up teams with an amazing opportunity. Here is a quick look at these teams, several of which will find themselves locked inside the top-35 by the time we leave Bristol.
#09 - Aric Almirola has been named the full-time driver for the Phoenix Racing entry. Hopefully they will run the full races all season; last year was a mixture (sometimes they ran all day and sometimes they would start-and-park).
#26 - An unknown Vermont businessman was very smart to take advantage of the situation where NASCAR forced Roush to downsize and as a result this team will be locked into the first 5 races. It is still unknown who will drive this car, however.
#34, #37, #38 - All of a sudden, Front Row Motorsports, which has struggled to survive for the last several years, has exploded into a three-car team for 2010! It also appears likely that all 3 cars will run the full races. Travis Kvapil, Kevin Conway, and David Gilliland will be the primary drivers. This organization clearly has its sights set on bigger things in the year to come!
#36 - Mike Bliss will drive Tommy Baldwin's car full-time in 2010. Baldwin was forced to start-and-park for much of 2009 due to budget constraints but I believe he wants to do full races and I think Bliss is the perfect driver. He seems to be at his best when driving underdog equipment.
#46 - Terry Cook will drive for this new team, but not much else is known about it. Cook has years of experience in the truck series but will compete with Kevin Conway for Rookie of the Year honors in Cup.
#49 - After a two-year hiatus, BAM Racing will return full-time in 2010. The driver beyond Daytona is not known but the team supposedly has full sponsorship from Warner Brothers.
#71 - Bobby Labonte will drive the full season for TRG Motorsports this year and I expect big things from this team. They are locked into the first 5 races via the past champion's provisional (and possibly based on owner points depending on how things shake out) and I would not be surprised to see them end up in the top-25 in points. Among all the teams listed in this blog entry, I expect this one to be the best.
#90 - Casey Mears has just been announced as the driver for this new team, which is related to the #40 team which has competed in trucks and Nationwide over the last few years. It is clearly a step down for Casey, but I am happy he at least found a ride, and hopefully they will be able to be competitive!
Qualifying will be critical for those teams who are not locked into the top-35 at the start of the season, which includes most of the ones listed here. But at least 3 or 4 of these teams will get the good start that they need and lock themselves into the top-35 by the time we leave Bristol. It will be exciting to see which teams are able to do that!
It is nearly impossible to predict which teams will end up in that position because so much will be based on single qualifying laps and not having wrecks or equipment problems during the races. Nevertheless, I enjoy making predictions, so here goes! After Bristol, I believe the #71 (Labonte), #36 (Bliss), and #34 (Kvapil) stand the best chance of being inside the top-35. If one or two spots are left, I expect the rest of the teams will be in a really, really tight battle!
Opinions expressed in blogs are those of the individual bloggers and do not necessarily represent the views of racing-reference.info.