Talon64's Motorsports Corner writes:
"Cup: 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Preview (Part 2)"
Posted by Talon64 on February 12, 2010
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Richard Petty Motorsports ----------- The former Evernham/Gillett team that became RPM last season will field 4 full time teams in 2010: The #9 Budweiser Ford of 2004 Cup ROTY Kasey Kahne, the #19 Stanley Tools Ford of Elliott Sadler, the #43 Best Buy Ford of AJ Allmendinger and the #98 Menards Ford of Paul Menard.
Last year Kasey Kahne and the #9 team finally put together good back-to-back seasons; despite just missing the Chase they won twice in 2008, finishing 14th in the standings, and then won twice again but made the Chase and finished 10th in 2009. For a team that?s finished 13th, 23rd, 8th and then 19th in their first 4 seasons that?s pretty good. Kahne?s proven to be one of the better drivers in Cup today but many feel that the team has held him back. Often he?s been the only bright spot among the organization?s 3-4 car fleet. But a switch to Ford for 2010 and some support from Roush Fenway Racing could give all of RPM a big boost that will benefit Kahne most of all. He should at least repeat what he did in 2009, win a few races and contend for the Chase.
AJ Allmendinger finally ran every race in a season in 2009 after RPM scraped together a full time effort for him. He ended up the 2nd best RPM driver in the standings ahead of the more established #19 and #43 teams. Allmendinger has been 2nd only to Juan Pablo Montoya when it comes to open wheelers adapting to NASCAR and with the progress he?s made so far his first career win is within his sights.
Elliott Sadler will be hoping just to keep his ride for 2011 after he nearly lost it for 2009 to Allmendinger. Sadler?s career has been in a tailspin since he left Robert Yates Racing to join the team midway through 2006 and the lacklustre results in the #19 are catching up to him. If Sadler can?t find some consistency then he?ll be looking for a new ride when the season?s done.
Paul Menard, Menards and the #98 joins RPM after they merged with Yates Racing. Although Menard only has 2 top ten?s in 111 career starts he?s pretty good for what amounts to a pay driver; he has a Nationwide win to his credit and finished 6th in the standings twice. Probably more important than getting Menard was getting Menard?s to help make sure that all 4 teams were full sponsored for 2010. Menard might get a few top ten?s this season since RPM will be a big upgrade over a spiralling Yates Racing but will probably be the worst of the RPM drivers this season.
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing ----------- The combination of Chip Ganassi Racing and Dale Earnhardt Incorporated, they?ll be fielding two full time teams in 2010: The #42 Target Chevy with 1999 CART champion, 2000 Indy 500 winner and 2007 Cup ROTY Juan Pablo Montoya and the #1 Bass Pro Shops Chevy with 2003 Cup ROTY Jamie McMurray.
JPM moved over to NASCAR at the end of 2006 after leaving Formula 1, reuniting with his CART owner Chip Ganassi. He won Cup ROTY honours in 2007 but it took until his 3rd year, last season, before he finally broke through and became a force to be reckoned with. Normally as fiery as they come, him and the #42 team took a patient and consistent approach through the regular season and made the Chase as a result. Then they racked up 4 straight top fives to start the Chase before bad luck finally caught up with them and they ended up 8th in the standings. JPM is one of the best race car drivers in the world today and has thrived in NASCAR where other open wheel drivers have failed or have yet to reach such heights. Although EGR is only a two car team they?re made up of two organizations that enjoyed a lot of success as 2-3 car teams, DEI and CGR so they know how make do with what they have. JPM should finally get his first NASCAR oval win and will contend for the Chase again.
Jamie McMurray is teaming back up with former Cup owner Chip Ganassi with whom he got his first career Cup win in just his 2nd career start in 2002, won ROTY in 2003 and finished 13th, 11th and 12th in his 3 seasons with CGR. But his time at Roush the last 4 seasons was less successful with Jamie often being the 5th best Roush car. He won twice but only finished in the top 20 in the standings twice and as such was the driver to get cut when Roush was forced to go to 4 teams for 2010. On the positive side Jamie was one of only two Roush drivers to win a race last season and will now be much better off with EGR?s 2 car team where he?ll be getting a lot more support. Jamie was a star on the rise before his move to Roush so hopefully he can regain his reputation. Jamie will do a lot better than what he and the #1 team did last season, possibly top 15 with a chance of making the Chase.
Michael Waltrip Racing/JTG Daugherty Racing ----------- MWR will field two full time teams and support the full time JTG Daugherty Racing car: The #00 Aaron?s Toyota with David Reutimann, the #56 NAPA Toyota with 2004 and 2005 Nationwide champion Martin Truex Jr. and the #47 Toyota with Australian Marcos Ambrose.
A throwback to times where it took drivers until their 30?s to break into the top ranks of NASCAR, David Reutimann?s rise to Cup winner has been remarkable over the last 6 seasons, from getting noticed while driving for Nemechek?s Nationwide team in 2003, then driving in the Trucks from 2004-2006 and winning a race, then Cup from 2007 until now where he?s picked up a Nationwide and a ?fortunate? Cup win (hey a win?s a win even if you just stay out during a rain caution and win the race for it!) Last season Reutimann was in contention for a spot in the Chase for much of the year before missing out and ending up 16th in the standings. From where MWR started in 2007 when they missed about half the races they entered to now being able to contend for wins is amazing and Reutimann?s made the biggest contributions to that. It?ll be tough for him to repeat what he did in 2009 but he?ll continue to put in decent runs and be a top 20 driver throughout the season.
Michael Waltrip retired from full time competition after 24 years and over 700 starts in Cup, giving the reigns of the NAPA car to former DEI/EGR driver Martin Truex Jr. He got his first career win and made the Chase in 2007, his 2nd year in Cup, but a downturn in performance the last two seasons left Truex searching for greener pastures and went for a team on the rise like MWR. Coincidentally, his younger brother Ryan is a MWR developmental driver who won the 2009 East Series championship. Truex has shown he has the talent to win races so the switch to MWR should allow him to do that. Making the Chase is unlikely but if he can get good chemistry with crew chief Pat Tryson then he could make a run like Reutimann did last season.
Team owner Michael Waltrip will also run a few races this year in the #51 Toyota, mostly the restrictor plate races if he can.
Red Bull Racing ----------- RBR will field two full time cars in 2010: The #83 Toyota of 2003 Nationwide champion Brian Vickers and the #32 Toyota of former Formula 1 driver Scott Speed.
Brian Vickers had a breakout year in 2009, getting his first career win that wasn?t like the infamous 2006 Talledega race and making the Chase for the first time in his and RBR?s career. . Vickers became the youngest NASCAR national touring series champion ever when he won the 2003 Nationwide Series championship with Hendrick Motorsports and moved up to Cup in 2006. But he was always stuck in the 4th driver role, and while he did about as well as anyone?s ever done in that situation he moved to Red Bull in 2007. RBR was about as miserable as MWR was in their first year, missing half the races even with an experienced talented driver like Vickers. But with their first win and Chase in the books they?ll be looking to improving on what was an embarrassing Chase performance, ending up a distant 12th. Many predict that Vickers will be one of last year?s Chase drivers to drop out in 2010 based on their Chase performance but they?ve made too much progress and Vickers is too good a driver to not at least have a chance. He?ll win a race or two on the intermediates and contend for a Chase spot.
Scott Speed had a season much like AJ Allmendinger?s rookie year with RBR in 2007; missed some races and had a lot of finishes in the 30?s. But while AJ struggled with a struggling first year team, Speed struggled with a 3rd year team that put a car into the Chase so it makes Speed?s struggles far more troubling. Speed was let go from the Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 team midway through 2007 and was put in NASCAR by sponsor Red Bull. Scott had immediate success in the lower ranks in 2008, winning ARCA races while contending for the championship and even winning a Truck race. He also ran in the top 10 in all of his Nationwide starts last season but he struggled immensely in Cup. For most open wheelers it takes 2-3 seasons before they can get enough experience to start running consistently well so the development continues for Speed. Red Bull will give him the chance to succeed and Speed should do better than 2009, but how much better will show whether Speed can make it in the long haul.
Front Row Motorsports ----------- FRM will surprisingly be fielding 3 full time teams in 2010: The #34 Ford with 2003 Truck Series champion Travis Kvapil, the #37 Extenze Ford with 2010 Cup ROTY contender Kevin Conway and the #38 Ford with David Gilliland, Robert Richardson Jr. and John Andretti.
Travis Kvapil last drove in Cup full time in 2008 with Yates Racing and did a solid job with 4 top tens and finished 23rd in the standings. But Yates? sponsorship troubles put him on the side lines for most of 2009 before ending the year with FRM. Kvapil replaces John Andretti in the #34 who was able to put the #34 into the top 35 in owners points. Kvapil?s an underrated driver who can do well with lesser equipment while FRM is an organization that?s slowly but surely getting their stuff together so the #34 team should run better in 2010 and move further up the order.
The #38 team was a late addition to the FRM fleet and will have another former Yates Racing driver David Gilliland driving about 30 races. Robert Richardson Jr. and John Andretti will fill in the rest of the schedule. I?m not sure if this team will be a S&P but it and the #37 are locked into the first 5 races thanks to a deal with Yates Racing to get the #98?s and #96?s owners points from last season.
Rookie Kevin Conway will take over the #37 after the Daytona 500 since he wasn?t yet eligible for restrictor plate races. Kvapil will be in the #37, John Andretti will be in the #34 and Robert Richardson Jr. is in the #38 for Daytona. To put it simply, Conway is an unimpressive driver who only got this ride thanks to his Extenze sponsorship. He?ll likely win ROTY because his team will be locked in to start the year and with more S&P teams likely this year it?ll be easier for him to stay in the top 35. But this is probably the saddest ROTY class ever.
James Finch will field the #09 Phoenix Racing Chevy this year with former DEI/JGR developmental driver Aric Almirola. The team took a big blow just before the start of the season after long time sponsor Miccosukee bailed on them so their status for 2010 is now in doubt, especially after they didn?t qualify for the Daytona 500. Aric?s a good upcoming driver who can?t catch a break in Cup but will at least be running the full Truck Series season for Billy Ballew Motorsports. Whether the team will try to continue with Almirola or look for drivers with sponsorship is unknown.
Robby Gordon has driven the last 5 seasons in Cup with his self-owned #7 Robby Gordon Motorsports car but lack of sponsorship means they?re only planning on running 7-8 races this season. A former open wheel driver who also drives off-road trucks and won the 2009 SCORE International championship, his 7th in his career in that series, he won?t be S&P?ing any races so sponsored races are the only ones he?ll do. Robby is one of the best road course racers in NASCAR today, maybe ever, so despite the part time schedule he?ll be contending for victory at Sonoma and Watkins Glen.
Latitude 43 Motorsports, a start up team by businessman Bill Jenkins, will field the #26 Ford full time with Roush support and the Roush #26?s owners points from last season to be locked into the first 5 races. Boris Said will drive for the team in the first five races of the season but Boris has said the team will S&P if it has to. Boris is one of the best sports car drivers today and has been trying to break into NASCAR for the last few seasons; he won the pole and finished 4th in the 2006 Pepsi 400 at Daytona and has multiple top tens in his road course starts. They stand a good chance of qualifying for races if they have to down the road but hopefully they?ll do well enough and get enough sponsorship down the road that they won?t have to S&P whether with Boris or with someone else.
Nationwide team owner Dusty Whitney is moving up to Cup in 2010 with rookie and long-time Truck Series driver Terry Cook in the #26 Dodge. They bought some Dodge cars from Richard Petty Motorsports after RPM switched to Ford for 2010. The team isn?t locked into the first 5 races, already missed the Daytona 500 and in all likelyhood is a S&P team so Terry?s chances for ROTY aren?t great. He?s certainly a much better driver than Kevin Conway since he?s got 6 career Truck wins to his credit but with a team as shaky as this they?ll be lucky to make it through the whole season.
The #49 BAM Racing Toyota returns to the field for 2010 with David Gilliland at Daytona and then Robby Gordon in some further races. They formed an alliance with Robby Gordon Motorsports which is why Robby will drive some races in the #49. The rest of their schedule is yet to be determined.
Prism Racing will field two full time cars in 2010, the #55 with Michael McDowell and the #66 with Dave Blaney. Last season PR ran the 66 as a S&P operation but intend on not S&P?ing as much this season. They intend on running the 55 full time but it?s race to race depending on sponsorship and making races (the 55 made the Daytona 500, the 66 missed it). Blaney?s a decent journeyman driver who can get the 66 into the field in most races while 2007 ARCA runner-up Michael McDowell is getting his career back on track after being pushed into Cup too soon with MWR back in 2008. McDowell is also running full time in Nationwide so the Cup ride is pretty much gravy and a great opportunity for him.
TRG fill field the #71 Chevy with 2000 Cup champion Bobby Labonte. Last year was TRG?s first year in Cup and after the first 5 races they were in the top 35 in owners points with David Gilliland. But they fell out, started missing races and S&P?ed some races before Labonte ended the season with them and got them back on track. This will be B-Lab?s 10th season since winning his championship and his career may be approaching the down slope, but he?s still good enough and has the experience to give TRG their best chance of success. A couple top tens and top 30 in the points are likely.
Furniture Row Motorsports returns to running full time with its #78 Chevy piloted by 2008 Cup ROTY Regan Smith. The team ran part time last season with Regan, running in the top 20 on occasion and only failing to qualify for a race twice. The team will have the RCR #07?s owners points from last season but will still have Hendrick engines. Much like Front Row Motorsports (they also share the same acronym which is annoying!) they?re a team that has been able to survive amongst the elite teams in the series. Top tens are most likely at the restrictor plate races and they?ll have a chance of cracking the top 30 in the standings.
Joe Nemechek?s familiar #87 team will be running full time in Nationwide and Cup this year. Joe will drive full time in Cup and most of the Nationwide races. Joe S&P?ed for the most part in Cup last year while making an effort in Nationwide. The former Hendrick, MB2 and Ginn driver is still a decent driver but his underfunded self-owned effort still screams ?S&P!? on most occasions. He made the Daytona 500 so hopefully that?ll help him find some sponsorship so he won?t have to S&P as much.
After being a top 20 driver in Cup the last 4 seasons, Casey Mears is stuck with the new #90 Keyed-Up Motorsports Chevy team for 2010 after the #07 RCR team shut down due to a lack of sponsorship after 2009. Casey has one Cup win to his credit with HMS in 2007 in the Coke 600; it was his best season yet in Cup with 10 top ten?s and a 15th place finish in the standings. Casey?s only signed on for the first 6 races and whether he stays depends on whether the team makes races or can be in the top 35 in owners points but missing the Daytona 500 won?t help matters. Casey may only have occasional Nationwide and Truck starts to look forward too which is a huge shame for a driver as good as Casey. Hopefully he can find a better opportunity in 2011.
Braun Racing will be fielding the #32 Dollar General Toyota in 5 races this year with Reed Sorenson. The most successful Nationwide-only owner today, Todd Braun intends on running full time in Cup in 2010. Sorenson lost his ride with RPM and due to mediocre results the last two seasons he?ll be running most of the Nationwide schedule with Braun along with these Cup starts. But look for Sorenson to get the nod for Braun?s 2011 Cup ride if Sorenson runs well in the few Cup starts and in Nationwide.
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