Tag: Carl Edwards

I’m Back!

It’s crazy to think back and realize it’s been about two years since I’ve been fully invested into this site. Life has a way of just taking priority over something that’s a hobby and certainly does not pay anything. But that’s ok, because it’s given me time to get my life in order and re-prioritize things, including this blog.

I started this with a friend in 2010 and have been able to do some amazing things during that time. Now it’s time to get back to what the original core value of the site was, and that’s providing opinions and stats of the Cup Series. With all of that said, let me get caught up with some commentary about what has taken place this off season.

Driver Retirements

Every sport goes through a spell where there’s a changing of the guard. Outside of Carl Edwards’ surprise announcement, it was time for Tony Stewart to leave and no one cares about Brian Scott or Ryan Ellis hanging up their helmets. I always love to play the what if game, and Edwards will leave me guessing what else he could have done. I say good for him to make that decision to walk away now with his health, as long as he’s content with his career. Don’t let fans fool you, they’re selfish and would rather a driver run way too long than walk away with dignity.

While not officially retirements, Greg Biffle and Casey Mears have been left out in the cold this off season, and that’s a good thing. Biffle is a lot older than most realize and there’s nothing he can add to an organization that isn’t a top tier team. It’s like how Clint Bowyer struggled last year going to HScott Motorsports, he’s likely to rebound in a big way because he’s with a top team. Mears always confused me how he kept getting rides. Sure he has a fuel mileage win with Hendrick Motorsports, when they were winning everything, but beyond that he’s been below average. I also enjoyed how suddenly everyone was a Mears fan when he got dumped, but before then most probably thought he just stared in GEICO commercials and didn’t race.

New Series Sponsor

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series or MENCS does not have a great ring to it, but it might over time. I hate the abbreviation because I feel like it’s a men’s club or something, but Monster might kick some much needed life into the series. Sprint did a good job of at track activation, but Monster could take it a whole new level. That is if they don’t go bankrupt first, but hey they’re only paying about half of what Sprint did for only two years, so they don’t have much to lose. I think NASCAR realized that by positioning the series as the <insert sponsor> NASCAR Cup Series. Side note, I’ll be calling it the Cup Series wherever I can because I don’t want to get too attached like I did with Winston.

New Race Format

Has anyone ever mentioned that NASCAR fans don’t like change? Naturally, they will not like this, but what I’ve gotten through my head is after 26 years of being a fan, I’m too invested to walk away. That said, this new format has promise, but I will have to see it in action before getting sold 100% on it. The strategy that will play out to “win” a segment should be intriguing. Removing the term “chase” from the dialogue of NASCAR was a plus as well, it is now simply referred to as playoffs.

Something that was added and not popularized during the press conference is a team cannot add body panels onto their cars if in an accident. Which will basically means: if you crash, you’re done. No more patchwork to get a car out there to run 15 mph off the pace and drop debris. While it’s a noble cause for teams to try and repair their cars to earn points, since there’s very little attrition during races there’s no real reason for it. Years ago engine/parts failures were common, now engines are near bullet proof.

The biggest con from all of this is the constant comparison of racing to stick and ball sports, oh and the word “moments” being used in everyone’s responses when talking about the formats. My guess is that NASCAR suggested that and we’ll see the new marketing campaign for this based around “moments.” Shoot me now.

Teams Folding/Merging

The charter system was a step in the right direction to make NASCAR ownership more cut and dry. Instead it seems to have hindered smaller teams even more, since if they’re not a charter they receive less money. And even having a charter wasn’t the cure all for teams as teams downsized or folded regardless of having a charter. The benefit is someone like Tommy Baldwin can walk away from ownership with something rather than getting taken to the cleaners. But the endgame shouldn’t be about the cash out, it should be about keeping these teams a float. When you have a system where Go FAS Racing decides it’s better long term to lease their charter to the Wood Brothers, then lease a charter from Richard Petty Motorsports in the meantime, something is broken.

Sprint Cup Series 2015 Season Preview

One year ago it was chaos for NASCAR fans as the announcement came through there was a new version of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, one that put emphasis on winning, had eliminations, and an expanded field. Many, include me, thought this was the dumbest idea ever and no way would it work. Sometimes I can admit when I’m wrong, and judging by the tempers that overflowed and nail biting season finale at Homestead, this was the correct move for NASCAR to make.

This offseason leading into the 2015 was supposed to be a calm one without much waves being made. Heck, what could top last year’s circus atmosphere to start the season? Only one thing, that being Jeff Gordon announcing this year will be his last in the Sprint Cup Series. Bombshell for sure and now that’ll be what everyone will be talking about, not only to start the season, but over the course of the 36 race trek across the United States.

It would make sense to start with Gordon, so let’s do that. I’m still in disbelief that he is calling it a career after 23 years. You almost think he would race forever, and at age 43 he will walk away many years before some of the stars that came before him. Gordon was in the thick of the points battle until that fateful night in Texas where his title hopes got dashed after a run in with Brad Keselowski. The fight and fire you saw that night, I believe, will carry over into his final season. He should go out with a bang, rather than a whimper, which is why he’s calling it quits now. Last season he won the most races in the previous seven season, had the most top-5s and top-10s in the past five seasons. It’ll be hard to beat those numbers he put up, but anything will be possible for this team and driver determined to leave on top.

After 11 years with Ford, Carl Edwards makes the jump to the “dark side” of Toyota with Joe Gibbs Racing. He’s been putting up decent numbers with Roush Fenway Racing, despite that team going through a decline of sorts. I’m not sure how Gibbs’ organization will handle being a four car operation, as only Hendrick Motorsports has figured that balance of four cars out. And even then, it’s taken them nearly a decade to perfect it. Many expect Edwards to have the sort of jump in his step that former and now current teammate Matt Kenseth had when he joined the organization for the 2013 season.

Thanks to NASCAR’s subjective rules, Trevor Bayne will not be able to run for rookie of the year this season. Despite not having run a full season, he’s done enough in prior years (including a Daytona 500 win in 2011) to be deemed experienced. Never mind he’ll still have a yellow stripe on his car, he’s not rookie according to NASCAR. Thanks to BK Racing picking another rookie to run, we will have a Rookie of fhe Year award winner. That is Jeb Burton. Not finding sponsorship in the Truck Series was the best thing that’s happened to him. Unless he talks to Ryan Truex, then it might be the worst thing that happened to him.

Welcome back to the Cup Series Ron Hornaday, Jr., he gets the nod in the new TMG Racing #30 Chevrolet as the “primary driver.” Not sure about the wording on that about primary driver, but whatever. I assumed Hornaday’s career was done when he got screwed over by the Turner Scott Motorsports fiasco, but instead will try only his second full Cup season. The other was in 2001 running for A.J. Foyt in the #14 Conseco Pontiac, remember that car? It’ll be nice to see the 56 year old Hornaday back, I would have trusted him to do more in the Truck Series than Cup, but if the goal is to finish and not tear up cars, then Hornaday’s your guy.

Also coming back to the Cup Series is Sam Hornish, Jr., who took his lumps and learned how to race in the XFINITY Series the past few years. I’m rooting for Hornish to do a lot better than he did in his first Cup go around, especially because he’s learned not only how to win in a stock car, but also run for a title. I think that is what he needed when he first came to NASCAR in 2008.

Other moves over the offseason include Michael Annett moving to HScott Motorsports (the only cool part about this is now he’s running the 46 and his teammate Justin Allgaier runs the 51, Days of Thunder anyone?), Mike Bliss, Bobby Labonte, and Boris Said will run the 32 Ford for Go FAS Racing (lame name), Alex Bowman joins Tommy Baldwin Racing replacing Annett (you won’t really notice much out of performance improvements with him in there), JJ Yeley becomes the “lead” driver for BK Racing (whatever the heck that means, more Whoppers?) who have yet announce anything else, and Landon Cassill returns to the 40 of Hillman Racing.

New Chase and a title for Kevin Harvick? You could say he loves this format. While the expectation is for Harvick to slow down in his bid to go back to back, the scary part is how many races the team let go during the course of the season last year. Part failures mostly bit Harvick early in the season, and when it was all sorted out, there was no stopping him from the title. He can only improve, and that will be a big task considering how good his season was.

After nearly pulling up a major upset by winning the title without a win, I hope Ryan Newman comes into 2015 and wins a bunch of races. Not only would it stick it to all the fans who called him out as not being title worthy, but I’m due as a fan of his to see him win again. After winning eight times in 2003, Newman has won seven times since and not more than two times since 2004. He’s due, check that, beyond due to win some races.

When it all shakes out I expect the usual suspects up front once again. Jimmie Johnson, Keselowski, Gordon, and others will go for the title. The hard part is figuring which Cinderella stories get into the Chase through fluke wins and which usual suspect gets shut out. Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards should have solid seasons, but I’m putting my early money on ol’ six time champ Jimmie Johnson to win his seventh title.

Days Of The Ringers Might Be Over

It wasn’t that long ago that when the Sprint Cup Series came to the Sonoma Raceway you would see a whole crop of drivers you might never have heard of before. Ron Fellows, Boris Said, Scott Pruett, and PJ Jones just to name a few. These were the road course ringers that would come in and try to help out lower tiered teams make up some points in the owner standings.

When the Sprint Cup Series ran yesterday’s Toyota Save Mart 300, there was only three of those road ringers in the field. The best finishing was Boris Said, driving for Go FAS Racing placing 35th. Tomy Drissi finished 38th for Jay Robinson Racing, and Alex Kennedy brought the Circle Sport Racing Chevrolet home in the 39th place.

Not very impressive finishes for those drivers skilled in the art of road racing, and honestly not that much better than their normal drivers might have placed. But that’s the key right there, those teams do not have permanent drivers week to week, so they have the seats available to plug in a road veteran.

One team that I thought was on the radar to be using a road replacement was BK Racing with Ryan Truex. Truex has struggled in his first season in the Sprint Cup Series, failing to make races being his biggest issue. With only 43 entries this week, meaning he was guaranteed in, there was no use for a replacement, Truex finished 41st on Sunday.

Times have changed a lot in the Cup Series where road racing gets as much emphasis as any other race. Drivers take the time to learn more about road racing, such as Carl Edwards who thanked Boris Said for his help in victory lane after winning the race. Names you wouldn’t expect to hear called as road racers are now ending up in victory lane, before Edwards it was Martin Truex, Jr., and before him was Clint Bowyer.

Road races have become not only some of the most entertaining racing on the circuit, but have become another stop. There’s no worry from drivers about coming there, because it could represent their lone chance of getting in the Chase with a win.

When the series gets to Watkins Glen in August, I’m sure we’ll see a few road ringers, but like at Sonoma Sunday, don’t expect them to do much. The days of a driver like Boris Said or Scott Pruett coming in and running in the top-5 are over.

Fourth Joe Gibbs Racing Team Could Come At Expense Of Nationwide Team

The newest rumor pegging Carl Edwards to Joe Gibbs Racing has a bit of an interesting twist. Motorsports.com’s Lee Spencer is reporting in order to get the funds to create a fourth team at JGR, they would take M&M’s away from Kyle Busch and put them with Edwards. For Busch, Monster Energy would move up and sponsor his car.

On the surface a few questions arise, the first being what Spencer mentions in her article, Edwards being a health nut being sponsored by a candy company does not make much sense. Sure a driver needs to endorse a product, but I can’t tell you if I’ve ever seen Kyle Busch actually eat M&M’s on camera. It might be a slight conflict of personal interests, but I’m sure Edwards wouldn’t say no to the opportunity to drive for Gibbs.

Even with Kyle Busch, M&M’s tries to be family oriented, and Busch’s actions sometimes clashed with that. Edwards has shown he’s a “good guy” of the sport, run ins with Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth aside, and could push the family values side M&M’s probably wants.

Having Monster Energy sponsor Busch would make sense as they could embrace the image the Busch has. Such as when they embrace Kyle and brother Kurt starting a few years back. I’m just surprised that Monster would be willing to put up that money to be in the Cup Series, as I assumed they were in Nationwide because of the lowered costs.

If Joe Gibbs Racing loses that Monster sponsorship in the Nationwide Series, would we see an end of Kyle Busch running down there? The team has struggled to get sponsorship over the past few years, including putting the #18 team as strictly part-time. I’m sure they could find some sponsors to run Busch, but would those companies put up enough funds to keep the #54 going all year long like how Monster has the past few years?

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but you won’t hear much for right now as all parties involved have no comment to share.

Homestead Locking Up Season Finale A Bad Sign For New Schedule?

It was announced that the Ford Motor Company and Homestead-Miami Speedway have agreed to continue the Ford Championship Weekend through the 2019 season. This puts Homestead as the season finale for five more seasons and might dash the hopes of fans wanting big changes in the schedule.

This is a bit of an alarming situation, as this signals that NASCAR is willing to keep things going the same. Fans have requested that the season finale be rotated through tracks, like how the NFL plays its Super Bowl at different venues. Granted each NFL stadium should be the same as far as a playing surface for the participants, but moving it around would give fans of different regions the ability to come to the finale.

Having it move around would also change things up in the do or die season finale race. This way drivers who might be better at the 1.5 mile tracks could not be such shoe ins as other drivers. Depending on where they put the event it could be more exciting, or actually less exciting.

Homestead is not the worse place to end the season, just look at the 2011 finale between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards, where they drove the wheels off of their cars all race long. How many other tracks could allow for that kind of action?

To me it just feels like NASCAR is settling in to keep things the same, after many rumors of a big schedule change for the 2015. I want to see some radical changes, and keeping the finale fixed at Homestead does not give me much hope.

A Few Crazy Scenarios For 2015 Free Agency In NASCAR

It’s only May, roughly three months into the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and the jockeying for 2015 free agents might begin soon. Hendrick Motorsports announced that Nationwide Insurance would sponsor Dale Earnhardt, Jr. starting in 2015 on Friday and it’s a move that impacts two teams at minimum.

Nationwide Insurance will move from Roush Fenway Racing, where it has sponsored Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. the past two years. Stenhouse already has glaring holes in his sponsorship for 2014, this will just add to that issue for 2015 and beyond. Looking at RFR as a whole, both Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle are unsigned beyond the 2014 season.

At Hendrick Motorsports, bringing in Nationwide brings up questions about what happens to Kasey Kahne. Currently he has Farmers Insurance as his sponsor, their contract expires at the close of 2014, and not many could picture two rival insurance companies sponsoring cars coming out of the same shop.

Having rivals sponsors has happened in the past, a good example is found at Richard Childress Racing where they are sponsored, as a team, by Lucas Oil. At the same time driver Paul Menard has Quaker State on his car and is featured from time to time because of the connections between his sponsor, Menards, and Quaker State. This was also the case when Kevin Harvick drove a Shell/Pennzoil sponsored car with Menard as a teammate.

If Farmers does not return and a replacement is not found, does Hendrick look elsewhere? It’s no secret that Kahne has not lived up to expectations so far this season and honestly, has come up short on what many thought to be a dream pairing with him and Hendrick Motorsports. His contract runs through 2015, but could he be bought out a year early to make room for another driver with sponsorship?

Could that other driver be Hendrick developmental driver Chase Elliott? He has backing from NAPA and has been shocking the Nationwide Series with two wins and a second place finish in the last three races. The plan seems to have Elliott replace Jeff Gordon when he retires, but there is no timeline to when that could be. I think it would be a mistake to bring Elliott up too fast, as in next season or even the year after, but if the sponsor requests it, it could happen. That’s what got Joey Logano into the Sprint Cup Series before he was ready. The Home Depot wanted him in the car and Joe Gibbs Racing obliged.

An off the wall scenario could find Carl Edwards in play for the Hendrick ride if they decide to go in another direction. Edwards made it known he wants to be top dog at Roush Fenway Racing, which played into Matt Kenseth’s departure, but the team hasn’t performed how many expected. They have improved this season, but sponsorship questions continue to linger year after year and Edwards might want to jump ship.

It might be too early to get a good feel on how this might all shake out, but it will keep things entertaining for the rest of the season. I can’t see Hendrick bailing on Kahne just yet, but if he continues to be so far behind his teammates it will lead to some serious discussions. For Edwards, I can’t believe Ford or Roush would let him walk to another team, especially a Chevrolet back team, so look for them to throw a lot of money at him to keep him locked up. All this excitement and we still have Talladega to look forward to this Sunday.

The Double Standard Of Sports

Brad_Keselowski_Atlanta_Flip

NASCAR is no different than any other sports organizations when it comes to handing out punishments, yet exploiting it at the same time. This will happen again as Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears were fined and put on probation. In time the footage that got them in trouble will be used for marketing purposes by NASCAR.

In the NFL, highlight reels are handed out of players hitting other players. Some of those hits cause concussions, which the NFL is trying to eliminate while using it to promote the hard hitting action each Sunday. The NHL plays hard open ice hits over and over that leave players bruised, battered, or worse.

This happens time after time in NASCAR.  There was outrage when Kevin Harvick confronted Greg Biffle after a 2002 Nationwide Series Bristol race. Now you can’t see a promo for Bristol without seeing that footage. Go back to 1979 when Donnie Allison, Bobby Allison, and Cale Yarborough’s fisticuffs at the end of the Daytona 500 have gone down NASCAR history lore.

I’m of the opinion that if NASCAR finds the need to fine drivers for “actions detrimental to stock car racing,” then NASCAR should not be allowed to exploit the footage. If they see an opportunity to use it in a promotion, then no disciplinary action should be taken, like when Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski tangled in the “Boys Have At It” era.

I am not saying that fines and probation should not be used, because like Edwards and Keselowski proved, if left unchecked drivers will continue to push the  boundaries until it is painfully obvious NASCAR needs to step in.

What I am saying is NASCAR needs set the example, not condone actions while secretly hoping or pushing for conflict on the track. There also needs to be a clearer line of what is tolerated and what will not be tolerated. While Mears/Ambrose drew fines and penalties, Brad Keselowski’s brake checking and damaging Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and others was acceptable.