The 2018 edition of NASCAR Silly Season is not disappointing with the number of far fetching rumors that have actually found out to be true. There are still a lot of open seats and plenty of drivers trying to get their plans in line for 2019 and beyond. Here’s a quick look at some of the openings out there and what is rumored to be happening. Continue reading “Silly Season Is Kicking Up A Gear”
News came out earlier this week Tony Stewart was involved in a “non-racing” accident (because that makes it better for us to take? Weird emphasis on “non-racing” on nearly every press release) and will miss significant time after sustaining a burst fracture of his L1 vertebra. This will take a substantial amount of time to heal, thus opening the door for a replacement driver in the #14 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). Continue reading “Who Will NOT Be Filling In For Tony Stewart”
What seemed to be a stretch of an idea by Motorsport.com is now being reported by another media outlet. Earlier Claire B Lang of SiriusXM Radio confirms the Motorsport.com report that Clint Bowyer will head to HScott Motorsports (HSM) in 2016 and then move to Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in 2017.
— Claire B Lang (@ClaireBLang) September 5, 2015
When Bowyer gets to SHR, he would take over the seat of Tony Stewart, who will hang up his helmet after 18 seasons in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. This would be another big blow to NASCAR on the national radar, as this year marks the end of Jeff Gordon’s illustrious career.
Originally the idea seemed crazy that Stewart would ever walk away, but at age 45 (Stewart in 2016) time and circumstances have taken their toll on him. A broken leg in 2013 and then the tragedy in 2014, Stewart has yet to regain the form that has led him to three Sprint Cup Series titles and 48 wins in his career. The last win coming in early 2013, which was done with fuel mileage rather than out pacing the competition. So far this season, Stewart sits 26th in points with only two top-10 finishes in 24 starts.
When looking at what HSM might do for that one season, no matter what, it will be an improvement over what it is currently getting from drivers Justin Allgaier and Michael Annett. Logic would dictate that one of those drivers would be out of a job to make room for Bowyer, rather than expanding for three teams for one season. Allgaier is a favorite of owner Harry Scott, but lacks full sponsorship and is currently 30th in points. Annett has sponsorship, but sitting 35th in points with no top-10 finishes (Allgaier has one) I can’t imagine there’s enough Pilot Travel Centers money to keep him employed at HSM.
The benefit to Bowyer spending a year in the minor leagues, as outlined by Motorsport.com, is with HSM’s Hendrick Motorsports affiliation, he can spend a year getting accustomed to their chassis. While the results haven’t been there for HSM, it is not from lack of effort, and getting a talented driver like Bowyer in there might turn their luck around. Many would point to when Kurt Busch went to HSM’s predecessor, Phoenix Racing, and turned them into a potential contender. While that is an honorable comparison, what Busch did for Furniture Row Racing might be a better parallel.
With the eventual move to SHR, Bowyer will be reunited with his for Richard Childress Racing teammate Kevin Harvick. Looking at that aspect, maybe it is better to go backwards in time, to then be able to go forward.
News broke Wednesday that Rob Kauffman, majority owner of Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR), was closing in on purchasing Felix Sabates’ stake in Chip Ganassi Racing. (CGR)This will be a duel commentary post taking a look at Kauffman and driver Clint Bowyer’s potential revitalization. Continue reading “Kauffman, Bowyer Set For New NASCAR Life”
News broke Wednesday that Rob Kauffman, majority owner of Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR), was closing in on purchasing Felix Sabates’ stake in Chip Ganassi Racing. This will be a duel commentary post taking a look at Waltrip in this piece and how ownership has gone for the goofy pitchman.
While all parties are mum on the situation, it is amazing that Waltrip had not been run out of ownership sooner given what his history has been in the position. Waltrip founded his team on the foundation of being a Toyota flag ship for their entry into NASCAR in 2007. It didn’t take long for the goofy pitchman’s luster to start wearing off. At the season opening Daytona 500, the team was found to have used jet fuel in their cars to get an advantage. NASCAR did not look kindly on this infraction handing out suspensions, monetary and points fines, and stripping the teams of their qualifying times. What a great first impression for Toyota into a sport that already had fans annoyed with a non-American company entering into it.
The season would not continue any less smooth as the teams of Waltrip (#55), Dale Jarrett (#44), and David Reutimann (#00) routinely missed races. Reutimann missing 10, Jarrett missing 12, and Waltrip’s team missing 17. This kind of performance ran Jarrett out of the sport after five races in 2008 (planned in advance of the season, but you have to wonder how forced his hand was after 2007), but more importantly left Waltrip on the brink of bankruptcy once sponsors began jettisoning the team.
Enter Kauffman, who brought a boat load of cash to the organization, enough to become majority owner of the team baring Waltrip’s name. The next season was slightly better with Waltrip and Reutimann starting all the races, but the team nearly destroy Michael McDowell’s career before it started by pushing him into the #00 car. By 2009, the #44 team folder with Reutimann returning to the 00 and Waltrip took his last run for a full season in the #55.
The team turned around and hit its stride during this time period with Reutimann collecting wins in 2009 and 2010. The team added Martin Truex Jr into the mix in 2011, then in true Waltrip fashion, unceremoniously tossed Reutimann (a loyal Waltrip guy) to the curb so late in 2011 he could not find a ride and never fully recovered. That opened the door for Clint Bowyer to join the team for 2012 and they were rewarded with three wins from his team and a 2nd place finish in the points.
Just when things looked their brightest in 2013, Waltrip done Waltrip’d himself again. Truex won at Sonoma, fill in Brian Vickers won at New Hampshire, and the team was poised to have Truex and Bowyer in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. During the Richmond race, final regular season race, Bowyer got directions to cause a caution to the benefit of Truex to make the Chase. NASCAR figured out the charade and kicked Truex out of the Chase. That resulted in sponsor NAPA, having been with Waltrip since 2001, leaving the organization (and almost NASCAR) and Truex was left without a ride.
Both last season and this season the team has been average at best, running mid to late 20’s each weekend. This past week saw Toyota be non-committal when asked about MWR’s future, along with longtime supporter Aaron’s on if they would return to the #55 next season.
For Waltrip, he’s a goofy pitchman whose antics helped keep sponsors happy while his performance was in the toilet, but that act I believe has finally worn off. While he’ll still have his gig as FOX Sports talking head, with Kauffman leaving (with Clint Bowyer), it’s hard to believe he has the finances to continue, much less the desire to keep his team afloat.
There is an old saying that what drivers hate, fans will love. Sunday afternoon’s qualifying for the starting two position of next week’s Daytona 500 proved that saying wrong. Both fans, drivers, and media alike classified the knockout qualifying rounds as “idiotic,” “dumb,” “the worst,” and “not even entertaining.” The only group that seemed to enjoy it was the FOX broadcast team who had to enjoy the ratings as fans watched in horror at what the Daytona 500 qualifying has become. Continue reading “Daytona Qualifying Disaster”
It was one year ago that Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) went from euphoria of having two of their three cars in the Chase for the Sprint Cup to feeling the wrath of NASCAR for potentially fixing the outcome of the race. That snowball led to the shutdown of one of their teams, leaving the two cars of Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers. This leaner, and potentially meaner, MWR had their sights on getting both cars into the Chase this season to make up for last season’s misfortune.
Instead neither Vickers nor Bowyer were able to get their Toyotas into the Chase field of 16 this season. While Vickers had a shot if he won Richmond, it was Bowyer who was mathematically still in the hunt. Even though Greg Biffle did all he could to give the spot to Bowyer, Bowyer came up short finishing third on the night.
After the race, Bowyer alluded to changes coming to his team and I suspect all of the MWR organization. They were embarrassed last season with what happened at Richmond and now they’re embarrassed that they couldn’t get one car into the Chase.
After the race when Bowyer was asked about changes, he seemed distant in his response. This was maybe because of knowing how hard he fought and coming up short, or maybe he’s realizing they’re not as close to a championship as they were just a few seasons ago.
“Well, they say they are (on changes coming soon for the team). We’ll just have to see. Everybody is working hard, everybody at TRD (Toyota Racing Development), everybody at MWR,” commented Bowyer.
Even if he made the Chase, it would have been coming into it with a whimper and not a bang.
“When you make that Chase you want to be able to compete for a championship and I’m an optimist but I’m a realist and right now realistically we don’t have a shot at winning that championship against the competition we’re running against. We’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot of racing left to build on and win some races and piss them guys off running for a championship,” Bowyer continued.
You could just chalk up the season to bad luck for him and his team, as Bowyer explained. “This is the way our season has been all year is we’ll have a strong run like this and then something stupid will happen like the damn transmission breaking in half and it forces you back in a hole and you spend the next month digging yourself out of that hole. We just never could race like we did tonight all season long. We never could just let it all hang out and go for it because of that situation. We would get a step ahead and have a good run and the very next week we’d get our wings clipped out from underneath us.”
Bowyer’s comments were echoed by Vickers, who summed up his season so far very similarly.
“We’ve had some really bad luck this year. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, we made our own mistakes and every team is going to make mistakes throughout the year — we just had too much go wrong out of our control to make up for our turn in the barrel,” said Vickers after the race.
With ten races to go and nothing much to lose, could changes come in the form of personnel within the organization or will they use these races as test sessions working towards 2015? It is too early to tell, but they will be one wildcard team for the remaining races as they sort out their situation and try to play spoiler to those running for the title.